NOAA charts available free online and through “print-on-demand” service
Spring is around the corner and nearly 13 million registered boaters in the U.S. are priming to hit the water. As part of their preparations, boaters need to make sure that they have the latest NOAA nautical charts on hand to avoid groundings or accidents while navigating along the coast. With modern technological advancements, obtaining the latest chart is easier — and more important — than ever.
“Sailing the oceans and Great Lakes doesn’t have to be a voyage into the vast unknown of ages past,” explained Capt. John Lowell, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “Obtaining the latest charts that provide increasingly precise depths and up-to-date navigational features can be as easy as clicking a link on a website.”
Because storms alter seafloors, and water depths constantly change due to shifting shoals and submerged hazards, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is charged with maintaining the nation’s suite of over 1,000 nautical charts, covering about 3.5 million square nautical miles of ocean coasts and the Great Lakes.
NOAA updates its charts weekly using hydrographic survey data that is collected by the agency, along with the most current U.S. Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Notice to Mariners, and other critical safety information reported by commercial mariners or other sources. Recreational boaters may also submit information or chart discrepancies through the Office of Coast Survey’s website: http://nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/.
While some traditionalists enjoy manually applying important new changes made after the chart was published, applying updates to paper charts can be time-consuming, tedious and error-prone. One of the most important and convenient navigational products is the official “print-on-demand” (POD) nautical chart.
“Recreational boaters, unlike commercial mariners, are not required to carry nautical charts. But as more demands are put on our waterways, busy coasts mean more risk for accidents,” Lowell said. “By using print-on-demand paper charts that are updated by NOAA cartographers, people have a better chance of avoiding potential groundings and other accidents.”
Through a private-public partnership between NOAA and chart publisher OceanGrafix over the past 10 years, boaters can purchase “print-on-demand” nautical charts that cover the latest updates, issued as recently as the prior week. This year, the NOAA partnership has expanded and, for the first time, boaters can purchase National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) charts covering the open ocean from OceanGrafix.
“Conscientious boaters know nothing replaces the peace of mind that comes with having an accurate paper chart on board,” explained OceanGrafix president Ron Walz. “Whether you’re sailing in familiar waters or charting a more elaborate course, nautical charts serve as a trustworthy complement to electronic systems — and they’re important insurance when the unexpected happens.”
A POD chart is printed at the time of purchase and contains chart updates up until the time of purchase. When a customer orders a chart from an OceanGrafix agent, the chart is printed and shipped within one day. NOAA certifies OceanGrafix print-on-demand charts for navigational use.
NOAA is a proud sponsor of Alliance for Safe Navigation, which maintains a website that lets mariners check to see the latest changes to NOAA charts.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us online at www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usnoaagov.
March 15, 2011