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ipad for navigation


Mar 23, 2017
Belliure 41 Snug Harbor, Lake Champlain

I don't agree with "don't buy electronics that attach to your boat" at all. Yes, things are changing, but that doesn't mean you can't get great gear today that will still be working great in 5-10 years. IMHO do your research, decide on what features you want, buy and install the gear, and sail on. Yes, in the near future there will be better gear but so what? You still have great gear that does what you want it to do. I installed a B&G Vulcan 7FS back in 2015, Yes there are newer better plotters today but the Vulcan is still sold by B&G.

Personally I prefer permanently mounted in installed electronics. As mentioned you never have to worry about the battery going flat at an inopportune time, you can read the screen at noon and dim it for midnight, it works when it's 100 degrees, and when it' pouring rain. Since I can 'mirror' the display on my phone and ipad I can sit comfortably in the cabin and plan my trip. Or I can run the Navionics app at home and when I get to the boat I can just transfer the route. All that for a plotter that cost $600 back in 2015.

Fair enough. Perhaps it was a bit of an overstatement. I completely agree with your statement to do your research, deide what features you want and get the gear you want.

But let me clarify a bit. Currently there are many options that are outside the standard "marine" equipment that we are currently accustomed to seeing/buying on/for our current sailboats. Make sure in your search, you include those new resources in your review. Don't just fall into the trap of buying into the current "standard solutions". We also seem to fall into the trap of "wanting" the latest and greatest. Nothing wrong with this, but do bear in mind for the vast majority of sailors most of this is such overkill, do remember much are really toys and not essential equipment. Again, nothing wrong with buying and having toys, they are fun to play with, but if your focus is what you need, you'll find the options are far greater, less complicated, and less $'s than you might think. This is especially true if you are not looking at the standard, physically installed systems.

All of this depends greatly on what kind of sailing you do and where you are sailing. This particular point is something that it seems to me most often poorly assessed. I always hear the statement "oh, but just in case..." The honest assessment of how a specific sailor is going to really use their boat I don't think is done honestly, if I'm to be honest... ;)

An example is a close friend of mine I sail with often. This person has a lovely boat, definitely one that could be used for crossing oceans. However this specific individual, in the past 10 years, has never gone outside of one of the Great Lakes where he sails. He hasn't even gone to different lakes. The biggest trip he's taken, in those years, is with me when we crossed that specific lake into Canada from his port of origin. There are many pieces of electronic equipment on this boat that could be applied to going anywhere. But truly, nothing more than a compass, distance sailed, and water depth would have been all I needed for any and all trips that have ever been made in the decade this boat has sailed from where it is currently located and to where it has gone. Sure GPS is nice, but for all the sailing that's been done in those years, truly not needed...

So why does the owner have SSB, chart plotter and I don't even remember what all else? I attribute it to one simple answer: fear. Of course these are all cool toys, but really, it's fear. It's the whole package of what if's that are talked about. What if this, what if that, I'll "need" this and that. Now of course, the specific are one is sailing will mandate equipment, if you are running in coral reefs, you'll definitely want GPS, if you are sailing in areas with a lot of fog, you may need radar. I'm not going to go on with all of these, but I consistently find that sailors are always saying they "need" far more pieces of equipment than really needed. But I digress I see...

The question brought up is what is the "best" equipment needed. There is not one answer, IMHO. I feel the hardest and more difficult aspect that needs answering is what, where and how is this specific sailor going to sail. Define that honestly, look at what fills the specific type of sailing, for the area that's going to be sailed, and that is your answer. That sailor specific search is the most difficult part of this analysis, and no one can do it for another. Each of us can give insights into what we have found in our own case and that can be helpful. But the answer really lies with the specific sailor to determine for themselves. Look carefully at inexpensive simple solutions. That's my 2 cents worth anyway...



Dec 9, 2019
Hunter 356 Lancaster
I put a Ram mount on my pedestal along with a USB outlet (2 USB plugs and a voltmeter). I can plug in my iPad plus another USB device to keep charged and the Ram mount works great. When I leave the boat, the iPad comes with me. If your under a bimini, the screen brightness is a non-issue.

I put a YachtDevices seatalk to NMEA 2000 wifi adapter and I can get all the instrument data to my iPad. What I'd really like is for Navionics to be able to drive my Raymarine ST4000+ autopilot over the network.
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Jan 15, 2006
Macgregor 22 Silverton
chartplotter is one word. How is CP a good abbreviation for it or is my brain so addicted to google that I am beyond having a clue.
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Aug 1, 2011
Catalina 270 255 Wabamun. Welcome to the marina
I have a gps adapter for my ipad. The couple of times it was on the boat, the sun found it, overheated it and it shut down.
waste of time.
Sep 11, 2015
Hunter 31 Marina del Rey
"I'm curious as to how ipad screens have improved in sunlight over the last few years."

They have not really improved. They are still almost impossible to read (Nav charts that is) in bright sunlight.
Latest iPad claims 600 nits, the previous generation was 500 nits and the the one before was 400 nits.
The latest iPhone claims 800 nits (typical), 1200 nits max. For reference, the latest chart plotters have between 1,000 and 1,250 nits, so at least the phones are getting close.

