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Best navigation apps: 6 top options tested

Yachting World

  • November 16, 2021

There are many app options on the market for sailors wishing to navigate from a smartphone of tablet. Bruce Jacobs looks at some of the best navigation apps on the market.

best yacht navigation system

It’s increasingly rare these days to see any sailor without at least one navigation application on their phone, while tablets are even preferred to fixed multifunction displays (MFDs) on an increasing number of yachts. It’s great to have this navigation information so easily to hand and so mobile, but which are the best navigation apps for sailors and how do they compare.

Sailors need slightly different information to motorboaters. It’s nice to know if it’s going to be sunny, but we care more about whether the tide will be foul or fair. We need to know what the wind direction will be and whether it’s going to be an angle we can use, over and above nearby places of interest.

We looked at the most popular navigation apps, particularly from a sailor’s perspective, and highlighted what we think works well for yachting and what is best left to the motorboaters.

The absolute number one benefit of an app is the ability to instantly see where you are, on up-to-date charts, without the cost and immobility of an MFD. Every app we tested has that core functionality and, ultimately, you will get good basic use out of any of them.

Thereafter, to my mind, most of these apps have been developed with the leisure powerboater in mind. They are focused on short day trips under engine or maybe going fishing to fairly well known areas. Wind, tide and current have little impact in these scenarios beyond whether it is sunny or the anchorage is accessible.

Fast and reliable

Having spoken to a range of sailors, it’s clear that the universal requirement is for an app that delivers fast, reliable data within an intuitive interface. We want charts that show sensible levels of detail as we zoom in and out and, critically, will warn us when we need to zoom in more to see dangers that might have been hidden by vector charts.

We then want all the other essential information such as wind and current instantly accessible and able to be overlaid on the chart, and we want to be able to quickly measure distance and bearing to a relevant point.

But despite some decent contenders, the truth is that not one app delivers it all. Adding in extras such as AIS, boat data, autorouting and more is great, but that foundation level functionality should come first.

Savvy Navvy, the newcomer to the world of navigation apps, shows what the modern app could be. It is possibly the only app built with yacht sailors at the forefront and gives easily accessible wind, current and tide overlays to sensibly detailed charts. Its routing algorithm was the only app we tested that accounted for current, and its passage plans mapped out beautifully informative courses to steer.

It also recognises hazards such as tidal races and Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS). But its algorithm is too ambitious in the level of detail it tries to extrapolate from GRIB files and the app took us into dangerous shallows and routed us metres off hazards and lee shores in strong winds.

The app is nearly the absolute game changer it should be – but its programming sophistication has outstripped its seamanship and that’s an issue.

The other apps proved a mix in how suitable they are for sailors. Basic features such as wind and current were not universally available. Also often lacking were tools such as those measuring distance and bearing.

Frustrating menus

I found some of the routing software frustrating as I was made to go through multiple menus to load and select waypoints, rather than just touch two points on the screen. And some of the apps appear to have had data sources and functionality added over time, without the redesign they might then need to bring it all into one easy-to-use interface.

AIS data is a nice new feature, but some apps rely on an internet signal for it – others can link by wifi to your AIS device. Knowing how often internet signal drops on a yacht even close to land, I’m not sure I’d trust the type that doesn’t connect to the onboard AIS.

Crowd sourced data is also an increasingly common addition to the charts. Some love it for adding real time accuracy, but others claim it can be dangerously inaccurate. I suspect both are true so, as with everything, the prudent skipper should treat all information with a healthy dose of caution.

For the best mix of functionality, breadth of data and reliable information, Navionics + remains my app of choice. But if ( and it’s a big if) Savvy Navvy becomes more savvy with its seamanship – it will have everything it needs to revolutionise the sector and become the sailor’s app of choice.

Best Navigation apps for sailors:

best yacht navigation system

C-Map on an iPhone

C-MAP produces my favourite charts, with just the right amount of detail for spot depths, enlarged navigational marks on land and sea and clever colouring. Wind data via GRIB files is easily overlaid and the colour shading system both makes it easy to see predicted wind speeds and discourages the user from trying to extrapolate unrealistic detail.

However, there is no tide and current overlay, which is a frustration for sailors, and it is also a disappointment that there is no satellite imagery overlay. C-MAP’s automatic routing system is fairly easy and intuitive to use but having allowed me to set a minimum depth of 3m, it would then suggest routes that contravened this limit, albeit giving a second option that didn’t. Some caution is therefore required.

Get C-Map app from the Apple App Store Get C-Map app from the Google Play Store

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Read our full C-Map navigation app review

navionics app on a phone

Navionics app on a phone

Navionics Boating app

This app is intuitive and easy to use. Charts are quick to render and auto zooming of detail is probably best in class. Text is used to good effect and tells you when you need to zoom in to get more information about hazards (one of the dangers of vector charts). Arrows showing current are animated to show strength, direction and whether the tide is on the ebb or flood. Frustratingly, you have to access a different window to get GRIB/wind data, when it should surely just be an option on screen.

The Navionics Sonar option allows charts to be adapted to show depths based on real time user data from thousands of vessels, but the company sensibly warns that many other factors (such as barometric pressure) will have a considerable affect on depths.

Get Navionics+ app from the Apple App Store Get Navionics+ app from the Google Play Store

Read our full Navionics + navigation app review

Savvy Navvy app on desktop or tablet

Savvy Navvy app on desktop or tablet

Savvy Navvy

Savvy Navvy is a sophisticated app with all the key information ready to be switched on or off at your fingertips. It is the only app that has a routing algorithm that has inputs for wind and current (although bizarrely not leeway) and then plots a beautifully drawn course to steer. It is useful to be able to enter later or earlier departure times and see the impact on wind and tide.

Charts are a little light on detail for my liking – my sense being that artistic merit has slightly usurped navigational utility. A bigger issue with Savvy Navvy is that the sophistication of the programming for its route planning has not been matched by that of the seamanship. It extrapolates impossibly detailed wind patterns from the GRIB data and uses performance polars that cannot be adjusted – both of which make the plans interesting to look at but of little practical use.

Get Savvy Navvy app from the Apple App Store Get Savvy Navvy app from the Google Play Store

Read our full Savvy Navvy navigation app review

Seapilot app on a phone

Seapilot app on a phone

This app is based on some features of the professional ECDIS charting systems and in many ways has some of the best features – but while some will not agree, personally I found it unintuitive to use.

The significant issue, however, is that the autozoom on its charting detail just doesn’t work in many regions. Until I zoomed in to a small area (maybe five square miles) there was so much clutter on the screen that there was not much that could be done. Even when zoomed in, information about navigational marks would often be overlaid on spot depths, making both impossible to read. Seapilot acknowledges that some regions suffer from this as an issue due to the use of ECDIS data and hopes to rectify it going forward.

The app also uses ECDIS warning symbols for some hazards, which leisure sailors won’t be familiar with.

Get Seapilot app from the Apple App Store Get Seapilot app from the Google Play Store

Read our full Seapilot navigation app review

best yacht navigation system

isailor featues nice wind colouring

iSailor is another app that works well as an extension to your boat’s onboard systems. It will connect to the NMEA system and internet AIS, although each feature you unlock costs money. The alarms menu is comprehensive, including anchor drag, waypoint proximity, loss of GPS signal and a low battery warning.

Charts were fairly good, but as with Seapilot, I had issues with the auto detail of the chart at various zoom levels and had data overlaid on each other. I also found that at certain levels of zoom, key data such as spot depth was removed, but too soon for my liking. If I want to plan 2-3 miles ahead I want to see clear depth data, not just coloured contours.

Get iSailor app from the Apple App Store Get iSailor app from the Google Play Store

Read our full iSailor navigation app review

iNavx on a phone

iNavx on a phone

iNavX can be frustrating to use at first because there is so much to customise that it can be tough to get into. Persevere, however, and you’ll find a good app. It has a range of chart options including Navionics, C-MAP and NOAA. They partner with Waterway Guides, which gives micro level detail for marinas and other facilities, although the UK version is yet to arrive.

While all the information is there, I didn’t find interrogation of chart data as easy as, say, the Navionics app, but this may just be personal preference. I also found building and adjusting routes frustrating. There is a very comprehensive manual that can be accessed and a range of excellent YouTube instructional videos – but honestly, I’d rather just be able to work it out quickly and easily on the app.

Get iNavx app from the Apple App Store Get iNavx app from the Google Play Store

Read our full iNavx navigation app review

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Navigate the Waters With the Best Marine GPS

highest-rated marine GPS in 2024

Safe traveling requires proper and accurate navigation, and this particularly holds when you are out on the water. Whether you are out on a fishing spree or riding a schooner, boat, or yacht exploring, a marine GPS keeps you on your intended route. So, the elite marine GPSes in 2024 should always make your priority checklist when heading out into the water.

Whether you are an amateur sailor or an experienced professional on the boat, a GPS utilizes satellite information to ensure that you are always on course. That said, finding the perfect marine GPS can be a tedious process, with the devices getting more advanced and feature-packed. Our comprehensive guide has all the answers, especially if you don’t know whether it’s a chart plotter, fish finder, or a mere tracker that you need.

Our Top Picks

  • Best Overall: Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS Shop Now ➔
  • Most Accurate GPS: Garmin ECHOMAP Marine GPS Shop Now ➔
  • Most Intuitive Interface: Simrad Cruise Marine Chartplotter Shop Now ➔
  • 1 What Is a Marine GPS?
  • 2 Chartplotter vs Fishfinder
  • 3 Essential Factors in a Marine GPS
  • 4 Device durability goes a long way
  • 5 Choosing the right kind of GPS device
  • 6 Screen dimensions and interface matters
  • 7 Must-Have Marine GPS Features
  • 8 Pre-loaded maps and charts
  • 9 Sonar scanners and transducers
  • 10 More advanced features

What is the purpose of CHIRP technology?

Do i need to get map upgrades and additional charts, is it difficult to understand the marine gps interface, related reviews, the premier marine gps models of 2024 in detail, best overall.


Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS

This highly efficient and affordable marine GPS from Humminbird functions as both a chart plotter and fish finder, so you can always be ready for your next marine voyage. Features like higher resolution displays, enhanced target separation, and controlled image noise make the navigation via the Humminbird HELIX 5 GPS much more seamless. 

This particular fish finder, with CHIRP sonar technology, ensures an in-depth screening up to 1,000 feet at multiple frequencies. It comes with preloaded maps and data, marking all possible entryway points, buoys, marinas, shores, and hazards. Furthermore, the built-in cartography tool allows advanced chart plotting, and the WAAS technology provides accurate fixes of global positioning within 8.2 feet. With amazing features rivaling its counterparts on a low budget, this is the best marine GPS on our list.

  • MicroSD card allows additional map upgrades
  • 5-inch widescreen for easy navigation
  • Suitable for small to large-sized vessels
  • Two different display modes
  • Lacks a screen cover

Most Accurate GPS


Garmin ECHOMAP Marine GPS

If you are looking for a fish finder and chart plotter combo, the Garmin ECHOMAP Marine GPS will be your ultimate navigation companion. This device offers exceptionally advanced and accurate GPS technology that instantly updates your coordinates. It’s an efficient navigation device that provides extensive coverage of US coastal areas.

The 7-inch wide sunlight-readable, tiltable screen and the heavy-duty mounting system make this device a perfect partner for venturing out into the ocean. Meanwhile, its high-tech sonar scanning Panoptix feature with GT24 transducers provides a clear vision of what’s underneath your vessel and around you. Additionally, the ECHOMAP GPS also allows you to create personalized maps.

  • Features preloaded maps for US coasts
  • Easy to access menu
  • High-definition visual quality
  • Enhanced target separation with CHIRP sonar technology
  • Requires upgrade for areas outside the US coasts

Most Intuitive Interface


Simrad Cruise Marine Chartplotter

Are you on the lookout for an advanced chart plotter that offers sophisticated hardware and software features at an affordable price range? Then the Simrad Cruise Chartplotter is the answer to your navigation woes. This marine GPS will keep you on course with the preloaded US coastal maps and enhanced chart support from Navionics and C-Map when cruising through the water. Plus, the 83/200 transducer is preprogrammed to provide enhanced depth tracking automatically. 

This GPS makes navigation a breeze with its intuitive control menu, rotary dial, and keypad design. The menu allows you to create customized routes and access information such as speed, temperature, and depth reading. What’s more, this topographical navigation device is particularly great for use over rough seas to always stay on course. 

  • Available in three different screen dimensions
  • Works in high seas and coastal waters
  • Split-screen for access to essential information
  • Easy installation and mounting
  • The depth finder needs improvement

Buying Guide: Marine GPS

You can’t have an oceanic adventure without a sophisticated navigation system onboard. Whether heading into the lake for fishing or breaching the coastal territories to experience rough seas and waves, a marine GPS prioritizes your safety and keeps you on your intended course.

Unfortunately, the newer features, cutting-edge technology upgrades, and different types can be overwhelming. Should you opt for a mounting device or a handheld, portable variant? Do you need a fish finder-chart plotter combo, or is just a GPS tracker enough for your voyage?

All of your questions are valid, and this buying guide addresses everything you need to know before getting yourself a marine navigation device.

What Is a Marine GPS?

Marine GPS is an umbrella term for navigation devices that track a vessel’s location in coastal bodies. The primary function of a global positioning system (GPS) device is to pinpoint the location of any boat over a body of water and provide information about the surroundings. Marine GPS tools include different variants such as GPS radio, chart plotters, and fishfinders.

Chartplotter vs Fishfinder

The two major categories of marine GPS are chart plotters and fishfinders, each serving specific functions. Mariners often opt for hybrid GPSes, which offer a combination of both variants in a single device. While getting a marine GPS that functions as both a chart plotter and fish finder enhances the device’s effectiveness, it also costs you a few extra bucks.

So, it’s important to explore the difference between both marine GPS variants. That way, you can determine whether you need a chart plotter, a fishfinder, or a hybrid.

A chart plotter is a navigation tool that utilizes GPS satellites to pinpoint your location when you are in a coastal area or surrounded by water. The chart plotting device utilizes map coordinates in relation to your speed and directional data to ensure that you are on your intended course. Thus, it minimizes the risk of getting lost or losing track when you are in the ocean.

Fishfinders are specifically for mariners who venture out into the water for fishing purposes. This device utilizes sonar scanning technology and transducers to pinpoint areas with a shoal of fish. If you are a dedicated angler, you’ll appreciate the chart plotter/fishfinder combo.

Essential Factors in a Marine GPS

Device durability goes a long way.

Marine GPS devices are mostly a one-time investment that may cost you some serious money. Therefore, you want a device that runs its natural course and provides optimal performance with perfect durability.

Most importantly, a premium-quality marine navigation device should be waterproof or water-resistant since wave splashes are expected in a vessel. Additionally, you can use protective covers over the GPS to keep it safe from water exposure and enhance its durability. A marine GPS with a waterproof rating ranging from IPX 0 to IPX8 ensures functionality, even when faced with moisture, humidity, or water exposure.

Choosing the right kind of GPS device

Besides chart plotters and fish finders , there are other types of marine GPS based on their mounting style and portability. The different kinds of marine GPS you can opt for can be a hand-held device, dash-mounted GPS, or a portable option, depending on your vessel size and usage.

Portable GPS devices make a great navigation companion for smaller boats like kayaks. Meanwhile, dashboard-mounted GPS devices work better for larger vessels with better features and sophisticated navigation measures.

Screen dimensions and interface matters

When you are aboard a vessel, the device’s screen dimension and interface matter a lot for ease of accessing data and information. Larger screen dimensions are more user-friendly and convenient for mariners.

Must-Have Marine GPS Features

Pre-loaded maps and charts.

Your marine GPS can cost you much more if it has pre-installed maps and charts, but they’re very useful. Preloaded maps make navigation more accurate, providing all the essential information regarding the area, hazards, and entry points. Also, users have to opt for map upgrades if they wish to utilize the device on international coasts, so most GPS devices come with an additional SD card for that purpose.

Sonar scanners and transducers

Suppose you are going for a fishfinder GPS. In that case, you need a high-quality transducer system and sonar scanning technology to provide accurate data on what’s beneath the water’s surface. One of the most recent technologies, CHIRP sonar, ensures proper depth range and is quite a popular feature in marine GPSes.

More advanced features

When your marine GPS has the best features, you can expect enhanced navigation and optimal performance. Wi-fi connectivity, distress signals, and a VHS transmitter further elevate the navigation experience. However, the choice of additional features depends on what you require from your marine GPS device.

People Also Asked

Abbreviated for compressed high-intensity radar pulse (CHIRP), this sonar tech utilizes multiple frequency levels, providing detailed imaging and clarity of what’s beneath the surface. CHIRP technology is most effective for fishfinders.

Most marine GPS manufacturers offer preloaded maps of the US and surrounding coastal areas. Map upgrades aren’t required if you are in the US and adjoining territories. But, if you are exploring international coasts, you might need some additional map and chart upgrades.

If you are a nautical newbie, a marine GPS interface can have a bit of a learning curve. With the complex functions navigational GPS devices serve, it’s understandable for mariners to take their time to understand the device’s interface. That said, reputed brands and manufacturers always ensure an easy-to-decipher interface, high-definition visuals, and intuitive menu controls to get the most out of navigation devices.

