Our top 12 apps for sailing that we couldn’t live without since becoming liveaboards.
I love the fact that sailing means I’m on my phone a lot less, but there’s some sailing apps (like weather forecasts) that are literally life saving and I check them religiously twice a day (and get nervous when we’re off shore and without internet service!) Having access to such a huge amount of information is incredibly useful and before you set off on your liveaboard adventure you should download these sailing apps to your phone and give them all a go. You’ll soon whittle them down to the ones you couldn’t be without!
Sailing Apps We Love!
This is an incredible navigation sailing app that gives you an entire region of charts for the price of one chart plotter chart. I honestly think we would have run out of money a long time ago if it wasn’t for Navionics, as the price of charts on our standard chart plotter was absolutely insane!
Obviously as with all technology there might be a day when it fails, so we don’t solely rely on it. We still make sure we have paper charts for areas we’re visiting. In two years of cruising it hasn’t let us down yet!
One of the great things about it is that it’s updated regularly and contains user information about anchorages and weather patterns in the area. We’ve found the notes included vital in many circumstances.
Navionics has been so useful that it’s replaced our chart plotter entirely. We bought two Galaxy Tab A3 tablets (these have great screens for seeing in all kinds of different conditions) and two waterproof cases for them and we fitted a tablet holder to our binnacle, along with a charging point. We also downloaded the Navionics app to our phones so that we have four navigation devices if any one of them fail. We can’t fault it!
We tried several wind forecasting apps before deciding Predict Wind was the most reliable. We often check Ventuski on our laptops too for a second opinion.
PredictWind uses GRIB data from various sources. You can choose your source if you like (eg. if you have a preference for US or European weather models). We have found the table feature really useful as you can compare all the different models at once and see the gusts in the area too. It also shows things like predicted wave height.
There are various add-ons that we would definitely get if we had money to spare. We would use the gust map instead of the wind map to be sure we weren’t going to get blasted. One of the most useful seems to be the routing feature, where you can add your route and a departure time and speed, and it will tell you what the conditions are predicted to be depending on where you are during your journey. You can of course work this out for yourself but it would save a lot of time to have this done for you!
As with all weather models we’ve tried out we usually add 5 or 10 knts to the predicted wind speed as more often than not they under estimate!
3. Navily Apps For Sailing
One of our go to sailing apps for anchorage information. Although there is anchorage information on the Navionics app, we tend to find a lot more information and extra anchorages on Navily. They are rated for their overall protection so you can get an idea of how protected you’ll be in predicted winds, and they give information about the bottom holding and other extra useful things like whether there are amenities on shore, how busy or noisy it was etc. We always check it before heading somewhere to anchor and have found it to be pretty accurate. Just bare in mind that the reviews are peoples own experiences so they won’t necessarily match your own!
This is a sailing app we only recently discovered. It uses phone signal to find AIS information in your area and lets you know where boats are (and gives extra information such as boat speed and destination so you can get an idea of their possible heading).
Obviously not all boats have AIS, so it really is only a guide, but it’s helped us work out whether we could be on potential collision courses and act sooner than we might have done through eye sight alone. It would also be a really nice extra piece of information to have during fog or low visibility.
You need internet signal for it to work, and you can find out our top ways to get internet while sailing here.
The sailing app costs £3.99 or you can use the web version for free!
5. Tides Planner Apps For Sailing
If you are in a tidal area this app from Imray provides all the information you require. I still get a little nervous about working out the tidal range myself (maths was never my strong point!) Now I have something to double check my calculations that I think is pretty reliable. We have been sailing mostly in the Med where tides aren’t really a thing, but when we venture into tidal waters this is one of the apps we rely on most!
6. Google Earth
Our anchor works best in a sandy bottom, so when we’re expecting heavy winds we want to make sure we’re somewhere the anchor will dig straight in and hold well. Sometimes Navily or No Foreign Land detail the bottom but sometimes they don’t. That’s when we turn to our good friend Google Earth!
A lot of anchorages or shallow passages can be clearly seen on Google Earth and you can head to an anchorage and find that patch of sand even in the dark! It’s surprisingly useful for sailing and an app we would thoroughly recommend!
7. Anchor Watch Apps For Sailing
We have had mixed success with this sailing app but it’s so popular with most that we decided to include it here. Give it a go and see for yourself!
