Boating App: Navionics Boating

“Wow, where can I get that?”

That’s what boaters ask when I show off Navionics Boating.

This $9.99 app gives lake sailors features that our coastal and Great Lakes cousins use on chartplotters costing thousands of dollars.  You can even get some features in a free version of the app but the included government charts are lower detail.

I’m not saying I need full-featured charting on my lake (about 2 miles at its widest), or that the iPhone screen is a substitute for bluewater electronics.  But it is pretty cool to have similar data when I’m tacking around Lake Travis for an afternoon.

Last month I used Navionics to set the anchor for a race committee boat when we couldn’t find a spot shallow enough to drop anchor.  The onboard depth finder was fine for measuring depth where we were.  Finding where to go – now that’s better!  Using Navionics we motored around to a shallower spot and dropped anchor there.

Local readers will know that Lake Travis’s depth changes dramatically (up 50 feet this year alone).  So it’s great that Navionics has level adjustment.  Just look up the current lake level and punch in the adjustment (minus 11 feet, for example) before your trip.  Now all the charted depths are accurate for the current level.

I used Navionics on our family charter in Puerto Rico this summer and the charts were a nice backup to the boat’s chart plotter (Puerto Rico was an extra $14.99).

Boating is available for iPhone and Android.  Although I haven’t used it much, it also has crowd-sourced charts that include updates on marinas and other points of interest added by fellow boaters.

A screenshot below of a trip this summer using Boating.


Chart of Lake Travis, Austin, TX on my iPhone.  Notice the dramatic depth contours in just a few hundred feet.  It’s nice to know where the deep (and shallow!) spots are.



Sailing Through a Drought


Thankfully not my boat.  I took this picture in October 2014.  The owner needs to watch out because the water is rising again.  Lake Travis, October 2014. (photo credit: Steve Ward)


(Note: beginning with today’s post I am using a new format.  I hope you like it.  — Steve)


In 2007 a baby girl arrived and put my sailing on hold.  We sold the boat shortly after Anna arrived.  If anything could compete with my love of sailing (and win) it was this child.  By 2013 I was desperate to get back on the water and now that Anna was nearly six we had more time for boating.  But Lake Travis was so low I reluctantly stopped the boat search.

No substitute for sailing.

Water was so low that all but one or two boat ramps were closed.  Many ended several feet short of the water’s edge like the cliffs in a Looney Tunes episode.  I even considered buying a pop-up camper for my outdoor itch (I didn’t).

Then one day at lunch high above Lake Travis we saw five or six boats sail by on the lake.  I couldn’t believe it.  The bad news I heard had me thinking no boat could sail on that thin water.  (sadly that restaurant, Iguana Grill, is now closed, another casualty of the drought).

I was obviously wrong.  In fact, parts of the Colorado River bottom are over 100 feet deep, even at today’s low level.  My Navionics Boating iPhone app shows a spot a quarter mile from my marina that is 95 feet deep.

My search was back on.  By May I had purchased Wild at Heart, a Hunter 25.5 and bigger brother to our old Hunter 23.

Shopping for sailboats with Anna.  This is Wild at Heart which we eventually bought from a great guy named Doug.
Shopping for sailboats with Anna. This is Wild at Heart which we eventually bought from a great guy named Doug.

Now two years later the lake is looking even better.  The spring rains have raised the lake ten feet this year alone!

I look forward to even more sailing with my girls Anna and Laura this year.

Anna helping with the lines. The girls generously took me sailing on my birthday.



First mate Anna helping with the tiller.


A wonderful birthday for Daddy on Lake Travis.