Jan 25, 2018

CY Garmin Act 1In Going iPad or Chartplotter, Which is Right for You? we looked at the various advantages offered by each device, and in the end decided that the decision ultimately comes down to the needs and desires of the user. But what if you didn’t have to choose between them or use the two independently?

Garming Act 2With Garmin it is now possible to use both devices without independently operating two devices with different software. Last fall Garmin reintroduced ActiveCaptain, an app that now combines popular features from both BlueChart Mobile and Garmin Helm, and can sync with Garmin Chartplotters to allow seamless use between the devices.

Of course as new tech, there are some limitations. For Apple devices the app requires iOS 10.0 or later and works on iPhone 5s and newer and most iPads aside from some Generation 1 models like the iPad mini (Gen 1). For Android devices the app requires Android 5.0 and up to operate. The app is also compatible for syncing with a range of Garmin chartplotters and MFDs, including the new ECHOMAP Plus 6cv, 7cv, 7sv and 9sv; the new STRIKER Plus 7cv, 7sv and 9sv; as well as the GPSMAP 7×2/9×2, 10×2/12×2, 7400/7600, 8000/8200 and the 8400/8600 series.

Garmin Act 3

 

 

Once synced the features are numerous, but the most advantageous is OneChart, a function that allows you to access and update all your charts and maps from your chartplotter on your smartphone or tablet. And, it is also possible to purchase new charts through the app that sync to your chartplotter through its wireless connection. It is now easy to chart your trip at home with the app and then transfer all the waypoints and routes directly to your chartplotter, eliminating the need to keep your phone on deck. The chartplotters can even be set to display notifications such as texts and calls, so you wont miss anything important if you have tucked your phone away while on board.

 

 

The app further provides remote control of your chartplotter, so it is not always necessary to stand at the helm to see your position or progress. The connectivity of your smartphone and tablet also allow you to immediately download software updates that automatically sync to your chartplotter, saving the need to take your chartplotter home or transfer updates through portable memory like an SD card.

Another advantageous feature is the ActiveCaptain Community for knowledge sharing between boaters. If you are in a new area the best way to get information about local marinas and hotspots is to ask other boaters, Active Captain Community lets you connect with other members to get feedback and local information.

Garmin ActAnother feature of the ActiveCaptain Community is Quickdraw. The Quickdraw contours software allows you to make your own HD maps with 1’ contours which can be shared with the community. Quickdraw is excellent feature for those tricky to access locations, but if you or another boater has created a detailed contour map boating in those precarious areas can become more easily accessible.

The system is still new, and admittedly has some issues as can be seen be reading numerous user reviews. The biggest issue seems to be the disconnect between BlueChart and ActiveCaptain. Several users identified that once they upgraded to ActiveCaptain they lost access to previously purchased charts for BlueChart. Others have noted that without one of the chartplotters identified above the app has numerous deficiencies and is not wholly suitable to be used as a standalone navigation system, as other apps we have previously identified are.

One feature that does receive positive reviews is the ActiveCaptain Community, as it allows for in depth access to information about local areas. Marina markers provide full details (contact, navigation info, services and reviews) and there is detailed information on anchorage, hazards and some land based locations.

All in all, the Garmin app presents an intriguing technological advancement for marine navigation with the ability to transfer navigation data wirelessly between your smartphone/tablet and Garmin chartplotter. As discussed there are current limitations and brand requirements, but the advantages presented are numerous and will continue to grow and become more open with time. Garmin has certainly pinpointed a technological advantage that is bridging traditional and modern marine navigation.

NOTE: Canadian Yachting OnBoard recommends that you carry and are proficient in the use of hard copy marine charts in the event of electronic failure.

Owen HurstAbout the author:

Owen was born and raised in Midland, Ontario on the shores of Georgian Bay. He has been boating and navigating ever since and has experience as a paddling instructor, rescue boat operator, and a passenger vessel operator for Parks Canada. He is also an avid fisherman. He obtained his Master’s degree from McMaster University and holds SVOP and MedA3 certificates from Transport Canada.

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