As mariners launch their boats this season, Iaian Archibald and Craig Sheppard are launching a mobile app to help them enjoy their time on the oceans more.

The co-founders of Swell Advantage have set June 1 for the official launch date for their app that tells boaters about the environment, their surroundings and helps them connect with other boaters. Swell Advantage is expected to be available for iPhones in the App Store by the end of this month. The company hopes to have an Android-based product on the market later this year.

“We’re trying to make the boating experience nice and easy for recreational boaters, giving them information about the environment around the boat,” CEO Archibald said in a recent interview. “And we’re developing a social network for boaters so that when your friends are out on the water, you can find out where they are and meet up.”

A former student recruitment consultant with a love of the sea, he originally conceived of a mobile app for surfers about two years ago. Then he met Sheppard, now the company’s chief technology officer, and they morphed the idea into something for boaters. They began the company last October and have been working away since January in the Volta startup house in Halifax to get the product coded in time for the boating season.

The basic Swell Advantage app is free and will provide users with a range of information. It draws on weather services for the latest environmental information. It can automatically detect and tell the height and speed of waves around the boat. It can calculate the current and wind force that could affect the craft’s drift, and therefore help the boater plot the course.

Users can also pay for premium features, such as charts — nautical maps that show the depth of the ocean floor and noted landmarks. More for-pay features will be added as the company grows.

The technology is designed to be intuitive so any boater can use it easily.

“We’re intending to make the app almost like navigating in a video game — they can navigate visually on the screen,” said Sheppard.

Swell Advantage is now beta-testing the product with about 75 avid boaters in Nova Scotia, and the founders are ready to launch it. What they’re hoping will help propel its usage is boaters’ insatiable craving for the latest device or gadget.

“We do have an app that everybody’s going to want to have and that will be a key part of boating culture,” said Archibald. “We spent a lot of time talking to our customers so we come up with an app that everybody wants to have.”

Although they have been test marketing the product in the briny North Atlantic, Archibald and Sheppard hope the app will draw users from across North America, especially in the parts of the United States with longer sailing seasons than ours. They are already planning to attend a slate of outdoor and boating shows across North America in the next year.

The company, which has five employees, has been financed by a small investment round from friends and family and various programs. The team is now raising money from angel investors.

by Peter Moreira

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