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Our first iPad software purchase was Garmin’s Bluechart Mobile app. Not only will the iPad’s built in GPS be able to pinpoint and track our position on Garmin’s excellent cartography, the application also has Active Captain’s valuable services built right into it! We think this will be an excellent backup to the Garmin 546 chartplotter that we have at the helm and also great for planning routes and anchorages from the comfort of our salon or, even better, a beachside bar.

Can you see where we’re anchored?


    • I’m looking forward to seeing all that the app can do. Jeffrey Siegel, the owner and developer of Active Captain, promises that even more features are in the pipeline.

  1. We use the Navionics app. We love it, its been very accurate, but I will check out the Garmin also.

    • The app itself is free but the charts which you need to really use it are not. You may or may not want to invest in them if you already have the Navionics app.

  2. Interesting, Navionics is the opposite. You pay for the app and get the charts for free. They do make you pay for different regions of the world though (the are sold as different apps). I downloaded the Garmin app, now trying to decide if I want to spend the money for the charts since we are already using the Navionics and have no complaints. It’s like having an additional chart plotter.

    • I used to have the Navionics app for the iphone. I don’t have them side by side but I do hear that the Garmin charts are far superior. Also, the Active Captain integration is very nice!

  3. That looks awesome…great, now I want one too and I do NOT need another Apple product! Hmmm….

  4. Mike do you think its important to buy the iPad mini with 4G? Do you plan on getting a cellular contract or will a sim card pay as you go work in the Ipad mini, unlocked version you bought there? How much did it cost please. I’ve been thinking of buying the Ipad Mini Wi-Fi, but wondered if the 4G might be the best for travel?

    • Yes, I do think 4G is important. Because our iPad is unlocked we can get a local sim card with data to access services when Wi-Fi is not available. I have been told that we can get service from Digicel (a popular caribbean carrier) for only $50.00 EC per month (about 18.00 US).

  5. Jeff has been doing an amazing job with ActiveCaptain. There is so much cool stuff in development over at that outfit….

    If your iThing is playing well with the cellular network, that is a very good thing indeed. I have, so far, been very reluctant to recommend them, partly because the older North American versions didn’t always get along with international networks (partly due to having the wrong radios, and partly from SIM locking). Being able to take the thing from country to country, swapping out local SIMs as needed, would be very useful indeed….

  6. Mike – be sure to check out the Anchor Watch app. We love that one too.

  7. If you want to use an iPad for boating, ONLY consider getting the cellular 3G/4G model. Even if you never enable the cellular plan, buy a SIM, or get online over the cellular network, only the cellular iPad has a real GPS built in. Don’t believe what the salespeople tell you. If you get a WiFi-only iPad and want to use it on your boat, you’ll then need to buy an add-on GPS. That add-on will require its own charging or will stick out of the end of the iPad waiting to get bumped off. Cases won’t fit properly and all waterproof’ness will disappear.

    The extra price for the add-on GPS is about the same cost differential of getting the cellular iPad to begin with. Except with the cellular model, you’ll always have the GPS and won’t forget it onboard for use in your dinghy or on someone else’s boat.

    The cellular model also has full support for WiFi.

  8. I have caught fish with my iPhone. Back when dad and I would go fishing, I had an iPhone. I loaded a free GPS app, went to the State fish & wildlife website and entered in coordinates of artificial reefs. So, we were out fishing one time and I said lets try this thing. It guided us directly over the reefs, as verified by the depthsounder/fish finder. and voila! King Mackeral and Red Snapper were on the hook. The down side was my phone was dead pretty quick…or was it a down side?

  9. Mike – Thanks for the heads up about the Garmin BlueChart Mobile. I’ll have to give it a try. So far I’ve been more than happy with Navionics and MotionX GPS, though Garmin does produces some visually appealing charts. Navionics is also well done and “pretty”, while MotionX is the cost leader ($1.99 on iPad but with all free NOAA charts) in functional mobile chart plotting apps.

  10. Mike –

    Does the app provide any way to load the BlueChart info from the BlueChart SD card I already purchased for my Garmin chartplotter?

    If not, I think I’ll stick with the Navionics app – I paid $9.99 and got all the charts I’ll ever need… (I think it costs more now). And they issue updates to the charts…


  11. On Banyan we have both he Navionics and the new Blue chart app on our iPad. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. We added the Garmin app for Active captain access and also I understand that Garmin uses the Explorer Chart data for the Bahamas (correct me if I’m wrong) so I find both are excellent products, However, with the Garmin you only have to buy the chart region once and can use it both on the iPad and an iPhone….with Navionics you pay for each device.

  12. Thanks for your review on the Garmin Bluechart Mobile. We were avid Navionics users for the past 2 years, great program on my iPhone. Recently I purchased an iPad along with buying GBCM. Love it. But one downside I spent the money and downloaded the maps onto my iPad but they don’t show up on my iPhone. Have you had this same issue? I know you said you also had the Garmin GPS unit on your boat. Can you put the purchased maps on both devices only through the Garmin Unit? We don’t have a Garmin GPS unit (too $$$$ right now). Thanks, fair winds and following seas.

    • We don’t have an iPhone so I can’t say for sure but I think you should be able to sync the dat onto both devices. I doubt it would allow you to copy them onto a fixed unit though. I am guessing of course. Garmin’s site might have better answers.

  13. Regrettably Garmin only supports iCult devices. Wish they recognized Android.

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