Article Contributors

Sail magazine review team.

SAIL Magazine Review Team reports on best-selling products in sailing and boating. SAIL Magazine is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Artificial Intelligence (large language models) may have been used in the research and creation of the content.

To ensure questions about product testing or a specific article are addressed, please contact [email protected]

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Ranking The Best Boat GPS On The Market

Garmin Striker 4 GPS

Garmin Striker 4

Humminbird Helix 5 G2

Humminbird Helix 5 G2

Garmin Echomap Plus 94sv

Garmin Echomap Plus 94sv

Joe Appleton

A Marine GPS is an indispensable piece of equipment for the modern boat owner. Working out where you are on the land is hard enough, but it’s a far more difficult task when you’re out on open water. Historically, sailors would have to rely on their years of navigational experience, understanding complex sea charts and determining their position and heading by using the positions of the sun and stars. Luckily, modern technology has evolved to make marine navigation far easier than ever before.

The modern devices rely on GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. GPS works with satellites to pinpoint a location on Earth with incredible accuracy. It’s excellent for plotting routes, determining directions, avoiding other naval traffic, and alerting emergency services in the event of an accident. Traveling the seas without one is a dangerous game.

But there are so many different kinds of boat GPS speedometer, tracker, fish finder, and chartplotter devices out there. They can be dashboard mounted systems, or portable handheld marine GPS products. But which one is the right one for you?

We’ve put a list together of the best marine GPS devices out there to make your shopping trip a little easier.

The Garmin Striker 4 is the ultimate fish finding device. It’s a small and compact GPS that features a 3.5 inch color display, which allows you to find fish, mark positions, and navigate when you’re out on open water.

Fishing enthusiasts will love this boat GPS because it relays in-depth information about what’s going under the waves. Using a CHIRP sonar transducer that uses a continuous sweep of frequencies to map the deep and search for fish, the Striker 4 offers detailed information about fishing targets and potential fishing grounds.

You can place a waypoint market on your favorite fishing grounds using the GPS systems to allow you to find your way back on your next trip with ease. The advanced, high-sensitivity GPS system shows your exact position, direction, and heading, in relation to map points and markers, making for simple and easy marine navigation.

The device also logs your sonar history, operates as a GPS boat speedometer, calculates distance, depth, journey times, and water temperatures.

The Garmin Strike 4 features an easy to use keyed interface with simple buttons, a tilt and swivel mount, and a number of other cool mounting features. It does require a 12-volt battery, or special aquatic battery systems though—so keep that in mind.

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Simple keypad operation

Advanced underwater imagery

High-sensitivity GPS system

Compatible with other Garmin maps

Humminbird is one of the most popular fish finding and mapping device makes in the United States. If you’re looking for a GPS-enabled marine system that can help you track down the best fishing spots and keep you on course at all times, then this could be the device for you. Ideal for both freshwater and saltwater pursuits, the Humminbird Helix 5 G2 has got your next voyage mapped out.

Suitable for pontoon fishing boats, SUPs, kayaks, right up to full-size ocean-going vessels, the Humminbird Helix 5 G2 has everything you need for a safe journey. Pre-loaded with maps and data from both LakeMaster and NOAA, the Helix 5 G2 is fully-capable of navigating you to your journey, noting buoys, hazards, markers, marinas, harbors, and other essential way points.

The actual GPS system uses WAAS technology to give astounding global positioning fixes, with an accuracy of within 2.5 meters. It also features a very accurate chart plotting tool, with using a built-in cartography tool from Anima.

If that wasn’t enough, the Helix 5 G2 is a competent fish finder. It uses CHIRP digital sonar and imagine sonar to map the lake or ocean floor, using live charts and down imaging to locate fish or potential fishing areas. All that data is produced onscreen in high-definition via the device’s 5-Inch color WVGA display.

MicroSD functionality for adding more maps

Mounting hardware and power cable are included

Simple keypad control interface

Amazing Side & Down imaging

Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder & GPS

Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder & GPS

Lowrance is another name that you can trust when it comes to marine electronics. This particular model is a fish finder, chart plotter, and GPS all in one. It’s reasonably priced, has an easy to use interface, and it has a handy 5 inch screen too.

The fish finder relies on an auto-tuning sonar, that uses CHIRP sonar with an extra-wide cone angle that increases underwater visibility, giving you more coverage than other products on the market. It’s easy to control via the smartphone-like interface, allowing you to keep your mind focused more on fishing than fiddling with menus.

The HOOK2’s GPS capabilities are quite advanced too. Thanks to the internal antenna, the HOOK2 enjoys a very accurate level of precision. It will easily find your location, and point you in the direction of your favorite fishing grounds, local marinas, and other key landmarks or waypoints.

You get quite a lot of cool things included in this package too. It comes with a tough quick-release tilt and swivel mounting bracket, an SD card slot for loading additional content, and C-MAPS US Inland Lake Maps installed as standard. These maps feature contoured charts for 3,000 lakes, as well as regular charts for a further 9,000 lakes.

Unlike some other products on this list, Lowrance has given the HOOK2 a one-year warranty covering parts and labor, which is a testament to the brand’s confidence in their products. This is one of the best marine GPS systems for lake fishermen.

Fish finder, chart plotter, GPS, all-in-one unit

Pre-loaded with US inland lake maps

Split-Shot transducer for detailed underwater imagery

One year manufacturer’s warranty

At the more premium end of the budget spectrum, we have the Garmin Echomap Plus 94sv. It’s an advanced GPS system with a useful 9-inch display and advanced fish finding technology. It’s pre-loaded with Bluechart G3 coastal charts, and Great Lake charts too, so it’s ideal for both saltwater and freshwater explorers.

The fish finder operates using a GT51-TM 12-pin transom mount transducer, that delivers CHIRP sonar, provides depth and temperature readings, and offers crystal clear imaging sent directly to the screen. With Quickdraw Contours, this Garmin boat GPS can create personalized fishing maps while you’re steering across the surface.

Thanks to built-in wi-fi technology, the Garmin Echomap Plus 94sv can seamlessly sync with your smartphone, allowing you to take calls, send text messages, and send emails directly from the GPS screen. It also allows for real-time updates to be added to your maps and charts, allowing you to plot courses accordingly, avoiding bad weather or other markers and waypoints.

What’s more, this Garmin GPS system is also compatible with a wide range of other Garmin products, and it can actually work in partnership with NMEA 2000 technology. This means that it’s possible to link your GPS to read engine data, external sensors, autopilot systems, and more.

Thanks to the simple screen and key-assisted interface, this Garmin GPS marine must-have is an essential piece of equipment for any coastal fisherman who enjoys exploring.

QuickDraw Contours live mapping

Wi-fi enabled interface for inter-connectivity

Bluechart G3 Coastal and Great Lake charts included

Fully compatible with other Garmin products

Cobra COB-MR


The Cobra COB-MR is a practical handheld marine GPS receiver with all of the necessary functions for boating enthusiasts, at an affordable price. If you regularly take your boat off-shore, then having something like this on board is an essential.

Cobra’s COB-MR device is a small and compact receiver that comes equipped with a VHF radio, access to NOAA weather channels with 24-hour weather updates, a built in GPS receiver, and a very useful Digital Selective Calling function, with a Distress Button.

While it’s not as advanced as many other products on the market, with fancy mapping or fish finding abilities, it can easily pinpoint your location, relay life saving information, and keep you on course.

It’s also Bluetooth enabled, waterproof, and designed to float. What’s more, it’s battery powered and will continue to function in emergencies, where hardwired equivalents would fail if there’s power loss.

To make the most of this marine GPS system, take the time to fully register your product and set it up using the manual.

For the price, it’s very hard to find fault with this cool GPS device. Sure, there are others out there but this one is ideal for budget-focused mariners, or as a backup for when other devices fail.

  • Buy on Cobra   →

Instant access to Channel 9 & Channel 16 in emergencies

Submersible to IPX8 (JIS8) standards

Access to weather information at all times

3 selectable power settings

Ray Marine Dragonfly Pro 7

Ray Marine Dragonfly Pro 7

Next, we have this exceptional marine GPS and fish finding combo from Ray Marine. It’s not the most advanced GPS system in the world, but it can be used in partnership with a number of marine GPS apps, which makes it an invaluable tool for boaters.

The most impressive feature of the Dragonfly Pro is the fish finding sonar and Down Vision technology. It uses a dual channel CHIRP sonar to accurately map the sea floor to depths of up to 180 meters. The data received is model into quality maps that are then displayed on the Dragonfly Pro’s 7 inch LCD display.

The actual GPS side of this marine GPS unit features wi-fi enabled real-time up-to-date charts that keeps you on course and where you want to be. Bathymetric charts work with Ray Marine’s Navionics marine GPS apps to give you the latest navigation information. It can be used as a chartplotter, can record your journey, and drop waypoints and trail markers to help you find the same locations again and again.

If you’re looking for a device with a big screen and excellent clarity, with simple controls that’s easy to install, then this one is the model for you. It is quite expensive compared to some other models, but it does have a huge range of functions, making it quite a versatile bit of kit.

This particular model can be bought either with charts or without. Make sure you know which version you’re buying to avoid disappointment. “No chart” simply means that you’ll have to buy them separately and load them on manually.

Wide LCD screen

Built in wi-fi with smartphone compatibility

Live stream marine GPS chartplotter apps

Dual-channel CHIRP sonar

Standard Horizon HX870

Standard Horizon HX870

This is another handheld, highly-portable, and battery powered GPS system. This is from Standard Horizon, a big name in the radio-communications industry. It’s a VHF radio with an internal GPS system, with emergency call functions, with emergency alert and distress call capabilities.

The Standard Horizon HX870 uses WAAS technology to provide accurate location details, which users can transpose onto a paper chart. It also has a large dot matrix display that can be used for navigation, displaying your route, heading, speed, and location. Despite the old-school display, it actually has an easy route creation and waypoint marker system, which is invaluable at sea.

One of the best features of this device is the NOAA weather channel access that provides up to the minute weather alerts and reports around the clock. There’s also access to 70 Channel Class “D” DSC (Digital Selective Calling) channels, with a noise cancelling function for clear voice clarity no matter the weather conditions.

Other features include a USB data port for easy data transfer, a full-waterproof IPX8 waterproof rating, full flotation on water, and an easy to operate key interface. It also has a quick charging function that fully restores the lithium ion battery to full-life in around 3 hours. This is an excellent budget GPS device.

Water activated strobe light for emergencies

Fully waterproof, and it floats

Excellent battery life

Emergency distress call capabilities

Garmin GPSMAP 78SC

Garmin GPSMAP 78SC

Next, we have a mid-range product from Garmin. This is the GPSMAP 78SC, a small marine GPS chartplotter device with loads of cool features that every watersports enthusiast needs to own. Not just watersport enthusiasts either—it’s a fun product that can be used for recording speed in your car, or recording flight date. However, it’s designed for aquatic purposes, and it’s best suited to those pursuits.

This boat GPS is equipped with BlueChart g2 coastal charts as standard, but you can easily load other maps using the microSD port. The coastal maps include shoreline details, depth contours, harbors, marinas, and navaids, for the entire United States and Bahamas.

Using a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass, the GPS system can give you detailed information of your location, heading, and bearing. It also features a barometric altimeter that can detect your altitude, and plot barometric readings to predict changing weather and storms.

The WAAS-enabled GPS is a highly-sensitive system that can pinpoint your location easily. It uses HotFix satellite prediction tools that can log your location even in difficult conditions.

The device also uses Garmin Connect technology. This allows you to connect to your computer and trace or plan your routes using Google Earth, and share your routes and details with others.

2.6-inch color TFT display

MicroSD compatibility to add maps

20 hour battery duration

It’s water resistant and it floats too!

The Best Boat GPS: Buying Guide

What is a marine gps.

A marine GPS is an essential marine navigation tool—but what does it actually do? As you can see from the list above, there are GPS emergency radios, fish finders, chart plotters, and more. Do all GPS devices do the same things, or do some serve different purposes?

First, let’s look at what a boat GPS actually does. It’s a global positioning system that can be used on bodies of water and over open ocean. They can pinpoint your exact location and give you your bearings. All GPS devices will at least do this.

Emergency GPS Systems

Some have emergency tools that allow you to call in help if you find yourself in distress. Others have live weather updates, live marine communication updates from other vessels, and other emergency functions. Many of these are handheld, battery-operated devices that can be used if your main power source is down.

GPS Fish Finders

Another popular kind of GPS system is a fish finder. These devices use transducer sonar to map the lake or sea bed, and track fish. The burst of scanning sonar bounces off of objects in the water, and the fish finder’s sensors convert the results into imagery that fisherman can read to determine the location of fish. These fish finders are very useful for fishing trips .

GPS Chartplotters

A GPS chartplotter or (chart plotter) is primarily a mapping and navigation tool. Like automotive satellite navigation products, these boat GPS trackers keep an eye on your location and plot your position on a map. They continuously monitor your exact position, your speed and heading, and plot your location in relation to land mass and other important markers or way points. They can also be used to store routes that can be loaded when you need them.

Important Features To Look For

Once you’ve got an idea of what type of GPS device you’re looking for, you can start focusing in on what other important features that you need. Here are some things to consider when you’re searching for a GPS system for your boat.

Maps are arguably one of the most important features of any GPS unit. However, not all marine GPS navigator devices come with maps installed. Some require your charts to be bought separately and uploaded to the device, while others have them pre-installed. There are some devices that don’t have any maps at all, simply relaying your co-ordinates which you can then note on a good old-fashioned sea chart instead.

Even if a device is pre-loaded with maps, make sure to check what areas they cover and what kind of water. Not all devices will have freshwater charts. Most will only have charts for your country.

Chart plotters and fish finders are great, but emergency tools are some of the most useful to have installed on your GPS marine navigation devices. Emergency calling and distress signaling is incredibly useful, particularly if you’re heading out to sea. Even if you’re staying close to the shore, accidents can happen, and having a device that can for help is a wise idea.

It’s easy to prioritize chart plotting as an essential feature, and it is an important feature, but safety should be just as important too. Some GPS systems have wi-fi that link up with marine GPS app programs that can be set up for emergencies.

Other cool features include an electric compass, a barometer, and weather updates. Keep an eye out for these when you’re shopping.


Do you need a battery-operated handheld device, or would you prefer a hard-wired, permanent interface? If you use multiple small-size vessels, it might be more economical to buy something portable that you can use on different boats from one day to the next. These devices usually don’t offer the same kind of features that more permanent-mounted devices do.  However, if you primarily use one boat, it might be best to invest in a permanent GPS system. It all depends on your needs.

If you opt for a handheld marine GPS navigator, then you should be mindful of the battery life. Some have standby times of over 20 hours, while others have quite limited 3-hour operational times. Naturally, what battery life you need depends on how long you’re on the water.

Some devices rely on your boat’s battery and motor to operate. These devices are more reliable but they do have some quirks to them. Always make sure that you read the voltage and motor type required to power one of these. Some trolling motors aren’t up to it, while bigger batteries can be overkill.

Even if you have a system that’s hooked up to your boat’s motor, it’s always wise to carry a battery-operated back-up, just in case of power failure.

A marine GPS unit should be waterproof. That should go without saying. However, there are different kinds of “waterproof” definitions. Here’s the official scale of waterproofing , and what level of protection each designation offers:

Another key feature to keep in mind is the user interface. Touchscreen devices usually feature nice wide screens with crystal clear displays. They can display a lot of useful information all at once. Unfortunately, touch screen technology can be tricky to operate in wet conditions.

Keypad controlled devices are simple to use and work well in wet conditions. Unfortunately, the actual control systems can be a pain to use, with laborious menus. More often than not, these keypad devices have smaller screens too.

The difference in price between the two types could help make that decision for you though.

The price is arguably the most important factor to take into consideration when buying a marine GPS tool. Good quality equipment doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should be wary of a product’s limitations. If you go cheap, don’t expect it to have all of the top features that you’d hope for. It will be basic, but it should do the trick.

It’s also important that you don’t fall for the whole “it’s the most expensive so it should be the best” trick. Throwing money at a device isn’t the right way to go. It’s wise to make sure that you’re investing in a product that you actually want, will actually use, and suits your needs. There’s no point spending thousands on an ocean-ready GPS that’s designed for transatlantic journeys when you’re only fishing around your local lake in a pontoon boat.

Lastly, always read the reviews. Don’t just take the word of marine GPS review sites. Make sure you check with other sources, writers, journalists, and forums before hitting the buy button. Also, if you’re buying from an e-commerce site like Amazon, then read the FAQs and reviews there too.

A certain product may ship without maps loaded into it, or with charts that don’t cover your area. The review section is the best place to mine for answers to those smaller, and often-overlooked questions.

The Best Boat GPS: In Summary

For sailors looking for a budget GPS option, or for those looking for an excellent backup system, then we recommend the Cobra COB-MR. It can easily calculate your position, runs off of battery power, and has an emergency alert system. It’s not the most advanced system, since it doesn’t boast any live charts, fancy imagery, or fish finding technology, but it is cheap, easy to operate, and very practical.

