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August 01, 2011

Apps for Anglers

Mobile applications put charts in your pocket.

A new way of handling navigational and fishing information has appeared, and as you might guess, it’s on your phone. Navionics has a complete set of charts available at the app store for your mobile device, accommodating iPhone, iPad, Android and Nokia models. Chart sets start at $9.99 for U.S. charts, more for Central America and Europe.

The fee allows access to the Navionics server where the charts are stored, and they display on your device on demand. One of the spiffy features is you can download segments of the set to your phone so they are available for use when you are out of Wi-Fi or cell range.

Share the Info
Moving functionality to the plotter on your boat, Navionics has partnered with Raymarine to develop Plotter Sync, which allows the wireless transfer of information from a mobile device to Raymarine’s E-Series Widescreen and G-Series displays. Information can include waypoints and routes generated by the mobile device or transferred from Navionics’ PC nav-planning software.

Plotter Sync requires a Wi-Fi router on the boat, and that’s it. Make the Wi-Fi connection on your mobile device when you walk on your boat, and the sync happens automatically. Raymarine offers full instructions for setting up the Wi-Fi router, presented by Jim McGowan, Raymarine’s know-how-everything-works guy, at www.raymarine.com/plottersync.

“Plotter Sync is a neat setup,” says McGowan. “SeaTalk already had the ability to move routes and waypoints, so we opened up the code to Navionics to develop the charting engine.” The router is nothing special; it’s the same kind you’d use at home, so it needs a dry place to reside in your boat. “Look for Open WRT on the box or the specs,” says McGowan. “About any router you pick up from Best Buy will do the job.”

Shortcut Prep

Chris Gatley, Navionics’ northeast sales manager, worked overtime all spring installing Wi-Fi routers to enable Plotter Sync and watched anglers take to it enthusiastically — even the late or non-adopters. Fact is, it is especially useful for fishermen. “It makes it easy to transfer information to the plotter,” he says. “That’s important when you’re loading up the boat for an offshore run at 3 or 4 in the morning. We have other things to do besides enter routes and waypoints in the plotter. This transfers the information while you are setting up rods and loading ice and gear so it is there when you need it, once you are on your way to the fishing grounds.” It’s the beginning of a new way of dealing with chart data.

“We are not the only hardware partner Navionics has, so this will surely find its way to others,” says McGowan. But so far, nobody besides Raymarine is fessing up. And McGowan is looking forward already. “This is the first of a family of functions that is on the way,” he says. “Once we have made that connection, the possibilities are there to add stuff linked to our network, such as radar and fish finders.”

Upgraded Updating
As stand-alones, the mobile Navionics apps offer a function called UGC, or User Generated Content. This allows users to make a notation on the chart, such as a rock pile, a sandbar, or even port or dock services. Because the mobile device taps into the chart set on the Navionics server, any additions to the chart are visible to everyone who uses the app; an icon appears, linked to a description you provide.

It’s accurate and surprisingly easy. You go to Menu, turn on the Community Layer and return to the chart. Then when you want to add a point to the chart, hold your finger on the screen until cross hairs pop up. Menus then appear that allow you to make your addition to the community layer on the Navionics server. Again, it’s an embryonic function, but it isn’t hard to see where it could go in the future, when everyone using the charts can provide corrections from around the world.

C-Map on the Way
Jeppesen has its own mobile app, Plan2Nav, the C-Map application for iPad and iPhone. An early iteration was on demonstration last winter at the Miami International Boat Show, and the release, says Emanuela Ferina, Jeppesen’s global marketing manager for Light Marine, is expected soon, if it’s not already for sale on the app store by the time you read this.

“The application is derived from the C-MAP 4D content,” says Ferina. “Charts can be viewed in 2-D and perspective view. The first version will allow tracks, routes and waypoints to be stored on the mobile device, and these can be saved to a standard file format for downloading to a PC.” No word yet on compatibility or sync with chart plotters, but figure it won’t be long.

All downloaded charts stay on your iPad and are accessible even when a wireless connection is not available. Also included are the C-Marina Port Database, tides and currents, and a weather overlay that provides a five-day forecast. Depending on the region, downloads will run between $19.99 and $89.99, says Ferina.

Share the Fun
A function that’s more fun than utilitarian is the track feature. With the chart open on the device, touch Track and GPS, and your track is recorded yway — say of a fish you just caught — by touching the camera icon on the chart, and that image is embedded in the track. When you are done fishing, toggle the Track off, go to the Menu, select your track, and follow the instructions to e-mail the file to friends or post a link on Facebook. Recipients open the file and see a Google map with your track on it and can open the photos you took along the way. Bear in mind, this is a navigational app, so they’ll be getting your lats/longs too.