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Nautical Publications

The navigator uses many information sources when planning and conducting a voyage. These sources include notices to mariners, sailing directions, light lists, tide tables, sight reduction tables, and almanacs. Historically, this information has been found in printed publications, but increasingly it is being integrated into computer based electronic systems and separately on CDs. The navigator must know what information he needs to navigate his ship safely and how to obtain it. The publications discussed here form a basic navigation library, but it is not all-inclusive.

The US Coast Guard publishes navigation rules for international and inland waters. This publication contains the Inland Navigation Rules for all inland waters of the United States including the Great Lakes, as well as the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). Be sure that you have the updated issue and that you include a copy of your state's boating regulations.

Chart No. 1 is a book containing a key to chart symbols. It contains a listing of chart symbols used by the National Ocean Service, the Defense Mapping Agency, symbols recommended by the International Hydrographic Organization, and symbols used on foreign charts reproduced by DMAHTC. Subjects covered include general features of charts, topography, hydrography, and aids to navigation. There is also a complete index of abbreviations and an explanation of the IALA buoyage system

The American Practical Navigator is a necessary book for all boaters. This book is just as useful for beginners as for professional mariners.

The Coast Pilots (9 volumes) supplement nautical charts in US waters. In most cases one volume will cover your local area. The Coast Pilot is an extremely valuable addition to your charts and must be used in conjunction with them, as the chart is not able to convey all the important information you need to navigate your boat. Information in the Coast Pilots comes from field inspections, survey vessels, various harbor authorities, maritime officials, and pilotage associations.

The US Coast Guard Light List (7 volumes) gives information on lighted navigation aids, unlighted buoys, radiobeacons, radio direction finder calibration stations, daybeacons, racons, and Loran stations. In most cases you will need only one volume. Each volume of the Light List contains aids to navigation in geographic order from north to south along the Atlantic coast, from east to west along the Gulf coast, and from south to north along the Pacific coast. It lists coastal aids first, followed by entrance and harbor aids listed from seaward. Intracoastal Waterway aids are listed last in geographic order from New Jersey to Florida to the Texas/ Mexico border. The listings are preceded by a description of the aids to navigation system in the US, luminous range diagram, geographic range tables, and other information. Outside the US, the Defense Mapping Agency Hydrographic/Topographic Center publishes the List of Lights, Radio Aids, and Fog Signals (usually referred to as the List of Lights, not to be confused with the Coast Guard's Light List). Both of these publications supplement, but do not replace, charts and sailing directions. Consult the chart for the location and light characteristics of all navigation aids and then consult the light lists to determine their detailed description. The Notice to Mariners corrects both lists.

Tide and current tables are a necessary addition to your library, even if you do have them on your computer or electronic chart. The time you need the data the most will be the time your electronics fail. Eldridge Tide and Pilot for boaters in New England and the Mid-Atlantic plus Reed's Almanac for your local areas will do the trick. Reed's Almanacs also have light list data, a celestial almanac, and the latest information on SSB weather broadcast schedule. For celestial navigation sight reduction, the navigator needs an almanac and sight reduction tables to solve the celestial triangle. More on these publications will be covered at a later date.

The Notice to Mariners is published weekly by the Defense Mapping Agency Hydrographic/Topographic Center (DMAHTC), prepared jointly with the National Ocean Service (NOS) and the U.S. Coast Guard. It advises mariners of important matters affecting navigational safety, including new hydrographic information, changes in channels, aids to navigation, and other important data. It is the responsibility of users to decide which of their charts and publications require correction. Suitable records of Notice to Mariners should be maintained to facilitate the updating of charts and publications prior to use. Notice to Mariners No. 1 of each year contains important information on a variety of subjects, which supplements information not usually found on charts and in navigational publications.

The Local Notice to Mariners is issued by each US Coast Guard District to disseminate important information affecting navigational safety within that District. This Notice reports changes and deficiencies in aids to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard. Other marine information such as new charts, channel depths, naval operations, and regattas is included. Since temporary information of short duration is not included in the weekly Notice to Mariners, the Local Notice to Mariners may be the only source of such information. The Local Notice to Mariners may be obtained free of charge by contacting the appropriate Coast Guard District Commander. If your local area includes ports and waterways in different districts, you must obtain the Local Notice to Mariners from each district.

Electronic chart development is proceeding rapidly and the correction of these charts will become a major issue. Presently you can make arrangements with the chart manufacturer to obtain updates to your electronic charts. In the near future, the quality standards of digital charts will permit the replacement of traditional paper charts. Neither paper nor electronic charts should be used unless corrected through the latest Notice to Mariners. However, the electronic chart is recognized as being the legal equivalent of the paper chart, however, it cannot replace the paper chart on the bridge. Therefore, the mariner must continue to use traditional paper charts. Their use, in turn, necessitates the continued use of the Notice to Mariners correction system.

Most of the weekly Notice to Mariners production are computerized and allow remote query via modem. This remote access system is known as the Navigation Information Network (NAVINFONET). Data available through NAVINFONET includes chart corrections, DMA List of Lights corrections, Coast Guard Light List corrections, radio warnings, drill rig locations and GPS navigation system status reports. Information is updated daily or weekly according to the Notice to Mariners production schedule. The system supports most internationally recognized telephone protocols and can presently transfer data at a maximum rate of 9,600 baud. NAVINFONET is not a replacement for the weekly Notice to Mariners, and in certain respects the accuracy of information cannot be verified by DMA. Certain files, for example, are entered directly into the database without editing by DMA staff. However, within these limitations, the system can provide information two to three weeks sooner than the printed Notice to Mariners. NAVINFONET access is free, but the user must pay telephone charges. All users must register and receive a password first.

Jim Sexton is offline  
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