If you have a bigger budget, then the most impressive premium product on the market would have to be the Garmin Echomap Plus 94sv. A Gamin marine GPS won’t let you down. Ever! It’s an advanced fish finding tool with sonar technology, contouring imagery, and more. It also features a highly-sensitive GPS system, with detailed maps and amazing connectivity. Since it’s compatible with other Garmin products, it’s a very useful tool to have in your satellite-navigation arsenal.

For boaters who are just looking for a decent product that ticks all of the right boxes, won’t break the bank, and won’t fall apart easily, then we’d recommend the Humminbird Helix 5 G2. Primarily developed as a fish finder, the Helix 5 does everything a fish finder can, but it also has an advanced GPS system with an easy to use chart plotting tool. It scores big in terms of value for money, and that’s why we’ve named it as our favorite over all.

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Joe Appleton is an outdoor enthusiast who loves everything from bushcraft and hiking to wild camping and boating. If he’s not out in the woods, you’ll find him out on the water.

Categories : Boats , Fishing , Kayak , Reviews

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Spencer Meyers on July 11, 2020

Thanks for the excellent reviews! It can be hard to narrow down the product you are looking for. Too many times have I been in a hurry and purchased the first product that seemed to fit what I wanted. These Boat GPS systems seem to be more tailored to fishing. Are there different Security systems based on boat size or are they all in 1? Would a yacht require different boat security than a smaller fishing boat or does it come down to features? Thanks again!

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Mark & Alpha Remaley on January 18, 2021

With so many choices I am confused. Our pontoon boat is in a relatively small (less than 1 aq. mi.) inland lake and I would like a really good depth profiler so I can see details on the bottom (for scuba-diving & curiosity), and a fish-finder. Those are the two things I really care about, and navigation in a small land-locked lake isn’t really a major concern, so in your opinion what unit would be the best for the limited conditions I have outlined? Thanks for any help on this.

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The Marine Mag

8 Best Marine GPS Chartplotters – (Reviews & Guide 2021)

Do you remember the story of the Titanic collision with an iceberg that was not visible on the sonar? Although that unfortunate event happened decades ago, one thing will remain for sure – safety while sailing. Fortunately, marine navigation technology is rapidly developing and so are the electronic sailing devices.

So if you are a keen sailor or fisherman, you will certainly like our b est marine GPS Chartplotter guide to getting all the information you need to pick the right unit for your boat. Also, we have taken our time to select and write our r eviews on marine GPS chart plotters  carefully and to give you all their benefits along with the possible drawbacks you may experience.

And since we base our information on our personal experience and scientific facts, we hope that you will really enjoy everything that our team has prepared for you.

Best Marine GPS Chartplotters Comparison Chart

Best marine gps chartplotter (newest models).

This is the right place to acquaint yourself with some of the latest sailing navigation products on the market which we carefully handpicked for you. Our team has pointed out the essential features of the units as well as the possible drawbacks that you may experience with them.

1. Garmin Striker 4 GPS

Garmin Striker 4 GPS

The depth readings that this unit gives are also invaluable because you will know when you enter the shallow water. Additionally, some other metrics that you will be informed of are:

  • Temperature
  • Time of day

Another advantage of the Garmin Striker 4 is the fact that it pretty much comes with everything needed for smooth operation. There is a transducer in the set together with a power cable. You may get a 12V battery so that you can use the product without a power outlet, but this will have to be purchased separately.

On the downside, if you go outside of the USA, the map won’t be visible. You can still use the GPS and fishfinder features even outside of the US.

  • The cord length is pretty good – about 10 feet.
  • The unit can be easily disconnected from the mount
  • If you use a 7-amp 12V battery, the Garmin Striker 4 will work for over 12 hours. This is well above the average of 9 hours.
  • The chartplotter has a downscan and a transducer
  • No maps of other countries are included.
  • You have to go online to get the full owner’s manual -(http://static.garmin.com/pumac/STRIKER_OM_EN.pdf)

2. Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS

Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS

A little knock on the product is that it doesn’t come with a screen cover. You will have to be careful around it. However, you will be happy to find out that the chartplotter works with SD cards. Also, it’s transducer’s cable is about 20 feet long.

Getting information not only on the fish around you but also on the depth of the lake is pivotal. This product will let you know of both, even if you move at a speed of around 50 mph.

  • This model will give you decent images of the bottom of the lake.
  • The GPS function leaves “trails” on the map showing you where you have been.
  • You get the product with everything you need to operate it. There’s the unit, the bracket to mount it, a 6-foot power cord, and the transducer.
  • There is no side view scan feature on this model
  • Not so many languages are included in the settings. For example, there is no Arabic.

3. Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder

Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder

Bear in mind that coastal maps aren’t included. If you want to add more maps, you will have to purchase a Micro SD card separately.

When it comes to the GPS chartplotter’s features, you can add various waypoints, trails and to also see the position of the boat on the chart page. If you wish to use the device on your kayak or any other boat that doesn’t have power, you have to get a 12V battery.

Needless to say, the set includes a power cord and a transducer as well. The product can be installed on a 24-foot pontoon without any issues, although many people use it mainly for smaller boats. The most significant advantage according to us, is the presence of the sidefinder function. Only the Triple Shot model has it. If you get the Split Shot one, the feature will not be there.

  • The unit supports a split-screen function.
  • It has a Micro SD card slot. You can add more maps to it.
  • Broader sonar coverage in comparison to previous models
  • The transducer in your trolling motor is not guaranteed to work with this sonar. You have to contact the manufacturer for confirmation.
  • There is no screen cover included

4. Garmin Echomap Chirp 74Cv

Garmin Echomap Chirp 74Cv

  • Operates well at high speeds
  • Compact size and easy to carry
  • You have to purchase and add lake maps additionally
  • No batteries included
  • No side view

5. Humminbird GPS G2 Fish Finder

Humminbird GPS G2 Fish Finder

Moreover, this unit can record at a maximum of 1500 ft depth and has 4000watts PTP power input with 2.5 inches target separation. Also, the product’s GPS function can save your tracking, and it will tell you the depth of the subsurface even when you are sailing with more than 1 or 2 mph. And since we have mention speed, this unit can read both mph and kph. But like any other additional feature, extra maps should be purchased separately. At least their installation is easy – just use the micro SD card slot which is also a tremendous addition to this unit.

  • Transom mount transducer
  • Helix 5 Chirp fish finder
  • AutoChart Live
  • 256 color display with backlit
  • You have to buy the inline fuse holder
  • No side view scan

6. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS

You can also mark your waypoints and manually enter coordinates in case your favorite fishing spot is not shown in the preloaded maps. As for the other options that you will get with this unit, there are plenty of other charts available to be easily downloaded on your device, but you will have to buy them separately.

Nevertheless, these extra maps are exact and cover areas all over the world. But there is one thing you may not like that much – the package does not include a GPS mount or a clip so you will have to use the lanyard which comes with the unit to secure it on your boat.

  • 20 hours of battery life
  • High-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • Waterproof by PPX7 standards
  • Preloaded worldwide charts
  • Cannot show the depth
  • Difficult to see the screen under heavy sunlight conditions

7. Elite-12 Ti2-12-inch Fish Finder

Elite-12 Ti2-12-inch Fish Finder

  • Touch screen and button functions
  • Wireless technology
  • Maps outside US/Can will have to be manually added.

8. Simrad Go7 SXR Chartplotter/Fishfinder

Simrad Go7 SXR Chatplotter/Fishfinder

Also, this product has a C-MAP easy routing and Avionics charts which will show you not only the shortest course to your waypoint but also which way to go to avoid any potential dangers like landmass or shoals. But the navigational hazards feature is not pre-installed so you will have to buy some new charts for this. Yet, the GO7 SXR has a radar input and thanks to the NMEA 2000, you can take control of your vessel’s motor, check the fuel level, flow meters and many more. And the best thing is that you can do this via your phone, using the Go Free controller app.

  • Pre-loaded USA charts
  • CHIRP, Side-DownScan and forward-looking sonar
  • TotalScan transducer
  • built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • No Canada charts
  • Some of the most practical features have to be purchased separately

Marine Chartplotters – Are They That Good?

Best Marine GPS Chartplotters

After reading our reviews, you are definitely aware that sailing navigation systems are a must for every boat-owner. They offer so many features, they come in so many sizes and models, and therefore you may even forget what you need for your sea adventures. This is why we sorted out all the advantages and disadvantages of using a marine Chartplotter for your vessel – to remind you that all types have the same general application in the open seas. Moreover, with guiding electronic devices in the sea you will be faced with identical challenges, so scroll down to learn more.

  • You can quickly and easily find and store your favorite waypoints.
  • Get detailed maps of any water surface in the world, including lakes, rivers, and channels, and install them in your device via an SD card.
  • Connect your chart plotter to your phone to get the advantage of more high-tech features.
  • Can plot the shortest and safest course based on your vessel’s specifications.
  • Fish Finder features to aid your fishing activities.
  • It can show relevant information on the screen like water temperature, air temperature, speed, and depth.
  • May come with radars, transducers, and sonar to help you with the fishing.
  • Ability to show a side view and down imaging.
  • Designed to be water-resistant, durable and light.
  • Some models do not come with SD slot cards.
  • All detailed maps, except for the basic in-built one, should be purchased.
  • There are limited mounting options, especially if your boat’s dashboard is curved. Also, the quality of the material may not come to your expectations.
  • Sometimes your preferred language is not listed in the language menu settings.
  • If you are using a network Chartplotter, there might be a time lag between what your device is showing you and what you actually see in front of your boat.

Do not miss out to visit our marine accessories home page for more information and practical advice on everything you need to know and get ready for safe and successful sailing.

A Few Words About The Types That You Really Need To Know

Marine GPS Chartplotter Reviews

And if you have skipped Geography classes, the latitude and longitude coordinates will not be familiar to you at all. So, here comes the pivotal role of the Chartplotter. This unit is an excellent combination of a GPS system and an optical device through which you can actually see where you are positioned on the map shown on the chart plotter’s screen.

Hence, you can no longer be lost in numbers or coordinates because they are going to be accurately plotted on your device so that you can easily read them and go sailing with confidence.

However, chartplotters come in different types, and this is perhaps what will make you feel confused when considering buying one. For this reason, our team has compiled a list with the basic models that you may come across on the market as well as their main features and characteristics. And remember that the more advanced the technology is, the bigger the price you will pay for such sailing electronics .

1. Handheld Chartplotters

This type of device for marine navigation has the option to be placed anywhere, and as their name gives it away, you can hold them in your hand. They come with internal GPS and are small in size which makes them very compact to use while sailing or doing watersports. Handheld Chartplotter has all the essential functions which will be enough for you to determine your position on the map and mark your waypoints. In addition, these units are equipped with integrated maps although not that detailed as you may wish for.

Still, all handheld chart plotters’ manufacturers offer a wide variety of lake or sea maps to be downloaded or bought separately as an add-on to your unit. And one more thing – since the screen of such products is small, you need to pick a handheld Chartplotter with very bright colors and screen protection from direct sunlight.

2. GPS Marine Chartplotters

The second type is also basically like the handhelds, but the difference is that its screen is bigger than the former’s. Therefore you will not find it very comfortable to hold it or mount it on your kayak, so such guiding navigation is more suitable for bigger boats and not intended for water sports. However, GPS Marine sailing electronics may come with so many features such as additional maps, options to save waypoints and routes, a barometric altimeter and a built-in compass. In short, this is all you need for a weekend sailing.

3. GPS Chartplotter With Built-in Fish Finder

Now, this is what every fisherman would like to have in their boats. This type of device has the same characteristics as the basic GPS Chartplotter, but there is a built-in fish finder. You will definitely like this extra since it sends sound waves into the subsurface and then turns the signal into a picture to be shown on the screen of your chart plotter. This way you will easily find the perfect fishing spot without wasting your time and your boat’s fuel. Another thing is that you can upgrade such steering navigation with a sounder when you buy an additional antenna for the weather or radar. Also, some models come with a transducer, but if this is not the case with your chosen model, you can always purchase such separately.

4. Network Chartplotters

As the name suggests, this is a high-tech navigation device designed to provide you with the most accurate information of the sea bottom as well as give you full control of your boat. Usually, network chart plotters have built-in internet connectivity so that you can use your marina’s Wi-Fi or tether it to your smartphone. This way you will get not only an accurate picture of your target place and your route, but also be alerted of possible dangers under the water. Also, the operation systems of network chart plotters are exclusively user-friendly and very advanced, so you will really like all the extras it has to offer like controlling your boat motors, water temperature feature, free Cloud services and even listening to music.

5. Network Chartplotters With Built-in Fish Finder

These types of marine navigation systems are again aimed to aid fishermen, but since it is cutting-edge technology, you will undoubtedly enjoy the 2-dimensional image of the sea bottom on the screen. This way, your fishing trips will become even more productive and satisfying.

What To Look For In A Marine Chartplotter

In this section, we are going to list some of the features that may come with your Chartplotter or be purchased separately to boost your navigation device’s performance. We have included some basic information on each one’s purpose and functions as well. This way, you will no longer hesitate what the most useful feature for you and your sailing activities is.

1. Transducer

Some marine chart plotters are sold with a transducer while others are not. But in either situation, you need to know why a transducer is so important and what type you need.

Transducers actually serve as an antenna for your boat sonar’s system. The electrical signal that comes from the sonar is turned into a high-frequency sound which is then sent into the water’s subsurface and when it reaches the bottom or any other object like rocks, for example, the signal returns. At this very moment, the transducer receives the incoming signal and turns into a frequency that can be read by the sonar. And this is how you get the image of what is under your boat.

The transducers that come with chart plotters will be efficient because you will not waste your time and money in searching for any additional devices. Also, this tool for converting electrical signals will help you when you go fishing or when sailing in unknown waters.

2. Chirp Sonar

This feature is excellent for giving you an accurate image of the sea bottom in terms of depth and resolution. And thanks to the fact that this type of sonar transmits and receives signals in more than one frequency, you can quickly tell apart big fish from smaller ones for instance.

Also, if your marine Chartplotter is equipped with Chirp sonar, then the chances of you receiving misleading information from the sea bottom are minimal. The reason for this is the ability of the sonar to tell the difference between true sonar echo and disturbances.

In addition, there are different frequency ranges for the Chirp sonar that can be exceptionally functional depending on where you sail. And this is crucial when you want to cast your anchor successfully. So, do not miss out on our best boat anchors  thorough guide along with our top picks to help you choose the right device for mooring your vessel.

· Low Chirp Frequency

Here the signal is transmitted at 25-80 kHz or 50 kHz, which means that such signal will be excellent for sailing in really deep waters – more than 196 feet.

· Medium CHIRP Frequency

When the frequency is between 80-160 kHz or 83 kHz, then you can easily find great fishing spots in shallow waters.

· High CHIRP Frequency

At high frequency like 160-800 kHz or 200 kHz, you will definitely get the highest resolution. Moreover, if your vessel is sailing fast, the high chirp frequency will be able to show you whether there is fish or other objects under the water. Also, such a frequency range is most suitable for water depths of up to 196 feet.

No matter whether you are sailing in the sea or fishing in a lake, you need to know your exact whereabouts. This is why maps are of great importance, and all chart plotters come with preloaded ones. However, the in-built maps are usually too general, and very often you will not find your preferred fishing spot there. Or, if sea adventures are your thing, then all of the places you have never been to will not be installed in your steering navigation system . But this does not mean that you cannot get the map you want, it is just that you are expected to buy anything extra from the manufacturer.

So, when picking a marine Chartplotter, make sure to get all the details about the preloaded maps and all the charts that do not come in the package.

4. Mounting Hardware

Although not a feature of the chart plotters’ electronic characteristics, positioning your device the right and safe way is vital. We advise you to check your boat’s dashboard and think how to mount the Chartplotter since some vessels ‘panels with controls are not conventional.

Also, make sure to research the material of the mounting bracket. If plastic is mainly used, then you will have to buy a new product for securing your Chartplotter as this material is not durable at all.

5. Screen Brightness Display

When choosing your perfect device for marine navigation , do not forget to check whether there is protection against direct sunlight. It is also essential to pick a product with extremely bright color options to get a clear view of the images on your sailing electronic device regardless of the weather conditions.

Marine Chartplotter Installation Tips

Marine Chartplotter Installation

Here we will give you a step-by-step guide to installing a basic model navigating device .

  • Choose the place where you will mount the Chartplotter and make sure it will fit. Sometimes this is a challenge, especially when you have to consider the protection of the device as well as the viewing angles.
  • After deciding on the most appropriate place, drill the 4 holes for the mounting studs. You should make a hole in each corner to match the device’s chassis.
  • Run the cables for the chart plotter before you actually position it.
  • Then you have to reach in behind to fix the thumb nuts to secure the unit.
  • Place the helm panel and after that turn on the device for testing.
  • Insert the chart data card (if you have such), and your Chartplotter is ready to navigate.

Finally, do not forget to read the manufacturer’s installation guide for more specific details on your marine steering device .

Maintaining Your Marine Chartplotter

Any device needs proper care, and the same goes to chart plotters. And given the fact that you will use this device in any kind of weather conditions and in a variety of situations, you need to know how to keep it safe. So, here are some hot tips about maintaining your fishfinder .

Taking care of the visible parts is a must. And the screen is the most important here. Make sure that:

  • You clean it with a soft cloth or a PC screen cleaner
  • The back of the chart plotter is sealed against the pod; otherwise, the device will not be water-resistant.
  • You do not use abrasive or solvent-based cleaners.

