Your smartphone or tablet doesn’t just make traveling and boating easier—it can make it safer, too. From travel advisories and navigational assistance to tracking storms and first aid tips, there’s an app for that!
Whether you're sailing, paddling, diving, or just enjoying an excursion on land, your smartphone can serve as a powerful assistant. Check out this collection of top-rated apps that focus on making all of your adventures safer. Then head on over to your favorite app store and download these valuable resources to…
Animated Knots (Free) A bit rusty at tying bowlines? Not so skilled at fisherman’s knots? This app is a great teaching (and review) reference for yachties. Clear animations and explanations show how to tie a variety of nautical knots and explain which work best for different applications.
CDC TravWell (Free) This Centers for Disease Control app enables you to get destination-specific vaccine recommendations, a checklist of what you need to do to prepare for travel, and a customizable healthy-travel packing list. You can also use this app to store travel documents, keep a record of your medications and immunizations, and set reminders to get vaccine booster doses or take medicines while you’re traveling.
GeoSure (Free) This app enables you to get familiar with where you’re headed before you go—and know what to expect upon arrival. It rates the safety of prospective destinations based on data from the CDC, the World Health Organization, the U.N., and local authorities. Its ratings reflect factors like political unrest, natural disasters, and potential health risks.
Google Translate (Free) If you’re exploring a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll find this app extremely useful. Simply type in the words you need to translate, pick a target language, and away you go. You’ll also have the option of taking a photo, using handwriting, or even speaking a phrase and having the resulting text translated— and (in some cases)—read aloud. One particularly useful feature: you can download a language pack ahead of time. This means you won’t even need to be connected to the Internet to translate typed phrases—an important point for international travelers who may not have mobile data.
iTranslate (Free Trial) When you have an emergency away from home, you may need to get help from someone who doesn’t speak your language. iTranslate is an indispensable app that allows you to communicate effectively with others in any corner of the globe.
Sitata Travel Safe (Free) Focused on health and safety, the company behind this app monitors media sites worldwide 24/7 for news on real-time events happening around the globe that could disrupt your travel plans. Alerts are displayed on a map alongside additional information and “what-to-do” advice. If you or someone who’s traveling with you gets sick, this app can also connect you to doctors who specialize in travel medicine. You can jump on a quick video conference with a medical professional, and in some areas, even request a house call.
Smart Traveler (Free) The U.S. Department of State offers vacationers its best travel resources in one place with the Smart Traveler mobile app. Whether searching for travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations, and more, the Smart Traveler app has your back. It even features the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which you can enroll in before casting off—and use while traveling to connect with family and friends in the event of an emergency.
Snag-A-Slip (Free) and Dockwa (Free) Whether you’re planning a trip or you’re already out on the water, it’s always smart to know where you’ll be spending the night. These handy apps help you research and find marinas with the swipe of a finger—and reserve slips right from your phone. You can also store your boat’s information to make booking even easier.
Toilet Finder (Free) When traveling to an unfamiliar city—where you might not even speak the local language—and nature calls, this app can help you find the closest CLEAN public restroom.
United States Coast Guard (Free) With this app, not only do you get instant access to state-by-state boating information, but you can also request a safety check of your vessel and get a checklist of federally required (and recommended) equipment you should have on board depending on the size of your vessel. With the touch of a button, you can also file a float plan, get “rules of the road,” pinpoint nearby NOAA buoys, and report a hazard, pollution, or suspicious activity. Bonus: The app also features an Emergency Assistance button which, with locations services enabled, will call the closest Coast Guard command center if you get into trouble.
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THE WEATHER
MyRadar (Free) With over 35 million downloads, this fast, easy-to-use, no-frills app displays weather radar around your current location, allowing you to quickly see what weather is coming your way. Just start the app, and your location pops up with animated weather. MyRadar can show when a squall or storm is coming, how long it will last, and how heavy it will be— making it easy to decide if you need to head back to the dock or just sit out a 20-minute squall.
NOAA Weather Radar Live (Free Trial) If you’re a boater who makes a habit of checking the National Weather Service forecast before you head out, now you can take this service with you by saving the mobile version of their website to your phone. Just plug in the zip code, city, or place you plan to go boating for the local forecast, radar charts, tide information, astronomical data, high seas warnings, and more. Important National Weather Service watches, warnings, and other alerts are shown on the map as interactive polygons covering the territories they’re active for. Tap one to get the full text of the alert. With push notifications, you’ll also get warned whenever there’s a weather alert for your saved location—tornadoes, flood warnings, and more.
Anchor Pro (Free) Created by sailors for sailors, this app allows you to program the position of your anchor and then set the radius that you’re happy to swing within. If the boat goes outside the circumference of the circle, the alarm will trigger.
i-Boating Marine Charts & GPS (Free) As the name implies, this app offers instant access to marine charts for the U.S., Canada, UK/Ireland, Germany, Netherlands/Holland, and European Rivers. It’s the first marine GPS app to have route assistance with Voice Prompts for marine navigation. You can create new boating routes or existing ones. The app includes tide and current predictions as well.
Tides Near Me (Free) If you sail, cruise, paddle, or fish, having the latest marine tide information at your fingertips is invaluable. This app provides pulls from over 5,500 tidal stations around the world to provide fully automated tide tables, charts, and predictions. Information is displayed in an easy-to-read format. Also includes data on sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset.
Windfinder (Free) This app is a forecasting tool that’s a must when planning your boating trip. It allows you to see the wind, waves, and weather across the globe in real-time.
First Aid by the American Red Cross (Free) When you, your crew, or guests fall ill—or mishaps occur on board—are you prepared? This official American Red Cross app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in the palm of your hand. Featuring videos, interactive quizzes, and simple step-by-step advice, this app covers the gamut—from allergies, burns, sprains, and stings to bleeding, broken bones, and stroke.
