APPS TO KEEP YOU SAFE ON THE WATER
Your cell phone or tablet doesn’t just make boating better, it can make it safer, too
HOT NEW APP FAVORITES BY LENNY RUDOW
FLASHLIGHT AND MORSE SOS — We’ll bet you’ve seen the free Flashlight app for iOS and Android
before — it sure does come in handy when you drop your keys in the darkness — but you may not think of
it as a safety app. Think again. Simply by making your screen as bright as possible with a white light, the
Flashlight app can turn your cell phone into a signaling device. Similarly, the Morse SOS app
(also free, and also available for both iOS and Android) turns your cell phone screen into a
signaling device. But instead of a mere white light, it becomes a flashing, nonstop SOS. This
has already proven a lifesaver, and was credited with helping the Coast Guard spot a sinking
boat with six people aboard at night — including an infant and a 9-year-old — this past July
on the Niagara River. One of the boaters downloaded the app and began using it on the spot
when they saw the lights of a 25-foot USCG response boat in the distance. “We would have
had a hard time locating this boat because of the darkness and the location without the SOS
signal,” Petty Officer First Class Tyler Benson said. Cost: Free
FLOAT PLAN — This app (for both operating systems) has been around for a couple of
years now, but it’s such a good idea we wanted to make sure everyone’s heard about it. It
helps you create a float plan with all of the important information needed, like destinations,
vessel info, crew info, and ETA. Then at the click of a button, your float plan gets emailed
to a pre-programmed “person of trust.” We think the price is a bit steep considering how
simple the app is, but if you don’t already have another method of reliably filing a float
plan — which is the best way to ensure help is sent if you don’t reach your destination and
you can’t communicate with people on land — this app is something you should consider.
YEARS AGO IT WAS ENGINE ALARMS that caused ringing on a boat, but these days, this sound is far more likely to come from a cell phone. Or two, or three, or five phones because in today’s world, just about everyone aboard who’s old enough to watch a PG- 13 movie is likely to have
a smartphone in their pocket. In many ways this situation leads to distraction, frustration, and annoyance. But in other ways, the miracle of the
modern cell phone can be a true blessing aboard — and even a lifesaver.
Cell phone and tablet apps can be harnessed by boaters in a number of ways:
weather prediction, navigation, and maintenance logging are a few prime examples.
And in the past, we’ve told you about apps that can help you accomplish these things.
But there are a number of new or updated apps which focus on making boating
safer. Let’s have a look at some of those that could even — yes, it’s true — save your
life some day.
LIGHTNING FINDER — This app was previously only available to iOS users, but went live
for Android this summer. It does exactly what
the name would lead you to believe, displaying
lightning strikes in near real-time, on a map.
It also tells you how far you are from nearby
strikes, and how long ago they
took place. You can even set
this app up to send you a text
alert when lightning starts
striking within a certain parameter. Obviously, this app can
significantly boost your safety
margin, but it isn’t cheap, in
app terms. There’s a yearly
subscription. Cost: $5.99