There are many benefits to using alternative GPS/Chartplotters. Standard chart plotters for one are very expensive. They take getting used to as far as formatting, general use, and maintenance. Although they are rugged, built for marine environments, and can be conveniently mounted near the helm, on a swing arm in the companion way for ease of use in the cockpit, or below while plotting, or under way. In our technological age many alternatives have come about and can be just as practical if not more useful than the traditional units. 

Smart Phone Applications

There are many apps today that can do anything a traditional chart plotting unit or GPS can do plus much more. 

1.       Seapilot: This is my personal cellphone based navigation app. You are going to have to shell out the 5 bucks to upgrade from the lite version if you plan on using this for real navigational purposes. It has everything that a high-end plotter has available through the use of plug-ins. I am talking radar, way points, charts for anywhere on the blue yonder, wind speed/direction, tides pretty much anything you will need for safe and convenient navigation. Neptune approved. If you don’t want to use your data, or travel outside cell coverage offshore chasing those tuna or marlin, you can get an external GPS for your phone pretty cheap on amazon. This external GPS also saves battery life by eliminating your phones need to update and search for service. 

2.       Anchor: This app has got me many a needed good worry free rest at anchor. As anyone who has spent the night aboard at a tight anchorage or one surrounded by shallow water knows, it can definitely be enough to keep you up at night worrying if your anchor is set correctly or is slipping or dragging due to heavy wind or tides. You can set your radius at several increments, and as soon as your go outside the provided area, your phone will start chirping, buzzing, and vibrating loud enough to wake up Davey Jones. Another little tip I do sometimes when I can is tape a rodtip glow stick used for night fishing on a nearby mooring or buoy, just for a little visual reference and added peace of mind. This is not really necessary with the app, but is comforting if you expect weather or tide to pick up overnight. 

3: West marine recommends "iNAVX" 

“This relatively advanced nav-app takes advantage of NOAA raster chartography, but can also expand your charting options with the X-Traverse service ($10/year, www.x-traverse.com), which allows you to wirelessly transfer charting data from your PC or Mac to your phone, and vice-versa. It's compatible with Navionics Gold, HotMaps, and Fish'N'Chip charts, plus topography maps for the US and Canada. X-Traverse also brings social networking to boaters, as it enables you to upload or share data points and locations with Facebook updates. iNavX is for the icrowd only, at least for now, working on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. It essentially turns your smart phone into a smart chartplotter, and supports a multitude of real-time chartplotting functions (including speed, course, and bearing data, anchor alarm, track logging, etc.), gives you the ability to import and export waypoints and routes with Google Earth, and includes tides and currents data and GRIB weather forecasting”

It is a bit pricey though coming in at 49.99 plus 9.99 a year for charts linked to NOAA. This does come in at about a 10th of the price of a traditional unit with similar capabilities. 

            4: Sailflow: Sailfow is a free app that provides information from thousands of wind indicators along the coast and offshore buoys. It is very helpful for not only sailing, but fishing, and passage making. You can plan for fishing spots, or safer waypoints, based on wind speed and direction information updated in real time from the indicators. 

   Laptop, Ipad, Android

            The best way to go if you have any laptop or pad device is simply OPENCPN

OPENCPN: Is a FREE chart plotting, navigation, GPS platform for mac/windows/ linux. It includes everything you will ever really need when navigating the ocean or ICW. Free plugins are available for all the fancy stuff like radar, tides, and even local knowledge. You can download the charts free on the website or NOAA website. I use this when ever I have my MacBook aboard. I would recommend buying an external GPS from amazon. They are as inexpensive as 29.99 and work great for anything I have ever needed it for. Plus its FREE!