2. Software Updates

Updating your marine navigating device is essential because it can give you the latest information about the weather, currents, tides and many more. Make sure to call a technician or contact the manufacturer if any problems occur when the image is blurred on the screen, for example.

3. Replacing instruments

Sometimes you will need to make some changes to your Chartplotter device either due to upgrades or any troubleshooting features. In these situations, it is crucial to take into consideration the following tips.

  • In case your display has been cracked, or your transducer is not working, and you have to replace them, remember to contact the same device’s manufacturers.
  • If you cannot find a replacement for your Chartplotter model because your navigation system type is no longer in stores, then you still have some options.

A- If the part that you need is a stand-alone instrument and it is not connected to any network, then it is going to be easy as any piece can fit.

B- If the part is networked with others, then you will have to check whether your device is equipped with a standard NMEA output. Remember that your new instrument must use the same protocol to make it work but make sure you get some extra cables, just in case. Also, a data combiner will be a great idea since some NMEA protocols have a limit to the number of instruments.

Marine Chartplotter Safety Tips

Buying and installing your electronic navigation system is just the beginning of your sea adventures. But if you are not aware of the possible dangers or do not know how to work with your Chartplotter, then any voyage will turn into a nightmare. This is the reason why we have prepared some essential tips to ensure safe sailing.

  • Navigation systems are essential, but they are made to assist you, so do not rely only on your Chartplotter. You really need to have some basic navigation knowledge and know your boat.
  • If you are going to use a map that is on an SD card, make sure that the map is up-to-date. This way you will have the latest information about all the possible dangers that you may come across.
  • It is vital to study and understand all the symbols that you will see on your device’s screen.
  • When plotting your course remember to check what is standing between you and your destination because your Chartplotter will show you the shortest way but not the hazards you may come across.
  • Make sure you plan your route carefully and understand where exactly you are going. You can get an excellent helper when looking at what is in front of your vessel in the far distance if you have binoculars. So, do not forget to check out our best marine binoculars  top picks and extensive buying guide to aid your navigation.
  • Some models for marine sailing navigation will let you zoom in and out. Although this is a helpful feature, you really need to use the largest scale zoom possible so that no functions are lost during this option.

This is the end of our guide but surely the beginning of your safe sailing adventures. We hope that after reading everything written in our b est marine GPS Chartplotter guide, the only question you will have is “Where to?” And in case you still doubt which device to buy for your boat, make sure to read once again our marine GPS Chartplotter reviews .

Thank you for picking us to be your guide and feel free to comment and give us your feedback. And if this guide helped you with your choice, don’t forget to share it with your friends or online. Thanks for reading and as always – stay put!

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Trakkit GPS

12 Best Marine GPS Chartplotters: 2024 Roundup

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Last Updated: Jan 2, 202 4

Are you looking for the best marine GPS chartplotters on the market today? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve comprehensively reviewed the best systems available today, comparing features, prices, pros and cons, and customer feedback to help you make the best decision for your needs.

No matter what type of boating you participate in, we have reviewed the perfect system for you. So what are you waiting for? Check out our reviews of 12 of the best combo marine GPS chartplotter systems below!

In a rush? Here’s a quick look at our top picks:

Top Marine GPS Devices & Chartplotter Systems

Let the experts guide you.

Hi there! I’m Dale, a  charter boat captain , and an expert when it comes to saltwater fishing. I’ve been fishing off the coast of Maine for over 20 years and have seen the evolution of modern chartplotters. I know what makes a GPS chartplotter and how important they are for any good boater or anyone who wants to locate schools and land big fish. That’s why I’m here to help you buy a marine chartplotter and inform you of the specifics of each device I’m recommending.

How We Reviewed These Marine GPS Chartplotters

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to finding the best marine GPS devices and chartplotter systems.

What works well for a fishing boat may not be the best option for a sailboat and vice versa. That’s why we take a comprehensive approach to our reviews, comparing marine GPS unit features, prices, pros and cons, and customer feedback from real users.

This allows us to provide you with all the information you need to decide which system is suitable for your needs.

We also provide hands-on reviews and detailed overviews of each product.

So let’s look at how to choose the right GPS chartplotter for you!

best marine gps chartplotters

How to Choose a GPS Chartplotter

Choosing a marine GPS chartplotter doesn’t have to be a hassle. There are a few key factors you should consider when choosing your system, such as:

Mounting Method – Most marine GPS chartplotters are flush or non-flush in your boat’s dash. Some come with bail mounts, some with suction cups, and others have permanent mounting hardware.

Screen Size – The overall size of the unit and display will determine your viewing area. Generally, larger screens provide more detailed images and a better overall user experience.

Advanced Features – Many GPS chartplotters, including handheld marine GPS , now have advanced features such as fish finders , radar, barometric altimeter, and AIS (Automatic Identification System) .

User Interface – Choosing a system with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface is essential. This will make it easier for you to use the system without learning complex commands or menus.

Navigation Accuracy – Make sure you choose a GPS chartplotter with the highest level of accuracy. A preferred GPS system should get you from point A to point B without glitches or errors and within a few feet of perfect.

Connectivity – The ability to connect your chart plotter to other devices and systems is essential, such as your smartphone or tablet, a VHF radio, autopilot and engine data, fuel management systems, and more.

Weighing all these factors will help you find the best GPS chartplotter. Now let’s dive into the 12 BEST GPS chartplotter systems on the market today!

Best Marine GPS Chartplotters Reviewed

Overall best marine gps chartplotter: simrad go9 xse.

Overall Best Marine GPS Chartplotter: Simrad GO9 XSE

Cartography: C-Map, MAX-N, Navionics Display: 9 inches Data Connection: cellular Mounting Type: Bracket, Panel Preloaded MAPS: Yes, Nautical North America Dimensions: 14.2 x 10.9 x 10.3 inches

Setup & Install Experience: The Simrad GO9 comes with a high-performance marine GPS receiver, a bright sunlight-viewable 9-inch display, and a dual-channel CHIRP/Broadband sounder.

You can see what’s below the surface in incredible detail with active imaging 3-in-1 sonar, including SideScan, DownScan, and StructureScan.

This unit comes with a mounting bracket and 3-in-1 transducer along with its power cable, built-in 50-channel global positioning system receiver, and integrated Navionics data cover.

The unit is easy to install, although you will need to purchase additional mounting hardware depending on your vessel type.

The GO9 XSE also includes C-MAP by Jeppesen navigation charts for areas in Nautical North America. You can get free chart updates for the life of your unit.

  • 9″ bright display
  • Active imaging 3-in-1 sonar
  • C-MAP by Jeppesen navigation charts preloaded
  • Free lifetime chart updates
  • Easy to install and use
  • 2-year warranty
  • You may require additional mounting hardware

Performance & Overall Experience: The Simrad GO9 XSE is one of the best consumer marine electronics on the market today. The integrated dual-channel CHIRP/Broadband sounder provides incredible detail on what’s below the surface.

Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar lets you see under your boat in astonishing detail. The bright 9-inch display is easy to read and navigate, even in direct sunlight.

C-MAP by Jeppesen navigation charts are preloaded for areas of Nautical North America, with free chart updates for life. Finally, the unit is easy to install and use, making this an excellent choice for the casual boater or serious fishermen.

Overall, we highly recommend the Simrad GO9 XSE as the best marine GPS Chartplotter for the money on the market today. Its feature-rich design makes it an excellent navigational companion.

Tested Features: 

  • Dual channel CHIRP/Broadband sounder
  • Pre-loaded C-MAP
  • Built-In Connectivity with phone

Best Garmin Marine GPS Chartplotter: Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

Best Garmin Marine GPS Chartplotter: Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

Cartography: BlueChart g3, U.S. LakeVü HD Ultra Display: 9 inches Mounting Type: Bail mount Preloaded Maps: Yes (U.S. LakeVü HD Ultra) Dimensions: 13 x 8 x 8 inches Weight: 8 pounds

Setup & Install Experience: The Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv fishfinder/chartplotter combo comes with an easy-to-install bail mount, power cable, and a transom-mount transducer.

The unit is quick and straightforward to install, and the included transducer is compatible with traditional 50/77 kHz and CHIRP frequencies.

The device has a 9-inch ultra-bright, sunlight-viewable display, making it easy to read even on bright days. Preloaded U.S. LakeVü HD Ultra maps make navigation more manageable, and these can be updated throughout the unit’s lifetime.

  • 9″ ultra-bright sunlit-viewable display
  • Compatible with CHIRP frequencies
  • Preloaded U.S. LakeVü HD Ultra maps
  • Free lifetime map updates
  • Simple to install and use
  • You may require additional accessories

Performance & Overall Experience: The Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv is an excellent choice for marine GPS devices. The preloaded maps make navigation easier, and the CHIRP-compatible transducer ensures crystal-clear visuals of what’s below the surface.

The ultra-bright 9-inch display is easy to read in direct sunlight, and free lifetime map updates ensure you’ll always have the most up-to-date navigational data.

Finally, the unit is easy to install and use, making this an excellent choice for casual boaters and professional anglers.

Overall, we highly recommend the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv as one of the best Garmin marine GPS chartplotters on the market today. Its feature-rich design makes it an excellent navigational companion.

  • Track plotting test
  • CHIRP-compatible transducer mounting
  • Preloaded map selection
  • Ultra bright 9-inch display on a sunny day
  • GPS functionality

Best Marine GPS Chartplotter For The Money: Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 44cv

Best Marine GPS Chartplotter For The Money: Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 44cv

Screen Size: 4.3 inches Mounting type: Bail mount Preloaded Maps: Yes (BlueChart g2 HD) DGPS: No Dimensions: 11.69 x 8.5 x 5.47 inches Weight: 3.5 pounds

Setup & Install Experience:  The Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 44cv fishfinder/GPS/chartplotter combo has an easy-to-install bail mount, power, and transducer cables. The unit is quick and simple to install, and the included transducer is easily mounted to the transom.

The device has a 4.3-inch ultra-bright, sunlight-viewable display, making it easy to read even on sunny days. Preloaded BlueChart g2 HD maps make navigation more straightforward, and these can be updated throughout the unit’s lifetime.

  • 4.3″ ultra-bright sunlit-viewable display
  • Great price point
  • Preloaded BlueChart g2 HD maps
  • Quick and simple to install
  • Smaller display than larger units
  • No DGPS functionality

Performance & Overall Experience: Sporting a 4.3-inch ultra-bright display, the Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 44cv is an easy-to-use fishfinder/chartplotter combo that won’t break the bank.

My experience with the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv fishfinder/chartplotter combo has been overwhelmingly positive. This device is easy and intuitive from initial setup to use in the field.

The included transducer was simple to mount on the transom, and the 9-inch ultra-bright display was easy to read even in direct sunlight.

The Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 44cv is an excellent fishfinder/chartplotter combo for anglers and boaters on a budget.

  • Sensitivity test
  • Ultra-bright 4.3-inch display on a sunny day

Simrad Cruise 7: 7-inch GPS Chartplotter

Simrad Cruise 7" Marine GPS Chartplotter

Screen Size: 7 inches Mounting type: Bracket/Mount Preloaded Maps: Yes, US Coast Map Dimensions: 13.03 x 12.36 x 9.57 inches Weight: 4.6 pounds Model number : 000-14996-001

Setup & Install Experience:  The Simrad Cruise 7-inch marine GPS chartplotter has a quick, simple bracket/mount installation. The included power, 83/200 skimmer transducer, and network cables are easy to attach, making the unit ready for use in no time.

The 7″ ultra-bright display is easy to read even in direct sunlight. The included US Coastal Maps can be updated as needed, and supports charts from C-MAP and Navionics.

  • Easy Setup;
  • 7″ ultra-bright sunlight-viewable display
  • Preloaded US Coastal Maps
  • Expensive compared to similar models

Performance & Overall Experience:  The Simrad Cruise 7-inch marine GPS chartplotter is an excellent choice for anglers and boaters who want a reliable, feature-rich navigational system. The included US Coastal Map can be updated as needed, making it easy to stay updated with the most current navigational data. The 7″ ultra-bright display is easy to read even on sunny days, making navigation easier.

Overall, my experience with the Simrad Cruise 7-inch GPS chartplotter has been overwhelmingly positive. The unit is easy to install and use, and I have had no issues navigating on open water or narrow channels. This device provides all the necessary features for a reliable navigational system without breaking the bank.

  • GPS navigation
  • TrackPlotting
  • 83/200 kHz Skimmer transducer mounting
  • 7-inch ultra-bright display on a sunny day

Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv w/ Chirp Sonar Transducer

Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv with Chirp Sonar Transducer

Cartography: C-Map Display: 9 inches Connectivity: Wi-Fi Mounting Type: Tilt/Swivel mount Preloaded MAPS: No, Connect with smartphone Dimensions: 11.4 x 8.9 x 8.2 inches

Setup & Install Experience: The Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv is an excellent value GPS color fishfinder. It has vivid scanning sonar color palettes to identify fish and structures quickly. Sonar imaging on this unit also allows you to see an image of the floor. It comes with a tilt/swivel ball mount bracket for mounting and can easily fit on your boat or even a kayak.

Portability is also great on this unit as it features Wi-Fi connectivity to connect to the ActiveCaptain app on most smartphones to transfer waypoints, get notifications and access the Garmin Quickdraw Community for help with your device or advice on exploring new spots.

  • Easy-to-use
  • Vivid scanning sonar
  • Tilt/swivel ball mount bracket included
  • High-sensitivity GPS
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • No preloaded maps or charts included

Performance & Overall Experience:  The Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv is an excellent choice for anglers and boaters who want an easy-to-use, feature-rich fishfinder/GPS/chartplotter combo.

The GT20 transducer provides both Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar, allowing you to identify fish and structures.

The high-sensitivity GPS will enable you to mark waypoints, create routes, and view your boat’s speed. Additionally, the built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping allows you to create HD fishing maps easily.

Overall, my experience with the Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv has been great. It is simple and easy to use and provides all the necessary features for a reliable navigational system. The included Wi-Fi connectivity makes it easy to connect your smartphone to access the ActiveCaptain App, transfer waypoints, and access the Garmin Quickdraw Community. I recommend this device to anyone looking for an excellent value color fishfinder/GPS/chartplotter combo.

  • Straightforward GPS navigation
  • CHIRP traditional sonar imaging
  • CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar
  • Quickdraw Contours mapping
  • Wi-Fi connectivity to iPhone 12

Garmin GPSMAP 943xsv – Chartplotter / GPS / Fish Finder

Garmin GPSMAP 943xsv - Chartplotter / GPS / Fish Finder

Setup & Installation Experience: The Garmin GPSMAP 943xsv Chartplotter/Fishfinder is an all-in-one unit with a high-resolution IPS display that integrates seamlessly into your marine electronics system. It has nearly double the processing power of previous-generation devices. With 50% more display pixels, it features vivid color palettes to help you distinguish fish from structures. This unit also supports 1 kW CHIRP traditional sonar capabilities, making it easy to find those hard-to-spot fish.

The setup and installation process was straightforward—mount the device using the included bracket/mount, plug in the power cable, connect a compatible transducer if needed (sold separately), and you’re ready to go. The included Garmin G3 Charts provide detailed marine and lake maps. In addition, the GPSMAP 943xsv has an ultra-bright display that can be easily seen in direct sunlight.

  • High-resolution IPS display
  • Vivid color palettes for easy fish identification
  • Compatible with 1 kW Garmin CHIRP sonar
  • Includes Garmin G3 Charts
  • Ultra-bright display
  • Transducer needed for sonar and sold separately.

Performance & Overall Experience: I found the Garmin GPSMAP 943xsv to be a great addition to my fishing arsenal. The high-resolution IPS display makes it easy to see what’s below the surface and its vivid color palette helps me identify fish quickly and accurately. Not only does the unit come with Garmin G3 Charts, but it also has Wi-Fi connectivity so that you can download maps from the Active Captain app.

I found the unit to be highly responsive throughout my testing. I was delighted with the performance and overall experience of the Garmin GPSMAP 8612XSV. It is an excellent value for anglers and boaters looking for an all-in-one unit that provides detailed marine and lake maps on a high-resolution IPS display.

Overall, I was pleased with my experience using the Garmin GPSMAP 943xsv Chartplotter/Fishfinder and recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful fish-finding system.

  • Compatibility with a 1 kW CHIRP system
  • Included Garmin G3 Charts
  • Wi-Fi connectivity to Active Captain App

Simrad NSS9 evo3S – 9-inch Multifunction Fish Finder Chartplotter

Simrad NSS9 evo3S - 9-inch Multifunction Fish Finder Chartplotter

Setup & Installation Experience:  The Simrad NSS9 evo3S is a 9-inch multifunction chartplotter that offers high-performance navigation and integrated sonar capabilities. It includes preloaded C-MAP Enhanced Charts for superior detail and accuracy when navigating your favorite fishing spots. This unit also supports 1 kW CHIRP traditional sonar and scanning sonar, plus features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver.

Installation of the NSS9 evo3S was straightforward. The unit comes with a dash mount kit, making it easy to install in our boat. We also had no issues connecting the power and NMEA 2000 cables. The unit booted up quickly, and we could start fishing in no time.

