Simple Boat Navigation Hack (That Saves Money & The Environment)

By: Luke Simonds on October 21, 2019
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free app for boat navigation tips

You never want this to happen to you…

Almost every time I drive my boat past this certain spot at low tide I see somebody pushing their boat off of the sandbar.

It’s a tough spot to navigate because there’s a shallow grass flat on one side and a sandbar on the other (with no channel markers to guide you).

But there is one little hack that I’ve learned that can help you avoid sandbars and grass flats and keep your boat from running aground.

You’re likely holding the tool to this hack in the palm of your hand right now, and if you watch the video below I’ll show you how it can save you from:

  • potential injury
  • outrageous boat repair costs
  • decimating our grass flats.


Disclaimer: storms and currents can change locations of flats and sandbars (especially if they don’t have seagrass, rocks, or anything else holding them in place), so be extra careful when using any maps for boat navigation since they can very well be incorrect.

Free App For Boat Navigation [VIDEO]

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Running aground can ruin your hull or your motor (and cost you big bucks), and if you run too shallow over grass flats it can leave prop scars, which can last for years and really damage the environment, not to mention that you could get injured if you suddenly run aground.

Using this free app can help you avoid all of that!

Free App For Boat Navigation

There are surely multiple free apps for boat navigation that you can use on your phone while out on the water. The key is to find one that has the following:

  1. Clear satellite imagery
  2. Current location mark
  3. Low data usage (so it can work away from wifi)

Here are some details for the one that I like best (comes free on all iPhones):

Free iphone App For Boat Navigation

The app shown above is the one I was using in the video to show the general premise of using a free mapping app to safely navigate a boat.

Here are some details on exactly how to use it in case interested:

To change it from map view to satellite view, all you need to is tap the “i” icon in the top right corner…

free app for boating navigation

Then click the satellite button on the right…

free app for boat navigation satellite view

Which will allow you to view the satellite version of the map with the blue dot that indicates your location.

boat navigation free app

Now, all you need to do is make sure the blue dot doesn’t run aground on sand bars or grass flats!


The mapping technology has come a long way in the past 20 years, and that has given us fishermen a huge boost in being able to safely navigate our boats even in areas we’ve never been to before.

And the coolest thing is that now there are many free tools like the map shown in this post that enables us to get extremely helpful data without spending a dime.

Best if all, these new mapping tools can very well help us save our precious grass flats from getting any more prop scar marks in them if all boaters simply knew how to use them.

Have you used other free apps that can do this too? If so, please let us all know by leaving a Comment below.

And please TAG or SHARE this with a fellow boat owner so that we can all be more safe and friendly to our grass flats.

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Joyce Thornber
Joyce Thornber
7 months ago

Wow Thanks for the tip. Never knew that.

Roger Meyer
7 months ago

Thanks for the tip. I always appreciate your contributions.

Thomas Thomas
7 months ago

Thanks for a geat tip! I have an area I fish that has a long skinny oyster bar that runs across a cove. There’s one narrow cut through the bar to go through if you want to be on the other side. Started using my phone (zoomed in) last spring to make that transition. Works great.

Since I regularly use my phone in my boat I have a phone holder with a suction cup on the inside of the winshield of the center console so I can see it as I drive the boat. With the exception of harsh sunlight it’s positioned in a way (angle) that allows me a great handsfree view while driving the boat.


Glenn Acomb
7 months ago

Luke, thanks for a great tip, I’ll use it new time I am out – probably fishing Steinhatchee. BTW, what phone cover are you using that gives waterproof protection, an Otter or what? I normally stow my phone in a dry box and use my chartplotter because I don’t have satellite coverage. Thanks.

John White
7 months ago

Great tips. Thanks. I would like the dissecting inshore fishing spots for the Homosassa and Crystal River areas. Also I tried ordering your free hard cope book on inshore fishing. I’m not sure it went through. Thanks, John White

Steven Free
7 months ago

I guess I must be different then most anglers I have never ran aground but I usually don’t go very fast especially if I don’t know the area very well if at all plus I’m always looking at my depth finder and if the bottom is coming up to fast I slow down to a crawl and also look for channel markers plus if you review an area on a satellite map it usually shows you the depth contours and if you know how to read water and know that dark water usually means deeper and lighter colored water especially if in an area next to dark water will tell you because it’s lighter in color that chances are good that it’s much shallower and one needs to go very slow if traveling through it plus here in northeast fl we don’t have seagrass or very little our bottoms here are mostly mud and not sand like in central or south fl😁

Tony Fuentes
7 months ago

thank you Luke

Robert Bulla
7 months ago

That was a GREAT tip Luke, thank you !

V Clemans
7 months ago

Thank you Luke
This was great!

Mel Crissey
7 months ago


The video on using the googlemaps app from an iPhone is very important for shallow water anglers.
I use it a lot when fishing the vast flats along the mid and lower Texas coast. Many anglers forget that
your depthfinder gives you an image/depth that you’ve already passed over and is now behind you. When
running at 15-20 mph that image may be 50 feet or more behind you. That’s just enough time to put
your keel high and dry in six inches of water. I wil certainly admit that since Hurricane Harvey, that
relying on memory as to where channels are is asking to be grounded. Harvey filled in many channels
and created new ones.

Good info, and thanks for sharing it.

Warner Foster
7 months ago

Great suggestion to use most of the time in the shallows. However, due to the fact that satellite images are not updated every day you must be extra careful where strong currents constantly move the sand bars.
Best Of Fishing To You

Thomas Manley
7 months ago

My flats boat doesn’t have a chart recorder on it like the Robalo and this is a Great idea. When you are running a 16ft boat there just isn’t enough room for all the electronics you would like to have. Thanks for sharing it with us Luke since this will help me navigate around Placida being new to the area.

7 months ago

Dont mean to sound dumb but I didnt see a name or a link to the app.

7 months ago

I’m new to boating and got Florida Marine Tracks with my new boat. It actually shows you the line to boat along. Since I boat in Tampa and it can be very shallow I can’t imagine boating without it.

Robert Wardlow
7 months ago

I also use the FMT as the satellite imagery is phenomenal and it is updated frequently. ! A little pricey, but cheaper than a lower unit.

Mark Mcconnell
7 months ago

How recent are these maps ?

Colin Campbell
7 months ago

Great tip Luke,

Any tips on seeing the phone screen while in the sun and wearing polarized glasses?

Rob brewer
7 months ago

Are you going to still be living at your present location in November

Tom Watts
7 months ago

Luke, Fantastic. I did not know. Terrific information. Bug thank you, Tom Watts, Naples, Fl.

Phillip Butler
7 months ago

Thanks for the tip. Now all I need is a boat 🚣‍♀️ 👍🏼

Phillip Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds


Mike Mitchell
7 months ago

Great idea. In addition to this have you seen the USA boating app? It is like what you showed us but on steroids. I’ve been using it for years and it was worth every penny.