I think people continue to underestimate the progress in Apple devices. They have wireless charging now, magnetic mounts, waterproof and the display brightness is nearly on par. I would say that the big iPhone will be perfect as a char plotter at the helm, shaded and the iPad down below. All with wireless charging and magnetic mounts.

Also, let's address the cost. You can get a 13" iPad and a 7" iPhone for about $1,600 and the maps will cost you next to nothing. The equivalent cost for for, say a Garmin 16" and 7" is $6,400 or 4x the cost. The installation of this will cost you another $1,000 vs. a nice and clean magnetic mount for $100. iPads are not perfect but they are nearly there.
Jul 1, 2010
Seaward 25, Catalina 350 Erie, Pa
Also, let's address the cost. You can get a 13" iPad and a 7" iPhone for about $1,600 and the maps will cost you next to nothing. The equivalent cost for for, say a Garmin 16" and 7" is $6,400 or 4x the cost. The installation of this will cost you another $1,000 vs. a nice and clean magnetic mount for $100. iPads are not perfect but they are nearly there.
Ha ha. Finally a justification for these high end phones that almost makes sense and gives me a reason to lust for one :) "Honey, I spent 1k on a phone...because...because... Have you seen how much a new chartplotter costs for the boat!"

I'm too cheap though. Our rule, so far, is not to spend more on a phone than you're willing to lose in the water. Case in point...my wife's went into Lake Huron last summer. That leaves out new high end iphones and samsungs, and puts us firmly into the motorola line. Since I never bit the i-bug, all our portable devices are android. Besides the expensive plotter (now outdated) on the boat, we have a Samsung Galaxy tab-a 10.1 running Navionics, Predict Wind. My Radar, etc. The screen is great, even in the sun with sunglasses, and not as expensive as the i-equivalent. Since I busted the screen on my last tablet (dropping it on the boat) the same rules apply as with the phones. Very happy with the samsung tablet. It gets a lot of use on the boat.
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Jun 13, 2015
Kaiser Gale Force 34 Winterport
Thinking about picking up and ipad for navigation and chart plotting. mostly for causing waterways and around wassaw sound. Any suggestions or things to consider from personal experience?
I've used a collection of iPads as my primary navigation device since moving to Maine waters in 2013. I started out just trying to save money over the cost of a chartplotter AND the costs of purchasing electronic charts. Over time, the features and versatility of iPad, or tablets in general, for marine navigation have just grown and grown. Chartplotters are making efforts to keep up, but the reality is, for every developer at one of the marine electronics companies, there are probably ten times that many tech wizards developing features for iPads. And I'm not talking about just chart plotting functions, but other essential capabilities such as AIS, radar, advanced weather, anchor alarm, remote monitoring, maintenance records, visibility for all your electronic data, monitoring and managing the solar power system, navigation ashore, the list goes on and on. Power consumption for the iPad is generally much less when compared to chartplotters. I certainly know that to be the case when I compared my iPad pro running the Time Zero charting app with Furuno wifi radar and AIS to an older 2010 vintage Raymarine setup with far fewer functions. The balky Raymarine is long gone, but my 2011 vintage iPad is still running strong. Sadly, from 2013 to 2020, the sunlight readability of the screens has not dramatically improved. To compensate, I mount my iPads under a hard dodger and have no problems seeing the screen during the brightest periods of the day. One of the iPads is mounted on a rail where I can slide the device right to the edge of the dodger for use during tight maneuvering in anchorages. At no other times do I feel the need to have a nav device right at the steering station. Cases and battery life have gotten much better year to year. Waterproofing is not an issue given the quality of cases now available. I do connect a charging cable while underway which is weak point for water intrusion, but I can easily run for many hours with the charging port closed. I also have multiple iPads, all with the same shared apps which allows me to rotate the devices and charge them down below in a well protected space. And of course, at anchor, a tablet becomes your library, your stereo, and your source for movies. I've lost count of the times I was making a repair while watching a YouTube video on the subject at the same time. GPS data on the cellular iPads has always been solid, but I also make use of AIS GPS data, and the GPS feed available on the handheld Garmin inReach device. Connecting to these feeds is easy with the right setup. One other plus for tablets. On a chartplotter you are generally limited on the charting options. On tablets, I am able to run a wide range of navigation programs. Each of these programs has strengths and weaknesses, but together they provide you enormous capabilities at relatively small costs when compare to legacy plotters. Many criticisms of iPad, or tablet, based marine navigation have an element of truth, sunlight readability being the most obvious, but many other criticisms are either outdated, or come from skippers with little or no experience with tablets. If I owned a boat with an electronics suite that I knew would need to be replaced in a few years, I would use the next year to see just how many requirements a tablet based system would meet. At the same time, you would gain an appreciation for just how many of the limitations really matter.
Nov 13, 2013
Catalina 34 Tacoma
but for sure don't buy electronics that attach to your boat. That world is exploding at warp speed! It's getting really interesting!

