64% of U.S. Boaters Not Worried About Chart Updates - 08/25/2010

From the years 2004 through 2007 there were 2,500 accidents involving boaters hitting fixed objects, and 1,400 of those involved groundings costing $16 million, according to the USCG. Indeed, grounding rescues rank #3 in calls for on-water assistance, coming just after battery trouble and engine failure. Little wonder, then, that a recent survey done by the Alliance for Safe Navigation of 7,570 U.S. boaters revealed that 64% didn't update their paper or electronic charts. We know that this must come as a shock to most of our readers. Possibly even more surprising, 36% of those surveyed said that they updated their navigational electronic or paper charts regularly.

Chart Updates

The Alliance for Safe Navigation survey revealed a general lack of concern among recreational boaters regarding the accuracy of their navigational data. While most boaters use aids such as GPS, electronic charts and paper charts, 79 percent fail to track the updates—issued weekly by the United States Coast Guard—that are necessary to maintain the accuracy of their navigational aids. These updates, called Local Notice to Mariners, contain critical information about changes such as shifting shoals, moving buoys and newly submerged obstructions, and they can be easily accessed by boaters.

NOAA Says Changes "Frequent"

“Boaters cannot assume that their data is current: changes on and under the water happen, and they are significant and frequent,” says David Enabnit, technical director at NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.

“Unfortunately, these survey results indicate that boaters simply are not aware of how often conditions change and how those changes can affect their safety,” explains President Ron Walz of OceanGrafix, a founding member of the alliance. “The truth is that waters do change—and inaccurate chart information can turn a safe and enjoyable cruise into a dangerous situation.”

Chart Updates

Blind Man's Boating

Unlike commercial mariners, who are required by law to carry up-to-date charts, recreational boaters are not held to the same regulation. In fact, recreational boaters aren’t required to have any charts onboard.

To see the latest USCG Notice to Mariners for your location, visit Notice to Mariners. To visit NOAA's update service, visit http://ocsdata.ncd.noaa.gov/nm/nmUpdates.asp.

Chart Updates

What Changes Between Chart Re-Publication?

The answer is "lots." During a recent 700 mile cruise a BoatTEST.com staffer took, he noted dozens of changes on more than 20 "back up" charts used. The charts were back up for the electronic chart-plotter chips which were over a year old -- something considered "new" by most boaters.

Chart Updates
Channel Dredging – Before and After

So what kind of changes can one expect? First, buoys move. Sometimes they are moved on purpose by the USCG, and sometimes they are moved by storms, and the USCG buoy tender service has yet to get around to putting them right.

Shoals move constantly and no chart maker can keep up with their ebb and flow. Just because a chart says there is water enough for your vessel, doesn't mean their is on the day you care about -- only on the day the soundings were taken. And most soundings are very old, indeed.

Chart Updates
Major Shoreline Reconstruction – Before and After

In addition, there are man-made changes: new jetties, breakwaters, pilings, docks, dredging -- and dredging spoils! Ships and barges sink, causing new obstructions. Sometimes waterways are closed to navigation or light signals are changed. From time to time, ranges are changed or modified, and the towers that replaced light ships, are later themselves replaced by buoys. Lighthouses are being decommissioned constantly, and charted landmarks on shore such as chimneys are torn down. Bridges are put in and taken out, pipelines and electrical cables are laid underwater.

The fact is that the landscape and undersea contours and depths are in a constant state of change. When any and all of these changes are recognized by appropriate government services they are noted in the "Notice to Mariners."

Chart Updates

Who Changes the Charts?

Back in the old days, i.e. 20 years ago, cruising boaters had to religiously check the "Notice to Mariners" which were mailed out to concerned parties by the U.S. Government periodically. Marinas, boatyards, marine supply stores would often keep the latest Notices to Mariners tacked up on bulletin boards for their customers to check. Believe it or not, Motor Boating magazine actually published them in the back of its monthly magazine for decades, finally discontinuing the practice in the late 1970s.

