The Bottom Line
- Best online information and independent reviews of marinas and anchorages
- User-friendly, intuitive design makes it easy to find desired information
- Online searches are fast, with seamless zooming and scrolling of charts and maps
- Instantly updated information - always accurate and current
- Much better information than other online sites such as Marinas.com and Marinalife.com
- Some areas have light coverage and need more user reviews
- Less data than printed cruising guides for some anchorages and for facilities and attractions ashore
- The Guidebook screen for any given location shows icons for information available for immediate access
- Extensive information about marinas, anchorages, navigation, and hazards
- Includes growing numbers of locales in Canada, the Caribbean, and other international areas
- Data integrated in apps for smart devices and in popular navigation software for use underway
- Website includes additional articles on cruising topics, such as use of mobile devices for navigation
- Free registration provides newsletters on key cruising topics, such as protecting yourself against the risks of open wi-fi
Guide Review - ActiveCaptain Interactive Cruising Guidebook
Cruising used to involve elaborate advance research and stocking the boat with expensive heaps of cruising guides providing information that was often already outdated upon publication. Just as chartplotters and electronic navigation over the last two decades replaced navigation by dead reckoning and the need to carry hundreds of expensive charts (except now as an essential backup), online resources have begun to replace printed cruising guides for essential information about marinas, anchorages, and other data needed by cruising boaters. In only a short time, ActiveCaptain has become the best online source of this information.
The Interactive Cruising Guidebook is the heart and soul of ActiveCaptain. You locate your area of interest via base charts or maps or by a location name search. The chart/map/satellite view then shows information available according to color-coded markers for marinas, anchorages, local knowledge, and hazards - showing all or just those you choose. Just click for the details in pop-up windows. Marina and anchorage descriptions include both the essential data boaters need and user reviews and ratings that provide substantial additional information. Local knowledge and hazards information comes from multiple sources, including NOAA Coast Pilots, current Local Notices to Mariners, and boaters familiar with the area. Although this extensive database doesn't (yet) provide as much information about isolated areas and things to do ashore as in popular print guidebooks, it does provide virtually everything a boater needs for both advance planning and last-minute decisions while underway.
The real strength behind ActiveCaptain is the participation of tens of thousands of boaters who take the time to submit reviews and update locale information. This "crowd-sourced" data is verified by both the administrators and other boaters, who offer corrections when needed. While reviews do include some personal opinion, the sheer numbers of reviewers for most locations result in trustworthy information. Captain registration is free and offers benefits and free products for those who earn points by submitting reviews and updates - but the quality of the reviews suggests most captains share their knowledge from a love of cruising more than these incentives.
Originally available only online, ActiveCaptain has been integrated into apps for the iPhone and iPad that are downloaded and provide the data even when offline while boating. With the Charts & Tides app, for instance, you can navigate in real-time on your iPhone and access the ActiveCaptain data directly from your live chart view. ActiveCaptain is similarly integrated in the MaxSea TimeZero & Coastal Explorer navigational software packages for those using a PC. Together, ActiveCaptain and its navigational partners are changing the way many boaters find their way around the water.
Another excellent resource for sailors, with similarly crowd-sourced information on many topics in addition to cruising destinations, is Cruisers Forum, accessible by computer or with an app on smart phones and tablets. Never before has it been so easy to get the information you need.