When we bought our boat, it came with an out dated GPS. With hopes of cruising through the Bahamas we knew that this was one upgrade we were going to have to make. But at the same time, we are just a couple of kids with a limited budget. We did some research and found out that we could use our personal IPad as a navigation station. Below is a list of our set up and how it works!
IPad mini: There are two iPad mini models available for purchase, a Wi-Fi only model and a Wi-Fi + 3G/4G. The Wi-Fi only model does not have a GPS receiver so you will need the Wi-Fi + 3G/4G model. We have our IPad (3G/4G model) connected to our data plan because it also doubles as our internet hotspot. However, according to apple support a data plan is not required to use the GPS.
Navionics: The app we use to track our position, course, and speed is Navionics. This has worked extremely well for us. We have used it traveling through the Bahamas as far as the Exuma’s and up the east coast as far as Massachusetts. We have never had any problems with it giving us our position and a map of the surrounding area. It is important to make sure maps are loaded and updated while you still have service or wifi. Navionics is also a great source to find anchorages, marinas, and fuel docks.
There is an option to leave notes for yourself that you can share with other users if desired. These notes can include places that are a must see, underwater obstructions, or possibly a fuel dock that is no longer in service. We have found in a few instances on the ICW where shoaling is known to occur that depths were incorrect. With frequent storms and changing sands it is almost impossible to have 100 percent accuracy on bottom depth. Therefore, you should always also use your depth finder and seek local knowledge in shoaling areas.
IPad Protection: We ALWAYS have our iPad in a lifeproof NUUD case. We picked this case because it is waterproof, dirt/sand proof, snow proof, and drop proof and while being so durable it is also screenless. We found that cases with screens do not have as accurate of a touch.
Mounting system: The IPad in its case then sits inside the lifeproof mini cradle. This cradle is compatible with AMPS universal mounting systems. To mount our setup in different places we then have a Ram mount double socket arm and multiple 1 inch ram mount balls mounted in different locations. We have a ram mount ball located in the upper helm, lower helm, and on the console of our tender. This way we can have our navigation system in perfect view from wherever we are steering.
If using an IPad as your GPS always make sure your navigation app is updated and charts are appearing properly. Using an app for multiple hours can drain a battery quickly so having a charging system near the mounting brackets is a good idea. If this is not possible a spare charging block is a good back up.
Glare from the sun can make the screen of an IPad a tad difficult to see so take shade into consideration when mounting your system. We use Navionics on our IPad as our primary navigation system however, it is recommended by some marine professionals to only use this system as a supplementary navigation system. Our system has always worked great for us but we also always carry a backup hand help GPS and paper charts on board.. Just in case!!