Thursday, November 29, 2012

Garmin BlueChart Mobile Trip Planning App

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Function: Marine charting, planning and reference
Cost: Free
Rating: ****

The long awaited Garmin BlueChart app has finally hit the streets.  We were teased with a few screen shots back in February and promised the app this past summer. Well it was worth the wait. Garmin took their own sweet time and did it right.  I have owned numerous Garmin products over the years and have never been disappointed. This app also delivers with a ton of awesome features.

If you have not downloaded it yet here is the link to the app in the iTunes Store.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/garmin-bluechart-mobile/id523635526#

Garmin has been advertising this app as a trip and planning tool and that is what they delivered.  The list of features is extensive but there are some additional features that I wish it had. More on that later.

Features:

  • Create, edit Waypoint name and symbol as water, land, hazard with custom colors
  • Create and edit Routes
  • Picture of saved Routes
  • g2 marine Cartography
  • In app purchases for charts and advanced weather
  • Transfer routes and waypoints wirelessly to networked Garmin chartplotters
  • Fuel usage calculations in routes
  • Record Tracks
  • Chart notes
  • Celestial data, sunrise sunset, moonrise, moonset and phase
  • Tide stations
  • Currents
  • Active Captain user generated content points of interest
  • Garmin points of interest
  • Weather conditions, dew point, temperatures, wind speed and direction, water temp, visibility, wave height and period
  • Grib files
  • Premium weather in app purchase for radar and clouds $3.99
  • Graphical measuring tool
  • Shaded depth contours and inter-tidal zones
  • Spot soundings
  • Plan trips 
  • Radial menu dial
  • Powerful search feature for BlueChart services and ActiveCaptain content 
  • Realtime GPS tracking
  • External GPS capable 

Chart Menu: 


The apps main screen has a basic world map with banners at the top and bottom. The top banner has a gear icon on the left to select the Settings menu, a Heads Up button toggles between Track Up and North Up settings.  The center panel will give the status of your GPS connection if your connected via WiFi to your Garmin MFD.

The Record Track button starts and stops track recordings.  The Magnifying Glass icon lets you search the vast points of interest database.

Additional menu selections at the bottom center of the screen allow control of the Measuring Tool, My Content wheel icon and the Tides and Currents icon.  The Speed and Heading readings straddle these main icons left and right.

The last icon on the bottom far right is for selection of Chart Content. Chart content allows you to select various items to view on the display. These include Routes, Tracks, Waypoints, Tracks, ActiveCaptain POI, Weather, Grib weather files, and premium weather.

Charts:


Charts are easily selected and downloaded from with the app. Select the Gear Icon settings menu and select the BlueChart Maps option. 

There are 9 different chart sets available for purchase. US Coastal, $29.99, North America, $44.99, Australasia & Africa, $69.99, South America, $59.99, Mediterranean, $59.99, Nordics, $49.99, and Australia & New Zealand, $43.99.

Garmin charts are some of the best in the industry. The markers, depth gradients, colors and annotations are clear and concise.

Once you have purchased the chart set you can start to download the portions of the chart that you want to display.  Simply tap a tile to download it or tap a downloaded tile twice to remove it.

Charts will also be automatically downloaded when you zoom in to an area on the main chart display.

Routes and Waypoints:


Garmin has created a new Radial Menu to create, edit and inform the user of items on the charts. Simply tap once on any chart item or location on the chart and the Radial menu will pop up.

Tap on a chart item to have it pop up in the Radial menu where you can select them for more information.

Position coordinates are displayed for the center of the Radial Menu. Options for creating a Route or Waypoint are on either side of the three dots. Tap the dots for additional menu selections of Chart Notes and Celestial information.

Routes can easily be created by selecting the Add Route button on the Radial Menu.  Route points can be added with a tap of the finger or moved to a new location by dragging the route point to the desired location.

As you add legs to your route the leg distance, fuel requirements, time and bearing are listed.  This a great tool for planning your routes and estimating fuel and time for your passage.

