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Old 09-17-2008
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Bahamas E-Charts Get Better

Bahamas E-Charts Get Better
C-Map and Navionics software delivers updated soundings and rich information for the islandsí thin waters and sandy cays. From "Electronics" in the September 2008 issue of Crusing World
By Tony Bessinger
Four C-Map screen shots tell the story: Today's e-charts have more and more detail.
Two of the biggest names in digital charting recently announced updated charts, aerial and satellite imagery, port information, and updated sounding data for one of the most heavily cruised but poorly charted areas around: the Bahamas. Both C-Map, which is owned by digital-mapping giant Jeppesen, and Navionics now offer mountains of data for very reasonable prices.

Both companies have invested heavily in making these latest versions of their charts as detailed as possible. In fact, the information may be a tad overwhelming at times, but by picking what layers you can see on your plotter or your computer, you'll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and add more information as you need it.

Calling either of these company's products "charts" isn't accurate. They both use aerial photography, satellite imagery, land-contour elevations, detailed marina diagrams, and, of course, their latest and best vector charts to give even the most inexperienced navigator the tools to successfully sail in these tricky waters.

C-Map and Navionics are well known for their use of the latest imagery technology, and in these products they've relied not only on high-flying satellites and aircraft but also on data collected the old-fashioned way. I spent some time working on boats in the Bahamas before digital charting was available, when the classic Explorer Charts were what everyone used. Explorer Charts are still available, of course, and those not choosing to go digital are wise to consider these, rather than government-issued charts. They cover what they call the "Far" Bahamas, the "Near" Bahamas, and the Exumas in five waterproof chartbooks; you can take a closer look at what's available at the company's website (www.explorercharts.com). Even if you use digital charts, the Explorer books make a fine companion. In addition, much of the data used by C-Map comes directly from Explorer Charts. Another source for Bahamas paper charts is Wavey Line (www.waveylinepublishing.com). These charts deliver the highest level of detail available for the Turks and Caicos Islands and give sailors additional detail in the outer Bahamas islands and the Dominican Republic as well. Navionics has gotten much of its data from Wavey Line.

Delve into the Details
One of the biggest benefits in these latest C-Map and Navionics products is the extensive number of soundings. Where one used to see huge swaths of light-blue paper or digital screen, there are now spot soundings dotted all about. Put either system into 3-D mode to get a more graphical view of what you're heading toward. This can be a boon for a navigator with tired eyes or working in low light.

The photographs are reasonably well detailed and show clearly where islands are located. What's better is that it's obvious that a great deal of work has gone into geo-referencing everything, which means that if your G.P.S. is up and running, you're not going to be led astray as many were in earlier days of digital charting, when things weren't always where the digicharts had them plotted.

C-Map offers animated currents and current predictions, flashing NavAids that depict buoys and other aids to navigation, land-contour elevations, embedded aerial photographs, and diagrams of key marinas. Other enhancements include 25 new C-Marina charts for key Bahamian ports, with detail right down to individual slips. Jeppesen Marine has also added more NavRef aerial photos of Bahamian harbors and inlets; these are designed to provide improved visual orientation for sailors in unfamiliar waters. C-Map MAX works on G.P.S./chart plotters from Furuno, Northstar, Simrad, SI-TEX, Standard Horizon, Cobra, and Interphase.
Navionics parses its data out according to what, in particular, a sailor needs and can afford. The Gold+ version includes accurate and detailed spot soundings, information on ports and marinas, tide tables, and a much information intended to help boaters navigate treacherous waters. Bahamas Special Edition Platinum combines the same highly detailed Gold+ chart cartography and advanced features with Platinum's 3-D bathymetric views, satellite and high-aerial photography overlays, and panoramic port photography. The Platinum+ version adds high-resolution satellite and high-aerial photography and XGA-resolution port photography. The new Special Edition charts can be used with compatible chart plotters and software available from Navionics partners.

Using the Charts
To see each company's offerings in action, I used Navionics Platinum+ with Fugawi navigation software and C-Map Max with Nobeltec's Admiral Max Pro, then plotted a course from Lake Worth Inlet, Florida, to Bimini, then over to New Providence Island; it ended at Little Harbour Bay on Abaco Island. With both charting programs I had all the information I needed to plan a safe, easy-to-follow route and find a marina as well as fuel, food, and even restaurant information. Where the chart data was weak, I was given warnings about inadequate soundings and reported discrepancies. While I'd make sure to carry as much paper information as possible to back up the electronic charting, I'd still feel comfortable using either source for navigating a Bahamas cruise. In fact, I'm hoping that senior editorial staff agree with my premise that the only sensible way to completely check these charts out is to send me down there, preferably next February, on an extended Bahamas chart-checking mission.

