Will traditional paper charts soon be a thing of the past? And what will that mean for recreational boaters?

By Mark Bunzel

Last fall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the source for official US government nautical charts, abruptly announced it would no longer distribute lithographic nautical charts as of April 2014. The printer of NOAA charts, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), made the decision to stop printing charts after the US budget shutdown last September. Is this the beginning of the end of paper charts as we know them? Will printed charts from the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) be next?

Ultimately, paper charts from all government sources will most likely go away. However, exactly when is not clear. The US government has been preparing to get out of the paper chart business for some time now. More than a decade ago, it licensed two companies to provide print-on-demand maps. Oceangrafix and East View Geospatial have both developed respectable businesses and provide a timely, high-quality print-on-demand product, available by mail and through their network of chart dealers.

Many customers decided long ago that print-on-demand charts were superior because they were high in quality, available on different paper stocks including waterproof, and included the most up-to-date information available on printing. Sales of traditional lithographic charts from NOAA have declined over the years.

Meantime, NOAA has kept its eye on the future, making new chart products available such as user-printable PDFs and Electronic Vector Charts (ENCs) or Raster Navigation Charts (RNCs). All are available for download over the Internet at no cost. The US considers chart data to be intellectual property belonging to the taxpayers who have already paid for it, and the right to acquire charts is open to anyone electronically at no charge.

In Canada, chart data is the copyright of the Crown and delivered through CHS. At this time, there are no plans to stop printing paper charts, but CHS officials have admitted that sales of paper charts have been declining. Today, CHS prints its 946 nautical charts primarily on-demand in Ontario. Some higher-volume charts are printed and inventoried using lithographic volume printing. The charts are then often air-shipped to dealers all over Canada and the US.

Charts and the Boater

The question is often asked, “Am I required to carry nautical paper charts by law as a recreational boater?” The short answer is no. As you will see in the excerpt of the Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995 (sidebar), there are two circumstances in which it is not necessary to carry paper charts:

•    If the vessel is equipped with a big-ship  Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), and backup computers and power supply;
•    If the master and owner of a boat less than 100 tons has adequate local knowledge.

Across Canada there is limited inspection or enforcement for charts. The risk is that if you are involved in a catastrophic or fatal accident, you as captain could be proven to have operated your vessel in an unsafe manner by not being aware of a well-charted obstacle because you did not have adequate navigation information, such as charts.

We are clearly in a changing time. Chartplotters, computers with marine navigation software and electronic charts, even low-cost tablets and iPads with $60 software, which includes data licensed from CHS, all could fulfill the requirement for adequate local knowledge of the surrounding waters.

The bigger issue for safe operation relates to how this new electronic information is used. The key for the prudent navigator is to view an area at the appropriate scale. To understand this, take a look at waters with known hazards on a chartplotter that is zoomed out. Rocks, reefs, shallows and other hazards may not appear. But zoom in and a route line that previously looked clear might now be seen to be strewn with rocks. In fact, to the navigator’s advantage, zooming in on a reliable, high-quality electronic chart may offer a clear view of hazards at a scale that is unavailable on any printed chart.

The point is that if you use electronic aids you still need to comply with the requirement to have the right navigational information at an appropriate scale – as you would with a paper chart. Before you stop using paper charts, make it a habit to review your routes at a large scale (zoomed in) so you see all obstructions, just as you would with a pencil line route on the appropriate-scaled paper chart for your cruise.

The bottom line is that new technology calls for new procedures and vigilance if you do choose to move on from tried and true paper charts.

Mark Bunzel is a nautical publisher and writer located in Nanaimo BC and Anacortes, Washington. He is editor and publisher of Ports and Passes and the Waggoner Cruising Guide for the Inside Passage, responsible for annual research on all marinas and anchorages between Olympia, Washington and Ketchikan, Alaska.

Charts and the Law - From the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 - Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995:

Carriage of Charts, Documents and Publications:

4. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the master and owner of every ship shall have on board, in respect of each area in which the ship is to be navigated, the most recent editions of the charts, documents and publications that are required to be used under sections 5 and 6.  (2) The master and owner of a ship of less than 100 tons are not required to have on board the charts, documents and publications referred to in subsection (1) if the person in charge of navigation has sufficient knowledge of the following information, such that safe and efficient navigation in the area where the ship is to be navigated is not compromised:
(a) the location and character of charted
(i) shipping routes,
(ii) lights, buoys and marks, and
(iii) navigational hazards; and
(b) the prevailing navigational conditions, taking into account such factors as tides, currents, ice and weather patterns.

From the Canadian Hydrographic Service website:

All vessels in Canadian waters must carry and use nautical charts and related publications pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, 1995, that are issued by, or on the authority of, the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

Photo

Photo 1:  As more mariners rely on electronic charting systems, will printed charts – and chart lockers like this one at Vancouver’s Wright Mariner – fade from use?