Routes can then be edited by going to the Wheel icon on the bottom of the screen and selecting Routes in My Content. You can then select the options of Edit on Chart, Delete or View on Chart.

Routes and Waypoints can also be uploaded to your WiFi connected Garmin Chartplotter with the optional WiFi Adapter

Waypoints can be added by tapping on the display where you want to add a Waypoint.  Select the Add Waypoint button on the Radial Menu.

A popup box with display the name, symbol, coordinates, depth and a notes section.  You can rename the waypoint by selecting the Name field.

The Symbol can be changed to a variety of different icons. Tap on the Symbol box and select from General, Water, Land, Hazard and Shape menus.

There is a ton of different icons and colored markers to place as symbols.  Garmin did a great job in providing about any symbol you might need

Measuring Tool:


Garmin has provided their version of  a nice distance and bearing tool.  It allows you to quickly determine the distance between any two points on the chart.

Select the Protractor Icon on the bottom of the screen. Two marker circles will come up. These markers can be moved by dragging them around with your finger.

The blue marker is the start and the pink maker is the destination.

On the top of the screen a banner conveniently shows the Bearing, Distance and Return Bearing.

Weather:


One of the best features of this app is the amount of weather data that Garmin has provided.  The app requires that you purchase charts before weather data is available.  Basic weather is accessed with the Chart Content icon in the bottom right side of the display. Weather station data including buoy and land based NOAA weather is available for viewing.  

The only drawback is that it is limited to displaying one weather data type at a time.  Here I have selected Weather station temperatures.

Weather selections include conditions, dew point, temperatures, wind direction and speed, water temperature, visibility, wave height and period.  Grib forecast wind data can also be selected.

Premium weather includes Nexrad radar and cloud cover.  This can be purchased for $3.99 under the settings menu where you purchased the chart.

Point of Interest: 


Garmin has a ton of points of interest in their own database but they have also included access to the complete ActiveCaptain Points of Interest too.  Go to the settings menu and login with your ActiveCaptain username and password.  The database will download and remain on your device for offline viewing.

The ActiveCaptain POIs can be viewed graphically on the charts as you zoom in. Simply tap the icons to bring up a dialog box showing the information about the point. You can also leave your comments and reviews about the markers to be included in the database. Tap on the Comment or Review selection on the top of the dialog box to enter your comments.

Another way to find points of interest is to use the Search function. Select the magnifying glass icon in the upper right side of the screen to start your search. The app starts to search for POIs in your immediate location. To refine your search simply type it into the search box.  Within the search function there are settings to filter which points of interest you want to view. Simply check the ones you want included in the search.

I have reviewed alot of apps and Garmin has the most extensive points of interest that I have seen.  They make it easy to find almost anything you need.

Wish List:


There are always features that I would like to see in future app releases.
  • Satellite overlays
  • Importing and exporting of route and waypoint options such as emailing
  • Social networking options as a way to share locations and data
  • Navigation features of "Go to" or "Navigate to"
  • Marine instruments
  • TCP/IP connection for NAEMA data 