Which package is best for you? If you're buying a new system, the choice is easy: either one. Both C-Map and Navionics work with many different plotters. If you're planning on using a computer-based navigation system, the answer, again, is either one, depending on which software you purchase.

As longtime readers are aware, I've been using Nobeltec in its many iterations for over a decade, which makes it comfortable for me. I also like the fact that, if I choose, I can load every single chart that C-Map offers onto my hard drive and not carry around any extra gear, such as a data-card reader.

On the other hand, Fugawi's latest version, Marine ENC Version 4.5, has the ability to use both U.S. and Canadian S-57 vector charts; the American charts are free downloads, but the Canadian ones aren't. While there's no S-57 data available for the Bahamas, such data is available for other places, and it's easily updated and useful.

The bottom line for me is this: There's great cruising in the Bahamas, no doubt about that, and these new products from C-Map and Navionics will help you to get there safely and to enjoy your stay.

Tony Bessinger is Cruising World's electronics editor.
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Old 09-17-2008
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Explorer charts are the gold standard for all of the Bahamas. Since more people own Garmin and Raymarine plotters than anything else, it is a shame that Raymarine left its' previous chartplotter buyers high and dry when they switched to Navionics and abandoned CMap which has the Explorer charts as their base. Fortunately the Garmin Bluecharts also feature Bahamas data from Explorer Chartbooks as well. There ARE no other reliable maps, paper or electronic, for the Bahamas as far as I am concerned s the Lewis' work is accurate and up to date and does not rely on decades old data.
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Old 09-17-2008
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I for one will not be getting the new Navionics Bahamas chip unless they guarantee that all the geo-referencing errors have been eliminated. Their electronic charts of the Bahamas are the worse I have seen. In fact their latest one before this revision was worse than an earlier version that apparently had "borrowed" data on it that they had to remove. My Navionics chip of 2004 was better than the 2006 one. I have corresponded with Navionics but they are unable to tell me that the specific geo-referencing errors I reprted have been corrected. Their chip is so bad that last year a petition was going around in Georgetown complaining to both Raymarine and Navionics about all the errors. Apparently Navionics is too cheap to license Explorer chart data. I wish my Raymarine chartplotter would take a C-Map chip. I will never again buy a chartplotter that takes Navionics chip. Yes, I am not a happy Navionics customer.
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Old 10-06-2008
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Hey guys,

I have successfully navigated the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean for the past 30 years on vessels that average 6' of draft. On my first venture to the Bahamas (circa 1978), I used DMA charts and the "Bahamas Cruising Guide" as my sources of nav data. My navigational instruments consisted of a compass, time piece, sextant, binoculars, and of course, pencil, dividers, and parallel ruler. My array of electronics consisted of an RDF, VHF, and SSB, and sounder. All of this was more than adequate for safe navigation through the Bahamas. Most important in addition to these tools was my skill and judgment as a professional licensed operator. For those not familiar with this technique of safe navigation, I used the seemingly forgotten method called "Dead Reckoning". (Any of you electronic sailors heard of this?)

I have seen the evolution of LORAN A, LORAN C, SATNAV, and the various versions of GPS, DGPS, and GPS WAAS. Since the advent of electronic charts, I have used them extensively. (Garmin, CMAP, MAPTECH, navionics)

Being the prudent mariner, I always have the paper charts and continue to use them and the core navigation tools, saving the electronic stuff to make things easier for those who donít have a clue to the true aspects of navigation.

The most accurate electronic charts I have found thus far are the digitized NOAA paper charts. I have found that the vector charts are riddled with errors and inconsistencies (even the new ones), not to mention the inconsistencies for the same chart on different machines or different software.

It seems every one involved in this post has forgotten the one most important rule: Being a prudent Mariner includes using all available information to safely navigate.

In the original post, Bahamas E-Charts Get Better , the author statesĒ While I'd make sure to carry as much paper information as possible to back up the electronic chartingĒ. As Cruising World's electronics editor, this is a dangerous and irresponsible statement for Mr. Bessinger to make. The electronic charting should to be used to back up your basic navigational tools and skills, I.E. paper charts, compass, etc.

NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!

It is a mindset like this that gets so many people into dangerous situations.

Donít get me wrong, I appreciate the conveniences of electronic charts and the machines that run them. Through years of experience, I know better than to put the safety of myself, vessel, and crew, primarily on electronics and the 12 volts that runs them. If you doubt what I say, ask any experienced professional.
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Old 10-06-2008
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Dave...while we can certainly agree on the paper vs. electronic issue, I would heartily disagree on the NOAA charts vs. the Explorer Charts. The NOAA charts are based on soundings taken DECADES ago whereas the Lewis's take NEW soundings from their boat and update each chartbook every 4 years or so.
I used the Maptech NOAA charts on my first Bahamas trip then switched to Explorer on subsequent trips and there is NO contest on the detail and accuracy.
I witnessed the Lewis's actually doing their soundings in Rock Sound Eleuthra in 2004 and they found a new coral head within 6 ft of the surface near the harbor entrance that was NOT on their previous survey. You are NOT gonna get that kind of detail on the NOAA charts.
BTW...my draft is 6 ft. too.
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Old 10-06-2008
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CaptDave,

Been going there myself since 1990, before gps. There was Loran but it was miles out in the Bahamas. Whenever I left a cut I always looked back and made a sketch so I could find it coming back. The charts in those days were mostly from the real olden days, old Admiralty charts, some from the 1800's. The main piloting instrument was a hand bearing compass.

