The Marine Weather app (free, with advertisements) and Marine Weather Pro app (no ads, plus currents), from Bluefin Engineering, bring together in one convenient app several types of boating weather information. While it doesn't do everything you may want, it's a good start and makes it easy to stay in touch with what's happening on the water, and it replaces the need to have certain other apps or bookmarked web pages on you smart device.
Even if you don't have connectivity while on the water, it's good to check relevant weather data before setting sail. Warning: Marine Weather does not save most data it downloads, so you must maintain connectivity to do updates while on the water.
Version reviewed: 1.6.2 for Android - free and Pro ($2.99) versions
Version also available: 1.40 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (iOS 3.0 up) - free and Pro ($2.99)
Marine Weather compiles weather and other marine information from NOAA and Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab. You can manually select the area for which you want information or allow the app to determine your location by GPS or your device's location services.
Following are the key types of data included:
- Weather forecast. For your selected marine weather zone, the forecast presented is the NOAA forecast you can get from NOAA by phone or at its website, including the wind and waves forecast for the day and the next three days.
- Live weather station. For your selected NOAA weather buoy, the data may include (depends on the buoy type) the present air temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction and gusts, dew point, and wave height.
- Tides. Select one or more tide stations in your area and see a table of high and low tides, with times and water heights, for today and the coming week.
- Currents. For the selected current station, see a table of maximum tidal and river currents and slack water along with speed and times for the day. Note that this one data set is available only in the paid Pro version.
- Sun and moon set and rise. For your location, get the day's times of twilight, rise, and set, along with moon phase.
- Sea surface temperature. For your selected ocean area, see a color-coded map of water temperature.
- Radar image. For your selected geographic area, see a moving radar image of recent and current precipitation.
When you first use the app, you enable the layers of data you want to access (the list above) and the buttons you want to see on the map (for radar, tide and current station icons, etc.). You select your location or allow it to determine location from your GPS - and add these into favorites for later quick access.
Then, to see each type of data, one at a time, either tap the appropriate icon or map region or select the data from your saved favorites, and the screen changes to present that data. Generally these actions are smooth and fast.
My biggest complaint is that the app does not save data once it has accessed it online, such that all information is available only when you have connectivity. This is a definite problem for WiFi-only devices and a shortcoming for cellular connections that may be lost when farther out on the water. There is no obvious reason why this should be so - particularly since some other apps do store information such as tides for offline use. Marine Weather shares this failure with certain other apps like MarineCast, while other apps like AyeTides do preserve the data when offline. The Bluefin app developer would do well to include this functionality in future versions.
Another limitation is the use of a simple table for tides and currents. Since these change in a sine wave rather than linearly, apps that show changing tides or currents in a graphic format (like AyeTides on Apple or Tides and Currents on Android) are superior.
Finally, while the use of map icons to access tide and current stations and live weather buoys is effective, other functions are less efficient. If you tap a pink area of ocean near shore, for example, you get the regional forecast. To see the water temperature for the same area, however, you have to repeatedly tap the zoom out button until you see a red area of ocean to tap for temperature.
All in all, this is a very good app for what it does - and one of the best ways to learn much about marine weather and current conditions before going out on the water. But if there's any risk at all of losing connectivity once you're on your boat, be sure to have back up apps for the tides and currents - and a VHF radio for a changing forecast - if you may be affected. In addition, you'll likely want a more detailed wind forecast than the general one NOAA provides and may want to use another app like Wind NOAA or PredictWind.
PocketGrib is another effective app for showing wind weather forecasts in your area. There is a free Android version with limited functionality, but the Apple versions cost more than you need to pay for this information.