Not to shabby for Garmin's first Marine app offering.  The app is really packed with alot of features and data that everyone can use in planning their trips.  I realize Garmin was not going to give us an app that had full navigation capabilities.  They are still in the business of selling multi $1000 dollar chartplotters.  The app will be a great addition and companion for their chartplotters and allow boaters to enhance their yachting experience.


~~~Sail On~~~ /)
Mark






53 comments:

  1. Some things are not clear to me. How does it get it's GPS data? Will it take GPS data via WIFI (NMEA data) like iNavX?
    Is it as good as iNavX?
    Is weather data via email or internet connection? This can make a difference when in the middle of an ocean!
    I take it, it is just a planing app and will not control autopilot functions?
    Looks great for the price!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paul,

    The app gets GPS from your iPad or iPhone. It can also get GPS from your compatible Garmin MFD with a WiFi adapter. It cannot get GPS or NAEMA data over WiFi. That feature is on my wish list.

    Weather is through cell or Internet connection. So it will not work at sea. Points of interest are down loaded and can be use without a cell connection

    Personally I would not rate it as good as INavX. This app is great at weather and POI. INavX and Navionics are better at navigation and instrument data.

    Things may change with future releases but for now the best full featured app is still iNavX.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  3. Paul,

    Just a few more comments. Don't get me wrong, it is a great app. I will definitely have it on my iPad and iPhone. I see myself using it for the great charts, weather and extensive Points Interest that it has. I think it does those things better than most app I have reviewed.

    It will display and track your GPS position while you sail from point to point but it will not navigage to a waypoint or through a route or control your auto pilot like iNavX.

    Time will tell if Garmin develops any of these features in the app. They are no dummies, they have to support their chartplotter business first. Furuno and Raymarine have companion apps for the chartplotter too. All of them have limited functionality for a reason. They are trying to give you access to some but not all the feature of a stand alone iPad chartplotter.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello , i am planning a trip to Yacht charter dubai. Can you tell me can i use wifi or internet services at the yacht ?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jony,

    Welcome, glad you found the site. Consider becomng a follower of the blog to keep up to date on the latest apps.

    I would check with your charter company to see if they have internet or WiFi on the boat. I am not familiar with that company.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  6. Maby free, but when you try to downloadthe app from itunes, it keeps asking for a credit card....so it's not free now is it! lying toads!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just tried it on my iPhone and it worked fine. You have to have a valid iTunes account. Enter your password and it should download.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  8. The app is free, the charts are not.....

    ReplyDelete
  9. What do I need to do to get the weather overlay going? I purchased it but it's not listed as a purchased app. When I select Premium Weather in BCM I'm taken to the purchase screen but the green button, "$3.99" is now a gray button, "Purchased".

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim,
      If you are on an iPad go to the bottom right of the screen. There is a folder icon. Select this to show chart contents. Scroll down to Premium Weather and enable Radar or Clouds.

      If your on an iPhone hit the tab folder on the left center of the screen. Here you can select Chart Contents and Premium Weather.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Mark

      Delete
    2. Of course. Didn't think to scroll down. Works as expected now.

      Thanks.

      Really a great product. Using it daily as a supplement to Coastal Explorer during southern transit on the ICW.

      Jim

      Delete
    3. Glad to hear you got it sorted out. Are you using the ActiveCaptain POI on your trip? Garmin did a great with the integration of the data. Give us some feedback if you could after you have used it for awhile.

      Mark

      Delete
  10. I see Active Captain's latest newsletter notes that there is no plan for this app on Android. I find this perplexing as there are millions more android phones out there than iphones. It seems to me that people with iphones believe the world revolves around them. I realise the iphone has a slick interface, but, my opinion, it pales in comparison to say, the new Galaxy III or Note 2. I hope Garmin reconsiders this decision and includes Android.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill,

      I hear you man! There are more Android phones being activated each day than iPhones yet developers are still focused on iOS. I think that will eventually change but it may take time.

