NOAA Ceases Making Paper charts

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) Office of Coast Survey, which has been responsible for creating and maintaining charts of U.S. coastal waters since 1807, recently announced that starting April 13, 2014, the government will no longer print traditional paper charts. According to NOAA, the decision to stop producing paper charts was based on declining demand, the increasing use of digital and electronic charts, and federal budget realities. This doesn’t mean an end to all paper charts, however, as NOAA will still offer print-on-demand charts and private companies will continue to print them for retail.

Coast Survey also has launched a new product, free PDF nautical charts, on a trial basis and is seeking mariner input. From now through Jan. 22, 2014, sailors can download about a thousand high-resolution printable charts-nearly the entire NOAA suite-as PDF files. The PDF charts, which are almost exact images of the traditional print charts, will be updated weekly. To view the PDF charts, all you’ll need is a computer, digital tablet, or smart phone with Adobe Reader (or other PDF-reading software) installed. (The Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free from

NOAA also will continue to create and maintain the free electronic navigational charts (ENC) and raster navigational charts (RNC). The big change here is that sailors will no longer have to buy a specialized multi-function display to view the ENC charts database. Instead, you can use Coast Surveys new web-based viewer, NOAA ENC Online; however, you’ll still need a display system to use the ENCs’ multi-layered functional data. Since NOAA ENC Online is web-based, there is nothing to download. The program offers seamless zooming to see the information contained in over a thousand ENCs of NOAA-charted waters. You also can measure distance and use other functions with the program. Free ENC and RNC charts are updated weekly and can be downloaded from the Coast Survey website.

For more information, visit the Office of Coast Surveys website,


ABYC Safety App Wins Award

The American Boat and Yacht Councils new app, BoatEssentials – USCG Safety Gear, earned an Innovation Award at the 2013 International BoatBuilders Exhibition and Conference.

The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), which develops safety and certification standards for recreational boats, created the app in partnership with U.S. Coast Guard. Designed for use on iOS devices, the app offers a simple checklist for boaters to identify the required and recommended safety items to have onboard. Using your boat’s information (LOA, capacity, etc.), the app helps users inventory safety gear and schedule its maintenance. BoatEssentials can be downloaded for free from the Apple app store. A USCG Recreational Boating Safety Nonprofit Grant funded the apps development, and when funds allow, an Android version will be developed. Paper versions of the checklist are available from the ABYC.

For more information, contact the ABYC at or 410/990-4460.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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