Using today's innovations on the water

Published online: Dec 07, 2012 Feature Brandon Barrus
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It's 2012, and technology seems to be invading everything we do and everywhere we go. There are internet-connected LCD televisions, a smartphone in the hands of every one of those 65,000 screaming fans at the ballgame and wifi internet at even the most remote roadside cafes. But there's one place that new gadgets and gizmos seem to be taking their time invading: the boating world. Even today, the most high-tech option you can get for your pontoon boat is an MP3-ready stereo system, hardly something you'd expect for the 21st century.

But never fear! PDB is here to show you how to use today's technology to make the most of your boating lifestyle. From smartphone apps to social media services designed to help this  to be the best summer of boating yet, we've got you covered.

Let's start with the mobile applications, designed to be taken anywhere, even on the water. With mobile internet connectivity available even in the middle of the most rural lake you have an array of information and entertainment at your fingertips at all times. There are plenty of options to choose from, both for iOS and Android devices. Let's take a look at a few.

On Land

To begin, let's take the view of someone who is new to boating, or just wants to trade in their older craft for a new one. For this individual there is Boat Trader, for all mobile Apple devices. This app is designed to put more than 100,000 new and used boats right in front of you, and with GPS functionality, you can even narrow your search to those boats for sale in your hometown. This app even uses Google Maps to give you driving directions to that boat dealer you're interested in or used 'toon on the other side of town. Boat Trader is a free app from www.boattrader.com, and a great addition to anyone's iPhone.

Next on the list the aptly-named Miami Boat Show app, for iOS devices. This is a must-have for anyone attending the annual winter event in sunny Florida, and gives you access to show information, a list of exhibitors, boats that will be on display, available seminars, how to get tickets and even where to park. This particular app came in handy when we attended this show back in February. With these two apps, plus hundreds more like them, you can search for and find the boat of your dreams without ever leaving your recliner.

Once at the lake, both the Apple and Android app stores offer Boat Ramps, from Fibercode and www.TakeMeFishing.org. This free app works to find all boat ramps throughout the country at the touch of a button. Also using GPS functionality, Boat Ramps will steer you to the nearest ramp every time, a great tool to have on your first visit to a lake or reservoir.

And while you're at it, grab the free Zinio app for mobile PDB reading. Available on all mobile devices, this is a great way to catch up on back issues of the magazine or get the latest release as soon as we get it out the door. Packed with videos and other goodies we can't print on a page, the digital version of PDB is a great way to go.

Get Where You're Going

The Android Market has a strong offering for anyone looking for marine navigation on a mobile device: Marine Charts HD, from EarthNC, Inc. This app features official charts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and allows you to download them for offline use, in case you're really in the middle of nowhere, or maybe are really close to your data limit for the month. Marine Charts HD is $9.99.

One of Apple's offerings in this area is Marine&Lakes: USA, from Navionics. This $10 app includes hundreds of nautical charts, designed for boaters who need to avoid underwater objects and navigate unfamiliar waters. In addition to giving tide information, this app also gives you access to information about marinas and major ports right when you need it.

Both stores have a plethora of weather apps, from The Weather Channel (free) to the more involved NOAA Radar US, which costs $1.99, and beyond. These apps can do everything from give you a basic five-day forecast to show low-pressure systems moving in from the west to radar images which update every five minutes. Never get caught on the water again during a thunder storm; these apps can give you plenty of warning notice before hail starts to fall from the sky.

For The Anglers

Fishermen will be glad to know that the fishing industry is as plugged in to mobile technology as anyone these days. There are thousands of available apps for every smartphone out there, like Fishing Calendar, from SIS Software. This calendar combines weather forecasts with fishing predictions to help you plan the perfect weekend to finally land the big one. It even lets you record your catches with a photo, as well as size, weight and location. Fishing Calendar costs $4.99 for iOS devices and has received excellent online reviews.

Android's answer for the fisherman looking for a leg up is My Fishing Advisor, from MyFishingAdvisor.com. A free tool for freshwater fishing, this app analyzes weather patterns, the sun and moon positions, moon phases and other factors to tell you exactly where the fish will be and if they'll be in the mood to bite. You can choose where you want to fish and what species you're after, and My Fishing Advisor will give you dates and times to be there.

A new kind of Facebook stalking

Finally, using social media is a great way to enhance your boating lifestyle. BoatTrader.com has a Facebook page where they regularly list boats for sale. PDB also has a Facebook page, and it's a great place to get sneak peeks for future issues and meet other people who love their 'toons and deck boats, too. Do a search for your local marina on Facebook, and you will probably find a place where you can meet up with other boaters you know and plan get-togethers and other activities. Make it a group thing.

There you have it, a whole bunch of great ways to use today's shiny gadgets to make boating a bigger part of your life than it already is. Whether you use these apps and websites to be safer, make a deal or just have a roaring good time this summer, here at PDB we'll consider our work complete. 

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