The best apps for cruising- part II

tablet reading

What apps do cruisers actually use on their ipad / android to make life easier, safer, or more fun? The last post covered navigation, weather, and other apps for sailing. This post is about everything else that we find useful to our cruising life. And despite the title, the objective here isn’t actually to list the best, but to share what we- and a lot of other cruisers- actually use to improve life on board…the “best” lists I’ve read weren’t written by cruisers! So here are a few more that we actively use, as well as recommendations from other friends afloat.

Low-bandwidth living

Sometimes, getting online is expensive. Sometimes, it’s just not even possible! These apps make it easier.

OperaMini. Prepaid data plans can be expensive on a cost-per-gigabyte basis, but they are often the only option (besides wifi in a café) for cruisers passing through. This browser app compresses data, so you save megabytes will getting your internet fix. Handy!

Wiki Offline. We get used to “just Googling” for a lot of things. Well, that’s not always an option – living mostly disconnected as cuisers, we value Wiki Offline for the wealth of information it offers when we can’t use The Google. Country research, local knowledge, or just settling bets- this gets a lot of play on Totem. Del Viento turned us onto this a while back and it is GOLD for low/no bandwidth living. Worth knowing: the app is only a few megabytes, but you’ll then have to download the Wiki back end… that’s about 4 GB.

Pocket and Offline Pages store articles or pages you access online so that you can view them offline. I don’t have either currently, but they come recommended by other cruisers and sound like something I really should add.

To manage RSS feeds, a from back home uses Feedly to organize, Byline to download and read offline. We shared a ferry commute from our island home into Seattle for work, and offline caching of the latest reads helped it pass while keeping us current (thanks Robert!).


Offline entertainment

No surprise: e-reader apps are used by most tablet-toting cruisers, mainly the usual suspects: iBook, Adobe, Kindle, etc. Because we get books from a variety of sources with DRM in place- Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and more. Having a smattering of apps installed makes it a little easier.

MoliPlayer– Yeah, I know I need to watch my night vision, but watching a movie with the screen turned down is a great way to help pass the time on a lonely night watch! Moli covers most video file types.

Others cruisers are using VLC as a video player. I hear great things and want to try it- I think it will close the gap on any file formats we have that don’t work on Moli, and may just take its place.

Keeping organized

What’s On My Boat. This keeps my friend Sherry on SV Trillium organized.  I can never seem to remember where I stowed the big bottle of soy sauce on Totem. It’s become a kind of standing joke- where is the soy sauce? I probably need this.

eStorage. Not a boat-specific app, but the same principle: my friend Amy uses eStorage to save details about the spare parts aboard for her boat’s engines by item number. NICE! I love the idea of this, although I’m not sure I’ll ever be that organized.

tablets skyping

Staying in touch

Skype. Invaluable for staying in touch with friends/family. We usually keep the video off, since it can compromise audio quality on a poor connection.

Others use: Viber, Facetime, and VSee (designed for lower bandwidth use!). Note for would-be cruisers that I couldn’t set up a Viber app without having a smartphone with  recognized number. Our old “semi-smart” phone has issues (it’s been a while since we could use the SD card), so even with a local number I can’t load the Viber app… no Viber account for Totem! It doesn’t seem to matter if you *don’t* have a phone later, so this is good to deal with while it’s still easy.


Saving memories

Snapseed. The photos I post to our blog, Twitter and Facebook are overwhelmingly out of my camera and processed on the laptop, but every once in a while, it’s nice to get a quick snap with the iPad. This works for me to straighten the horizons, which I manage to skew every.single.time, no matter how I’m snapping.

On the yacht Emerald, Nichola uses PicCollage to massage blog post images; I also love what Sue Klumb does with collages in this tool for her Food on Orion Facebook page (for anyone who wonders “what can you cook” on a cruising boat- a LOT!). Sue also raves about Photo Editor to record images for Orion’s page.