However, I much prefer the ease of electronic charts with the caveat that, for the Bahamas, you must have Explorer charts too. The electronic charts are only good if you've tested them and to properly test them you have to be in those waters. They all look good at a boat show demo but in reality might be miles out. That's what I found with Navionics.

I have found the areas where I can rely on the electronic charts and have found areas where I cannot. I always have the paper charts on the nav table. My concern is that some think electronic charts are totally accurate when they certainly are not. One should be very careful in the Bahamas when relying on electronic charts in areas where one has not used them before, especially Navionics chips.

The electronic chart makers are talking to a generation of recreational sailors who think differently from my generation. Navigation and piloting is becoming a video game. With accurate chips and reliable electronics and redundancies this is fine. I love it myself, it makes life so much easier. With accurate chips, a good plotter interfaced with an autopilot nothing could be easier. But like all software you must read the fine print in the licensing agreement.

To set sail relying solely on electronics is to go blindly.
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Abacos--A Few Minor Chart Errors

We generally agree about the consistent improvement of electronic charting software. We used C-Map/Jeppsen with our Standard Horizon plotter with Explorer paper chart backup on our 2008 Abacos trip. The "club" allows you to update the chip on a yearly basis for a reasonable fee.

The only major error we found (on both) was on the return run to Ft. Pierce. We headed for Sand Ridge ( about 27.09/79.09) looking for the reported shallow water spot to toss the hook down for a few hours of rest. After looking for the charted shallow spot for 45 minutes we gave up and did toss the hook but no 9-14' of water, more like 20-28'. With a NE chop coming in we had a rocky night.
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Old 08-11-2009
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"Dangerous and Irresponsible?" I Think Not.

[QUOTE=CaptDaveB;380207]Hey guys,

I have successfully navigated the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean for the past 30 years on vessels that average 6' of draft. On my first venture to the Bahamas (circa 1978), I used DMA charts and the "Bahamas Cruising Guide" as my sources of nav data. My navigational instruments consisted of a compass, time piece, sextant, binoculars, and of course, pencil, dividers, and parallel ruler. My array of electronics consisted of an RDF, VHF, and SSB, and sounder. All of this was more than adequate for safe navigation through the Bahamas. Most important in addition to these tools was my skill and judgment as a professional licensed operator. For those not familiar with this technique of safe navigation, I used the seemingly forgotten method called "Dead Reckoning". (Any of you electronic sailors heard of this?)

I have seen the evolution of LORAN A, LORAN C, SATNAV, and the various versions of GPS, DGPS, and GPS WAAS. Since the advent of electronic charts, I have used them extensively. (Garmin, CMAP, MAPTECH, navionics)

Being the prudent mariner, I always have the paper charts and continue to use them and the core navigation tools, saving the electronic stuff to make things easier for those who donít have a clue to the true aspects of navigation.

The most accurate electronic charts I have found thus far are the digitized NOAA paper charts. I have found that the vector charts are riddled with errors and inconsistencies (even the new ones), not to mention the inconsistencies for the same chart on different machines or different software.

It seems every one involved in this post has forgotten the one most important rule: Being a prudent Mariner includes using all available information to safely navigate.

In the original post, Bahamas E-Charts Get Better , the author statesĒ While I'd make sure to carry as much paper information as possible to back up the electronic chartingĒ. As Cruising World's electronics editor, this is a dangerous and irresponsible statement for Mr. Bessinger to make. The electronic charting should to be used to back up your basic navigational tools and skills, I.E. paper charts, compass, etc.

NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!

It is a mindset like this that gets so many people into dangerous situations.

