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The 9 Best Marine Navigation Apps of 2023

Navigating the vast oceans and waterways has never been easier thanks to the advent of marine navigation apps. Whether you're an avid sailor, a recreational boater, or a fishing enthusiast, having a reliable marine navigation app on your smartphone or tablet can greatly enhance your maritime adventures. 


In this roundup, we'll explore the top free and paid marine navigation apps available in 2023, outlining their features, benefits, and drawbacks, so you can set sail with confidence.




The Best Free Marine Navigation Apps



Navionics Icon

Navionics Boating

*First Reef Sailing Top Pick*

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows


Navionics consistently ranks among the best marine navigation apps available. Owned and developed by Garmin, its extensive charts cover waterways across the globe, providing detailed information on tides, currents, depth contours, and marine services. The app offers real-time weather forecast updates and a community-sourced database, allowing users to contribute to the improvement of chart accuracy. While the app is free to download, you only get free access for a two-week trial period. After those two weeks, a paid subscription is required for continued use. Some advanced features may also require separate in-app purchases.




OpenCPN Icon

OpenCPN

Available on: Android, Windows, macOS, Linux


OpenCPN is a powerful open-source marine navigation app that brings professional-grade features to boaters of all levels. Its user-friendly interface, combined with support for a wide range of chart formats, makes it a popular choice among sailors. The app supports AIS (Automatic Identification System) for vessel tracking and integrates with external GPS and other instruments. As an open-source project, it benefits from constant community-driven improvements.




MarineTraffic Icon

MarineTraffic

Available on: Android, Iphone, Ipad


MarineTraffic is not just a navigation app — it’s a global vessel tracking service. The app allows users to track vessel positions in real time, providing essential information about ship movements and routes. For sailors and boaters, this data can be invaluable in planning trips and avoiding congested areas. 


While the app and its basic vessel tracking features are free, it offers limited features and includes ads. Purchasing the Starter Plan for $10.99/year gives you access to more functionality and no ads. Note: Even with the Starter Plan, tracking vessels via satellite coverage will still cost $0.99/day.




SeaPilot Icon

SeaPilot

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


SeaPilot, developed by Raymarine, stands out for its intuitive interface and comprehensive functionalities. Catering to a broad audience, the free app offers detailed marine charts and a “Social Boating” feature that allows users to share real-time positions and routes with friends and fellow boaters. While the app is free to download and U.S. charts are no charge, there’s a SeaPilot Premium version available for $39.99/year. The Premium version includes AIS vessel tracking, weather information, international charts, and much more.




KnowWake Icon

KnowWake

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


KnowWake, is a free navigation app that focuses on crowd-sourcing points of interest, businesses and destinations. It boasts charts of 400+ lakes and rivers, 40k+ points of interest, 8k+ businesses and will even tell you if you are in a “no-wake zone”, a feature that is missing from most mobile navigation apps.  KnowWake also has an Augmented Reality feature, where you can hold up your phone camera and it will overlay points of interest right onto your screen. It also has a host of safety features including an automated float plan, equipment checklists, posted hazards, an SOS button and a virtual dive flag.




The Best Paid Marine Navigation Apps



Navionics Icon

Navionics Boating

*First Reef Sailing Top Pick*

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


Navionics makes another appearance in the list, because once the free trial ends, you get access to the advanced features, such as dock-to-dock auto-routing, sonar charts, and advanced map options. Charts are purchased via region for a low cost, annual fee. According to Navionics.com, the company makes up to 5,000 chart updates per day, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for sailors and boaters alike.


We at First Reef Sailing are big fans of the Navionics software due to its ease of use, powerful routing programs, up-to-date charts and the ability to download charts for off-line use. Our captains have logged thousands of miles using the app and we now offer the First Reef Sailing “Intro to Navionics Clinic”. Join our instructors for a 3 hour clinic to learn the ins and outs of the software, set up and customize it for your specific vessel and unlock all of the incredible features that the program has to offer. 


Cost: $24.99/year for all North American Charts





iNavX Pro

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


iNavX is one of the top-rated handheld chartplotter apps on the market. It boasts a wide selection of detailed charts from leading providers and ensures detailed coverage for coastal and offshore navigation. Its advanced features include weather overlays, route planning, and support for external NMEA instruments. While iNavX comes with a small price tag, its robust capabilities make it a favorite among serious boaters and professional mariners.


Cost: $2.50/month




BoatBeacon Icon

Boat Beacon

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


Boat Beacon is an AIS-based navigation app that provides real-time location data and collision detection for vessels. Its "Augmented Reality" view is particularly impressive, as it overlays navigational information onto the real-world view captured by your device's camera. The app also offers features like an anchor watch, MOB (Man Overboard) alert, and offline chart support.


Cost: $14.99 to download




Aqua Map Icon

Aqua Map

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad


Aqua Map is a versatile marine navigation app with a user-friendly interface. It offers an extensive library of official hydrographic office charts, making it a reliable choice for navigation. The app's unique "Community Layer" feature allows users to share and access local information, enhancing situational awareness. While the Aqua Map app is free to download, charts are only available by in-app purchase.


Cost: App is free to download, but purchasing nautical charts can cost between $5-$100+, depending on the location.




Find the Right Boating App for You

The marine navigation apps available in 2023 offer an array of features to cater to different needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a free app with basic functionalities or invest in a premium app with advanced capabilities, these modern tools will undoubtedly enhance your boating experiences. So, before you set sail on your next adventure, be sure to choose the app that best suits your needs and sign up for a First Reef Sailing sailing charter today.



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