Conscientious boaters got the information one way or another and made the changes by hand in ink on their own charts. That was the way charts were updated through the centuries.

Chart Updates

NOAA Takes Over

Today, in the U.S., charts are kept up, changed and printed by NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration). When a chart is printed, all of the Notices to Mariners are incorporated into the charts. But then the charts are sent to warehouses and are shipped out to distribution services all over the country and the world.

Unfortunately, months or even years may go buy before these charts are updated and then printed again. In the meantime things are changing -- but these charts are not! They actually become out of date sometimes the very day their are printed!

Chart Updates

Digital Age to the Rescue

But all of that has changed in the digital age. Each week the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) issues the Notice to Mariners (NTMs) for ocean-going vessels, providing timely marine safety information for the correction of nautical charts, and NOAA publications. (You can review the Notice to Mariners at http://www.nga.mil/portal/site/maritime/.)

In June, 2000 OceanGrafix was selected as NOAA’s partner in the development of a new generation of nautical charts to be produced using digital technology to continually incorporate NOAA’s latest cartographic changes. The new charts were introduced in 2002 and OceanGrafix continues to produce them today under an exclusive contract with NOAA.

Chart Updates

Instantly Updated NOAA-Approved Charts

These charts are officially approved NOAA Nautical Charts. They meet the carriage requirements of the US Coast Guard and are SOLAS compliant. The OceanGrafix chart contains all of the information provided in the traditional NOAA chart with one important difference – the information is always up to date: whenever a customer orders an OceanGrafix chart, it’s printed “on demand” with the very latest NOAA cartographic updates.

OceanGrafix NOAA Nautical Charts are updated minutes before printing, using the latest NOAA data including the most current Notice to Mariners, NGA Notices (from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, formerly NIMA); the Local Notice to Mariners issued by each of the nine US Coast Guard (USGS) districts and critical safety information from NOAA. OceanGrafix charts are printed (and shipped or picked up at an OceanGrafx agent) only when an order is received. Navigational charts have never in the history of mankind been more up-to-the-minute than they are now.

Remote Printing of Charts

OceanGrafix coined the phrase “remote printing” to describe the process used to distribute the updated NOAA files to more than 20 authorized OceanGrafix agent locations in the US and around the world. One of these qualified printers will utilize the correct files to print your charts when your order is placed. If you like, you can visit a remote print site, confer with the agent’s chart experts, and watch as your charts are printed. It takes only a few minutes to print OceanGrafix print-on-demand charts.

Through this system, a boater can order his charts, pick them up and literally be on the water within hours with the latest chart information. OceanGrafix suggested retail prices are:

  • $27.00 for water resistant paper chart
  • $28.00 for MapFold version
  • $37.00 for laminated chart
  • $27.00 for bathymetric chart
  • $27.00 for hurricane chart
  • $45.00 for historical chart

To find your closest OceanGrafix chart agent...

Chart Updates

Electronic Charts for Chart-Plotters

These days most everyone uses chart-plotters for their navigation. In fact, a recent survey by the U.S. Power Squadron indicates that 70% of the people who use paper charts do not use them as the primary navigation source but as a "back-up" to their electronic charts.

Over the years the prices for the chips containing the charts has come down greatly and there has been consolidation in this field. For example, several years ago the Jeppesen bought C-MAP, a major U.S. digital chart supplier to the marine industry. Today, not only does Jeppesen sell digital charts, but also has a system for permitting the consumer to update them.

Chart Updates

For subscribers who have access to adequate communications channels, new chart updates are made available on the C-MAP update server every working day. To be able to update the database wherever and whenever, Online+ is the best option. The service includes NtMs (Notice to Mariners) as well as new charts and provides accordingly for complete updating. The service requires bandwidth of high quality and size. This service supports C-MAP Professional, C-MAP Professional+ and C-MAP ENC.

According to a spokesman for the company, only about 8% of the C-MAP users avail themselves of this service. Annual chart updates can be subscribed to for $79.

For more information about Jeppesen's services... http://www.jeppesenmarine.com/default.aspx