Free app, charts start at $29.99; www.garmin.com
There was significant news regarding Garmin’s BlueChart Mobile app (BCM). In fact, anyone with a relatively current iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone—that is, one that’s running iOS 6 or better—can download the basic and free BlueChart app right now. And I think you should because I suspect that the app has value even if you don’t go on to buy detailed charts ($29.99 for U.S. coastal) or the extra NEXRAD weather data (at just $4 it’s nearly a no-brainer). But I say “suspect” because when I tested BCM after the Lauderdale show, the loaner iPad3 was already fully loaded with charts and Premium Weather. But I sure saw a lot to like. At first I’ll stay with the weather features, as Garmin’s own descriptions of BlueChart Mobile seem overly modest about what they’ve packed into this app. Consider the Weather Stations menu, for instance. On the screen you’re seeing all the stations that are reporting general “conditions” but you can also display wind, temp, and other values, plus click on a station icon for much more detail. Note the long and clearly demarcated animation bar for the Premium weather radar.
But I hope you’ll notice (below) how good the Garmin charts look, which is why I think BCM will also be popular with folks who don’t own Garmin hardware. One thing I noticed during the often-complex 1,100-mile trip to South Carolina was how I would often turn to the Garmin 7212 when things got a little hairy navigation-wise. Hats off to Garmin’s cartography department for emphasizing and clarifying what you really need to know. Not that Garmin charts are perfect. None are, which is why I’ve always advocated having more than one chart format onboard.
Meanwhile I’m hoping the Panbots with iOS 6 will download BCM, give it a try, and report back.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.