Two years ago, the iPad took over in our homes and immediately caught the attention of yachtsmen. Maps and weather apps make sailing planning much easier. But today the "miracle tablet" is capable of more. We'll show you what iPad has to offer aboard a yacht.
IPad mobile navigation apps for yachting
We flex our fingers a little, a quick sliding movement, and now we have the current weather forecast. The hand makes another movement, a light touch with the tip of your finger, and the route for the coming day at sea is ready - all this can be done just at the table during breakfast.
If at first iPad viewed only as a tablet for entertainment, it quickly evolved over time into a convenient navigation tool. This is made possible by the variety of applications offered for the iPad. Embedded GPS instruments, plotters and tools such as lag and lot, have always been a closed system: they only showed what they were created for. Although individual tools can be linked together using NMEA connections, so that a variety of information will be centrally available on the plotter, but it is rigidly fixed on the steering wheel or above the chart table and is limited only by internal information regarding this yacht.
Two years ago iPad abruptly burst aboard the yachts and turned upside down the usual electronic navigation up to that time. Installation of a mini-computer with a separate monitor, keyboard, mouse and its own GPS receiver suddenly ceased to be necessary. After all, the iPad has all this from the very beginning, and at the same time it is no larger than an A4 notebook.
But unlike a plotter, with the help of a "bitten apple" you can also view the current weather forecast on the web, print an e-mail, determine the exchange rate of foreign currency, find out the current high and low tide times, read instructions on how to tie a bowling knot, and even watch the next live broadcast of the match from the European Football Championship. Most of these apps are free or purchased for little money. on the company's own trading platform Apple - in the online app store App Store.
On other tablets running the Android operating system, these navigation solutions are also available and applied in a similar manner today.
Mobility on board
The advantages of using on board are mobility iPad and iPhone and the possibility of full wireless inclusion in the existing network of devices. By using "Wireless NMEA server" The data packets of individual devices can be sent to a smartphone or tablet and read using special applications. Whether it's GPS, wind parameters, log or lot - all information is instantly available anywhere on the yacht.
During the regatta, the team member in charge of navigation is no longer tied to a seat at the navigator's table, but can directly from the windward side inform the course and distance to the nearest sign at a distance that needs to be rounded, and is also able to react to an increase or change in the direction of the wind. Using one of the many apps, you can plan a crossing and then follow that route later.
These map applications cost only a few percent of the cost of plotter maps and look similar at first glance. The programs, of course, are less informative and do not have all the functions of a plotter, but they are enough for quick location determination.
AIS (Automatic Identification System) in combination with a suitable receiver, it even allows the location of other vessels to be displayed on charts. In regions with heavy traffic, this is a great advantage in terms of safety.
To date, plotter manufacturers have responded to this situation by bringing a new generation of multi-touch plotters to the market that incorporates the intuitive touch concept found in the iPad and offers the ability to integrate iPad into navigation. To do this, the plotter creates WLANpointwith which the tablet connects. Within the network, the plotter can now transfer its data to the iPad, which is read and displayed there using a special application.
Until recently, a new series of plotters from the company Raymarine worked in a simple way: the image from the plotter was displayed one to one on the iPad. However, it was not possible to control the plotter using the iPad. But Raymarine has consistently developed the concept further and in May introduced an iPad and iPhone app that provides full access to plotter functions.
Little inconveniences at sea
The software for the iPad is at a high level today and is constantly being improved with significant investment. However, when used on board a yacht, the instrument originally intended for the home has some disadvantages.
Its big plus is that mobility is at the same time a weak link: when the sea is rough and the yacht is heeling, the iPad strives to fly. Whether flying from one corner of the cockpit to another, or taking off from the chart table and precise landing in the galley - the sensitive glass surface of the touchscreen probably won't survive the journey. In the cockpit, along with bumps and unexpected falls, there are other dangers that make the iPad not quite suitable as an integrated navigation solution that does not require additional equipment. Since electronics rarely coexist harmoniously with moisture and sea water, plotter boards are so well protected that they can easily be under a salt water shower for weeks and remain in working order. And the sensitive electronic components in the iPad will very quickly become accessible to the water element, which can enter through the headphone port and through the mechanical buttons.