Respectfully disagree. Portable devices are changing at the same speed. My iPad was stolen but my chartplotter is still attached and operable from the helm and interfaces with my autopilot.

Mr Fox

Aug 31, 2017
Marshall 22 Portland, ME
I think most of the issues with a tablet are answered by getting a non apple product. Samsung galaxy tab active pro is a good choice. Built in GPS, IP68 rated (yes even the plugs, even when charging); direct sun is not as good as a plotter, but not the end of the world with a polarized anti glare film (mine sits under the dodger so no problem). Touchscreen works when wet and with gloves.

Stays plugged/fully charged at all times, and if I lose power I've still got about 12 hours of navigation (much more if I don't use continuously, also you can swap its battery in under a minute) Pops out of its model specific ram mount in less than one second and goes below when leaving the boat. Ram mount is hard wired so it charges whenever its clicked in (still IP68 rated). It's less than 600 to your door for the 10 inch, around 300 for the 8.

Edit- it also has higher operating temperature than an iPad. If it is getting too hot it can shut down it’s charging and run off the battery to cool itself.

I find the current apps superior to chartplotters for my needs. Navionics lets me set a course on my phone and it syncs across all my devices running it (android or apple) full marina/anchorage/local info (uncharted rocks, number of the guy delivering ice in an anchorage etc.) Tides, current, wind all available in the charts. Bluetooth and wifi means it happily chats with my vesper and SH for full AIS integration/overlay. Plenty of apps to integrate other devices.

Bonus- you can watch a movie on it when bored.
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Dec 28, 2015
Laser, Hunter H30 Cherubini Tacoma
ISailor is significantly better in the Apple platform, I have it in both. I’ve put a lot of time on my IPad over the past two years as a chart plotter and haven’t had one issue with not being able to see the screen in direct sunlight. I have had it over heat in direct sunlight but I spray it with water and it cools right down. The heat issue is from the WP case. I put a WP usb charging port on my helm and I keep it plugged in while using. This requires the plug on the IPad to be available making it not waterproof but I have had it like this in some pretty good downpours with no problems. Redundancy is key with any critical system. I have the IPad as the primary using IBoats/Furuno Radar and ISailor, IPhone with same and a Samsung Tab A as a last resort with ISailor. I keep my WP IPhone in a zipped pocket when single handed.
Jan 26, 2019
Catalina 30, mkI 2462 Waukegan, IL
Heavy duty, one gallon Zip-Loc freezer bag = very inexpensive waterproof case. Opening facing down, power cable threaded out a barely unzipped corner. :)
Oct 26, 2008
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
Your question as asked was not a particularly useful question and it won't yield particularly useful answers. It is roughly akin to the ever popular "what boat should I buy" question that shows up here and on other sailing forums almost every week.

When frequently asked poorly formulated questions are presented, inevitably someone gives an answer that might be considered snotty.
Au contraire, professor! ;) Three pages and still running with useful comments and the entertaining dust-up doesn't seem to have stifled the conversation. It's funny how the same questions always seem to get a good response rate! I agree with the concept that if you don't want to answer the question directly, don't bother answering at all. I disagree with the notion that purchasing current electronics to mount on the boat is foolish. Buy what you want to buy. It's your boat. Feel free to outfit it with whatever makes you happy! :biggrin:
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
The options are shifting like sand in the Sahara.
The choices being made are like options being purchased on new cars. Do you really need a car to stop in the middle of the intersection because the sensors think that car turning left may hit you?

The challenge is for new and uninitiated boat owners. What can I afford? What do I need? What do I want? Who has what? What looks cool?

Look at the boats for sale. Some are outfitted by skilled ocean sailors, by racers, by coastal cruisers, day sailors, technical focused sensor demanding wizards, and fly by the seat of your pants curmudgeons.

Take your pick.
May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
you calling me a curmudgeon john? just cause i'm not a fan of all that expensive Bling:cool:
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
you calling me a curmudgeon john? just cause i'm not a fan of all that expensive Bling:cool:
Oh my Jon. I know you are not necessarily a curmudgeon (a bear with a sore head). I was searching for an adjective that flowed and we can agree or disagree that is was a good or bad selection. Perhaps more coffee is needed.

You can select a more appropriate wording.
Barnacle encrusted, aged mariner, technology denying sailor, classic preferring cruiser.... That last one was just for you.:poke:
May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
loved my northstar 800X loran, except when under a thunderhead. have a chartplotter GPS down below with two handheld gps. have not turned the chartplotter on much in years. little, handheld, $100.00 B&W screen GPS stored near the helm is all i use much.

if i were to update i'd just go phone app. i prefer to stash my phone below in a drawer though.

i train the young ones on paper still. show them the big picture. truth is knowing every skill, new and old is the best.
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May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
when we sail i make every person on board 'lookouts'. everyone is told of all points that we are looking for and to let me know when they are found. paper is always out for a look see by all.
all aboard are crew, no passengers :biggrin:
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