ICE - In Case of Emergency (Free) When medical emergencies happen, especially when you're alone, it can be difficult to recall important details to share with first responders or your doctors. With this app, one tap displays your emergency medical contacts and other vital medical information about you -- such as allergies, current medications, organ donor status, etc. -- without having to unlock your phone.
ICE Medical Standard (Free) ICE—which stands for “In Case of Emergency”—transforms your phone’s lock screen into a storehouse of health information. This app allows you to input your emergency medical contact information on your smart phone’s lock screen image overlay display. If you’re in an accident, first responders can find this information—medical history, blood type, allergies, necessary medications, next-of-kin contacts, and more—as soon as they turn on your phone.
Pet First Aid by the American Red Cross (Free) This official American Red Cross app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in the palm of your hand. Includes videos, interactive quizzes, and simple step-by-step advice to help you protect your pet's overall health and guide you through everyday emergencies.
TripWhistle Global SOS (Free) There are 196 countries in the world with more than 70 different emergency numbers. With this app, you’ll know the right number to get the help you need—fast. With a single touch, you can dial local police, fire, and ambulance phone numbers. The app also provides critical information to emergency responders with in-app access to your GPS coordinates.
Go Paddling (Free) This app provides includes an interactive map pre-loaded with details on more 25,000 community-sourced paddling locations to help kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders with planning and orientation.
Swim Guide (Free) Finding beaches with clean, swimmable water for you and your family just got easier. Featured in USA Today, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, this app covers freshwater and marine beaches in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand. Every beach is marked with a green or red icon, so you know when the water at a nearby beach is clean for swimming—and when the water quality is poor. A date/time stamp tells you when a beach status was last updated, and “historical status” reveals the percentage of time that the beach has passed water quality tests. You can also use the app to report polluted waters.
Nitrox Buddy (Free) This is a no-frills calculator app for nitrox/enriched air divers. Use it to quickly calculate the most important data for your dive: Maximum Operating Depth/MOD, Equivalent Air Depth/EAD, and Best Mix. Works with both psi/feet and bar/meters.
COMMUNICATE/CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES
Mayday Safety (Free) Designed by U.S. Special Operations veterans, this app allows users to send and receive emergency alerts to and from those nearby and family members worldwide. As long as there is a cell-phone signal or internet connection, the precise location of the alert and contact information can be shared. Mayday Safety is ideal for families, friends, and groups looking for an easy way to keep an eye on one another.
mysafetravel (Free) This app is billed as “the world’s premier travel safety solution.” In the event of an emergency family and friends back home can rest easy knowing that they will be immediately notified as soon as you utilize this app’s check-in safety feature. City Safety Reports also offer essential guidance to navigate city-specific threats, enabling you to travel safely as soon as you arrive at your destination. This app’s vault can store photos of important documents as well.
APPS WORTH THE SPLURGE
CDC Yellow Book ($29.99/year) The fully revised and updated CDC Yellow Book 2020 app delivers the U.S. government’s most current travel health guidelines, including pretravel vaccine recommendations, destination-specific health advice, and easy-to-reference maps, tables, and charts. Authored by a team of the world’s most esteemed travel medicine experts, this app best codifies the U.S. Government’s latest travel guidelines to staying healthy anywhere in the world. Note: The Apple App Store lists the app as the 2018 version but you'll get the updated 2020 material after you purchase the app.
Flashlight 4 in 1 ($3.99) Download this, and you get four apps in one: a high-powered flashlight, a magnifying glass (with the ability to take and email photos), a strobe light with frequency knob, and a Morse code feature. To activate the latter, you merely type text, and the program will send out your message in Morse code sound and light.
iDeco Pro ($8.99) This app is a multi-level dive planner designed for professional divers. This app monitors decompression stops and gas usage and includes useful features such as CNS tracking, OTU tracking, and Surface Interval tracking. iDeco Pro supports Open Circuit Diving as well as Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCR).
Marine Traffic – Ship Tracking ($5.99 - $8.99) Connected to the largest network of AIS receivers, this app displays real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide and covers most major ports and shipping routes. Use it to view vessels on the live map and see what’s near you. Or use it to track your position, speed, and course, as well as the positions of the vessels around you. This app also enables you to view your projected course and the distance from nearby vessels.
My Lightning Tracker Pro ($2.99) This app monitors lightning strikes around the world in close to real-time. You can receive push notifications whenever strikes are detected in your area and view more detailed information about where the thunderstorm is occurring on a map.
NOAA Buoy & Tide Data ($1.99) This app lets you tap into the NOAA buoy system with a flick of the finger. You can search buoys by name or region, or set a custom search radius to find out what buoys are nearby. You can peruse a map of all buoy locations and save your favorites for easy access. The app also includes tidal data for the entire United States.
Safe Skipper ($0.99) Think of this app as a textbook on boating safety that lives inside your smartphone. This quick reference guide is designed to help skippers be prepared and properly equipped when going afloat—whether for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, or longer. Easy-to-access information is divided into four main sections and packed with useful advice on Preparation (engine checks, man overboard drill, safety briefings), Equipment (anchoring, EPIRBs, ditch bags, PFDs), Communications (AIS, code flags, search and rescue signals, VHF channels), and Distress/Emergencies (abandon ship techniques, fire-fighting tips, Mayday calls, getting a tow, engine failure, flares).
Windfinder Pro ($7.99) Whether you're surfing, sailing, fishing, or boating, this app helps you find the spot with the best winds, waves, and weather conditions for your sport. The app provides detailed wind and water forecasts for over 40,000 locations, and tide forecasts for over 8,000 locations, worldwide. You can even configure and monitor conditions for your favorite locations.