Your smartphone is one device that can be a big help on your next boating trip. In fact, after you check out these four boating-related applications for your smartphone, you'll wonder how you ever hit the water without them.
Make a plan. If you don't want the embarrassment or danger of losing your way (just ask actor Russell Crowe who recently got an assist from the Coast Guard), create an itinerary on the Float Plan app ($2.99) from Siegleco. With this app, you can load information about your vessel, who's onboard and where you're headed, then email it to someone you trust. In the newest version of Float Plan, you can add multiple boats and destinations and even upload photos of the vessels.
Find a boat ramp. Whether you're on the road or already on the water, you can search among 35,000 U.S. boat ramps with the Boat Ramp App (free) by Derek Trauger & Associates. You can enter your search by your current location, zip code or city.
Check the map. The iNavX Marine Navigation app ($49.99) from GPSNavX delivers all of the official and up-to-date NOAA RNC raster U.S. waters marine charts. The charts cover the West Coast, Gulf Coast, East, Coast, Great Lakes, Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Island. You can plot your position in real-time with the built-in GPS, plus you can plot your route, measure bearing/distance, get a weather forecast, tides, currents, anchor alarm and lots more with this multi-functional app.
Get a tow when you need it. It can happen to any one of us - you're out on the water, and for one reason or another, you find yourself needing a little help back to shore. BoatUS Towing app (free), allows you to call for a tow with the push of a button, connecting you to BoatUS's dispatch centers any time of day. They'll locate you by your phone's location, and the app's built-in GPS function works even if you're out of cell range. BoatUS members can also include their member card info for easier use and potential towing discounts.