      This app would look awesome on a Galaxy SIII. As ActiveCaptain suggested, make your feelings known to Garmin. They will be listening and are usually responsive to what customers want if we all scream loud enough. So Garmin, WE WANT Bluechart Mobile on Android!!!!!

      How's that?

      Mark

      Delete
    2. I agree. I have Navionics on my android tab (Xoom) & looking at the dif. on ActiveCaptain I would like to be able to purchase the Garmin for android as the product looks very good & is at a good price point - so Garmin get er done please!

      Delete
  11. Since my iPad 1 will not work with Garmin Bluechart app I'm considering upgrading to the newest version. My question is, can I use my Dual XGPS 150 with the program/charts to get GPS with WiFi only iPad or do I need to get an iPad with WiFi plus cellular?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In theory it should since you are connecting with Bluetooth. I have not heard of anyone doing that yet.

      If you are buying a new iPad for sure get the 3/4G version. It is worth the extra money and that way you will always have a GPS signal, even far offshore. 3/4G will also be great to download the latest weather data within the app if you are within cell range.

      Ditch the Dual GPS and have one less thing to charge and drag along.

      Thanks for the question and stop back soon. Become a follower of the blog to keep up on the latest news.

      Sail On
      Mark

      Delete
    2. I use the Dual XGPS150 with my WiFi iPad 1 for iNavX and it works great. I leave the XGPS in an overhead compartment and keep it connected to a 12V->USB charger. The XGPS150 also works great with Navimatics Charts&Tides on my iPad 1.

      Delete
  12. I have Polar View, Google Earth Nautical Charts, and Navimatics on my iPad and iPhone. The Garmin app is far and away the best. I have used RayMarine on my boat but when I am ready to replace it I will go with the Garmin chart plotter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jerry&Lynn,

      Garmin has done a great job with this app and the integration with their chartplotters. This industry is changing so fast right now it might make sense to wait six months till things settle down. Furuno, Raymarine and Garmin now all have apps that connect with their touch screen chartplotters.

      Chartplotters are like computers, they are out of date a soon as you buy one. My philosophy is don't buy the most expensive one because you may want to upgrade next year to the latest and greatest.

      Consider becoming a follower of the blog if your are not already and stop back soon!

      Mark

      Delete
  13. I'd like to sign up for this blog. How do I do it???

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeff,

      On the blog in the right column you will see a followers section. There is a button named Join this Site. Tap on this and login using, Google, Twitter or a Yahoo account.

      Welcome!
      Mark

      Delete
  14. Hello Mark.

    Thanks for the interesting comments...
    I have a question. I use seaiq with nmea over wifi ( shipmodul multiplexer) that works great but I am planning to go where cm93 are not enough. My iPad has no GPS. Is there an app that can emulate a GPS position on location service from nmea data?
    I 'll then be able to use BCM...
    Have a nice day
    Damien

    ReplyDelete
  15. Libertaire,

    Welcome to the site. Hope you find it useful.

    Garmin BCM does not allow external GPS as easy as other apps. They offer a Marine WiFi kit for $200 but that only connects to certain Garmin chartplotter networks. Here is a link to that.
    https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=129410

    There is a good discussion on the TugNuts forum about it here.
    http://www.tugnuts.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2956&p=23171

    Apps like iNavX can receive NMEA data from your on board network too. That would be your best option. I am not sure if they have the charts you need.

    There are no apps that can emulate a GPS, you will need a network connected GPS to send the data to the iPad.

    Good luck
    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  16. Musandam Khasab nice blog well written hands of for the writer. God bless you..Love the yacht charters.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I like this App the charts are very nice but the ship icon is just too large.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Edward,

    It think Garmin realized this too. In one of their latest releases you can now select the size and type of your vessel icon. Go to setting in the upper left corner of the screen. Select Boat Profile and vessel icon.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  19. Is there BlueChart Mobile data for the Southeast Caribbean, namely St. Vincent & the Grenadines?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous,

    The North American Region V2013 include coverage for the US coast, Great Lakes, Alaska, Hawaii, both Canadian Coasts, Mexico, Central America, Panama Canal,the Caribbean and the tip of South America. It is a great deal for $44.99.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
