A new way to control your boat
February 28, 2023 • 3 min read
Wireless Autopilot Control and Instruments have arrived on the Apple Watch.
Apple Watch is an excellent smartwatch. It is bright, waterproof, and very capable. You can use many great apps on your Apple Watch – and from today, you can also use Orca.
Your watch is always at hand. It is within reach at the helm, in the cabin, and while you are working on the foredeck. Because of this immediate availability, a smartwatch has great potential as a navigation tool.
Many of you have asked for an Apple Watch experience. Orca already runs on your Orca Display, your phone, your tablet, and modern Macs – so the Apple Watch is a very natural extension.
Orca is now available for the Apple Watch.
Building a great experience for the Apple Watch is not as simple as adapting the full Orca experience to work on a smaller screen. The Apple Watch is an inherently different device from a phone or tablet and has a very different set of constraints and limitations.
After testing multiple concepts, we found that the Apple Watch is fantastic at two things in particular: Controlling autopilots and showing instrument data.
When you are driving a car, you're always in front of the steering wheel. When boating, things are very different, and you'll often find yourself away from the helm. Maybe you need to prepare for a port entry, find that chart folio, or get the sprayhood up before a rainfall. Autopilots help you stay the course while away from the helm, but being able to control the autopilot when away from the helm makes those situations a lot easier.
Enter Orca on the Apple Watch. The new app allows you to engage and disengage your autopilot, change modes, and adjust target heading and wind angles.
When you launch Orca on the Apple Watch, it will connect to your Orca Core via Bluetooth. Once connected, you’ll see the status of your autopilot on your Apple Watch.
Open Orca on your Apple Watch to control your autopilot.
To engage your autopilot, tap one of the supported modes – Wind or Auto – and the mode will activate.
Tap on a mode to activate it and use the Apple Watch's Digital Crown to change your target angle.
When a mode is activated, you can change your target heading with the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch. Twist it until you reach your target angle, and confirm the change with a tap.
Each autopilot mode has a corresponding instrument rose, which shows important navigation information.
Auto mode (left) and Wind mode (right) with instruments around the compass circle.
Auto mode, which is mostly used when going by engine shows Heading, Speed Over Ground, and Course Over Ground.
Wind mode, which is used while sailing, shows Heading, Apparent Wind Speed and Wind Angle, and Speed Through Water.
This marks the initial launch of Orca on the Apple Watch.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to extend the experience with support for more autopilot modes, auto-tacking, route advancement for navigation mode, and a more flexible instrument experience.
How it all works
Autopilot control and instruments for Apple Watch are powered by the Orca Core.
Orca Core creates a wireless bridge between your boat's autopilot and your Apple Watch.
Orca Core is a Smart Navigation Hub that creates a wireless link between your personal devices, such as an Apple Watch, and your boat ’s electronics.
If you want to control your autopilot, get yourself an Orca Core. Do you want a recommendation for how to fit Orca on your boat? Press “Get a personal recommendation” below and we’ll help you towards a better and more modern way of boating.