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Mac Navigation: iPad vs laptop

Apr 8, 2010
1,220
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
I am presently moving from an old Mac Book Pro to a new .... Mac Book OR... perhaps an iPad with an accessory keyboard. (?)
I liked the navigation application, GPSNavX and the companion MacENC on my present older laptop and home computer. Both of these, actually, are due for replacement. (The even-older iMac is being replaced soon by a new one with a larger display, FWIW)
(I got started with that app on my prior Mac G4 notebook, over several offshore deliveries, and really liked the interface.)

Problem is that the maritime navigation market is/has moved from computers to iPad type devices. The authors of my nav app have moved to an iPad OS version and recently ceased providing a current version update for their Mac laptop OS.
I do understand that volume drives the market for this stuff, and starting with their very successful and lauded iPhone nav systems the whole market evolved steadily in that direction.

So I tried to do some input on a demo new iPad this weekend at a vendor store, and... while the OS moves like magic lightning using the touch access, the flat keyboard was quite difficult to use. As in Really Difficult.
Admittedly I am spoiled by having a decent keyboard on my iMac at home and also on my Mac Book.
Lack of access by mouse or trackpad seems problematic, also.

None of my whining diminishes the magic of what the iPadOS can do, and do well.
It does make me ponder this change.

I also would use the replacement "travel computer" for the usual word processing and web access when traveling on land or sea. Reading ebooks would be nice once in a while, as well.

Googling seems to show only one or two other nav. apps on the market for MacOS, and reviews for some are mixed at best.

Good thing that the boat has a Lowrance plotter at the helm; but I really do like the redundancy of having a separate system at the chart desk inside.

You guys and gals have always been helpful on a variety of boating subjects, so perhaps you might have some thoughts to share on this one.
Thanks much!
Fair Winds...... :)
 
May 17, 2004
2,176
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
I presume the keyboard you tried was just the on-screen one? Apple does make a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, and in my limited use it’s pretty capable. For charting, web browsing, ebook reading, and occasional word processing I would think that could be good enough. There are 3rd party Bluetooth keyboards as well. I wouldn’t rely on that for heavy multitasking and serious work, but for something in the chart table it might work.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,220
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
I presume the keyboard you tried was just the on-screen one? Apple does make a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad, and in my limited use it’s pretty capable. For charting, web browsing, ebook reading, and occasional word processing I would think that could be good enough. There are 3rd party Bluetooth keyboards as well. I wouldn’t rely on that for heavy multitasking and serious work, but for something in the chart table it might work.
I should have been more clear that the keyboard was the optional Apple external version that is part of a 'trick' fold up cover and stand, and I know that there are other keyboard vendors as well.
My objection is to the poor key action. Way too easy to enter a stroke by a light touch....
Probably more cogent is that the OS, while similar, is actually rather different and the screen finger swipes seem ill suited to life in a moving boat. :(
 
Sep 24, 2018
658
O'Day 25 Chicago
I was originally going to use an iPad for navigation but bought the Wifi only version by accident (no gps module). Not wanting to buy another I installed it on an old iPhone. I discovered that I could use it with one hand while at the helm which is somehting that I would not be able to do if I had the iPad. An added bonus is that it's also like having a remote control for music since I can stream over bluetooth
 
Jan 19, 2010
7,189
Hunter 26 Lake Martin AL
Many of the tablets and pads are water resistant.... so that is another thing to add to the plus column.
 
Oct 22, 2014
11,123
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Many options exist. I am still testing various combinations seeking a solution.

Have a 2018 MacBook Pro 15"laptop. My retirement tool after 40 years of PC working. Love the screen still learning the operating system. I have installed Coastal Explorer on the "Bootcamp" partition. It works with out issues. The GUI requires some thinking and the control keys for the MacOS and the Windows 10 systems are sometimes different. Other than the mental conversion I have seen no differences. CE is a powerful navigation software product. Still have CE functioning on my old laptop. Connects to the boat system using Vesper wifi Gateway. I just know at some point the 10yr old laptop screen or battery will give up the ghost.

OpenCPN has been ported to the MAC. I have uploaded it and it is functioning. It is a new install and I am working on understanding the GUI. So far no glitches. Running it with the Catalina OS. Downloaded KAP files of Canadian charts and they are functioning as expected. I will be further testing this on my boat to see if I can get all the functionality of CE.

I have used an iPad for 2 years with installed iNavX. It is compatible with the Vesper gateway and provides navigation NOAA charts, AIS, and boat instruments (i.e. GPS, depth from my SeatalkNG network). I can use the iNavX on the iPad or the iPhone. It is an easy tool to put a quick cruise together. A day cruise for example. It is not as good as CE or OpenCPN in my experiences. I have a Apple Pencil to make waypoints when I have wet fingers. I got a rugged case and key board from ZAGG marketing (Rugged Book). It has helped with my transition from a PC laptop to the iPad. Heavy. good bluetooth keyboard and KB battery. They have others. It does not solve the water issue as it is not water proof. But you could drop the iPad from 2 stories and I do not think it would be damaged.
 
