Are you a boat owner? There’s an app for that.
Boating apps give you a way to enhance your experience out on the water and on land. Whether you want to check the weather, find where the fish are biting, or chart your course, tech offers you a convenient solution.
Mobile phones changed how we interact and communicate, creating an entirely new social structure where information is on hand 24/7. Our phones are an essential device for everyday living. So, why not use them to get a better experience with your boat and sailing activities?
There are plenty of apps available in Google Play or the Apple App Store. Whether you’re an Apple fan or an Android user, you’ll find apps available for every boating function. We reviewed dozens of apps for this post, bringing you our top choices for getting more out of your next boat trip.
- What are the Critical Features of Boating Apps?
- Boating Planning and Safety Apps
- Boating Entertainment, Fishing and Diving Apps
- Weather Apps
- Wrapping Up – Spend Some Time Exploring the App Before Setting Sail
What are the Critical Features of Boating Apps?
So, what makes for a top-shelf boating app? There are hundreds of great apps available for download, but you don’t need them all. When we selected our top choices for this review, we assessed the app on its functionality, user experience, and overall value to the boating experience.
Here are the criteria we use to assess the apps in this review.
Entering Data and Float Plans
While it’s not compulsory, filing a float plan offers you a way to stay safe out on the water. The float plan contains the details of your trip, such as where you’re going and how long you intend to be at sea.
If anything goes wrong out on the ocean, your float plan will alert the coast guard or friends or family to start rescue operations.
A float plan app allows you to enter your waypoints on the way to your destination. It relays these waypoints to someone on land, keeping a watchful eye on your progress.
If you’re planning a long cruise around “The Great Loop,” you’ll need to plan your route. A navigation app will give you all the attractions along your route, including marinas and landmarks.
The app navigates you through safe waters, showing you where they may be hidden hazards you need to avoid.
Your app should allow community integrations with others users. You’ll find navigation routes, destinations, and anchoring spots found by other people on the app.
These apps allow two-way communication between all users. So, you’ll be able to use other people’s navigation and trip data, and other users will see yours.
Plotting and Charting
A Global Positioning System (GPS) is a must-have device for any mariner. The GPS pinpoints your exact location, allowing you to plot charts accurately and call for help to your precise location.
Your GPS acts as a navigation device, allowing you to enter your location and destination information, and the AI maps the safest and fastest route to your destination.
While there are dedicated GPS systems, you can install an app on your phone and save yourself the expense of buying an additional device.
Boating Planning and Safety Apps
Now that you know what we’re looking for in a good boating app, it’s time to unpack our top choices for downloading to your device. There are plenty of great options, from weather apps to navigation and fish finders.
We’ll start with boating and planning apps to help you reach your destinations safely.
US Coast Guard Mobile App
This app is a must-have for any boating enthusiast. This app allows you to call for emergency assistance when you experience trouble out on the open ocean.
Besides the critical rescue function, other features in the app include float plan submissions, state boating safety rules, information, and NOAA weather updates.
The app allows you to report hazards and ocean or waterway pollution, giving you the chance to communicate with the Coast Guard to keep the water clean. The app is free and available for download to iOS and Android devices.
Free Nautical Charts
As the name suggests, this free app gives you all the nautical charts you need to plan your next boating trip and file your float plan with the Coast Guard.
You get a suite of handy planning tools for your trip, along with buoy reports, marine map overlays, and details of submerged hazards.
We like the marine map overlay function; it’s a handy feature to toggle incoming data, such as the wind speed, water temperature, and wave height.
These data integrate with the map to give you an accurate, real-time assessment of ocean conditions. Download it for free from the Google Play Store.
Have you ever had the misfortune of hunting up and down the coats looking for a boat ramp? Never feel frustrated again with this useful boat ramp app. The app shows you the local boat ramps in your area and provides directions to the launch.
The app houses locations of more than 50,000 boat ramps in the US, making it ideal for boaters visiting new areas. The app is free to download through Google Play and the Apple App Store.
If you have a Garmin Chartplotter GPS, this app is a must-have accessory for your device. ActiveCaptain gives you full integration to your Chartplotter device. It allows for purchasing and saving new maps, log and saving your trips, routes, and waypoints.
It also has a connectivity feature allowing you to connect with other boats running the system. The base app is free, and it comes with in-app purchases. Download it from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
This app is a powerhouse, offering you NOAA radar, navigation charts, dock-to-dock routing, daily chart updates, navigation charts, real-time weather updates, and chart overlays. The app also allows you to work offline.
You have options for selecting your region, with versions available for boating in South America, the Caribbean, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. The app comes with a free download for the basic package. However, if you want to take advantage of the powerful features, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.
You get a free trial period to see if the app offers you any value for your boating experience. You can download Navionics Boating from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
Snag A Slip
If you’re planning a trip up the coastline or around the Gulf, this app is a great way to find all the marina destinations around the area. You can review the marina and its facilities and make your booking directly through the app.
Snag A Slip provides US, Canadian, and Caribbean users with a comprehensive listing of all the marinas in these areas. The app stores your boat’s information to make for a seamless and hassle-free booking experience with the marina.
The app is available for free download at the Apple App and Google Play Stores.
This emergency assistance app is another lifesaver that could get you out of a tricky situation at sea. The app connects you to its dispatch 24/7, allowing emergency calls from any destination at any time.
If you send a distress signal, BoatUS uses the GPS location data from your phone to track you and send a rescue team to help. The app also contains information on the weather and tides.
