The best tidal apps for cruising sailors – Yachting Monthly
Tidal data is getting easier and cheaper to download. Sam Fortescue reviews the latest options in an increasingly crowded market and choses the best tidal apps for sailors
There is a wide range of tidal apps available, but choose carefully, as not all provide the same coverage
There is a huge range of inexpensive tidal apps to choose from, although most of the best tidal apps charge a subscription fee.
The most basic of tidal apps will provide heights and times that will allow you to figure out when to depart, round a headland or how deep to lay your anchor.
Some do this free of charge and offline, but better-designed and more powerful apps will also provide a tidal curve you can interrogate, to visualise the remaining rise or fall of tide, though some of these are generic curves that require some caution.
Not all tidal apps offer the same level of support, so check the the apps covers the area you sail.
Remember, errors can be magnified in areas of eccentric tidal behaviour, notably the Solent where there are two high waters and a very rapid ebb.
Nor is it always specified whether the apps use UTC or local time, which can give rise to errors of an hour.
Imray’s tides app is free to download and covers 8,000 global locations, with no network connection required.
It shows you heights and times, neaps and springs, and has a tidal curve that allows you to set a horizontal line for your minimum depth to illustrate when you have to clear out.
A vertical line lets you walk through the day’s curve, showing depth and time at different points.
If you want to look ahead, you have to buy a £3.49 licence for the calendar year, which allows you to see six days ahead in UK waters, the current day in France, and any day of the year in Italy, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of others.
If you want to broaden access to tidal data for any day of the year across all the territories, then you need an additional Hydrographic Office licence, costing an extra £4.99.
This also gives you access to tidal stream data for the UK and France.
Interface is info-rich but dated, and the panning map function that lets you pinpoint the tiny dots of weather stations requires eagle eyes and sharp fine-motor skills.
A useful addition would be the ability to toggle between different tidal notation systems, such as French coefficients, and adjust for different datums.
Upgrades from £3.49/year.
Displays tide times and heights for 12,500 locations globally, which you can search for by name or navigate to on a map.
The basic display for each station shows the day’s high and low water times and heights, with those in the past greyed out.
It also displays sun and moon times, and provides a compact tidal curve.
Turn the phone on its side to flip to landscape mode with a much bigger interactive curve. It works offline, so no need for a mobile connection.
It has a great range, covering dates until the end of 2030.
However, cursory inspection showed that the app struggled with accuracy in the Solent where there are long flood stands and second high waters.
Provides global tidal predictions, complete with times, heights, charts and maps. However, UK coverage is mediocre with just 112 stations.
If you are lucky enough to sail in one of the covered areas, you’ll find the interface is great with big tidal curves and even a tide clock.
The curve is plotted for five days, and you can scroll conveniently through it with a swipe.
A touch tells you the height at that time, although you can’t set a horizontal line to illustrate your minimum depth.
Another useful feature is the stacked bar chart showing how the rise and fall of the tide is changing over the next three weeks, allowing you to clearly visualise swings between neaps and springs.
Although free to download, you will need a licence, costing £2.49, to view the calendar year’s tides.
This will give you access to accurate UKHO official data for the UK and Ireland, with tidal curves and a very handy tidal atlas.
The graph may look simple but it does exactly what you need it to do.
You can, for example, set a horizontal bar for a minimum depth that will tell you the times at which the tidal curve crosses this set limit.
And sliding from left to right will interrogate the curve for the exact height at that time.
Tap the ‘streams’ function and you switch to the tidal stream atlas. Pick the area you want and move forwards and back in hour increments to see how the set and flow varies.
This information resembles a simple scan of the corresponding page of the UKHO atlas, but it does the job well enough.
As a handy bonus, this app will also give you the inshore waters forecasts for all of the UK coastal areas.
The only gripe might be that you aren’t able to simply swipe from one day to the next, and must, instead, go all the way back to the calendar to select a new date.
And although the cursor will give you the height and time, it would be nice to have some helpful axis scales as well.
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Access over 7,000 global tide stations and visualise predictions with detailed curves and the lunar cycle.
It also has a rain radar and weather forecast screen, and supports Apple Watch.
Relatively few UK stations are on the list, perhaps a couple of dozen, and the tidal curves appear simplified.
Southampton’s notorious double high water and young flood stand, which gives a curve looking more like a mountain range than a pleasing parabola, is barely acknowledged.
Could be of use in an area with simple, clean tides. Certainly the chart illustrating how the range changes in the days ahead is handy.
There appear to be no date restrictions to the data, so you can look as far ahead as you wish.
This app offers only basic time and height data with no hint of a curve, although it does have moon phases.
It passed our Southampton tidal anomalies test, displaying times for first and second high waters, but the times and the heights varied by more than an hour and 50cm at times, so accuracy is not its strongest point.
It covers a good range of standard and secondary ports in the UK, and gives access to global stations via a simple map studded with pins.
You can see times up to six days ahead in the UK, and up to a month ahead elsewhere in Europe and more globally.
While the app is free of charge, the Pro version costs £1.79, which also kills the ads.
Not to be confused with the almost identically named app below, UKTides from Jim Burke is the real deal.
It costs just £3.49, and for that you get excellent access to a wealth of accurate information, with genuine tidal curves.
You can also call up the corresponding month of the official UKHO tide times for any standard or secondary port up to a year ahead (and up to 250 years in the past!).
The tidal curve is marked with the lines showing mean high and low water for springs and neaps, and you are able to interrogate the curve in five-minute intervals.
You can also switch to a full-screen mode by simply rotating your phone on its side.
A particularly good feature of this impressive app is the way the tidal stream information is presented, which appears in diamonds on an Apple map around the port you’re looking at.
Just tap a diamond and it will show you the set and drift of the tide, giving you the port of reference and the lat and long of the diamond for easy reference on a paper chart.
The only downside of this otherwise first-class navigation aid is that it has to download its data in real time, so will only function, therefore, when you have a good enough connection to the internet. United Kingdom waters only.
Basic free app that shows tide times and tidal heights for more than 220 UK standard and secondary ports.
Search by name or on a map, and see predictions for the day, actual height now, and time until the next high water.
There is no apparent recognition of tidal anomalies, which means that the times and heights for our test station of Southampton tended to differ significantly from the official data.
And some of the text is hard to read against the background. It is, however, fairly easy to scroll through dates up until the end of 2023, which is a bonus.
Also allows you to toggle quite easily between British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time (UTC), and has the added benefit that you can use it offline.
Well received app that draws on more than 500 locations around the UK to automatically find your closest station.
It then provides a simple curve and tide times.
Again, it’s unable to handle anomalous tides, so it’s unlikely to be suitable for those sailing in complex tidal areas, but it will certainly serve adequately if you just require the straightforward basics.
The free download provides tide times up to two days ahead. For further predictions, you have to subscribe for £1.79/yr.
The tidal data is actually built into the app so there’s no requirement to have internet access to retrieve the information that you’re looking for.
(Be careful not to confuse this app with the UKTides app by Jim Burke, above.)
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