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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can an iPad Replace Your Chartplotter?

Can an iPad Replace Your Chartplotter?
iPad as Chartplotter - Courtesy thehulltruth.com

This month, Passagemaker's Mark and Diana Doyle wrote a great article comparing the iPad's nautical functionalities with the typical Chartplotter or 'multi-function display' (MFD).

In it, they made honest assessments of each in a multiple-criteria 10-round battle royale.  Surprisingly I'm sure to the maritime community, the iPad took home many of the wins overall.  The portability, functionality, and robustness of the iPad's abilities made it a clear winner in the 'best addition to boats 2013' category.

If you Google the title of this article, you get a veritable smorgasbord of juicy information about the how's and why's of iPad usage aboard boats, along with a slurry of boaters asking others to verify what we all know to be a gut instinct; the Apple ecosystem will soon take over our boats like it took over our personal and business lives.

I feel burdened to repeat Mark and Diana's assessment that iPads CANNOT replace chartplotters that are linked to weather and on-board radar.  Furthermore, iPads are not designed for the water or for shock abuse, which any iPad-owning parent of a three-year-old will tell you.  However, we must all be able to see a place and time when our singular, wireless device can collect and display information from all kinds of inputs, be they radar, weather, engine or electrical monitoring, etc.  And oh what a time it will be.

Until then, the point here is that any boater, particularly a coastal one, should keep multiple devices nearby or turned on at all times that relay information that is vital to the journey.  I have on occasion consulted a smartphone to verify a position that my GPS was telling me.  Most boaters might agree that after staring at a Chartplotter for long enough, zooming in and out and in and out, another source of reckoning can be comforting.  Not to say that we shouldn't be ascertaining our position via landmarks as well!

More information means more safety, in an exponential fashion.  We went from stars to lighthouses to radar to MFDs.  We are fortunate to live in a time when we have access to this much guidance, the type of guidance Christopher Columbus might have given some important body parts to get.  So study your charts, learn to plot a course with a map and by electronic means, and keep those information channels flowing.  You never know when that one last piece of information will save your life.
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