Application Options for Cell Phone Navigation - 12/10/2008

The second part of the series on navigating with your cell phone introduces us to ActiveCaptain Mobile, which is a marine navigation product that runs on Windows Mobile and Palm based phones. Karen and Jeffrey Siegel developed the software after launching their ActiveCaptain website. ActiveCaptain Mobile is a visual database of marinas, anchorages, and local knowledge in a wiki-style that allows users to make additions, changes, and deletions. Get yourself on the map here --

ActiveCaptain Mobile makes updated nautical charts available in mobile format.

Copyright 2008 Karen and Jeffrey Siegel

ActiveCaptain Mobile

ActiveCaptain Mobile acts as three applications in one. On its own it's a chart archive, providing the capability to store thousands of charts on a smartphone. All of NOAA's charts are available with ActiveCaptain Mobile and are updated twice a year. International charts will be available in the future.

If you have a data plan on your smartphone, the software provides access to the online ActiveCaptain website. You can download markers that will be displayed directly on the NOAA chart, providing a living electronic guidebook. Markers indicating the location of marinas, anchorages, and local knowledge, such as bridges and inlets, can be displayed. Selecting a marker allows you to view additional information, such as phone numbers, services provided and reviews from other boaters.

Add a GPS and ActiveCaptain Mobile becomes a portable chartplotter, which can track your location, offering a backup to onboard navigation systems; a portable navigation solution for the dinghy or onshore use; or simply a secondary navigation option for a different view. ActiveCaptain Mobile also supports the creation of routes and waypoints.


PathAway by MuskokaTech runs on both Palm and Windows Mobile smartphones. There are two editions: Standard and Professional. The Standard edition allows basic functions such as using a GPS to follow and display your location, the ability to create routes and tracks of where you have been, and the capability to display trip information on screen. PathAway Professional adds a two-way tracking feature that lets you communicate your location to other PathAway users.

PathAway lets you display "web maps," which are downloaded on the fly from the Internet. It does not support NOAA charts directly, though you can obtain your own maps from websites, CD-ROM's or even by scanning them yourself. The Tools application for Windows converts your scanned images to a format supported by PathAway.

PathAway runs on both Palm and Windows Mobile phones.


TomTom is arguably the best known street navigation program. The TomTom application for your mobile phone is the same as the TomTom hardware products for your car. The advantage of using the software on your mobile phone is that it is always with you. If you rent a car while exploring an area on your cruise, you'll have your familiar street navigation system to use without additional hardware, powering options and mounting brackets.

TomTom is a well-known street navigation program.

TomTom Navigator 6 software with street maps for the U.S. and Canada works on Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian smartphones. Included with this is the ability to download updated maps at no charge for 12 months. Options exist for adding street maps for Europe and other countries. TomTom is for street maps only and does not support NOAA charts.
TomTom is fast, robust, and the perfect solution for navigating in a car. It comes in handy when you are driving your rental or courtesy car but also any time you go ashore, particularly in more populated areas.

Garmin Mobile XT

Garmin is well known for their all-in-one GPS devices, which they call Personal Travel Assistants. Garmin Mobile XT will run on many Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian phones. Their website offers a list of all compatible phones. The application is pre-loaded on a microSD card (with a miniSD and standard SD card converter) that includes both Garmin navigation software and street maps for the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. International options are also available. Garmin Mobile XT is for street maps only and does not support NOAA charts.

The program also allows access to Garmin's online service, which lets you access real-time traffic reports, weather updates and fuel and hotel prices for no additional charge. However, some users have found the data sparse, or out of date.

The software and maps come preloaded on a 512MB card. Unfortunately, Garmin prevents you from moving the software and maps to a larger card. This seems to be an unnecessarily burdensome restriction. A larger memory card would allow users to store programs and other data on a single card, reducing the need to swap cards in and out.

The software features standard street navigation functions. Enter the address you wish to go to and it will automatically create a route from your present location. Like TomTom, it offers turn-by-turn voice prompts and will automatically redirect you if you miss a turn.

This is just a sample of the navigation programs available for mobile phones. Other options exist including Fugawi and O2iExplorer for offroad navigation, as well as many other street navigation programs. You should carefully look at each to determine which will best meet your needs. Turning your mobile phone into a powerful onroad and offroad navigation system is just one way to enhance your next outing.

To read this article in its entirety, visit