The moisture indicator reacts instantly and excludes the possibility of warranty repair. For iPad it is enough to get under the shower once to be in distress. Therefore, a protective shell is needed, which, moreover, can cushion shocks.
But even in the finest summer weather iPad still has its limitations. The display reflects direct sunlight so strongly that it can transmit light signals in Morse code. Even if the touch screen is hidden from the direct sun, it is impossible to read calmly - it is too dark.
Screen protectors, which additionally suppress reflections on the display screen, have their drawback: in polarized sunglasses, you can hardly see the display. Although this is inherent not only to the iPad, but also to many other devices.
What deserves criticism is the storage device. The premium for the model with the increased gigabytes is extremely high, and additional expansion, for example with an SD card, is not possible. The iPad may not completely replace a plotter and paper navigation chart, but it is still a welcome guest on a yacht because of its backing up data, travel planning assistance, and many other talents.
The first onboard applications to appear in the App Store were relatively simple. If you needed to display the yacht's location on a map, you definitely needed an iPad connected to a mobile network, because only this model has a module A-GPSallowing you to determine the location.
Thanks to A-GPS, the iPad uses the location of the mobile phone masts to calculate the yacht's position. In large cities, this is an advantage because satellite signals are poorly received. Even in the open sea, where there are no mobile masts, this module can determine the location. True, it will take a little more time until the module detects the corresponding satellites.
Aside from location, speed, and course, the early apps could show nothing more. At that time it was not possible to read the NMEA data of other electronic devices on board via a cable using the iPad, so the use of programs was limited to these functions. Just over a year ago, it became possible to connect the iPad to the network on board the yacht. Now iPad can not only display all instruments that work with NMEA data, but also receive AIS data and use it in a charting application. In addition to the iPad or iPhone, you need a wireless NMEA server that wirelessly sends NMEA data from other devices to the iPad.
Applications designed specifically for this type of data transfer allow data to be displayed. Since it is possible to use an external GPS signal, it is not necessary to use the SIM version of the iPad. Sometimes it is required to integrate a multiplexer into the network.
An extremely powerful application is, for example, 'NMEAremote'... Graphs display true and apparent wind, while animated numbers show speed, depth, water temperature, course over ground, or magnetic course. This app turns the iPad into an additional mobile indicator for all on-board instruments. Configuring the wireless AIS-NMEA Server somewhat more complex than the usual intuitive iPad controls, but it is also accessible to the layman.
With an example, we'll show you how the iPad is configured.
To read data with iPad, we have chosen a combination device iAIS (489 euros from Lepper Marine) British manufacturer Digital yacht... The compact unit has a USB port, NMEA input and output, a WiFi antenna and of course a port for receiving AIS data using a VHF antenna. Since most VHF antennas have a relatively large PL259 plug, an adapter must be purchased to fit the antenna to the small BNC connector on the unit. The device is connected in a convenient place on the yacht to a 12 V power supply network, connected via NMEA input to the NMEA output of the existing network (unfortunately, only 0183), after which you can start working.
In the online App Store for 39.99 euros you can buy "INavX"... The application is a custom program for working with popular digital maps. Several US maps are installed as a demo version. Maps of the corresponding European regions need to be purchased additionally. For example, you can select known Navionics Gold Marine Charts or publisher's cards NV.
Maps cannot be bought directly through this application, they are purchased on the Internet using the platform X-Traverse (x-traverse.com)... This requires registration and an annual membership ($ 10). The cards themselves cost between $ 70 and $ 200. Customers of the NV publishing house, who previously purchased the corresponding paper cards, can connect them to the iPad for free. To do this, the set of cards must be activated on X-Traverse (x-traverse.com/nvactivation)by specifying the license number attached to them.
V "INavX" first you need to specify the registration data in the "Settings" menu item X-Traverse, after which in the menu item "Add nautical charts" it will be possible to select the activated nautical charts and download them. All available maps are displayed in the start window of the program. The next step takes some getting used to, as each detailed map of the kit is listed separately. Fortunately, there is no need to download each map individually, as there is also an option to download the entire package.