Destinations

  • Prev
Located about half way between Shediac and the Miramichi on New Brunswick’s Acadian Coast, the town ...
Suddenly the once forsaken city of Hamilton, Ontario is booming for at least two good reasons.
The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) invites all sailors to join a cruising rally from the ...
Long popular with New England and St. John area boaters, Passamaquoddy Bay is too often overlooked ...
We did breakfast yesterday in the Greek port of Piraeus, just outside Athens:strong coffee, crisp ...
After much speculation Prince Harry finally popped the question to American actress and longtime ...
Last January we ran a short piece on the motor boat A Great Story which had been restored by the ...
The Moorings has just announced the launch of its newest Caribbean destination, Antigua. 
Toronto sailor and former RCYC coach/sailing instructor Ryan May is now a US coast guard captain ...
Just before the weekly party at Shirley HeightsSunsail staffer Chris Donahue conducts our chart ...

How to be as Polite as a Canadian at Gulf Island Marine Park Anchorages

Gulf Island Marine ParkStory and photos by Catherine Dook

One summer I sold ice cream and knick-knacks at Montague Harbour Marina. I was standing behind the counter one day, when the phone rang. “There’s a boat at anchor in the middle of the bay that’s been playing loud music for three hours,” complained an irate-sounding male voice. “Can you make them stop?”

“Um, no,” I replied. “The marina has no jurisdiction over the anchorage. Besides, my only weapon is a till.” The man hung up on me.

Now when you think about it, you can understand why the poor fellow was annoyed.

Read more about the Gulf Island Marine Park.....

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
We were all set with this week’s POTW when a real stunner came in as part of a story on the Blind ...
Have your say. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need ...
When I was about ten years old I starting racing sailboats on Cape Cod and the sound of the wind ...
I took this photo in July 2017 from our boat Ginger which was anchored and stern tied in Mouat Bay ...
Were we nervous when we returned to Adamant 1 in November? The answer would be a hearty yes. The ...
Just to put it in historical time warp I was a World Sailing Vice President 1976-1994 and President ...
Great icicles! This is not what one expects from the tropical climes of BC. It’s a nice winter ...
Rossiter is a Canadian builder in Markdale, Ontario that builds a nice fleet of rowboats and small ...
Welcome to Photo of the Week 2018. If you are not familiar with this wonderful feature (What???!!!) ...
Living the dream! Longtime CY staffer and now blogger Lynn Lortie with her husband Pat left Midland ...
Canadian Yachting Digital April 2018

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Commodore’s Boats is a full service shipyard with over 50 years of generational history and ...
Cruisers Yachts debuts the all-new 42 Cantius. The sporty, luxury cruiser will make its first ...
Once again, the designers at Jeanneau have outdone themselves with the innovative new Leader 10.5 ...
The introduction of X-Yachts’Xc range in 2008 has proven itself to be something of a game changer ...
Hull #1 ZINNIA, the all-new, twin outboard MJM 35z left Boston BoatWorks on July 5 for Newport and ...
Following a 10-year hiatus, Richmond, BC-based Crescent Custom Yachts is once again launching ...
According to the folks at Fraser Yacht Sales, you couldn't ask for more - the new Azimut Atlantis ...
During those cold, cold, sunless, dreary months of January and February, I want to remember the fun ...
The Rossiter 23 Classic Day Boatis both a logical extension of the Canadian-built Rossiter line and ...
It's rare for Canadian Yachting magazine to report on the same boat twice, but that is how ...

 

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 42

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 42By John Armstrong and Andy Adams 

The latest new model from Cruisers Yacht sis the Cantius 42 and this yacht made its debut in the fall of 2017, at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. We had the pleasure of going all through this newest Cantius there and clearly, the Cruisers Yachts people continue to refine and expand on all the features that have made the Cantius line such a success.

The new 42 continues the Cantius family resemblance with handsome and distinctive lines including a big section of hull side glazing port and starboard that makes the full-beam mid-ship master stateroom feel very bright and open.

Read more about the Cruisers Yachts Cantius 42...

 

 

DIY & How to

  • Prev
In this time of boat show afterglow, many boaters are counting the days until launch. 
Water has a funny way of making its way into a boat: through through-hulls, stuffing boxes, leaks, ...
 Since the initial article of this column we have identified a wide range of apps and ...
Since the initial article of this series we have looked at the iPad and its use as a marine ...
The moment we all dread. It’s a warm sunny day and you’re out for a cruise. Suddenly ...
For most of us – this is the time to make the most of the boating season – launch and ...
Question: Is it possible to mount, protect and charge your iPad during marine navigation. ...
  Is iNavX the superlative marine navigation app?    
Question: Can I buy generic automotive parts or products for my boat, or should they specify ...

Marine Products

  • Prev
We have all had the experience of heading down below on a nice boat only to encounter an unpleasant ...
Last year when this column launched a good deal of time was spent understanding global satellite ...
This article was my first about 10 years ago, and it found it's way to an outdoor editor/writer ...
For a gloomy February we look not only at how an app that works within your phone can be of benefit ...
ZCare Marine, offers effective, eco-safe products to help keep your boat clean. They have products ...
Monaro Marine Ltd. of Richmond, BC, designs and builds its own unique brand of semi-custom 21' to ...
With Garmin it is now possible to use both devices without independently operating two devices with ...
When the Halifax Boat Show opens on February 8th there will be an excellent selection of pontoon ...
The 627 is the largest outboard in world. New cylinder heads and camshaft, an uprated ...
Sirius Signal held a product information session for interested parties prior to demonstrating ...