by Lu Abel
The Coast Guard has just released a smartphone app aimed at recreational boaters. Here’s what it looks like on the right.
It offers a pretty wide variety of features. I’ll note what they provide and my opinion of them:
1. State boating information.
A pointer to state web sites. For California, at least, the state web site is very “busy” and doesn’t show up well on a cellphone.
2. Request Safety Check.
This feature emails your contact info to nearby trained Vessel Examiners who will contact you to arrange a visit to your boat for a vessel safety checkup.
3. Review Safety Equipment.
This is a very valuable section. It reminds you (and allows you to check off) both legally required safety equipment (eg, lifejackets) and recommended equipment (eg, an anchor).
4. File Float Plan.
This is a superb feature. Despite constant urging from boating safety experts, many boaters do not file a float plan with a trusted party on shore. The app makes it really convenient. Information you’ve provided and already stored in the app about your boat (type, length, color, etc.) is added to details of your trip (destination, expected time of return, who’s with you) and your float plan is emailed to up to three recipients.
5. Rules of the Road.
A pretty complete summary of the Rules.
6. NOAA Buoys.
Neat feature. Click on it and it will bring up Google Maps with an overlay of NOAA weather buoys. Want to know the wind speed and direction near your destination? Just click on a nearby buoy!
7. Report Hazard.
Allows you to report everything from missing buoys to a hazard to navigation.
8. Emergency Assistance.
If your VHF radio is down (or you don’t have one), a push of this button (if you’ve enabled Location Services for the app) will call the nearest Coast Guard command center.
9. Report Pollution or Suspicious Activity.
Just gives you a phone number to call.
Learn more about the app at
In the iPhone app store you must search for “United States Coast Guard” to find the app. And don’t forget to fill out information about your boat under “profile.”