  • High-performance
  • High-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • Supports 1 kW CHIRP sonar
  • C-MAP Enhanced Charts preloaded
  • Easy installation with included dash pad mount kit
  • It does not include a transducer

Performance & Overall Experience: 

The Simrad NSS9 evo3S was an excellent choice for our boat. The 9-inch display screen offers plenty of room to view charts and sonar, and the 1200-nit brightness makes the display easy to view in direct sunlight. I found the unit extremely high-resolution when using both traditional and scanning sonar. The C-MAP Enhanced Charts provided excellent detail and accuracy when navigating our favorite fishing spots.

Overall, we were delighted with our experience using the Simrad NSS9 evo3S. It is a high-quality unit and an excellent choice for anglers looking for a high-performance chartplotter GPS device. We recommend it to anyone in the market for a multifunction navigation system!

  • High-resolution display screen
  • Preloaded C-MAP Enhanced Charts
  • Integrated sonar capabilities
  • Support for 1 kW CHIRP traditional sonar

Garmin GPSMAP 1042xsv

Garmin GPSMAP 1042xsv

Screen Size: 10 inches Mounting type: Ball or Flush mount Preloaded Maps: Garmin Navionics+ Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.7 x 7.3 inches Weight: 4.1 pounds Model number : 010-01740-03

Setup & Installation Experience:  The Garmin GPSMAP 1042xsv is a 10-inch chartplotter with a built-in worldwide base map, including Garmin Navionics+™ coastal charts. 

This unit also has auto Guidance+ technology, Garmin SailAssist™ feature, and NMEA 2000® connectivity. It comes with the power/data cable, NMEA 2000 T-connector, an 8-pin transducer to 12-pin sounder adapter cable, and a bail mount kit with knobs.

Installation of the GPSMAP 1042xsv was relatively easy. We followed the instructions in the included user manual and had no issues connecting the power and data cables. The unit booted up quickly, and we were able to get started easily.

  • Built-in worldwide base map
  • Garmin Navionics+™ coastal charts
  • Auto Guidance+ technology
  • Garmin SailAssist™ feature
  • NMEA 2000 connectivity
  • ClearVü™, SideVü™, Panoptix™ Sonar capabilities

Performance & Overall Experience:  This unit is packed with features and offers an excellent navigation experience. The 10-inch display is clear and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. We particularly liked the Auto Guidance+ feature, which calculates a route from our current position to where we want to go. The integration of NMEA 2000 also allows us to easily connect other devices on board and view data, such as real-time engine data.

Overall, we were very impressed with the Garmin GPSMAP 1042xsv. It is a high-quality unit and an excellent choice for anglers looking for a multifunction fish finder/chartplotter GPS device. We recommend it to anyone in the market for one!

  • Chirp Sidevü scanning sonar

Humminbird HELIX 8

Humminbird HELIX 8

Screen Size: 8 inches Mounting type: Global mount Preloaded Maps: Humminbird Basemap Dimensions: 16.5 x 11 x 9.5 inches Weight: 8.63 pounds Model number : 411330-1

Setup & Installation Experience:  The Humminbird HELIX 8 is an 8-inch chartplotter with built-in Ethernet networking and AutoChart Live technology. This unit has dual spectrum CHIRP Sonar, internal GPS, Humminbird Basemap preloaded, NMEA 2000® connectivity, and chirp sidevü scanning sonars. It comes with the control head, transom mount transducer, hardware, power cable, gimbal mounting bracket, and a 2-year limited warranty.

  • AutoChart Live technology
  • Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar
  • Internal GPS with Humminbird Basemap
  • Side imaging capabilities
  • This model does not have Down Imaging

The Humminbird HELIX 8 has a very powerful internal GPS with Humminbird Basemap, which provides excellent navigation capabilities. The AutoChart Live technology is great for creating detailed contour personalized fishing maps of your favorite fishing spots. We also found the dual spectrum CHIRP Sonar incredibly accurate, allowing us to locate fish quickly. The side imaging capabilities are also quite helpful in finding and tracking fish.

Overall, we were impressed with the Humminbird HELIX 8 unit. It offers excellent performance and is a great choice for anglers looking for a powerful multifunction fish finder/Chartplotter GPS device. We would recommend this unit!

Hummingbird Helix 12 w/Chirp

Hummingbird Helix 12

Screen Size: 12.1 inches Mounting type: Global mount Preloaded Maps: Humminbird Basemap Dimensions: 19.25 x 12.75 x 10.25 inches Weight: 13.9 pounds Model number : 411430-1

Setup & Installation Experience:  The Humminbird HELIX 12 is a 12.1-inch chartplotter with built-in Ethernet networking, AutoChart Live technology, and Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar. 

This unit also has an internal GPS with Humminbird Basemap preloaded, NMEA 2000® connectivity, and side imaging/ down imaging capabilities. It comes with the control head, transom mount transducer, mounting hardware, power cable, and gimbal mounting bracket.

  • Side imaging and Down Imaging capabilities
  • This model is quite large

Performance & Overall Experience:  Our experience with the Helix 12 was great. The internal GPS with Humminbird Basemap is accurate and provides excellent navigation capabilities. The Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar works excellently and provides crystal-clear images of the water below.

The AutoChart Live technology is great for creating detailed maps of bodies of water, making it easy to identify any potential hazards or other features.

This unit made our list of top-rated chartplotters because of its impressive features, accurate GPS, and outstanding performance. Whether you are a seasoned angler or novice, we highly recommend the Humminbird Helix 12 for all your needs!

Si-tex SVS-460C

Si-tex SVS-460C

Screen Size: 4.3 Inches Mounting type: Dashboard Mount Preloaded Maps: Yes, US waters Dimensions: 13 x 9 x 9 inches Weight: 3.7 Pounds Model number : 54169

Setup & Installation Experience:  The SI-TEX SVS-460C chart plotter is an easy and intuitive device to install. It comes with a mounting bracket and all the necessary hardware, including the wiring, and harnesses for both NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 networks, so you can easily connect to your boat’s electronics.

The installation process is fast and straightforward, taking only a few minutes. Once you’ve connected all the cables, you can power up the chartplotter and begin mapping.

  • Rugged construction
  • Intuitive user interface
  • No-nonsense performance
  • Outstanding value for your money
  • It does not display depths, as it is only a GPS Chartplotter

Performance & Overall Experience:  We found the SI-TEX SVS-460C chart plotter very reliable and easy to use. The intuitive user interface is excellent for navigating menus and finding what you need quickly. The rugged construction ensures it can withstand harsh environments, making it perfect for boats of all sizes.

The chartplotter offers excellent performance and outstanding value for your money. We recommend this unit 100%! The SI-TEX SVS-460C proves that you don’t need a big boat — or a big bankroll to benefit from professional-grade features and performance. I highly recommend this chartplotter!

  • User interface
  • Chartplotting
  • Pre-loaded Maps
  • GPS accuracy

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD2 94sv

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD2 94sv gps chartplotter

Cartography: Navionics+ U.S. Coastal Display: 9 inches Data Connection: WiFi/GPS Mounting Type: Bracket, Panel Preloaded MAPS: Yes, Nautical North America Dimensions: 10.4 x 6.5 x 3.2 inches

Setup & Install Experience:

Setting up the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD2 94sv was a breeze. The included hardware and clear instructions allowed for an easy installation, whether opting for the bracket or panel mounting. Initial boot-up was fairly quick, with the device smoothly transitioning to an easy-to-navigate user interface. The 9-inch touchscreen is impressively responsive, making it easy to toggle between various functionalities.

First Impressions:

The Garmin ECHOMAP UHD2 94sv impresses with its sleek design and high-definition screen for clear coastal charts. Integrated Navionics data enhances navigation accuracy, while wireless connection to the Force trolling motor and support for LiveScope™ sonar systems promise seamless navigation and superior control. In a nutshell, it’s a robust, feature-rich GPS chartplotter designed for modern mariners.

  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface
  • High-resolution 9-inch touchscreen
  • Advanced ClearVü and SideVü sonars
  • Seamless integrationtouchscreen

Performance & Overall Experience:

In terms of performance, the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD2 94sv is a standout. It offers unmatched precision and clarity, thanks to its advanced ClearVü and SideVü sonars. The 9-inch touchscreen and user-friendly interface make navigation a breeze, regardless of conditions. Compared to other models on this list, it outshines in terms of integration capabilities, especially with Garmin devices and LiveScope™ sonar systems.

The only downside we found was its price point, which might be steep for some. But given its high-quality features and superior performance, it makes a worthy investment for serious mariners seeking a reliable, state-of-the-art GPS chartplotter.

Tested Features:

  • ClearVü and SideVü sonars
  • Wireless integration
  • LiveScope™ sonar system compatibility
  • Garmin Navionics+ data
  • Force trolling motor control

GPS chartplotters are precious tools for any boater, offering accurate navigation and a wealth of features. With so many models on the market, it can take time to choose the right one.

Hopefully, this guide has given you insight into what to look for when shopping for a GPS chartplotter and our top picks for both budget and high-end models. Have fun, and stay safe out there!

Marine GPS Chartplotter FAQs

What features should i look for when choosing a gps chartplotter.

When choosing a GPS chartplotter, you should consider screen size, mounting type, advanced features such as fishfinder capabilities, user interface, navigation accuracy, and connectivity.

What is the difference between NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 networks?

NMEA 0183 networks are older and more limited in functions and capabilities, while NMEA 2000 networks are newer, faster, and can handle more data.

What is AutoChart Live Technology?

AutoChart Live technology allows you to create detailed maps of bodies of water in real-time using sonar and GPS data. This makes it easier to identify any potential hazards or other features.

How accurate are Marine GPS Chartplotters?

Marine GPS chartplotters are typically very accurate, with most devices offering accuracy within a few feet. However, they can be affected by environmental conditions such as strong winds and storms, so it’s always essential to leave some wiggle room if navigating unfamiliar areas.

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boat navigation apps

6 Best Marine Navigation & GPS Apps for Boaters (Free & Paid)

best yacht navigation system

Table of Contents

Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

For almost everything you do today, there’s an app that will support, enhance or complement that activity. Recreational boating is no exception, and there are dozens of boating apps to help you enjoy time on the water.

Arguably, marine navigation apps are some of the most common—and the most useful—available to boaters today, with a range of options to suit different needs. Some boat GPS apps, for example, utilize NOAA raster charts, which are essentially scanned paper charts incorporated into their systems. Some apps offer vector charts, providing electronic charts that allow for scrolling and zooming in for enhanced detail.

The convenience of downloading these apps to your iPhone, Android, or tablet enables you to have them readily available regardless of the boat you’re on,  significantly enhancing your navigational capabilities.

Here are our top choices for boat navigation apps:

1. Navionics

navionics boating app

A perennial favorite is Navionics because it’s easy to use and comprehensive in scope. Navionics mimics a standard chartplotter experience and in some cases can connect to an onboard plotter via WiFi. Creating waypoints and routes, measuring distances and understanding depth contours and aids to navigation is pretty straight forward with this app.

Once downloaded, the charts stay on your device and can be used offline which is great when you’re cruising in areas with little coverage. Bonus functionality includes weather and tide information and dock-to-dock routing that helps you set a viable course based on your vessel’s parameters like draft.

  • Price: Two-week free trial, then subscriptions starting at $14.99
  • Click here to learn more and download.

iNavX marine navigation

Easy to confuse with Navionics (especially when downloading the app), iNavX is a whole different animal. There’s a $5 charge to download the app, and then you can download NOAA raster charts for free and vector charts (powered by Navionics and C-MAP) for a fee.

Beyond navigation, details on marinas, fuel docks and other facilities are also available. Weather data overlays and additional features like engine data and AIS collision avoidance information can also be viewed, but the app can get technical in a hurry and may take longer to learn.

  • Price: $4.99, plus an annual subscription

c-map boat gps app

C-MAP is the primary other choice besides Navionics for the underlying charting information that many apps use with their own user interface. The new C-MAP Embark was designed to be intuitive so after a few minutes, you won’t really be looking for the manual to manage the basics like waypoints, routes and nav aids.

A funky feature includes the app changing color based on your environment, so the charts are always easy to read regardless of the surrounding light. The basics include a free download, but chart additions and weather data will be in-app purchases.

  • Price: Free, with available in-app purchases

4. SeaPilot

seapilot app

SeaPilot sets an ambitious agenda for itself: it’s a basic navigation app (which has a free three-day trial) but it ramps up from there. You’ll need to upgrade to the premium version so you can add various chart areas, weather forecasting and routing capabilities. Beyond that, you can connect to Facebook to find nearby boating friends.

For sailors, there’s a database of polar diagrams which are graphs of the theoretical top speeds attainable by over 300 kinds of sailboats.

  • Price: Three-day free trial, then starting at $7.99

5. i Sail GPS:NOAA USA Charts

i sail gps boat app

For barebones basics, iSail is a great choice because it’s inexpensive and you can skip sign-ups and pop-ups. Measure distances to your waypoint, upload waypoints and routes and get quick ETAs to your next intermediate or final point.

iSail uses NOAA raster charts which are downloaded to the device so they can be used without Wi-Fi or out of cell range. There are few advanced features, but this app gets the job done when you need the basics. It’s for iOS only.

  • Price: $7.99, with available in-app purchases

6. KnowWake

knowwake boating app

The best way to describe KnowWake is to compare it to a road-based app you’re probably already familiar with–Waze. Like Waze, KnowWake is crowd-source and will provide information on congested waterfront locations–coastal and on 350 inland waterways.

On a bustling weekend, you can see how busy marinas, restaurants, boat ramps, fuel docks, and dive and snorkel sites are. You can use it in North America, on the Great Loop and in Canada as well as in parts of the Caribbean. The app uses real-time updates and it has location-sharing between users so you can find friends.

  • Price: Free!

All the boating apps above vary in price, complexity and focus, and although some are free, advanced features generally come at a price. Some take a bit of time to learn, but they’ll all put some peace-of-mind in your pocket the next time you slip the dock lines.

Bonus Apps: Boatsetter

boatsetter apps

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Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin. 

A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide. 

Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico. 

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  • February 11, 2024

Navigating the High Seas: A Look into Yacht Navigation Systems

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What’s the Big Deal with Yacht Navigation Systems?

Alright, let’s dive right into it. When you’re out on the water, knowing where you’re going is pretty crucial, right? That’s where yacht navigation systems come into the picture. They’re like your guide, keeping you safe, on track, and making your trip a whole lot smoother. Whether you’re a newbie or an old hand at yachting, understanding these systems can make a massive difference in your sea adventures.

Why Do We Even Need These Systems?

Keeping you safe.

First things first, the ocean is vast and can be unpredictable. Navigation systems help you stay aware of weather changes, nearby obstacles, or other ships, reducing the risk of accidents. It’s all about making sure you and everyone on board stay safe.

Making the Trip Enjoyable

Nobody likes being lost. With a good navigation system, you don’t have to worry about veering off course. It means more time enjoying the sea breeze and less time fretting over maps.

Saving Time and Fuel

Planning the best route saves you time and keeps your fuel bill from skyrocketing. Navigation systems help you figure out the most efficient way to get to your destination, avoiding areas with heavy traffic or poor conditions.

How Have Navigation Systems Evolved?

From stars to satellites.

Once upon a time, sailors relied on the stars to guide them. Fast forward to now, and we’ve got GPS systems that can pinpoint your exact location anywhere in the world. Technology has brought a long way, making sailing safer and much more straightforward.

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The Digital Leap

Today’s navigation systems are like mini-computers. They combine radar, sonar, and GPS info on a screen, giving you a full picture of what’s around you. It’s way easier than juggling separate gadgets or trying to interpret complex maps.

Different Types of Yacht Navigation Systems

Gps: your global guide.

GPS is the backbone of modern navigation. It tells you where you are, where you’re heading, and how to get there. Simple and effective.

Radar: Seeing Through the Fog

Radar helps you “see” other ships, land, or obstacles, even when it’s foggy or dark. It’s an extra set of eyes that keeps you safe in tricky conditions.

AIS: Avoiding Unexpected Guests

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) lets you know if other ships are nearby. It helps prevent collisions and makes it easier to track vessel movements.

Chartplotters: The Captain’s Assistant

Chartplotters combine GPS data with digital maps, showing you your boat’s position in real time. They can also display info from radar and AIS, making them the ultimate tool for navigation.

Wrapping It Up

In short, yacht navigation systems are your best friend on the water. They keep things safe, efficient, and enjoyable. Whether you’re planning a short trip or a grand voyage, getting to grips with these systems is a smart move. If you’re looking to get the most out of your yachting experience, understanding navigation systems is just the beginning. The team at Fly Yachts is always here to help you navigate your options and find the perfect fit for your seafaring adventures.

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Navigation Apps You Can Take for a Sail

  • By David Schmidt
  • Updated: September 30, 2021

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Among the big challenges when planning a long-distance ­passage can be knowing when to leave, how to take advantage of the best weather windows along the way, and what waypoints to set to get you there the quickest or with the least ­exposure to unpleasant points of sail or conditions. Thankfully, the cruising navigator has a bevy of tools from which to choose, including weather-­routing and passagemaking apps, and software and services that have been developed and refined to take advantage of the computing power found in laptops, smart devices and chart plotters.

