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iPad navigation around Hatteras

Dec 16, 2011

I have been a user of the iNavX marine navigation application for Mac for several years now and have been impressed not only by its ease of use and accuracy, but also by the company’s outstanding customer support and frequent upgrades. An e-mailed query gets an almost instant response — the problem is usually operator error!

Using iNavX with a MacBook Pro laptop tethered to a USB GPS receiver, my mobile system easily rivals any marine chartplotter running state-of-the-art navigation software. But a 17-inch laptop is not the most convenient piece of hardware to deal with while getting tossed around offshore.

What about using an iPhone, iTouch or iPad? Until now the biggest challenge to using these devices offshore for navigation is when you wander beyond the range of a 3G cellular network. A company called Bad Elf has elegantly solved the problem with a high-quality GPS receiver that simply plugs into the sync/power receptacle of all three devices. Download a simple application from Bad Elf’s website, call up iNavX or other Mac-compatible navigation software and you are underway.

On a recent trip around Cape Hatteras, I ran iNavX on an iPad2 right alongside the boat’s high-end chartplotter and software for hours on end and found zero discrepancy between the two systems when it came to accuracy in position, speed and cross track error.

Even though the Bad Elf GPS unit draws its power from iPad, it did not seem to affect the tablet's battery life. The Bad Elf does have an internal battery but that is just to keep the flash memory chip that stores satellite locations from failing. The Bad Elf uses power at about the same rate that an internal GPS found on the 3G iPad would. When the iPad is connected to house power the setup will run 24/7.

It seems to me to be a no-brainer for use as a back-up or even a primary electronic navigation system, coastwise or offshore.

There is however one drawback, the iPad/Bad Elf combination is not marinized and screen glare is a nuisance. Are you listening Apple?

In the meantime, visit www.bad-elf.com and www.inavx.com.

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