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groundhog 06-26-2006 10:25 PM

Which chart software?
Who has the best charting software? Any free downloads?

Actually, as I am new to sailing, maybe the better question is ...
what should I buy? Paper, electronic? I have no idea which is best.

I am hoping to go meet up with friends in Essex and I am a couple of hours sail from them south off of the patomac near the key bridge. I just realised that I might need a chart .... gulp!


Omatako 06-27-2006 02:13 AM

For what it's worth I use Seapro with Admiralty raster charts but only for trip planning and waypoint identification. Down side is Seapro can't be copied, works off a dongle so can only be used on one computer at a time.

There will probably be a dozen responses that'll tell you there are better choices but I guess it's like all software, the one you're used to is always the best one.

I would never go to sea depending on electronic charts and only use proper charts, not photocopies which I have seen literally disintegrate with a splash of water.

sailingdog 06-27-2006 09:31 AM

I'd second Omatako. Even though I do have a good chartplotter on my boat, I also carry and use paper charts. That way, if the chartplotter fails, I can still get where I'm going.

TrueBlue 06-27-2006 09:54 AM

Think back to your arithmetric classes in elementary school, then math later on. Were you allowed the use of calculators to learn the basics? This analogy holds true to navigational aids. Based upon your question, I can assume that you may not know how to plot routes & courses on paper charts. This is absolutely essential knowledge for anyone planning an extended cruise, whether it's just a couple hours or much longer.

Buy some NOAA charts for your area, take a course in plotting with your local USPS or USCG and plot your route directly on the charts. If you have the money now, pick up either a handheld GPS chart plotter, or preferrably a fixed mount unit with a large LCD display and appropriate chart chips for your region. Then you can confidently sail to any destination, having knowledge & redundancy.

Surfesq 06-27-2006 10:03 AM

Hi Groundhog. I have no idea how much sailing you plan on doing. i.e., daysailing, long distance cruising, overnighters...Important to know because the extent of your sailing will drive the investment you will need to make in charts and software.
If you are just doing a daysail here and there. I would suggest getting the local laminated charts that you can look at in the rain and a hand-held Garmin GPS.

haffiman37 06-27-2006 12:30 PM

There have never been as many 'Pirates' at sea as it is now!
Start with the basic paper set up and a hand held GPS (remember to get one with NMEA out and cable for lap top). I have a couple of Garmin 86 without charts that have brought me 1/2 around the world.
When You start cruising around You will allways find someone with 'free' programs and charts. Do your own testing and decide what suits Your own needs and requirements. Personally I preferr programs where tides are integrated as it makes it more easy and simpler to determine currents and tides at your position.

camaraderie 06-27-2006 12:33 PM

Sounds like you're gonna be cruising around the Chesapeake so the first place to start is the Maptech paper chart kit for the Chesapreake Bay. This also comes with a chart CD (for PC) for the same region that lets you:
1. Plan weekend trip routes
2. Print out the "maps" & routes for the trip.
3. Use on board as a chart plotter if you have a laptop and GPS you can attach. or buy it here online for $90.

infonote 06-27-2006 01:06 PM

Always carry paper charts along with any electronic equipment. Despite the huge advances, Electronics and sea do not mix well.

Remember software or electronics is only a tool, which unfortunately in some cases may fail.

Yes use electronic equipment, but make sure you know what to do if they ever fail (hopefully not).

gsheath 06-27-2006 11:12 PM

There is no question whatsoever about whether you should have charts on board. You MUST. I support other comments also that you shouldn't rely on electronic solutions solely. You also need to know how to use the charts properly, how to interpret the depths related to the tide height from time to time etc.

As the operator of a vessel, you have certain obligations to avoid collisions, operate in a safe manner etc etc; if you don't know where you are in relation to any submerged hazard or channel marker or any other relevant feature, then you are not operating in a safe manner; obligations aside, you owe it to yourself to keep 'you and yours' safe. Is it acceptable to cruise into a prestine bay and drop anchor when you feel the boat skim the bottom? I think not.

Most of my sailing for now is day sailing out of the marina on a large bay (Western Port), keeping usually within 10nm of the Marina. I have a chart of the bay at hand at all times, and I always have a line on the chart to guide me; I take fixes (with GPS and with hand compass from time to time to keep my hand in) to confirm my proximity to the charted course.

Before the day out I prepare a sheet that I take with me that has: Boating weather, sunrise and sunset times, tide highs and lows for the day including a graph of tide heights by time (using the twelfths rule), and considered commentary about direction of current and any other factor that may influence my day out. It's a lot easier to think through your 'plan' in the comfort of home before your trip, rather than trying to read and interpret later 'at sea' when it's all going wrong for any other reason.

There are just too many risks associated with operating a vessel in close proximity to the shoreline that can be mitigated by a responsible attitude to simple navigation disciplines.

Besides, if you run aground, it can ruin your day!

groundhog 06-28-2006 01:20 AM

Chart software..
Wow, thanks for all of the thoughtful responses!

Very good advice. I have found the maptech site and have downloaded the map viewer. Then I got some NOAA maps that seem to load into the viewer. This was all free stuff. There must be some features that are not enabled on this software since it is free.

Anyway, it shows me the shipping channels that I should avoid and the bay depths.

Your comments about sunken obsticles sort of perked me up a bit. And all of the tides and things. I guess I have some studying to do.
For the trip I am planning, I would be in sight of the land the whole way, in fact within hundreds of yards probably.

But I am having some second thoughts. I need to learn the things you guys know.


ps. my boat is a 27foot Albin Vega.

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