As we approach the end of the sailing season here in New England, we look back on products tested this year that may be of value to sailors looking forward to next. This year many sailors began using a wide variety of navigation and other boating apps on smartphones and tablets aboard their boats, and most have learned too the importance of protecting their electronic devices when on the water. I'm happy to report that after its second full year of use, my Magellan ToughCase excelled not only as a waterproof case but also a secondary battery and onboard GPS receiver interfacing with my iPod Touch for many navigational functions. This year I also used a 7-inch Android tablet with GPS, protected with a Trendy Digital soft case - and became rather addicted to its larger screen.
I can see the appeal for those similarly using an iPad, though personally I consider it rather large for use as a portable or handheld plotter: if I were tempted to use it, I'd likely seek a hard case that can be mounted at the helm. That would make it more like a regular dedicated marine chartplotter, however, losing some of the price advantage of the smaller, less expensive systems. But whatever your personal taste, this year has been great for sailors on a budget who enjoy the conveniences of inexpensive, high-powered electronics. For me, in most sailing situations the devices remain backups for navigation and seamanship skills learned over the years and still, I believe, important when sailing. I've seen too many sailors miss out on part of the intrinsic experience with eyes glued to a large screen before them, or near-helpless when power fails. Nonetheless, whatever floats your boat!