Donít get me wrong, I appreciate the conveniences of electronic charts and the machines that run them. Through years of experience, I know better than to put the safety of myself, vessel, and crew, primarily on electronics and the 12 volts that runs them. If you doubt what I say, ask any experienced professional.[/QUOTE]

Captain Dave-

As always, I welcome and appreciate comments and criticism of my stories. I do, however, take exception to you saying I made a "dangerous and irresponsible" statement concerning paper charts as backup for electronic navigation. I take my responsibilities to my readers seriously, especially when it concerns safety. I'm in the middle of a 4,500-mile delivery from Fort Lauderdale to Marina Del Rey, California, and have some time to kill while waiting for our clearance through the Panama canal. so I decided to take a few minutes and address your comment.
These days, the majority of new boaters equip themselves solely with electronic navigation devices and see no need to buy or even learn how to use paper charts. This is wrong, and can lead to trouble. All it takes is a bad charging system or a lightning hit to render all electronic aids unusable. Sadly, even if most of these mariners have paper charts on board, chances are they won't be able to use them properly. This is how Seatow makes money and the Coast Guard keeps busy. I stressed the point that sailors should carry charts (and know how to use them) because so many people don't. You say I'm being "dangerous and irresponsible." I say that I'm trying to tell people to have backups, backups, backups.
The other day, while delivering a boat from Edgartown Mass., to Newport, RI, I heard a conversation between a boater in distress and the USCG. The boater had gotten lost between Marion and The Elizabeth Islands because he didn't even know how to use his chartplotter. Charts might have helped, but I doubt it.
On another recent delivery from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Newport, we lost all our electronics due to a short in the wiring system. Sure we had small-scale charts of the area, but nothing detailed for Shelburne Harbour, where we needed to go for repairs. I pulled out my laptop and fired up Nobeltec Admiral, on which I had charts for the entire World, and fired up my handheld GPS. Without the detailed electronic charting of Shelburne Harbour, our 10-mile passage through the fog-shrouded, current-addled waters would have been difficult and dangerous. Although having the detailed paper charts as well would have also served the purpose, I know for a fact that my client would have balked had I suggested he buy every single paper chart for every harbor between Halifax and Newport. But due to the fact that he'd hired a well-equipped, prudent mariner, I had what we needed and the passage was successfully accomplished.
You're welcome to comment on my stories, and tell people what you will about your theories on which is the backup, paper or electronic charts, but please, don't call my writing "dangerous and irresponsible," because it's not. I would never send people into danger, nor would my editors allow me to do so.
Fair winds, Captain.
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Old 09-30-2009
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[QUOTE=tbessinger;512859]Captain Dave-

As always, I welcome and appreciate comments and criticism of my stories. I do, however, take exception to you saying I made a "dangerous and irresponsible" statement concerning paper charts as backup for electronic navigation. I take my responsibilities to my readers seriously, especially when it concerns safety. I'm in the middle of a 4,500-mile delivery from Fort Lauderdale to Marina Del Rey, California, and have some time to kill while waiting for our clearance through the Panama canal. so I decided to take a few minutes and address your comment.
These days, the majority of new boaters equip themselves solely with electronic navigation devices and see no need to buy or even learn how to use paper charts. This is wrong, and can lead to trouble. All it takes is a bad charging system or a lightning hit to render all electronic aids unusable. Sadly, even if most of these mariners have paper charts on board, chances are they won't be able to use them properly. This is how Seatow makes money and the Coast Guard keeps busy. I stressed the point that sailors should carry charts (and know how to use them) because so many people don't. You say I'm being "dangerous and irresponsible." I say that I'm trying to tell people to have backups, backups, backups.
The other day, while delivering a boat from Edgartown Mass., to Newport, RI, I heard a conversation between a boater in distress and the USCG. The boater had gotten lost between Marion and The Elizabeth Islands because he didn't even know how to use his chartplotter. Charts might have helped, but I doubt it.
On another recent delivery from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Newport, we lost all our electronics due to a short in the wiring system. Sure we had small-scale charts of the area, but nothing detailed for Shelburne Harbour, where we needed to go for repairs. I pulled out my laptop and fired up Nobeltec Admiral, on which I had charts for the entire World, and fired up my handheld GPS. Without the detailed electronic charting of Shelburne Harbour, our 10-mile passage through the fog-shrouded, current-addled waters would have been difficult and dangerous. Although having the detailed paper charts as well would have also served the purpose, I know for a fact that my client would have balked had I suggested he buy every single paper chart for every harbor between Halifax and Newport. But due to the fact that he'd hired a well-equipped, prudent mariner, I had what we needed and the passage was successfully accomplished.
You're welcome to comment on my stories, and tell people what you will about your theories on which is the backup, paper or electronic charts, but please, don't call my writing "dangerous and irresponsible," because it's not. I would never send people into danger, nor would my editors allow me to do so.
Fair winds, Captain.[/QUOTE]

Good followup.

- CD
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Old 10-06-2009
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Does anyone know where Lowrance gets it's charting informaton for their Nautipath electronic charts? Our Lowrance 7300c HD chartplotter contains charts for the US and Bahamas. Thusfar, it has proven to be very accurate for use in our current cruising ground - The Pamlico sound, and it's tributaries. So far so good. All of this talk about very inaccurate charts for the Bahamas makes me wonder how accurate they are for that region. Does anyone know?

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