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magnusmurphy 01-26-2007 02:41 PM

Free NOAA charts - which reader?
Hi everyone

I'm in the process of looking into my options for electronic charts for the US East Coast and the Bahamas. I'm considering Raymarine with Navionic charts.

In the meantime I've downloaded every single NOAA vector chart of the US East coast onto a portable hard drive and downloaded two free readers. They are understandably not very user friendly and it is difficult to "find" a certain geographical area since you apparently have to manually choose which chart to open and there is no automatic scrolling. You view the one to a maximum of three charts and that's it.

I also have used Nobletec in the past but I dont' think it can read the NOAA charts.

Any advice on what to use to read the free charts with?

Could these charts REALISTICSLLY and practically be a substitute for commercial charts like Navionics etc?


Vasco 01-26-2007 03:01 PM

The Navionics chip for the Bahamas is not the best with quite a few geo- referencing errors. I corresponded with Navionics on this and they claimed the latest version was improved but would not tell me if the specific errors I pointed out had been corrected. I only got mine a few years ago and am not about to spring all those bucks without assurance that the new chip is better than the old. The best electronic charts for the Bahamas are the NEW (2006) C-maps. They are Explorer charts, the best you can get fo the Bahamas. I like Navionics but their Bahamas chip sucks.

sailingdog 01-26-2007 03:06 PM

If you're laptop is connected to the GPS, there is no reason you couldn't use the NOAA charts instead of the Navionics.

It would help if you said what kind of computer you are on... MacENC is a good program for Macs... Fugawi has a pretty good package for Wintel machines. Neither is free IIRC, but you do get what you pay for... as the two packages I've mentioned probably are considerably more user-friendly than what you've down loaded.

SeaClear is a free program that is supposed to be fairly decent for Wintel machines.

ColinV 01-26-2007 04:58 PM

About the best 'free' viewer that will load RNC (Raster charts) and ENC (Electronic charts) is Rose Point Navigation Systems - Coastal Explorer. Their free viewer has a time limit on GPS, but provides chart viewing and route planning with no time limits. Once you have all of the maps in the list, you can right click on the map and select between raster or electronic, or even both (so as you zoom in, it picks which has better detail).

has one as well, but it only does RNCs, and charts are viewed independently, so it's not as easy to navigate across charts.

camaraderie 01-26-2007 05:09 PM

Magnus...I would get a Garmin loaded with Blue charts for your cruising plans since they provide excellent cost effective coverage of the US AND the BEST charts for the Bahamas...Explorer.
I have a Raymarine C-map unit...not the new Navionics ones...and I will never give them my chart plotter business again the way they screwed everyone over with no upgrade path and thousands of $$'s of useless charts once my plotter gives up the ghost.

sailingdog 01-26-2007 05:16 PM

Per cam's recommendation, several of the Garmin's come pre-loaded with the entire BlueChart charts for the coastal United States. If you don't already have a GPS, then this would be an excellent option.

The Garmin 492 GPSMap is probably one of the better buys as GPS Chartplotters go.

jmunson2 01-26-2007 07:32 PM

Check out Fugawi software. It is cheap ($220), reads a variety of charts, including ENC (and comes with those). Also does GPS tracking and a host of other things.

I don't have personal experience with the package yet - perhaps someday.


jmunson2 01-26-2007 07:34 PM

If you want inexpensive, the Garmin 76CSx handheld & Bluechart software (as a bundle) can be had for $499 (not incl shipping) from The GPS Store. This is probably the route we'll end up going - best GPS solution for the money when you don't have thousands to put forward on a larger plotter (and cheaper to replace too).


jmunson2 01-26-2007 07:50 PM

SD - thanks for pointing out the 492. I hadn't looked at it (for other reasons), but after you noted it I did - nice little unit! Perhaps our B.O.A.T. budget will allow for it...:D


sailingdog 01-26-2007 08:15 PM

Glad to help.. :D

BTW, given that Garmin is going to be releasing a unit to replace the 492, I'd expect the prices on the 492 units to drop a fair bit... The new unit should be available by March, and it is called the 540 GPS Map.

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