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Can I really navigate with an iPad?

2016 November 1

Dear Boat Doctor,

I’d like to start using an iPad as a backup navigation option. I am not sure what navigation application to use and I am a little confused about the GPS options for the tablet. What’s the best way to go?

Charlie Schmit

Newport, California

Dear Charlie,

You absolutely can navigate with a tablet or phone, but there are limitations. Keep in mind that these devices are not designed to stand up to a marine environment and you’ll need to charge them frequently (running the GPS on a device tends to use a battery quickly). On the other hand, you’re likely to always have them with you and they cost significantly less than purpose-built marine equipment.

In my experience iPads are the most widely used tablets for navigation, both full size and minis. You must get the model with a built-in GPS, which means spending the extra dough for a model with cellular capability (the GPS is only installed on these models). You don’t need a service contract, but you do need a device capable of being connected on a cellular network.

To keep your device alive in a marine environment, I strongly suggest a tough case. I have had the best luck with LifeProof cases (www.lifeproof.com). These cases are relatively waterproof and will protect the device from the inevitable bangs and drops of life at sea.

The most important decision is what application to use and that will largely be driven by the charts that you want to use. The biggest players in this space are iNavX and Navionics. iNavX (www.inavx.com) is the most flexible, allowing you to use virtually any charts, including free U.S. Government raster charts. The application costs $50 and the cost of charts varies depending on which ones you choose. Navionics (www.navionics.com) is very popular for those who already use Navionics charts. The app itself is free, you just pay for charts.


Dear Boat Doctor,

I am doing a major refit on my Whitby 42. I pulled my chainplates and found some pretty serious corrosion. I’d like to replace them but am struggling to find a supplier that can help me. Do you have a good source for chainplates?

Jim Peterson

Charleston, South Carolina

Dear Jim,

I understand your frustration, finding a custom stainless fabricator can be tough, especially one that understands the intricacies of chainplates. Chainplates Express is the source you are looking for, (281-559-2407, www.chainplatesexpress.com). It can build your chainplates and in just a few days.