I was recently referred by a friend to an iPad marine navigation app called SEAiq USA. This app is in the same family of apps as Garmin BlueChart Mobile, iNavX, Nobeltech TimeZero, EarthNC and several others. I was attracted to SEAiq USA by its very modest price point and seemingly rich functionality. I have not been disappointed!
The SEAiq products (SEAiq USA, SEAiq International and SEAiq Pilot) have been developed by a live-aboard cruiser who really understands what cruising boat captains need and want to see. The SEAiq USA app is $9.95 on iTunes (September, 2013). It uses free NOAA and US Army Corps of Engineers Raster and Vector Charts. That alone is very desirable, because many of the competing nav apps have free apps but charge significant fees for proprietary chart paks. That causes two problems. I hate the ongoing, recurring cost for charts, and I don’t like the idea that the charts are modified for any reason. With SEAiq, there are no separate fees for charts, and no periodic advertising nag-messages to update your chart paks and drive the manufacturer’s revenue stream.
SEAiq has two operational modes. One, it can use the GPS receiver that’s built-in to an iPad (an iPad with wireless phone capability and a “real” GPS receiver). Two, it can use data streamed to it via a wi-fi connection. I have tested with both modes. Using the internal iPad GPS, I have basic position, course and speed info. Using fully streamed wi-fi data, I have pretty much all of the NMEA0183 and N2K data that my instruments are able to send. So, the iPad internal GPS mode is somewhat more limited than with streamed external data.
Sanctuary is fit with a DMK 11A multiplexor that receives NMEA0183, N2K and Raymarine Seatalk navigation data from onboard navigation instruments and re-transmits that data over wi-fi. Via the wi-fi link, SEAiq gets lat/lon position data, SOG, COG, Distance-to-Waypoint, Bearing-to-Waypoint, Water Depth, and Water Temp from our made-for-purpose nav instruments, and the full set of AIS vessel data from our AIS receiver. SEAiq supports many more NMEA data types for which I do not have sensors aboard (wind, etc).
SEAiq has full ActiveCaptain data functionality. It supports (via “import” and “export” using iTunes file transfer) tracks and routes in both .gpx and .kml formats. In US Coastal and Inland waters, it automatically receives large scale synoptic-level weather charts from NOAA/NWS in .grib format. On offshore passages, it can do manual requests for synoptic-level .grib files via email, to http://www.saildocs.com, using a sat phone or a computer-based email program with Paxtor modem and SSB radio capability. Data types automatically received from NOAA/NWS are wind and air pressure. Presumably, additional data types would be available on manual requests, but I have not played with that. SEAiq does not, at present, support weather RADAR data feeds. Since there are several apps that do that (Intellicast, Wunderground, Accuweather, Weatherbug), I do not feel that’s much of a limitation.
Aboard Sanctuary, we have always preferred to pilot the boat from the flybridge, and that’s where we have placed our made-for-purpose marine navigation equipment. We have Garmin and Raymarine chart plotters, depth sounder, AIS receiver, VHF w/DSC, autopilot, etc. This is a mix of legacy NMEA0183 and new N2K equipment. In the past, we did not invest in duplicating all that equipment at our inside salon helm station because we rarely – half dozen times in 10 years – pilot from inside. SEAiq on the iPad, with nav data streaming from made-for-purpose nav instruments via the DMK 11A multiplexor, gives us a very complete, portable, nav solution at the salon helm station. We anticipate this capability could be helpful in falls seasons with early cold weather, on cloudy, drizzly, 45ºF days on the Chesapeake Bay, or on night crossings of the Gulf-of-Mexico.
So in many ways, SEAiq is more feature rich than its competitors, and at a much better price-point. Buy it once, updates forever.
Following is a screen shot of SEAiq USA on my iPad. This screen shot show a section of the Patapsco River approach to Baltimore Harbor, off Sparrows Point. The teardrops are ActiveCaptain markers. The data panel of the right shows the data being received from my nav instruments. The AIS data shows a USCG Cutter (Sledge) highlighted as a nearby AIS target.
The SEAiq developer is a cruising live-aboard, and he is very responsive and helpful. I strongly recommend this app for any boater with an iPad.