Speaking the language

Learning greetings to meet friends, numbers for shopping, and a few basic pleasantries can make a world of difference when you’re a stranger in a country. We’ve used several and I’m not dedicated to any one in particular, but DuoLingo seems to come up most for repeat visits.

Long distance cruiser Daria uses iTranslate to help along her travels: this is more about translating on the go vs learning a new language- you can save phrases for offline reference. I’ve used Google Translate on the computer a LOT; it has an app, too, with downloadable language packs for offline access.

Galley help

I haven’t really crossed the bridge into managing recipes on a tablet. I’ve got WAY too much on the PC, in a variety of different formats. But I know it’s a huge help for other cruising friends.

Recipe Gallery: my friend Amy uses this to keep her recipes organized, and add more as she finds them.  Recipe Gallery is more of a way to import and store existing recipes. For recipes that act more like a customizable cookbook with existing recipes, Alexandra swears by iCookbook on SV Banyan; it comes with a few thousand recipes. Victoria and I are both fans of Mark Bittman; she uses his apps on SV Convivia…I might go there myself, soon. Sherry turned me onto PepperPlate, and I know others use it- it’s a great way to seed a custom cookbook with recipes from popular cooking sites.

Marine / citizen science

I appreciate the chance to be able to share data for a greater good- here are a few ways that make it easier.

Secchi. build your own Secchi disk, and send readings through the app. It’s the worlds (first?) biggest plankton survey, and a phenomenal project anyone near the water can participate in.

Jellywatch. Help organize data to connect observations and make global inferences about jellyfish blooms. Bonus: see what others are finding in the water near you.

Marine Debris. Send data on garbage in the water.

If you know a glaring omission that belongs here, or with the prior post for apps on navigation, weather, and other nautical tools–  let me know in the comments here or on our Facebook page.

When you click through to see this on Sailfeed, it kicks a little change in our cruising kitty. Thanks!

12 Responses

  1. Hello Behan and Family,

    I always like to read and support you guys by reading on Sailfeed. I notice, when I clicked on it this morning, the link appears to be dead. I’m sure it could just be reloaded and quickly fixed. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures!


    1. thanks for the heads up Paul – there’s often a lag of some time between my post going up on the blog, and getting syndicated on Sailfeed. I can’t manually push it… until Sailfeed posts the link is a 404. Looks like this one just took a while! *thank you* for your support!

  2. thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this post together. I am sitting at a bar drinking a three dollar diet Coke to get the wifi 🙂 I think I will be downloading most of these apps. Internet connection has been a constant challenge since we began cruising. I thought I could get over it, but I do miss it so. Especially just googling something I find curious. Wiki offline will be my first download 🙂

    Deborah (SV Wrightaway)

    1. Hi Deborah- excellent timing! I should mention (I’m updating the post) that while the Wiki Offline app doesn’t take much space, it’s something like 4 GB to download the back end… probably too much for wifi in a bar. Hope you can get hooked up!

  3. I use Feedly to organize my favorite rss feeds, and Feedly to actually read them since it lets you read offline. It doesn’t always pull all the images. Good for ferry rides, etc. when you have no connection.

  4. Behan, google translate can be downloaded onto the smartphone with a complete file of the language you choose.

    When voice is.activated you speak into the phone and it is translated audible in the chosen language.
    It may come out soumding a 12 year old speaking Cantonese but its definitely a lifesaver for those of us to thickskulled to learn nine different languages.

    1. Hey Nic- I meant to imply that you can use Google Translate offline above, but maybe I should rephrase. It’s a really good point to add about the audio aspect. I’ve got a journo friend has used this for interviews when there’s no shared language- really amazing!

  5. We love the vlc player, definitely recommend. We have it on our phones, computers and tablets! Makes sharing your movie libraries with cruisers so much easier! We also have an offline program/app on the pc laptop that converts books to different formats. with digital libraries for both those two just make life so much easier.

  6. Thank You , I definitely will be trying a few of these apps. We live on our boat but will be cruising full time in less than a year and this was exactly the information I needed. Great read!

Comments are closed.