While these digital tools typically aren’t free to use—and usually require some form of connectivity and product familiarity to deliver the best results—once ­downloaded (and mastered), sailors can ­enjoy better weather, more-comfortable ­conditions, faster transit times and greater situational awareness of what might lie ahead. Generally ­speaking, these navigation aids are ­designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, and ­depending on which you choose, will work with communication ­devices ­ranging from ­satellite phones to skinny-bandwidth transponders such as Iridium’s Go or Garmin’s inReach and, of course, ­full-on FleetBroadband or very small ­aperture terminal satellite systems. Some of the tools are even available to boats equipped with old-school ­single-sideband radios.

But how one gets their weather data is often less important than the quality and timeliness of that information, which usually comes in the form of gridded ­binary, or GRIB, files. While third-­party weather-routing ­companies commonly leverage GRIB files with their proprietary ­algorithms to create weather ­forecasts and routing ­advice, the raw data contained in GRIB files usually comes from official government meteorological offices. Two common sources include the ­National Oceanic and ­Atmospheric ­Administration, which ­releases its Global Forecast ­System four times a day, and the ­European Union, which produces European Centre for Medium-Range ­Weather ­Forecasts—considered the global gold standard—twice daily. As with all pieces of time-sensitive information, cruisers who can access the internet to either download fresh GRIB files or to run their routing on a service provider’s cloud or website will usually experience better, faster and smoother passages than those relying on old data.

These weather-routing and passagemaking tools ­typically use one of two ­strategies for computing the best ­departure times and routing ­options. ­Traditional PC-based ­software, such as TimeZero or Expedition , require outside information (GRIB files or some other weather forecast), which the software then ­crunches ­locally on a navigator’s ­laptop or chart plotter to create the best itinerary. Another ­option involves app-, cloud- or website-­based products that oftentimes give cruisers access to a server, which performs this computing remotely and then sends the results to the crew aboard the boat.

FastSeas website

While the net result is ­often similar, each has its ­upsides. Onboard passagemaking and routing software means that the information and the means to process it are close at hand should outside communications go down, or if users want to run any offline route planning to weigh alternatives. Cloud and website services, on the other hand, usually have access to a range of weather forecasts and GRIBs, so the crew needs to download only the resulting routing information, which can be as simple as a series of waypoints, rather than the significantly bigger weather files. This means less airtime or consumed ­data for anyone using satellite ­communications.

“The software uses weather-­forecast-model data to find the optimal route for a given passage by evaluating all available routes for that passage,” says Jeremy Waters, who built and actively uses ­ FastSeas , a website-­based passage-­planning tool that resides on an Amazon Web Services-­supported cloud and relies on GFS GRIB files.

Users create an online ­account that includes their vessel’s specifics, including its polars, and they tell the website where they want to go, along with other trip parameters and preferences. The ­website generates and then sends the boat GPX files, which they can download using some form of long-range communications system such as a satphone, Iridium Go or Sailmail in the case of SSB operators.

While FastSeas doesn’t offer an app with a built-in GRIB viewer, anyone with ­internet access can look at ­animated weather maps, ­courtesy of windy.com, on the ­FastSeas webpage. ­Alternatively, ­FastSeas can ­also send ­simple ­routing ­updates via text ­message containing waypoints and ­simple forecasts at different waypoints to a Garmin ­inReach satellite ­communicator. “The ­Iridium Go and Garmin inReach ­provide ­economical satellite-­communications ­options to offshore sailors, and FastSeas is designed to provide ­updated route data while working ­within the device’s technical limitations,” Waters says.

Other app- and ­web-based tools deliver even more ­in-depth weather and weather-­routing information. “­PredictWind’s weather router uses a complex algorithm to give sailors the fastest—or safest—passage from A to B based on their boat’s expected performance in the ­forecast weather and ocean ­conditions for the specified period,” Nick Olson says. He is one of ­PredictWind’s two principal developers.

PredictWind offers two apps: PredictWind and ­PredictWind Offshore. The offshore app also gives ­users access to Global ­Maritime Distress and Safety System forecasts, observations and satellite imagery, and, if the boat carries a compatible and properly networked GPS tracker, allows the skipper to view detailed forecasts from six different global weather models. These include GFS, ECMWF, SPIRE and ­UKMO, as well as PredictWind’s ­proprietary PWE and PWG forecasts, the latter of which are created using ECMWF and GFS data (respectively) and PredictWind’s proprietary algorithms.

A boat owner uploads their vessel’s polar information to PredictWind (either via the app or website) so that the ­service can create a bespoke routing solution. “Avoiding bad weather is a key element to safety and enjoyment in any passagemaking,” Olson says. “We also have a departure-­planning tool that can aid in choosing the best time to leave for a passage.”

In addition to parameters such as vessel polars, destinations and passage dates, some weather-routing services also allow the navigator to stipulate the maximum acceptable windspeed and wave height, as well as maximum time on a particular point of sail that they wish to encounter on their passage.

While weather routing is an invaluable tool for passagemaking, so too is the ­ability to plan a passage at home and then seamlessly share this routing information—­complete with weather ­updates—with onboard chart plotters. Numerous options exist for this, in the form of apps and  software.

“Sailors can plan every ­aspect of their passage in the Navionics Boating app, then seamlessly sync their routes and waypoints to a compatible chart plotter over Wi-Fi via the Plotter Sync feature,” says Dave Dunn, Garmin’s ­senior director of marine sales. Garmin acquired Navionics in October 2017.

“By simply running the Navionics Boating app and connecting their mobile ­device to a compatible chart plotter, sailors can transfer routes and markers, update chart layers, and activate or renew their chart subscription.”

Navionics also offers ­daily and hourly weather ­forecasts, including wind and tide ­information, which can be used to monitor conditions; ­however, it’s important to understand that these forecasts cannot currently be used for weather-­routing ­purposes. “With an active internet ­connection, the Navionics Boating app provides sailors with real-time weather data and GRIB files for wind forecasts via NOAA updates, but sailors who aren’t connected to the internet won’t be able to see this information,” Dunn points out. “However, sailors can still view tide and current predictions without connectivity because those are part of downloadable, ­offline Navionics charts.” Sailors can also download weather forecasts (out to 72 hours) for offline use, but this of course comes with the ­caveat that the weather can—and often does—change over that extended period of time.

“You should expect the ­forecast for this afternoon to be pretty reliable, but the forecast for three days from now to be less reliable, and five days from now even more ­unreliable,” Waters says.

Others agree. “Passage ­planning is really about ­having the best data on hand in a ­digestible format so you can compare the data to aid in ­decision-making for a safe ­passage,” Olson says. “One important and key feature is the PredictWind weather ­router, which calculates your ­optimal route on the PredictWind ­servers. This is a game-­changer for low-bandwidth ­connections because the PredictWind Weather routing can calculate your route using all the data available over multiple atmospheric and ocean models—potentially 50 to 100 megabits of data and a billion calculations—and deliver this data into the Offshore app in a small 10-kilobit file. This also means that GRIBs are needed on board only as a visual aid to accompany the weather routes.” As anyone who has ­attempted to download GRIB files on a slow offshore connection knows, this can save a lot of airtime and onboard frustrations.

The bottom line for all this: Given the relatively low cost of the software-, cloud- and website-based ­applications ­discussed in this article, there’s little downside or reason not to have these capabilities on board. But, as with any new piece of technology that’s ­being integrated with a nav station, sailors are advised to spend time using it alongside their long-range communications equipment before ­casting off. Then, odds are more in their favor to enjoy a smoother, ­safer offshore passage, while ­also having access to better forecasting information while ­underway.

David Schmidt is CW ’s ­electronics editor.

The Virtual Navigator


Given that this is 2021 and one’s Tesla can chauffeur them to the marina or yacht club in autopilot mode, it should come as little surprise that some of today’s navigation software can formulate a route between a home mooring and a far-flung anchorage, even in another country.

Navionics, now owned by Garmin, pioneered this technology, dubbed Dock-to-Dock Autorouting, in late 2015. As with several of the weather-routing products discussed, to take advantage of Dock-to-Dock, a boat owner will need to enter their vessel’s parameters into their Navionics Boating app ahead of time, and they are highly encouraged to manually ­review the auto-calculated route before committing to it.

“When planning longer bluewater passages, auto-routing might not offer much more than ETA over a given distance,” Garmin’s Dave Dunn says. “However, for near-coastal and ­Intracoastal Waterway passages, auto-routing offers significant advantages when paired with up-to-date charts.” This ­latter bit matters greatly, given the shifting nature of some seafloors; Dunn explains that Navionics releases in the ­ballpark of 5,000 cartography updates daily.

While Navionics is no longer the only player offering ­auto-routing capabilities, the addition of ActiveCaptain’s community chart layers (also now a Garmin-owned entity), which users can switch on and off, gives Navionics users other integrated advantages. Dunn advises: “Crowdsourced features such as ­Community Edits and ActiveCaptain Community layers are not only useful, they’re necessary. Both offer useful insight not found in any other resource or chart by way of community feedback, ratings, additional data, missing chart objects and hazards, or more-timely navigation changes that chart sources have not yet reflected.” Garmin now also allows ActiveCaptain users to upload photos. This, Dunn says, lets “other users see what dock slips, hazards, important points of interest, and other relevant local knowledge actually looks like in the wild.”

Vendor List

Expedition: expeditionmarine.com ; from $1,300

FastSeas: fastseas.com ; free for basic service, $60 per year for premium service

Navionics: navionics.com ; free trial, then from $15 per year

PredictWind: predictwind.com ; from $250 per year for weather-routing ­service

TimeZero: mytimezero.com ; from $500

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Best boat GPS: 6 handheld options for navigation at sea

We take a look at 6 of the best boat GPS options available right now, from handheld devices to tablet apps

‘Lost at Sea’ might be a great name for a video game, but in real life the prospect of losing one’s bearings on the ocean can be pretty scary indeed. Chartplotters can – and sometimes do – fail, (it’s happened to this writer), leaving you alone with a compass and, if you’ve prepared, a set of charts to guide you to a safe haven – assuming you know, or can remember, how to navigate manually, that is…

And that, in a nutshell, is why many mariners today choose not to leave port without a backup or secondary system aboard. Happily, reserve navigation aids no longer need to be big to be beautiful as now there’s a range of powerful pocket sized devices available which put GPS technology in the palm of your hand – literally.

What’s more, these devices come in a variety of forms and formats, such as purpose-built handheld boat GPS units, GPS-equipped VHF radios and smartphone/tablet-based app setups. Incidentally, just a note on those phones and tablets: If you’re planning to use one as your primary navigation tool, do bear in mind battery time is sure to be compromised by any power-hungry application.

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While handheld GPS systems are intended more to complement chartplotters rather than replace them, there are certain tasks where they leave fixed units standing. Consider, for example, overnighting at anchor. If the boat’s chartplotter is helm-mounted there’s a good chance the cabins will be out of earshot of its anchor-drag alarm.

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A handheld, however, can join you at bedtime and, should the need arise, will disturb your slumber with an alarm that will send you dashing up to the deck at the double to see what’s going on. And that alone could be a factor to persuade many boaters to consider investing in a handheld GPS system. Here’s our selection of six of the best boat GPS systems on offer today.

At a glance: Garmin GPSMAP86i – Best  boat GPS- Buy it now   Icom IC-M94DE – Best marine handheld VHF –  Buy it now Garmin GPSMAP 78 – Best boat GPS for all weather – Buy it now Standard Horizon HX890E – Best boat GPS for multiple routes –  Buy it now

Best boat GPS systems available right now


Garmin GPSMAP 86i

Specifications: Screen size – 3 inches, battery life – 200 hours, adjustable GPS filter

Reasons to buy: State-of-the-art, IPX7 waterproof rating, doubles up as a satellite phone

Reasons to avoid: Premium price, subscription required for satellite feature

Garmin dominates the purpose-built handheld boat GPS market and its GPSMAP 86i unit very much represents the state-of-the-art. Bristling with features, including a 3″ display which is bright enough to be readable in sunlight, the 86i has an IPX7 rating meaning it can withstand exposure to 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes.

This boat GPS unit supports Garmin’s BlueChart g3 charts and is capable of streaming boat data from compatible plotters and instruments to place important information in your hand no matter where on the boat you happen to be. The 86i also doubles up as a satellite phone via the inReach network, for which a separate subscription is required.

Buy it now on Garmin.com

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

Buy it now on Amazon (US)

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.


Icom IC-M94DE handheld marine radio

Specifications: 1 Lithium Ion battery required, VHF tuner technology, noise cancellation

Reasons to buy: Full DSC functionality, built-in AIS receiver

Reasons to avoid: Limited navigation capabilities

Icom’s IC-M94DE VHF radio puts power in your hand in a number of ways. For in addition to GPS, it has full DSC functionality and is the world’s first marine handheld VHF to incorporate a built-in AIS receiver .

The GPS part of the package allows the user to store up to 50 waypoints. While the unit’s navigation capabilities are limited, what the M94DE can do is provide a much needed confidence boost for anyone who finds themselves at sea without an alternative nav system.

That’s because the radio’s navigation function guides the user to the selected waypoint and provides a reassuring beep once it has been reached, thereby confirming the boat’s position at sea.

Read our Icom IC-M94DE review

Buy it now on Amazon


Garmin GPSMAP 78

With its bright colour screen and IXP7 waterproof rating, Garmin’s GPSMAP 78 is a great handheld boat GPS choice. Ruggedly constructed with moulded rubber side grips, the unit feels good in the hand.

That said, should you manage to drop it in the briny, fear not – it floats. The GPSMAP 78 has a sensitive WAAS-enabled GPS receiver which locates its position quickly and efficiently once switched on.

It’s supplied with a worldwide basemap which can be added to by simply plugging in a pre-loaded Garmin BlueChart g2 map. And when you’ve finished having fun on the water, the boat GPS unit connects to your PC and the internet for a detailed analysis of the day’s action.

Reasons to buy: Rugged construction, IXP7 Waterproofing, Can plug into PC for statistics

Reasons to avoid: Additional maps are costly

Specifications: Battery life – 20 hours, barometric altimeter, 2 AA batteries required (included)


Standard Horizon HX890E VHF handheld marine radio

Similar in principle to the Icom M94DE, but costing considerably less (due to no AIS receiver) Standard Horizon’s GPS-equipped HX890DE VHF radio is capable of storing up to 250 waypoints.

Another factor well worth bearing in mind is that this radio does routes. Up to 30 waypoints can be tagged to create a passage, which can then be followed automatically or manually.

Setting all of this up can be somewhat burdensome, especially given the screen size is just 1.7″ square, but once programmed the routing functionality of the HX890E could well make the difference between a relaxed or stressful journey.

Reasons to buy: Up to 250 waypoints, has ability to set up routes

Reasons to avoid: Small screen, hard to set-up

Specifications: 66 channels, 1 battery required, water activated strobe light


Garmin GPS 73

The Garmin GPS 73 is an easy-to-use handheld navigator. The unit can mark and store up to 1,000 waypoints and 100 tracks, making return navigation simple.

It also features SailAssist, which is designed to help the user sail more efficiently with a heading line and tack assist, which essentially lets you know when to tack.

Other in-built features include sunrise/sunset, estimated time of arrival and various marine data. The relatively low price point reflects the fact that the GPS 73 boat GPS comes with a monochromatic display. That said, the screen is high contrast and can be read in all lighting conditions. There’s also a built-in back light for operation after dark.

Reasons to buy: Ease of us, great price, SailAssist

Reasons to avoid: Small screen without colour

Specifications: 18 hours battery life, GPS 73, nautical map type


Navionics Boating App

Navionics is a Garmin brand, so the charts used by its Boating Marine and Lakes app will look familiar to existing Garmin plotter users. Compatible with both Android and Apple devices, this popular boating app can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store .

Once installed, maps are downloaded and stored on your device, allowing offline access at all times. As you would expect from anything to do with Garmin, the app has a multitude of features, including tracks, routing, dock-to-dock autorouting, tides and weather information and SonarChart, which provides high definition bathymetric mapping.

What’s more, Navionics’ charts are updated up to 5,000 times a day and the system embraces community edits to ensure valuable local information is kept up-to-date and relevant at all times.

Reasons to buy:  Compatible with Android and Apple, Garmin style features, updated 5,000 times a day

Reasons to avoid: Requires your own device, Subscription model

Download from Google Play

Download from the App Store

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.

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The latest navigational technology: new gear for your boat

  • Katy Stickland
  • November 1, 2021

The Yachting Monthly team look at the latest navigational technology and how useful it is for the cruising sailor

Inmarsat Elera aims to help keep sailors connected wherever they voyage

Inmarsat Elera aims to help keep sailors connected wherever they voyage

New navigational technology: Orca Co-Pilot Navigation System

New navigational technology: Orca Co-Pilot Navigation System

For anyone who has struggled with the usability of multi-function displays (MFDs), the Orca co-pilot claims to have ‘reinvented marine navigation ’ with a system that combines accurate charts , live weather forecasting , intuitive alerts and automatic route-finding at the push of a button.

It supports wireless internet connectivity and so, whilst you have active cellular connection, updates charts and synchronizes routes across devices without using SD-cards or other complicated methods.

When offshore and without connectivity, the system is still functional with pre-downloaded data.