Download it for free from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
This app connects you to a community of boaters across the US and Canada and the Caribbean, New Zealand, and Australia. KnowWake covers over 350 inland rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways.
You get a handy app that lets you explore all the waterfront and dockside locations you can access by boat. The app contains info on everything for fueling stations, marinas, shipyards, restaurants, boat ramps, inlets, dive shops, and more.
The best part? It’s available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
This app turns your phone into a professional marine navigation device. Navigate the way you would with a professional system like Garmin’s Chartplotter, bring up your charts on-screen, and display bearing and speed instruments while pulling NMEA data from WiFi.
iNavX comes with useful add-ons like current and tide data, as well as GRIB weather forecasts and anchor alarms. The app retails for $4.99 on the Google Play and Apple App stores, and it comes with several in-app purchases to enhance your app experience.
Boating Entertainment, Fishing and Diving Apps
Now that you have your safety and planning out of the way, it’s time to look at a few apps to add to your entertainment experience on the water.
Fishbrain is one of the largest social networking apps for anglers. The app has millions of users, allowing you to connect with a large angling community.
You get regular updates on the best fishing spots and what fish are biting around these locations. The app analyses data to give your lure and bait recommendations for the current fishing conditions. You also have weather updates to ensure you have a safe fishing trip out at sea.
The basic version of the app is free, but if you want the full Fishbrain experience, you’re going to need to buy the premium version from Google Play or the Apple App Store for a $5.99 subscription fee.
Like Fishbrain, FishTrack gives you another handy fishing app for finding the best spots in your location.
You get data on ocean temperatures, wind speeds, currents and tides, and the moon phase, along with impressive weather forecasting included.
The basic version of the app is free, but you’ll want to download in-app purchases if you want the full experience.
Terrafin is another fantastic app. It’s expensive, with an annual subscription of $109 from the Apple App Store or Google Play. However, you get a comprehensive app with everything you need to enhance your boating experience.
Terrafin comes with sea surface temperature measurements, downloadable charts, waypoint logging, distance measurement, and bearings, as well as chlorophyll and altimetry charts. The app has a simplistic, user-friendly interface.
While there is a base app for free, we feel you need the premium version to get the most value from this tech.
The Pro Angler app gives you a wealth of information for offshore fishing. Look through the captain and pro reports, location and real-time weather data, species guides, bait and tackle info, and thousands of recommended fishing spots.
This app offers you a bevy of useful information – and it’s free! However, there are several in-app purchases available. Download the app from the Google Play or Apple App stores.
If you’re a scuba diver, DiveMate is an essential app for enhancing your dive experience. The app acts as your logbook, giving you the chance to log your dives and observations. The app contains thousands of popular dive sites and information on each spot.
DiveMate even comes with a Nitrox MOD calculator for optimal decompression times, depth displays, medical information, pressure, and temperature. The app works with or without an internet connection, making it ideal for liveaboards.
The app is available for free from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
If you don’t own a boat, but you want to get out onto the water for the day, download this free app from Google Play or Apple App Store. You get options for renting any type of boat or booking excursions with boating companies through the app.
GetMyBoat helps you book your fishing charter, surfing lesson, diving trip, and plenty of other watersports activities right from your phone. Download it for free from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
If you’re looking for the “Airbnb” of the boating world, you’ll need to download Boatsetter from the Google Play or Apple App stores. With Boatsetter, you’re renting the boat from its owner, not from a boat rental company.
There are all types of boats on offer for rental, from bowriders to bass boats and more. Using this app is a great idea for new boat enthusiasts to find the right boat model and length before committing to a purchase.
The app is available through Google Play and the Apple App Store.
ASA Sailing Challenge
The American Sailing Association, “Sailing Challenge app” is a great educational entertainment tool. It’s a great game to play to refine your sailing skills on those calm days when you have nothing to do by relaxing on the deck.
The game lets you race a sailboat using real-world navigation and sailing factors like wind speed, points of sail, tacking, sail trim, and jibing. Zoom out to get the big picture of the boat, or view it from the captain’s chair.
Download the ASA Sailing Challenge app from Google Play and the Apple App Store for $3.99.
My Cocktail Bar
While you’re chilling out on the deck, mix yourself a drink with the My Cocktail Bar app. Drop anchor, pull out the bar cabinet and choose a drink from one of the 77 delicious cocktail recipes on the app.
Each drink comes with images of the cocktail and a mixology method for building the drink. The app also allows you to input the ingredients you have on hand, and it makes suggestions on cocktails based on what you have available.
The App is free on the Apple App Store, but Android users will need to download the “My Cocktail Bar” app from the Google Play store instead.
Keep yourself safe out on the water with a weather app. Never let a storm take you by surprise, and get back to the marina safely with one of these choices.
This app is our favorite for weather forecasting and related weather data. You get in-depth forecasting, live radar, and weather maps for any location. The app is free for download from the Google Play and Apple App Store, but it comes with ads in-app.
This weather app offers you a wide range of weather forecasts, maps, and more. You also get some unique features you don’t find on other weather apps, such as the lightning alert, severe weather alert, and doppler radar.
The app is free for download from the Google Play and Apple App Store, but it comes with ads included in the app interface.
Wrapping Up – Spend Some Time Exploring the App Before Setting Sail
After you pick out the best boating apps for your experience, spend some time getting to know them before taking them out on the water. The last thing you need is to feel frustrated at technology when you’re trying to enjoy your boating trip.