Jan 19, 2010
7,189
Hunter 26 Lake Martin AL
@jssailem How does CE compare to Navonix? Until very recently, I was a paper chart w/hand-held gps type of cruiser. I'd pencil in the phone numbers of marinas on the paper charts using Active Captain as my source of phone numbers and then just go cruising. I'd also read the reviews of the marinas ...If I wanted to go to a slip for the evening, I'd just call ahead on my phone or hail on 16. But recently, I've been using Navonix on my iPhone. I like it and find it very intuitive. I'm trying to enter the 21st century here so looking for comparative info on which learning curves are worth climbing.
 
Oct 22, 2014
11,123
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
For cruising to distant locations or in new to you waters, I find CE exceptional. Everything you mentioned as the “way you have navigated” is on the software map. Plus Currents, route timing, anything you have on Nema 2000 or 0183 if you can move it to wifi/bluetooth it can be displayed. CE uses NOAA charts either Raster, vector, or both. They have a hybred view that if you have access to the internet will give you photo images of the ground. You can buy C-Map and Canadian charts.

They have Active Captain, Coastal Pilot, and their own model of Active Captain. It is a rich piece of software. Only issue is it is PC based.
 
Jan 19, 2010
7,189
Hunter 26 Lake Martin AL
There was a thread last week (the thread on cell antennae) that segued into tablets and after reading that I did a little digging. There are several now that are fairly waterproof and rugged. I may have to look into getting one of those.

I don't have anything that uses Nema 2000 or SeaTalk etc. My GPS is a Garmin handheld and I am almost always within 2 miles of shore so I can nav. with my phone using Navonics (Heck I could use Google Maps or Siri if I got desparate). For years I sailed in the NC outerbanks with just a paper chart and a VHF. You can't get too lost so not such a big need for much more. AND I sail swing keel boats so kissing the bottom is not a big stresser for me. So long as I can hit the navigation buoy on the chart, I am happy ...
 
Oct 22, 2014
11,123
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Before I got medium tech on Hadley, I was cruising the sound with google maps, the location app on my 6S iphone (gave me speed and Long/Lat) and paper maps for 2 years. I went out an played , then found my way home.
 
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Jan 19, 2010
7,189
Hunter 26 Lake Martin AL
Right! I've gotten spoiled by my gps on my phone and have to remind myself that I used to travel the length of the U.S. with a piece of paper taped to my windshield that had the highway exists for my next turn (and a paper map on the back seat in case I missed an exit). I would be very uncomfortable doing that now. :(
 
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Nov 8, 2007
1,210
Hunter 27_75-84 Lady Lillie Sandusky Harbor Marina, Ohio
I use Navionics on my iPhone In the cockpit And on my iPad at anchor/dock for planning. Downloading the Navionics maps for a cruise makes me independent of Internet connection. I have used Navionics in Europe and New Zealand without issues.
 
Apr 8, 2010
1,220
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
One bit of unexpected info from this is that users of i-devices (and similar from other vendors) have adapted well to the on-screen display of keyboards.
Thanks to everyone!
 
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Apr 8, 2010
1,220
Ericson Yachts Olson 34 Portland OR
Why aren't you considering android based tablets?
As a Mac user since the 90's, I do not feel inclined to learn a different OS. And then there are security concerns with other OS.... but that's not the question under discussion in this thread.
 
Jan 25, 2011
2,052
S2 11.0A Anacortes, WA
Wow! All the stuff that can be connected via different ways with different chart types, and where’s the exploding brain emoji? Unless you're really into trying out all these different connection scenarios with different charts etc etc etc., my advice is KISS. (Not calling you stupid though)...I have a plotter and AIS transceiver and wired to VHF and autopilot. Simple SYSTEM..I have an ipad with Navionics as a backup and with my previous plotter, I’ve had to use it. IPAD has issues in sunlight. IPAD can connect to plotter via wifi but not high on priority list to do it. My second backup is a garmin handheld with old charts. (The rocks don’t move)..If I wanted, I could get a keypad for the ipad, but the onscreen one works although I'm not writing books etc. So, IMHO, use an ipad/tablet for nav backup, reading, email, etc. Use a laptop for higher level computing functions..
 
Feb 6, 1998
11,094
Canadian Sailcraft 36T Casco Bay, ME
I have nearly every app downloaded onto my iPad Pro/cellular (cell service not activated but cell models have built in GPS). I don't understand why you need a keyboard other than the on-screen one that pops up? With nearly every nav app, on my iPad, (I have them for customers to evaluate & play with) the one I turn to the most, as well as my customers, after using with them, is iSailor. Super simple & excellent charts. I personally don't like Navionics charting but some others do. I have also found iSailor charting to be more accurate than the others. Transas/Wärtsilä created the iSailor app and they are huge in large shipping traffic routing & navigation charting so it's a very, very legit app.

I have been using an iPad on-board for many years, multiple generations, side by side with a chart plotter.. Daylight vis, even with the iPad Pro, is still nowhere near a dedicated plotter but much, much, much better than previous models or the non "Pro" model iPads. Pair an iPad with a Lifeproof case and it is tough and very rugged and can be at the helm. I can lay in bed in the morning with it and create routes or investigate where we might want to go that day. I can't do either of those things with my laptop..