There are plenty of smartphone apps for boaters
We’ve mentioned some excellent programs boaters can use on their computers, like Open CPN, which can substitute for your GPS plotter. With all your smartphones, you should also be aware of apps that you will find useful.
Glympse is a free app you can download. This will provide an accurate location to whoever you have shared your location with. You can send a location to someone or request someone share their location for a set period of time from five minutes to four hours. It works on land or sea. The reason for this time limit is because it takes up so much battery.
Glympse would work well if you are anchored up and the kids take off to explore with the dinghy. Send a cell phone along with them, protected in a zip lock bag maybe tied to a PFD. Knowing right where they are takes some of the worry out of your day.
Less accurate but longer lasting is the Life360 app. This has less accurate positioning but uses less battery and so it can stay on all the time, unless one of the parties turns off his tracking. Again, this works on land or sea. The US Coast Guard app is very helpful. It has a number of features such as the Rules of the Road button where you can look up information you need. If you are looking to check on your boat’s safety there is a feature where you can get a list of all the items you need from PFD’s to fire extinguishers, and when you have them all it tells you how to request a vessel safety check from the nearest Coast Guard Auxiliary unit.
There is even a function for filing a float plan with a friend. It has a handy form to make sure you include all the information needed so you could be located and assisted in an emergency. Other apps include one to report pollution such as an oil spill, and one for notifying the Coast Guard of suspicious activity. The NOAA app gives you weather data from various buoys so you can better plan your trip. There is even a button to press for emergencies.
All of these apps are free. For a one-time fee of $15 you can get Navionics, a very accurate chart updated constantly at no extra charge. It shows water features, not land. It shows the movement of your boat, too, and is a great back up for your plotter. There is also Windfinder, which gives current speed and direction as well as tides and sea conditions. And for fun, remember to get the Google Sky Map to locate stars and constellations. With so many smartphones on boats, it makes sense to use the nautical apps. Above all, are there any Pokemon Go stops out on the water? I haven’t seen divers looking for any, but who knows?