The question that inspired Norwegian marine tech start-up Orca was: ‘Why do more than 70% of boaters with a dedicated marine navigation system also feel they need mobile applications while they plan and navigate at sea? What kind of value did these mobile apps bring, that the MFDs could not?’

Orca co-pilot aims to avoid sailors relying on mobile apps to supplement their chartplotter , which forces attention to shift between multiple screens and systems instead of focusing on surroundings.

The Orca Core integrates with your boat via the industry-standard NMEA 2000 protocol, and works either on the Orca Display – a 10.1-inch full-HD outdoor viewable screen and mount with integrated charging – or on the user’s own tablet.

Prices start from €449 for the Orca Mobile Kit, which contains the Orca Core and a year’s App subscription.

The Orca Display Kit (€1,499) includes all of the above plus the charging mount and display.

Thereafter a subscription to the cloud services costs €120 per year, and gives access to: continuous chart updates; advanced weather forecasts and monitoring services; cloud-powered automatic routing; cross-device synchronisation and trip analytics with insights into fuel consumption, and early warnings of abnormal engine behaviour.

Price: From £428

Get the Orca co-pilot at Orca

New navigational technology: B&G App Mobile Navigation

New navigational technology: B&G App Mobile Navigation

The free-to-download B&G App offers all users the chance to view up-to-date detailed nautical charts from C-MAP, add personal waypoints, routes and tracks, the latest marine weather, and add personalisation.

A ‘premium’ subscription service costs £48.99 a year and includes GPS location and full navigation; global offline maps; five-day weather forecasting; high resolution bathymetry; custom depth shading; Automatic Identification System ( AIS ); shaded relief charts and a view of other App users’ ‘traffic’.

For B&G chartplotter owners, the B&G App can be used onboard as an extension of your display by using the mirroring and control feature.

It is available via the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.

The App can also be used to review past sailing trips or races, get the latest software updates, product news, manuals and ‘how to’ tips specific to your registered devices.

Subscription: £48.99


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Make sure you understanding the skills and kit necessary to successfully and safely sail solo or shorthanded. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

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best yacht navigation system

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A multitool is a toolkit in your pocket for when you need it the most. The Yachting Monthly team put…

New navigational technology: Inmarsat Elera Narrowband Network

Inmarsat Elera Narrowband Network

Inmarsat has unveiled ELERA, a global narrowband network that is expected to rapidly evolve the Internet of Things (IoT) – objects with computing devices embedded that enable them to send and receive data.

Described as an important evolution of Inmarsat’s market-leading L-band satellite network – the L band is one of the chief operating ranges used by applications such as radar, GPS, telecommunications, radio , and aircraft surveillance – ELERA is ‘significant’ for seafarers as it will offer global reach and greater resilience, meaning sailors can always be connected wherever they are; making it easier to keep in touch with friends and family, access weather reports and navigation charts, as well as email and business-critical applications, and not least safety-of-life communications.

It will incorporate new innovations ranging from faster speeds, up to 1.7Mbps, to the smallest low-cost terminal for ELERA users; delivering the framework for satcom IoT at scale, with supporting cloud-based management.

Inmarsat is launching two new satellites to enhance the ELERA network – with the first launch scheduled later this year.

The L-band capacity on each I-6 satellite will be far greater than previous generations of Inmarsat spacecraft, delivering 50% more capacity per beam, meaning that customers can count on much more data to be carried over the same geographical area, in addition to unlimited beam routing flexibility.


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Best Marine GPS Chartplotters for Sailing of 2024

The days when sailors navigated with compass and sextant are long gone: modern marine electronics provide us with a range of information that explorers of the past couldn’t begin to imagine. Larger vessels are outfitted with networks integrating GPS, charts, radar, sonar, wind sensors, communication, emergency alerts and much more. Nowadays, even handheld units can handle any navigational problem short of plotting a course for Margaritaville or the Fountain of Youth. All of that capacity does create some confusion, and the range of options on the market can be daunting. We’ve simplified the choices with this guide to the best marine GPS chartplotters.

We’ve tried to keep the descriptions simple, but if CHIRP, WAAS, and NMEA 2000 aren’t part of your day to day vocabulary, you may want to skip to the bottom of the article and read the explanations first!

For more of our top sailing gear recommendations, check out the  Best Solar Panels for Sailboats . 

Quick Answer - The Best GPS Chartplotters for Sailing

  • Garmin GPS 73 View at Amazon
  • B&G Vulcan 7 View at Amazon
  • Raymarine Axiom 7 View at Amazon
  • Garmin GPSMap 8612XSV View at Amazon

Comparison Table - Best GPS Chartplotters for Sailing

Reviews - best sailing gps chartplotters, garmin gps 73.

  • Type : Handheld
  • Display : 2.6” B&W
  • Sonar Transducer : Not Included
  • Sailing Software : Garmin Sail Assist
  • Networking : NMEA 0183, Bluetooth, USB
  • Runs 18 hrs. On 2 AA Batteries
  • High-Sensitivity Receiver Locks Satellites In Any Conditions


This one is not actually a chartplotter at all. We’re including it in the review because it has a solid array of sailing-specific features that make it a great choice for boats that are too small to host a console-mounted system or as a backup device for use if a larger vessel’s primary system fails or if you’re forced to abandon ship. 

The Garmin 73 is handheld, convenient, and easy to use. It doesn’t support the whole range of features included in Garmin’s SailAssist software, but it will give you tack assistance, virtual starting and heading lines, countdown timers, and arrival times based on sailing constraints. That’s a very tidy bundle in a very small package.

Garmin has a great deal of experience with hand-held marine devices, and the GPS73 reflects this. The back-lit buttons and high-contrast display are easy to use in very bright or limited light,  there’s a useful range of marine data built in, and you can store 1000 waypoints and 100 tracks for repeat navigation. Don’t expect the GPS73 to duplicate the functions of a full-sized chartplotter with an array of sensor inputs, but it does what it does well and reliably, and it is designed with wind-driven boaters in mind.

B&G Vulcan 7

  • Type : Console Mounted
  • Display : 7” Color
  • Sailing Software : B&G SailSteer
  • Networking : NMEA 2000
  • Compatible With Forwardscan Sonar and B&G Autopilots
  • Instrument Data Display
  • Multiple Language Packs


B&G is the acknowledged industry leader in sailing-specific marine electronics, and was the first to bring a full range of sailing support features to a consumer-oriented electronics package. The Vulcan 7 continues this tradition, wrapping an impressive array of sailing-specific features into a compact, durable, and affordable chartplotter. 

The screen is bright and versatile, displaying all of your sailing and wind information with layline and tacking options overlaid on up-to-date navigational charts. It also offers race support features that get you to the start line at speed with the right heading at the right time. The system integrates with numerous accessories, notably B&G’s highly regarded autopilot systems, to give you a level of control you’d expect from a much more expensive system.

This one is all about sailing, so don’t expect a fish finder or other features more applicable to the motorized set. If you’re looking to upgrade your sailing game without spending a fortune, though, you won’t find a better choice than the Vulcan 7.

Raymarine Axiom 7

  • Sonar Transducer : Included
  • Sailing Software : Lighthouse 3
  • Includes Surface And Trunnion Mounting Kits
  • Quad Core Processor For Blazing Speed
  • Coastal Coverage For USA and Canada Plus Over 20,000 Inland Waterways


Raymarine makes a wide range of multifunction chartplotters, from the entry-level Axion range through the Axiom Pro and elite-level Axiom XL range. All are powered by Raymarime’s Lighthouse 3 software and offer full compatibility with Raymarine’s exceptionally large range of sensors and input devices. Raymarine also offers extensive chart coverage straight out of the box: both US and Canadian coasts along with 20,000 lakes, rivers, and other inland waterways.

The Axiom 7 may not be as “sail-specific” as the B&G Vulcan 7, but that also leaves it arguably more versatile. For example, the Axiom 7 integrates a robust fish finder capability, a useful feature if you like to mix some fishing with your sailing.  It also includes the Raymarine CPT-100DVS transom-mounted sonar transducer, so if you want a minimalist package you can just add a wind sensor and go! If you want to add more, you won’t be held back: Raymarine can provide Quantum radar, CHIRP Sonar, FLIR thermal cameras, audio integration, instruments, cameras, and the Evolution autopilot. This unit provides most of the features that distinguish Raymarine’s higher-end models, at a budget friendly price point!

Garmin GPSMap 8612XSV

  • Display : 12” Color
  • CHIRP : Yes
  • SmartMode Station Controls For One-Touch Information Access
  • Superior Clarity And Sunlight Readability, Even With Polarized Sunglasses
  • Preloaded US Coastal And Lake Maps


Garmin delivers a serious high-performance marine electronics hub with the 8612xsv. You get a full HD 12” display with wide viewing angles, great clarity, and full sunlight readability, pre-loaded with full US coastal and lake charts and offering full connectivity with a huge range of sensor inputs, including Garmin’s Panoptic LiveScope live scanning sonar, which gives one of the best underwater views on the market today. 

Garmin’s SailAssist feature provides the full spectrum of sail-specific information and pre-race guidance. You’ll have true and apparent wind angle, set and drift, true and apparent wind speed, and much more at your fingertips! Pair those features with Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app and link your boat seamlessly to your mobile device. If you’re a serious sailor and you’ve decided to commit to Garmin as your electronic systems provider, the 8612xvs is a natural starting point!


Let’s start with the basics. A GPS gives you coordinates, a Chartplotter gives you a visual position on a chart. All Chartplotters are GPS-based, but not all GPS units will plot charts! 

Chartplotters come preloaded with a range of charts, but if you sail in exotic areas, you may need to purchase additional charts. Major manufacturers supply their sail-oriented chartplotters with sailing-specific software packages that give you access to laylines, tacking points, wind trends, estimated arrival times based on speed and routes, and much more. 

Remember that your chartplotter is designed to process inputs from multiple sensors and will not be fully functional without these inputs. At a minimum this will mean a sonar transducer (included with some chartplotters) and a wind sensor, but there are dozens of other options. 

Most manufacturers recommend using their own instruments with their chartplotters, so your choice involves buying into a system , not just buying a chartplotter. Be sure to look at the range of available input devices and asses any input devices you may already own before selecting a chartplotter!


You’ve probably noticed this already, but when you choose a chartplotter, you’re choosing much more than just a chartplotter. The chartplotter is a hub linking a range of sensor inputs and communication devices. 

When you select a chartplotter you’re committing yourself to a range of other devices that will link to it, so before you buy, you’ll want to look closely not just at the chartplotter but also at the range of input devices you’ll be connecting to it. 

Fortunately all three of the major manufacturers of chartplotters offer comprehensive ranges of input devices, so you’ll have plenty of choice no matter which unit you select! If you already own wind, sonar, or radar equipment, your choice of chartplotters is likely to be directed by compatibility with your existing equipment, so be sure to take that into consideration. 

Many chartplotters are compatible with third-party instruments, but you’ll want to be sure. Your electronics are a bit like your crew: sailing is easier when they get along!


B&G, Garmin, and Raymarine all offer software packages designed specifically for sailing. All of them offer a range of features designed for both cruising and racing, including layline plots that put a 21st-century twist on the eternal challenge of sailing efficiently to windward. 

All three major software systems are updated regularly and all provide similar basic functions. Cruising World offers a detailed discussion of choosing a chartplotter , but your choice is likely to be affected by personal preferences, and for most of us any of the three are likely to serve well. Certainly any of them will be a quantum leap forward from what sailors had available even a decade ago!

West Marine offers this detailed guide to selecting networked marine electronics . Practical Boat Owner offers a field test of the three major sailing assist programs ; it’s from 2015 and does not cover the latest upgrades, but gives a solid grounding on the approaches taken by the major manufacturers.


NMEA is the National Marine Electronics Association. The group brought out the NMEA 0183 protocol in 1983 and introduced NMEA 2000 in 2000. These protocols enable all of a boat’s electronics to communicate with each other in a common language. NMEA 2000 is much faster, can handle much more data, and has better reliability and data sharing functions. Even NMEA 2000 is too slow to accommodate the complex images and data sets used modern equipment, so most manufacturers add ethernet protocols, which are often proprietary. There’s a more detailed explanation of NMEA here .

WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System, a satellite-based augmentation system available in Canada, the US and some other North American territories. WAAS systems give faster and more accurate readings than basic GPS can provide.

CHIRP stands for Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse. It’s a military sonar technology that has found its way into civilian use. The short story is that CHIRP sonar has a much greater ability to render accurate readings on the subsurface environment than conventional sonar. If you’d like the long story, West Marine tells you all about how CHIRP was developed here . You will need a CHIRP-equipped sonar transducer to exploit this capacity.

Laylines are the courses linking your tacking points, the routes you have to sail to make the best time headed upwind. Sail-specific chartplotters will display your layline options over chart data, allowing you to assess safety, speed, and ETA on different courses. They’ll also continually reassess your options as conditions change.


Your chartplotter is the hub of a network, and its functionality depends on the information you feed into it. Here are a few of the devices you’ll be able to link to your chartplotter.

Wind Sensors read the velocity and direction of the wind and feed this data into your chartplotter continuously. A wind sensor is a critical part of any sailing-specific marine electronics system.

Sonar Transducers look down or forward, and most boats will use both. Your chartplotter uses the sonar inputs to give you a picture of the underwater environment, which allows you to avoid reefs, shoals, and underwater obstacles. Many sonar units also have fish finding capabilities and most provide depth, speed, and water temperature data.

Radar Antennae give you a 360 degree picture of surface traffic and potential obstacles.

Cameras are typically installed in multiple locations around your boat and provide invaluable assistance for docking and other close maneuvering situations.

Autopilots link your boat’s steering system directly to your electronics net and allow both fully automated control and remote control from locations other than the helm.

For more of our top sailing gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer's guides:

Sailboat Anchors

Sailboat Winches

Sailing Shoes

Solar Panels for Sailboats

Bilge Pumps

5 Best Marine Navigation Apps for Boaters

marine navigation apps

If you have a boat (or you're thinking about buying a boat ) and you have a cell phone, you’re probably interested in learning all about the best boating apps . And among the many types of boating apps out there, marine navigation apps are some of the most useful. With the best marine navigation apps you can quite literally turn your phone or your tablet into a full-blown chartplotter. That means you have a valuable back-up to the electronics at your helm, and you can carry your tech with you even when aboard small boats with no electrical systems.

We’ve put a number of marine navigation apps to the test through the years, and these are our favorites (in alphabetical order):

C-Map Embark

Maptech iplot.

C-Map has been creating digital charts for years and has had other nav apps in the past, but Embark recently replaced previous offerings. The concept behind developing this next-gen nav app was to make it as simple and easy to use as possible. It’s a goal C-Map reached, and although this does by design make it one of the more simplistic apps in our round up, that’s one of the reasons why we love it – it’ll take you all of 30 seconds to figure out how to accomplish essential navigational tasks like going from point A to point B. Nifty bonus feature: the app can “see” the lighting situation you’re in and automatically adjust color and contrast for the best viewing.

Price: Free basic version with in-app purchases of varying costs for some map access and weather data.

Click here to download.

iNavX provides you with amazing latitude in the charts you choose to navigate with, and has eight different providers in their in-app chart store (NOAA charts come free). This app also allows you to do much more than simple navigational tasks, with quite advanced functionality like overlaying GRIB files (a form of current weather data) on your chartplotter screen, or connecting with NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association) compatible instruments on your boat via WiFi to display things like engine data and AIS (Automatic Information System, which uses transponders on commercial ships and boats to broadcast information regarding things like identification, speed, course, and destination) data. Figuring out the navigational basics isn’t made overly-complex by the additional features, but using the advanced functions will take some studying up.

Price: $4.99 for Apple plus in-app purchases; free for Android’s basic version, $19.99/year for the enhanced Pro version.

If you have an apple device (there’s no Android version) Maptech’s iPlot is a navigation app you’ll love for its intuitive nature. The app’s amazingly easy to figure out and thanks to the use of raster charts (digitized NOAA paper charts) when you zoom in you can make the hard-to-read depth sounding and marker numbers as large as you’d like. Plus “quilting,” (digitally stitching charts together) happens quickly so you don’t lose the view while zooming, a problem you may encounter with some other apps. What really sets this one apart from the pack, however, is its facility locator feature. Marinas, yacht clubs, and other waterfront facilities are not only detailed on-screen, but when you tap on them, it takes you to their website—an ability those going on an overnight or weekend getaway to unfamiliar ports will definitely enjoy.

Price: $39.99 with basic charts; $9.99 for additional charts.

Navionics lays claim to being the most popular boating app available, and its navigational features and functions are comprehensive, to say the least. In fact, it offers many features that some modern chartplotters can’t match. Dock-to-dock auto-routing, for example, creates a route from point A to point B taking things like nav aids and your boat’s draft constraints into account, when you merely tap the beginning and end points. The Sonarchart Live function lets you create bathymetric maps of the area you’re boating in, in real time. User-generated community edits can be displayed with daily updates. And these are just some of the highlights in a long list of unique features.

Price: A two-week trial comes free, then the subscription varies depending on the chart region(s) you want ($14.99 to $54.99).