  21. I downloaded the BlueChart Mobile App and purchased the North American data. Now, is there a manual or on-line tutorial anywhere, or extensive help file, that explains all of the settings, features, and possibilities?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read my blog post above! I covered most of the majors features of the app. In the app under the settings menu there is a users manual. Click on the gear icon in the upper left of the screen and select Users Manual to review all the features and settings.

      Good luck
      Mark

      Delete
  22. Hi Mark,
    I want to transfer iNavX routes to my Garmin 4208. Can I use BlueChart Mobile to accomplish this?

    Has any progress been made on connecting to the chartplotter through other wireless networks than the Garmin Mobile Wifi or are we still limited to their system alone?

    Thanks so Much!
    Julian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julian,

      Thanks for the question! I took a quick look and you can export waypoints and routes from iNavx easily. Garmin on the other hand does not allow any import or export from email, Dropbox or using the open in function from any other app. Garmin does not play well with other apps at all.

      Garmin does offer a $200 WiFi setup that will allow you to share your BlueChart mobile routes and waypoints with your Garmin Chartplotter. I have heard that it does work but is too expensive for my blood. I did find a link to a guy who did it with a D-Link access point router. Check it out here: https://sites.google.com/a/patmcqueen.com/pat-mcqueen-home/home/garminmarine.

      This will save you from buying the big bucks Garmin router but it does not get your routes from iNavX to your Garmin Chartplotter.

      Mark

      Delete
  23. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for looking into this and your helpful reply. I was finding the same thing. It appears I might be able to accomplish the transfer by buying Homeport for my laptop, importing the iNavX route into Homeport, writing it to the SD card and then copying from the SD card into the Garmin chartplotter. Do you see any issues with this approach?

    Julian

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Mark,
    I went ahead and purchased Homeport and found that I can transfer my iNavX waypoints and routes to the chartplotter in this way. I couldn't get the files I exported from iNavX using the email function to work, but when I signed up for Xtraverse I was able to get the KML file to import. The GPX file would not work even using Xtraverse. I could open the it in Maplorer, but Homeport would not read it. I assume there is some incompatibility in how iNavX is generating the GPX file. Homeport allows you to copy your chart from the chartplotter onto an SD card and use it in Homeport although you can't copy it from the card onto the hard drive. Homeport also integrates with Active Captain nicely, I think I'll be happy with this setup and it saves me from installing the Garmin Wifi network.
    Julian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julian,
      Thanks for sharing your success. I do not have Homeport so glad you looked at that option. Sounds like a bit of work but glad to hear you found a way to get it done. I am sure there are some other readers who will want to do the same thing.

      Stop back soon and sign up to become a follower of the blog. Share the blog with all your boating friends. Spread the love!

      Mark

      Delete
  25. does anyone know if Blue Chat mobile charts can be loaded into Home Port? Having to pay twice seems a bit of a con.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jason,

      Thanks for your question and welcome to the blog. I don't think you can share charts between Homeport and BlueChart Mobile. That would be ideal of course but Garmin would not make any money doing that. They force you to purchase charts twice in this case. Not a good deal for us consumers but a good deal for Garmin.

      If anyone knows of a way to do it let us know.

      Mark

      Delete
  26. Hello! If you ever need a free conversion tool to make gpx file into kml or vice versa, I suggest to have a look at this useful software program http://gpx2kml.com/. Maybe it can help you while planning your future routes.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi I am after the information of how many waypoints can be put in this app to mark spots. My other chart plotter is full ( only holds 3000) I can't seem to find how many befor it says it's full.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leighdrive,

      I looked around at a bunch of sources also and did not find any info on the number of Waypoints. I do use the app but only have several hundred waypoints entered in my app. The only drawback with the Garmin app is that is does not allow you to navigate to a waypoint. I only displays your position relative to your route or waypoint. iNavX will actually navigate you to the waypoint showing bearing, distance, time and cross track error.

      Mark

      Delete
  28. Hi! I create some waypoints in my iPhone bluechart and I can´t find the way to send them to my iPad bluchart. Does someone know how to do that? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Marcelo,
    Great to hear from you. I took a quick look and did not see a way to transfer waypoints from an iPhone to an iPad using Garmin Bluechart mobile.

