Garmin ActiveCaptain™ Combines
Smart Boat Tech with Social Networking


By Tom Burden, Last updated: 3/30/2018

Garmin calls their ActiveCaptain™ app an "all-in-one app for the ultimate connected boating experience." In this article, we'll look at ActiveCaptain™ and see what this new app can do for boaters.

A big online community

ActiveCaptain™ started as a website in 2007, and grew over the years into a free online boating community with about 250,000 users. Members of the community can post user-created info about anchorages, harbors, hazards to navigation and local points of interest. Garmin bought ActiveCaptain in 2017.

“There is really nothing else out there that compares to the depth and breadth of the ActiveCaptain database,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin president and CEO. “Mariners rely on ActiveCaptain to make their voyages better informed and more enjoyable, and we are delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.”

Want to know the top rated marinas, as judged by hundreds of boaters? Local attractions that you can visit? Uncharted hazards and charts that are out of date? The ActiveCaptain community connects you to up-to-date feedback from fellow boaters about marinas and other boating points of interest.

text message

You can receive notifications and text messages on your chartplotter screen with ActiveCaptain.

At the time Garmin bought the company in May, ActiveCaptain maintained a huge database of crowd-sourced info, and made it available for free. Boaters create their own "Boat Card", their digital identity and passport to social networking, finding friends, posting reviews of marinas or joining online groups. There are lists of marinas and fuel docks (with pricing), and a lot more.

ActiveCaptain partnered with companies like Furuno, MaxSea, C-Map, Rose Point Navigatiion and many other marine companies. Will this data still be shared with Garmin competitors like Furuno or C-Map (now owned by Navico, another competitor)? The answer is not clear yet, as of early 2018, but we are hopeful, noting that the Fusion stereos that are now part of Garmin still connect with their competitors' multi-function displays.

What ActiveCaptain does

Here are some of the functions included in the app:

  • It lets you view and control your chartplotter from your smartphone or tablet.
  • A OneChart feature lets you access and update all your charts and maps from your mobile device and purchase new charts for use on your chartplotter.
  • Pre-plan your boating trips. In the app, you can easily plan a trip or pre-fish a lake, and ActiveCaptain will automatically sync with your chartplotter. Any marked waypoints and routes will seamlessly transfer between your chartplotter and the app, so you can access them anywhere.
  • ActiveCaptain automatically keeps your charts up to date. After you pair your chartplotter with the app, you won’t have to bring an SD™ card to the boat and back again. With the wireless connection, your chartplotter receives notifications and updates directly from the app.
  • It includes programs for operators of marinas, including a weekly one-minute-to-read newsletter called the Marina Minute. You can upload and edit info about your marina, including slip and fuel prices.
  • ActiveCaptain 1st Choice program is available to Marina Partners who have consistently met high standards as judged by the boating community. Only marinas averaging 4.0 stars or greater with five or more reviews qualify.