The 10 best smartphone apps for sailors: proven through experience

Weather forecasts, navigation, anchoring... nowadays you'll find mobile apps out there to help you with almost everything. So before you set sail, which apps should you install on your smartphone to make your voyage and life on board that bit easier?

Technology is evolving. Gone are the days when sailors relied purely on the basic equipment on board their boat — a chartplotter, GPS navigation and a pilot of the region. Nowadays, almost every modern sailor has a bunch of apps installed on their smartphone. So, we've asked our skippers which are their favourite apps they use the most. Here is our list of the top 10 sailing apps tried and tested over hundreds of logged miles.

Navionics app logo

1. Navionics: Boating Marine & Lakes

In our opinion, this is the best app for navigating your boat (but also for diving, fishing or other water sports). You'll find an incredible amount of information in it, from conventional GPS navigation to bay depths, harbour data, and contacts. Plus, it allows you to share your live location so your friends or family can follow your route online. We at yachting.com consider Navionics to be a basic part of any smartphone sailing kit! The only downside is that it is a paid app, but it's worth every penny.

Windy app logo

2. Windy.com app

The Windy app and the windy.com website are one of the most well-known sources for boaters to check the weather forecast. In addition to wind direction and strength, you can find forecasts for temperature, waves, rain and cloud cover. Just like with any forecast model, it can't be relied upon 100%, so you should always pay attention to the actual conditions around you as well. Windy Premium, the paid version provides a more accurate forecast and more regular updates without ads.

YACHTING.COM TIPClouds have been a source of fascination since the dawn of time. However, you don't need to be an expert meteorologist to know what to expect from looking at the clouds. In fact, this knowledge is practically essential for sailors. So, how do you read the clouds? Check out our article to find out — Sailing: how to predict the weather by reading the clouds.

Anchor alarm logo

3. Anchor Watch / Alarm

An anchor drag alarm or anchor watch basically does exactly what the name suggests — it emits a signal (alarm) when your boat drifts outside your designated security zone when at anchor. There are many apps available with this function, but Anchor Alarm is the one that works best for us. When you drop anchor, simply press the position button and adjust the perimeter you don't want to leave — for example, after taking into account the surrounding rocks and your proximity to shore, you might decide that you want to set the perimeter so that your anchor won't drag more than 15 metres. The app will remember where your anchor is located and will keep an eye on your position throughout the night. Should your boat move outside the set boundaries, it will trigger an alarm on your phone.

  • Get the app on the App Store or Google Play.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Review the basic rules of anchoring in our complete guide to anchoring and moorings. We've covered two specific scenarios where you might need a little extra help. The first is on how to prepare your boat for a stormy night at anchor and the second one is a guide to the Mediterranean Mooring technique, a combination of anchor and mooring lines often used in Greece — How to moor stern-to: a step-by-step guide.

Navily app logo

4. Navily

Navily is more of an app for recreational sailors where you'll find more than 14,000 anchorages and 6,000 marinas with photos and reviews from the community. There are also more than 700 partner marinas where you can book a berth directly via the app. The premiums version unlocks core features, such as automatic itineraries and distance calculation at sea. Navily claims to be the most innovative cruising guide.

Logo apps How to tie knots

5. How to Tie Knots

Every skipper should have a masterful knowledge of sailing knots for every situation and should ideally be able to teach the crew. But, at the very least, you could install an app on their phones and get them to learn themselves. For this, we recommend the app How to Tie Knots which uses 3D animation to provide a realistic experience of tying knots using a virtual rope. There are countless apps out there for learning to tie knots so if you find something more suited to you, there are plenty of options. After all, they all have the same goal: to teach you how to tie knots.

  • Find this app and similar ones on the App Store or Google Play.
Seahelp app logo

6. SeaHelp

This is one of the best-known breakdown assistance services for sailors. SeaHelp is a 24/7 rescue service that includes insurance and reliable assistance at sea should you break down or have an emergency. There are three types of membership available online and the app can then help you with things like towing your boat, starting, bringing fuel, fetching parts, freeing lines from the propeller and weather advice. The SOS button can also be used by non-members of this service and sends out a distress SMS with your current location and mobile number. After receiving the message, SeaHelp immediately calls back to verify there is a problem and if there is a real emergency, sends a rescue boat. If you sail frequently or are planning a more challenging voyage, we highly recommend setting up this service.

YACHTING.COM TIP: In the event of an accident or mishap during your voyage at sea, deposit insurance will save your nerves as well as money. Are you hesitating whether it is worth taking out? In our experience, it definitely is! Check out our article on the most common reasons for losing your boat rental deposit and if you would like advice on deposit experience, feel free to get in contact with one of our representatives.

MySea app logo

7. MySea

MySea is a free interactive guide to marinas, harbours, jetties, buoy fields and restaurants in Croatia, Greece and Turkey. For each marina, it provides information on the type of mooring, safety regarding the direction of winds, services (showers, toilets, petrol pumps, supermarkets, etc.), entertainment and dining options on-site. There is also a current weather forecast for the area with a bird's eye view. The app includes thousands of user reviews on individual marinas and berths can be booked directly via the app. Even admission to Croatian national parks can be paid for via MySea.

Marine Traffic app logo

8. Marine Traffic

Marine Traffic comes in especially useful if you are sailing in areas where there are a lot of cargo ships. This platform provides real-time information on marine traffic, live port arrivals and departures, as well as gross tonnage and registration number of the cargo ships moving in your area. If you are heading to the English Channel, the Baltic Sea or are planning a voyage further offshore, the risk of collision with a cargo ship is much higher. Bear in mind that the captain of a large tanker cannot see small sailing vessels, so it is best to give them a wide berth.

VesselFinder logo

9. VesselFinder

Similar to Marine Traffic, VesselFinder provides a live map, on their website and app, of the network ships using the AIS system — over 200,000 ships a day! In addition, it allows you to search for a specific ship and find its current location and more information on the vessel itself. View the ships and their position on the map in real-time or look at their previous routes, sailing history and, where applicable, marina reservations. It is also possible to create your own fleet of friends and track the individual boats of the whole group.

Map of Vesselfinder

The VesselFinder app displays current marine traffic on a map, but you can also search for a specific ship, and view its current location and sailing history

Tide Alert app logo

10. Tide Alert (NOAA)

Recommended for all those who sail in tidal waters (France, the Baltic, Scotland...), it provides all the information you need so you don't get caught out by the tide, such as predicted tide height, the moon phase, etc. The whole Tide Alert (NOAA) environment is user-friendly, intuitive and easy to use. Plus, there is an alarm feature to alert you to a low or high tide. And best of all, the app even works offline if your signal drops out.

  • Download it on the App Store or Google Play.
Sailing boats on land after low tide

A low tide can leave you high and dry

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FAQ Handy apps for sailors