    Tap MyContent at the bottom of the screen, then select a waypoint. In the upper righ of the screen select the meny button. This will show options for Facebook, Twitter, Email and Send to Device. The app allows posting or emailing of data but Garmin does not use the OpenIn feature to import the data into the app.

    The Send to Device feature is only used to send data to a Garmin Chartplotter via Bluetooth.

    I will keep looking but I don't believe it is possible with the present verision of the software.

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  31. Garmin supports many apps and do you know how to connect these apps using wearable technologytracker... It maintains fitness,tracking and scheduling workouts

    ReplyDelete
  32. Is there any way to manage waypoints by groups ? I know I can switch waypoints on and off individually, but this very troublesome for several hundred waypoints.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy,

      Great to hear from you and thanks for the question. Sorry for getting back to you so late. I just got back from trip to Lake Superior. The Garmin Bluechart Mobile app has limited functionality when it come to waypoints, track and routes. They are a Chartplotter manufacturer and would prefer you to buy one of those with all the functionality. I don't see them developing the app with much more functionality than it has now. I have been frustrated by the lack of tools in the app that is why it is not rated very high in my list of Best Marine charting apps.

      The Navionics Boating app has Markers which can be save in 8 different categories, Wrecks, buoys, beacons, lights, port/marinas and anchorages. Try this app if need that functionality. Become a follower of the blog, share it with your friends and click on a few adds to help me pay the bills.

      Mark

      Delete
  33. Nice to be visiting your blog once more, it has been months for me. Well this article that ive been waited for therefore long. i want this article to finish my assignment within the faculty, and it has same topic together with your article. Thanks, nice share. myappstaller

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anyone can help me here? Have the app on Iphone and downloaded it on Ipad. How can I transfer my personal waypoints without a Garmin system as I use Raymarine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hani,

      This is a re-occuring problem that I have addressed before in a reply back to Andy Malcolm above. The Garmin app lacks the functionality that you are looking for. You can view waypoints, edit them in the app and export them using email, Facebook, Twitter or to a Quatix watch. None of these are importable to the Garmin app.

      Garmin is in the business to sell chart plotters so the app is not going to be developed beyond what you have today. I would dump the Garmin app and go to something like iNavX or SEAiq that allow portability of waypoints, routes and tracks with Open In capability. Open In allows you to export and then open the waypoint in a many other apps.

      Navionics also allows you to save all your data to your Navionics account to use across your devices.

      Hope this helps. Please become a follower and click on a few adds to help me pay the bills.

      Mark

      Delete
  35. How do I go to a waypoint? The only way I figured it was to create a waypoint where I am build a route between where I am at the waypoint I want to go to and when I get there race the way point where I was is there a shorter easier way to do it? Thank you for a good blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stuart,
      Waypoints are created by tapping on the screen. The awkward menu wheel comes up. Tap on the white dot with the plus sign on it. This will take you to a menu to edit the name and symbol of your waypoint.

      You just noticed one of the major drawbacks of this app. It has no "navigate to" feature like many other apps. It allows you to view maps, create waypoints and routes but it does not give you directions, course or heading to those points. If you turn on Record Track you can see your track as you head toward your waypoint.

      It is considered more of a planning app than a navigation app. Garmin wants you to buy one of their $1000 chatplotters instead.

      The Navionics app allow you to create Markers and then Boat To that Marker. I would try that app if your looking for more navigation features.

      Mark

      Delete
    2. Thanks for this blog, it's been helpful as I've just purchased a boat, Bluechart Mobile charts and downloaded HomePort.

      I purchased the charts on my iPad and thought I should be able to "Restore Purchases" on my iPhone like I've done with other in-app purchases but the app fails with "cannot connect to iTunes store". Do you know if that should work or does Garmin require an iPad purchase and an iPhone purchase? I used the "Feedback" link in the app three days ago to ask Garmin but haven't received a response yet.

      Regarding some previous comments about import/export with Bluechart Mobile, I have created a route in HomePort and opened it in Bluechart Mobile and vice-versa using email as the transfer method. Maybe that capability had been added after the comments were made.

      Delete