Anchor watch uses GPS location to set off an alarm if your boat starts drifting outside set parameters. You can input the amount of chain you have out and it will go off if you’re dragging anchor. We had problems with it, as no matter how wide we set the parameter the alarm went off constantly anyway, even on a super calm day when it was clear we weren’t even moving, let alone dragging. After a whole night of no sleep with the alarm going off every few minutes we gave up, but most sailors seem to love it so perhaps this is just us using it wrong!
One of the things I liked the idea of most was the fact you can get it to send you a message when your boat is moving, so that if you were on shore you would get an alert. This would definitely have put me more at ease when the wind picks up!
This website was recommended to us by a sailing friend and it’s been a life saver on many occasions. Unfortunately thunderstorms here in Greece seem to strike with very little warning and with quite some ferocity. Blitzortung tracks lightening strikes around the world in real time, so you can literally watch them coming towards you and prepare appropriately. The white flashes are the live lightning strikes (to 1 minute accuracy) and then old lightning strikes are shown fading down to red so that you can get an idea of the direction the storm is travelling.
You can see how it saved our bacon here!
An absolute gold mine of information for anchorages, this website is saved in my favourites bar and I use it A LOT! It’s a kind of review based site for anchorages and marinas where users can add their experiences and useful information.
A great feature that can’t be found in other sailing apps, especially for families, is that you can add your boat and check in to the anchorages you arrive at so that you can find other cruisers with similar interests and go say hi! People will usually add the age of their kids so you could connect easily with other sailing families. You can follow boats you know so that you can see if you’re in a similar area to friends you’ve made! It also saves your route so you can see where and when you’ve arrived at different anchorages, which we find a nice little reminder of our journey so far.
It’s constantly improving, so now there is extra information being added to anchorages such as whether there is water and electricity, where laundry services can be found and other useful things like supermarkets and car hire. If you write a blog you can add links to articles you’ve written about the places you’ve visited. There really is a whole wealth of features that I’m still discovering – admin are super helpful and will talk you through it all if you get stuck!
Should Be Apps For Sailing!
We’ve included a few of our personal favourite apps that aren’t specific for sailing but are super useful for cruisers anyway!
This is our go to app for managing our money while we’re out of the UK. Revolut gives great exchange rates so you don’t get stung too much when you’re out of the country. The app means you can manage all your finances from one place and keep tabs on how much you’re spending and what on! It records everything for you in an easy to read chart so you can review your spending at the end of each month.
You can sign up for a free Revolut card here to make sure you get the best rates when spending abroad.
11. Audible – A Sailing Essential!
Not technically a sailing app but I think it should be! Audible gives you access to millions of audio books of all kinds. It’s great for long boring passages where not much is happening, and we use it all the time when we’re doing work on the boat or doing things like tidying or sorting. It needs minimal internet, it’s entertaining and soothing. We are completely addicted and I must have motored through about 20 books while working in the boat yard, sanding away with my headphones in made the job a whole lot more appealing!
You can get a free months trial here, and after that it’s 7.99 a month for one book of your choice. It’s cheaper than buying a book each month but the price can sting if you get through them at the rate we do. To combat this I take full advantage of their deal of the day where you can get books for £1.99. You just have to be a little less picky about what you listen to, which has forced me to listen and find I enjoy genres I never would have thought to listen to. You can also get access to a whole range of podcasts (we love the true crime ones!).
12. YouTube For Sailing Knowledge
This sounds like a strange one to add, but honestly, YouTube is a sailor’s bible these days. If you can’t learn it from YouTube then you don’t need to learn it! We’ve found tutorials on how to fix the most random boat parts on YouTube. There’s such a huge wealth of information on there that I couldn’t leave it off the list!
It’s also a great place to learn about whether liveaboard life is really for you. There are a thousand different sailing channels out there that video daily life on board. A lot of them show life as you dream it’s going to be, so you have to be a little careful to pick the right channels if you actually want to know what life is really like aboard a sailboat full time (trust us, it isn’t a bed of roses for anyone all the time!) A few big channels we found to be more realistic are Sailing Kittiwake and Sailing Millennial Falcon. Or you can check out ours here for a bit of insight as to what it’s really like to sail on a budget!
So there’s a low down on our all time favourite sailing apps. Hopefully they help you out as much as they’ve helped us! If you have any more favourites then please do let us know below so we can add them to our favourites library!