To connect AIS in the iPad settings, you need to select WLAN network "DY-iAIS-xxxx"... This allows the iPad to receive NMEA data from the iAIS module. To use them in "iNavX" you need to configure the data protocol "TCP / IP NMEA Client" in the "Settings" menu item. At first glance, this may seem like a daunting task, but in reality, you only need to enter two numbers. First, the host number of the iAIS module is specified - 169.254.1.1 and the port - 2000. After activating the "Communication" item, the program reads the data protocols. When the data is received correctly, the protocols are marked in green.
Now "INavX" can be used in full. Waypoints can be used to create individual routes, calculate course, and view detailed maps of specific ports. Ships with AIS are displayed on the map with their name and course, and in the event of a threat of collision, a warning signal sounds. You can also view information such as the yacht's speed and destination with a light touch on the screen. You can even download synoptic GRIB data and display it on a map. However, the image resolution is very low.
IPad mobile navigation apps for yachting
The iSailor program of the American developer "Transas" while relatively new on the market and in Germany is almost unknown. Like iNavX, it offers a wrapper that needs to be filled with appropriate maps. But unlike iNavX, this application is free, and the cards do not need to be purchased from other companies. In the app itself, you can buy numerous cards for a set starting at € 19.99. An extensive selection offers maps of most of the world, even inland waters.
The exterior is somewhat unusual and not as detailed as the Navionics maps. However, all buoys and ports are correctly marked and equipped with supporting information such as beacon recognition. The rest of the set of functions is similar to the functions of the program offered by Navionics. You can specify waypoints and routes, define distances and courses, and smoothly zoom in or out. However, there is no way to get information about the ebb and flow. Network connection using AIS and NMEA is also not provided in this application. Even if, according to the developer's assurances, the maps are kept up to date, you still need to get used to their visualization.
Navionics software for iPhone and iPad Is probably the most widely used nautical charting application. Prices differ depending on the region of navigation and the device, ranging from 19.99 euros to 59.99 euros and, thus, much lower than the prices of similar maps for plotters. At first glance, the map matches its "big sister" displayed on the plotter screen, and also offers regular updates.
However, the list of functions is somewhat smaller here. Although you can specify waypoints in the program and save them as a route, the course to individual points can only be calculated using the menu.
The "Drive in direction ..." function is not provided. With the Distance function, you can display the course and distance to a specific point, but you need to set it again each time. Displaying AIS data and connecting to a network with other on-board instruments is not possible.
But the application is very convenient for working with social networks. For example, you can share a saved route using Twitter and Facebook, or view comments from other users about ports or sailing regions. Anyone can even overlay the satellite image on the map.
A very good solution is to include ebb and flow information. Points of interest are marked with a small “T”, which can be used to call up tide information in real time and make the necessary calculations.
OpenSeaMap is a free application with nautical charts, which is based on freely available charts and requires a permanent connection to the Internet, so the use of "off-line" is not possible.
The feature set is very limited and is similar to the navigation method in the Shell Atlas. Only the location is displayed. Although you can place markers, you cannot calculate a course or distance from them.
Some important buoys are indicated on the water, but other navigational aids such as depth and depth lines are not displayed. Beacon recognition is also not provided. Even the ports are not specially allocated in any way, they can only be recognized if you zoom in on the map. But you shouldn't expect much from a free program. Perhaps it will be improved in the near future.
Summer sailing yacht apps
• WeatherTrack app (7.99 €) - multifunctional tool. Along with Grib data, you can get other weather forecasts.
• Favorite yachtsmen Windfinder app (free) provides accurate wind forecasts
• MotionX GPS (€ 1.59) connected with internal GPS module
• Application Anker (2.39 euros) monitors the anchor and shows if the chain is long enough
• Gezeiten program (2.99 euros) displays sea tides calculated by the Federal Office of Shipping and Hydrography
• Seewetter Pro app (7.99 €) is a useful tool for reporting the sea weather forecast prepared by the German Synoptic Service and the macro-synoptic situation.
Test conducted by: Kai Kökeritz
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