Seapilot is a fairly comprehensive navigation app (though some of the more advanced features, like routing and weather forecasting, require upgrading to the premium version), which introduces a different twist into the mix: Facebook integration. Connected friends are displayed like AIS targets on the app, so finding each other and linking up on the water is easier. Seapilot is also unusual in that it can offer polar diagrams (which show the theoretical attainable speed depending on wind direction and speed) for over 300 boats, to determine the ideal path to steer a sailboat taking wind and current forecasts into account.

Price: Free basic three-day-trial version, $7.99 to $64.99 depending on chart area subscriptions.

Looking for more boating apps to try?

Hey, you anglers, wait a sec—don’t put that phone back into your pocket just yet, because when you’re out fishing it’s good for more than just navigation. Also be sure to check out the Best Apps for Fishing so the next time you hit the water you catch more fish.

Read Next: How to Navigate a Boat

You Might Also Like:

  • Best Boating Apps
  • How to Use a VHF Radio
  • Weather Safety for Boaters: Understanding Marine Forecasts
  • Boat Owner's Guide
  • Find the Right Boat for Your Lifestyle

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Top 5 Apps

Top 5 Best Marine Navigation apps for sailors

Jeroen Koops

When you are going to rent a boat, especially a sailing yacht, it does not always equip a reliable navigation system. Luckily for you, you also don’t have to use a sextant anymore as people did in the early 1900s. While today, anybody can become a skilled navigator with the use of marine navigation apps. As the number of apps can be somewhat overwhelming, we tested and compiled a list with the best ones, especially for you!

1. Navionics – Boating Marine & Lakes

Logo Navionics

The Navionics app has been a beacon of trustworthiness for many sailors, one of the most popular navigation apps at sea to navigate your trip or sailing holiday. In their new update, they have increased your connectivity on the water. Making it easier to share your live location with friends and family. You can then export your route in a GPX format to share your accomplishments. 

The app’s real power lies in their large community, which continuously updates and improves Navionics nautical charts and information. They have gathered this community through their elaborate functions and practicality with the user in mind. 

Navionics offers multiple chart layers adapting your needs and personal preferences. Therefore, we love that you can edit and customize your own charts in a way that works for you—for example, sonar charts. Permitting you access to their HD bathymetry map, which provides a detailed rendering of the bottom of lakes and unshallow waters. Ideal for scouting the best spot for fishing and knowing exact depth levels. All of the functions on this app are extensive and work fantastic. Functions such as a Wi-fi AIS receiver, weather and tides forecasts, and many more to complete your sailing holiday. For more info, see the following article: The Navionics App .

Screenshot Navionics

2. Savvy Navvy – Marine Navigation

best yacht navigation system

The savvy navvy app is an innovative boating app that provides essential marine information in one place. The app shows chart, tide, weather, routing, marina, and anchorage information at the touch of a button, on any device. Designed to have a clean interface and with usability in mind, savvy navvy makes marine navigation easier and more accessible.

For instance, you can use great features such as GPS active tracking to see exactly where you are and what features are near you. What makes this particular app so great is that the app will plot the entire route for you in just a few seconds! By making use of high-quality data from hydrographic offices around the globe. It will adapt your route along the way to the different tidal streams, your departure times, weather, wind strengths/ directions, and even boat data.

Being able to integrate your route planning with wind direction is simply a fantastic feature for sailors. Apart from Orca, none of the other apps are able to adapt the route automatically as you sail with the conditions you face. Making it a very reliable companion to accompany you on your sailing trip. If you are not convinced yet, try the app free for 14 days. 

3. C-MAP – Marine Charts. GPS navigation for Boating

best yacht navigation system

C-MAP is an excellent app for navigating the seas on your sailing boat. It offers high-quality nautical charts backed by data from official hydrographic offices, continually updated to ensure the clearest maps possible. A great benefit is that these maps cover both inland and coastal waters worldwide. So, regardless of where you are, you can access your charts and reach your end destination. 

Similar to the other navigation apps, you can save routes, waypoints, tracks, and see the weather forecast. Including waves and tides. It also has useful information about marinas, harbors, beaches and even some shops. What separates this app from others is its simplicity in design. It’s easy to use, making navigating a joyful experience without much hassle. Even for somebody who has never sailed before. 

To download and use the app offline, you have to update to the premium version. For this premium version, there is a free trial of 14 days.   

4. iNavX Marine Chartplotter

best yacht navigation system

The app iNavX is an advanced chartplotter for recreational and professional sailors. First of all, it is the only one out of the five apps mentioned that combines 8 chart providers together in one app. Such as Navionics. Giving you the freedom to purchase the ones you like according to your own preference. The app is also capable of using your phone’s GPS to plot your position in real-time. Become a skilled navigator by plotting your own route, setting and storing waypoints enables you to switch between platforms without losing your waypoints. 

It doesn’t stop there; additional advanced features might take a bit more time to master. Such as an anchor alarm to keep you from drifting away in the night. In addition, weather and tides forecasts and an Automatic Information System alarm are included. With this system, the app can provide useful information about your engine, speed, depth, and wind by connecting to the boat’s nautical instruments. All in all, a very smart navigation app that makes use of multiple chart providers, so you always have a map for your desired sailing area. The only disadvantage that we found was that the Android app doesn’t perform as well as the Apple version. Therefore, we’d recommend using the app on an iPad/iPhone for the best experience.

 5. Orca – The marine co-pilot app

We’ve placed Orca at number five because it hasn’t been released yet. Making it difficult to give our trusted opinion. However, we can tell that the first impressions look very promising. Orca will provide you with weather and tide forecasts used by the pro-active “co-pilot” that guides you through your sailing route with accurate nautical charts. Moreover, their smart system will also learn from your boat and display fuel capacity, battery status, engine, and other boat details. Good to know is that this app only comes in combination with one of their hardware products (Orca Core or full Orca system). Which truly has the ability to replace traditional chartplotters, in our opinion.

A fantastic solution for lost connections at sea is the Orca Core, which creates a wireless extension by connecting to your onboard NMEA 2000 network. This small device comes with a built-in GPS and compass. Furthermore, it can connect to your boat sensors and engine data to determine, for example, your ideal cruising speed. The Orca Core will enrich your navigation experience on all of your devices.

As you probably know, seas can get quite rough at times. Orca thought about this when they created their waterproof tablet. Which is a display option that is being mounted on your boat, built to endure all kinds of weather, especially at sea. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use your own tablet to use and navigate with Orca.

For those interested in the hopeful options and possibilities that Orca will provide, join the waiting list to pre-order your navigation system in February 2021. Orca is expecting the entire system to launch before the coming boating season.

App functions comparison

All of these navigation apps have their own specialty, which makes them unique. Some are more extensive than others. Therefore, you need to ask yourself how many of these functionalities am I actually going to use? Because all apps mentioned in this list are of excellent quality, but the prices do vary. It’s worth noting that all digital nautical charts cannot fully replace paper nautical charts when navigating. As a sailor, you are responsible for having accurate and up-to-date nautical charts.

We all love sailing and exploring new areas. It does, however, require some skills. Let new technology improve and ease your sailing holiday, so you get to relax. For more information, you can always reach out to the Tubber team.

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best yacht navigation system

You forgot about Timezero, witch is a fantastic app,

Thanks for your feedback. Good to know

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The 10 Best Explorer Yachts for High-Seas Adventures

A 350-foot gigayacht or 60-foot cruiser size isn't what defines an explorer yacht. the devil's in the details when it comes to authenticity., julia zaltzman, julia zaltzman's most recent stories.

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Damen SeaXplorer Superyacht

Unlike fashion trends that seem to move as fast as a Redbull F1 car, the yachting industry takes its time adopting new ideas. There seems to be one exception. Explorer vessels, born out of the owners’ desires to go farther and stay longer, without sacrificing creature comforts, is developing with some urgency.

Several dozen builders and designers are now focusing on explorers, but they are also consulting with adventure travel firms that have a long history of using expedition yachts in remote parts of the globe. ICON Yachts, for example, collaborated with Cookson Adventures and the International Seakeepers Society on its Project Mission in both the overarching design and the details found across the yacht. Adventure outfitter EYOS employs its expertise routinely with Damen’s explorer vessels, most recently with the 190-foot Pink Shadow.   EYOS has a list of 50 features that separate authentic explorers from faux versions that might look the part but lack the necessary infrastructure and design elements.

Long-range cruising, system redundancy for autonomy at sea, and storage to carry specialist equipment like submersibles are some of the requirements that define expedition boats. There’s also deck configuration for the easy launch of tenders and toys, along with strong, ice-class hulls and climate-controlled areas comfort in extreme polar and tropic regions.

We culled through the latest fleet of explorers with multiple lengths and designs, selecting a single feature that we think makes it best in class. Here are 10 of our favorites.

Best Pilothouse: Doggersbank 77 Offshore

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More than 700 Doggersbank motoryachts have been built since the 1960s, with the latest model scheduled for delivery in 2025. The robust, offshore vessels are designed by Dutch studio Vripack for long ocean passages, assisted by a high, flared bow. “It prevents green water from hitting the wheelhouse windows in rough seas, and together with the Portuguese bridge, ensures the captain’s view is not obstructed,” Joost Mertens, Doggersbank fleet manager, told Robb Report . “The yacht’s steel hull ensures the yacht sits better in the water making it less vulnerable to wind and high waves.”

Best Deck Configuration: Columbus Crossover 42

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The Columbus Crossover 42 is defined by both straight and angled surfaces,  tapered stern sections and a concentration of volume in the bow that is becoming on many explorers. What is atypical is the yacht’s compact but flexible dimensions that accommodate a large cockpit tender and a 108-square-foot swimming pool with relaxation areas. Sold to an U.S. customer, it’s scheduled for delivery in 2025.

Best Multipurpose Stern: Bering B165

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Turkish boatbuilder Bering Yachts revealed details of its new 162-foot flagship explorer yacht, the B165 , at the Dubai International Boat Show in March. The yacht can carry 18,400 gallons of fuel, which the builder says will give it a 4,000 nautical mile range when cruising at 12 knots. It also has a 2,640-gallon holding tank. What singles the B165 out among other explorers, however, is its multi-purpose stern area for both function and form. The elongated aft deck has a swimming pool surrounded by sunbeds. When the bulwarks are folded down, the space becomes an even larger overwater terrace. When the pool is not in use, it can be used as a covered storage area for water toys and expedition equipment. The yacht’s two tenders are also stored on the aft, making it a flexible space for both equipment and guests.

Best Family-Friendly Concept: Project Mimer

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This 197-foot expedition concept by Tillberg Design of Sweden caters to family travel with a helicopter pad as well as multiple tenders and toys. It’s pitched by the studio as an introduction to true explorer yachting. It has a functional crew layout for efficient operations and an upper deck owner’s suite with a forward terrace and spa pool. With a hull that will be built to the Polar Code Category, the concept also has an optional helipad aft and long list of toys, from an electric luxury tender and two expedition RIBS to quad bikes, a submersible, Jet Skis, and, of course, an amphibious vehicle. The five-decked yacht sleeps 12 guests with crew quarters for 17 and an additional staff member, such as a nanny.

Best Ice Explorer: Damen SeaXplorer 105

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Damen’s 345-foot SeaXplorer 105 is the largest model in the SeaXplorer range, with exterior design by Azure Yacht Design. The platform was developed under the guidance of expedition specialists EYOS Expeditions, who considered over 150 design criteria, from the hull form and bridge layout to the tender davits and Zodiac boarding arrangements. But it is EYOS’s expertise in the polar regions—it facilitated the first heli-ski charter in Antarctica and the first 3,200-foot sub dive to the Antarctic midnight zone—that gives the vessel its point of difference. The SeaXplorer has an ice-strengthened hull and a specially shaped icebreaking stern to maneuver through rough terrain.

Best Interior: Project Fox

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On top of having a cool name, Project Fox has a bright, contemporary interior, courtesy of London’s Q Design, that is becoming more common on expedition yachts. The full-beam owner’s stateroom is also one of the yacht’s standout features, with its marble en suite and hardwood floors. The salon is also luxe, with white walls that brighten up travel even in areas that are sunlight deprived. Project Fox also has four other staterooms.

Best Autonomy: Project Master

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ICON Yachts’s Project Master was a transoceanic offshore support vessel before the Dutch shipyard began a refit to turn it into an explorer yacht (see before and after inset). It’s equipped with diesel-electric hybrid propulsion, a wide beam for multiple tender spaces, a 7,200-nautical mile range, and flexible cabin arrangements for expedition crew. Other features include a science lab and a certified heli-deck. “The yacht’s helicopter and sub capability mean it can offer assistance in areas with challenging access and little infrastructure,” Micca Ferrero, owner of ICON Yachts, told Robb Report . “The design is for the demands of self-sufficient voyages.”

Best Use of Volume: Arcadia Yachts A96

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The A96 mixes the lines, volume, and open-plan layout of Arcadia’s Sherpa series with the speed, joystick maneuverability, and quality of the yard’s A range. It’s the first Arcadia to have an Igor Lobanov-designed interior, as well as a high bow and high deckheads for traversing rough water. But its big differentiator is the 214 gross tonnes of volume and 24-foot beam that generate big volumes—4,300 square feet of usable space, which is 30 percent more than on other similar-sized yachts. Low bulwarks and lateral walkways emphasize the sense of openness.

Best Bow: Project Shackleton

best yacht navigation system

This 351-foot build from Lürssen has an inverted bow that looks like an eagle’s beak. The shape is designed to slice through waves with much lower vibration through the hull, while also reducing rock and roll in rough seas. Unlike the quasi-research vessel exteriors of many explorers, this vessel is representative of the changing look of many in this growing segment. 

Best Multi-Mode Hull: Azimut Magellano 60

best yacht navigation system

The Magellano 60 isn’t technically an explorer yacht. Think of it as a cruiser  designed for some long-distance travel. But it does have one very interesting feature, what its builder Azimut calls a “dual-mode” hull. The semi-planing shape is designed to optimize fuel consumption (and therefore lower emissions) by about 20 percent (compared to similar-sized vessels) at low and medium speeds. The yacht’s bow is also designed to cut through waves for better seakeeping at a range of speeds. The boat cruises very efficiently at 18 knots but will hit a top end of 26, thus delivering the performance of a planing hull with the benefits of a displacement hull.

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Which Type of Car Navigation System Is Best?

CR's experts share the pros and cons of built-in navigation systems, stand-alone GPS devices, and navigation apps

By Benjamin Preston

There’s no excuse for getting lost these days. Navigation systems now come as standard equipment in many cars—both new and used—and are also available as stand-alone GPS devices or apps—like Waze and Google Maps—that you can download for free to your phone. All of these provide turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic data to help you find the best and fastest route to wherever you’re going. Some, however, are better than others, depending on your priorities and budget.

"The navigation systems in a lot of newer cars have features that aren’t available in a phone-based app or stand-alone GPS device, and often work with your car’s cameras, instrument displays, and other in-car technology to make navigation easier and less distracting," says Kelly Funkhouser, associate director of vehicle technology at CR’s Auto Test Center . "But there’s still a place for phone-based navigation apps and dash-mounted GPS units, especially if you drive an older car with no nav capability but would like some of the latest navigation features."

Below, we explain the various navigation options to help you decide which one is right for you.

Built-In Navigation

What it is: A navigation system that’s integrated into the infotainment screen and available as optional or standard equipment on most new cars.

Pros: A good built-in system provides guidance that is easy to see without being distracting. The best of these use the car’s cameras and other tech to offer enhanced guidance, such as projecting directions onto the windshield in front of the driver. The built-in nav system in most electric vehicles also monitors battery charge and helps you find places to recharge.

Cons: CR’s testers found that nav systems with complicated menus and overly specific voice commands (like those in some Hyundai models) can be confusing and frustrating to use. Navigation may be part of an options package that costs extra to buy, and certain premium navigation features can increase the base price by thousands of dollars.

Stand-Alone GPS

What it is: A stand-alone device from companies like Garmin or TomTom that attaches to your dashboard or windshield and gives turn-by-turn directions on a relatively large screen. These models are ideal for someone with an older car that has an obsolete built-in navigation system or no infotainment screen and who doesn’t want to use a phone for navigation.

Pros: In addition to providing navigation, a stand-alone GPS can act as an infotainment screen, pairing with your phone to provide real-time traffic updates and even hands-free calling through a built-in microphone and speaker. Some models also include backup cameras, which can be an added convenience if your car does not already have one.

Cons: They’re pricey (ranging from about $100 to well over $300) and add to dashboard clutter. As with built-in systems, there may also be a fee to update maps.

Photo: Garmin

Navigation Apps

What they are: Apps such as Google Maps and Waze, which display maps and provide turn-by-turn voice directions on your phone.

Pros: They’re free, and like the newest built-in navigation systems and stand-alone GPS units, they will keep you up to date regarding road closures and traffic jams. Waze goes a step further, providing user-sourced information about the location of potholes, road hazards, construction, and even speed traps. In cars equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, some of these apps can be displayed on the car’s infotainment screen.

Cons: Email, chat, and other pop-up notifications on your phone can be distracting and may partially obscure the navigation screen. If the app doesn’t work with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (or your car doesn’t have one of these), you’ll need to purchase a phone holder and mount your phone to the dash or to the windshield to keep it at eye level.

Photo: Getty Images

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2024 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2024, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Which Type of Car Navigation System Is Best?


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