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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Here with another question as we get into the detailed planning stage of our voyage. We have been looking at our charting options and I'm wondering if anyone has any input in terms of keeping it inexpensive. It seems the most bang for your buck would come with the purchase of a chartplotter as they seem to come loaded for the most part with all U.S. coastal and Caribbean charts. Personally though I am pretty insistent on us having paper as a backup or primary because I just don't trust electronics for the most part and should our vessel lose power or should the plotter stop working I think it is prudent to have paper charts. I've really only ever used paper charts with hourly plots. They are not cheap as I am sure everyone knows, and then there are the revisions and updates so its an ongoing expense. Does anyone have a good way to source them, print them, etc...? Our trip starts in the Albany NY area and proceeds down the Hudson, ICW/coast, and into the Caribbean and eventually the BVI's. So far I am seeing about 25$ on average and it looks like we are going to need at least 10-15 of them to cover the range, maybe more. Just trying to be budget minded, any input is appreciated.
 

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You can print NOAA charts yourself.

I carry paper and electronic charts, but primarily use the electronic ones. For $200 you can carry a backup set of electronic charts by using a 7" tablet with built in GPS (like the Nexus 7). Of course that doesn't do anything to keep you moving should your entire electrical system fail, but it is otherwise a completely independent backup from the chartplotter.
 

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As Alex notes, NOAA charts are now available to download for free, but few folks are likely to have the ability to print them in a full size format... But if you have a source that can do that for you at reasonable cost, that could be one way to go.

For the East coast, the Maptech chartbooks represent the best bang for the buck... Pretty easy to find outdated editions on eBay, or places like Bacon's or Newport Nautical. As you're using them largely for backup, your personal comfort level with using outdated charts will be the ultimate determinant, but I sail with a fair number of outdated paper charts, and I'm comfortable with that. With the possibility nowadays to download current NOAA charts to devices like an iPad, it greatly increases the ability to compare older paper charts with the latest, and make updates/corrections... The SSCA Chart Exchange can be another good source for used charts:

SSCA Forum ? View forum - Chart Exchange

For the Bahamas, you definitely want the Explorer Chartbooks, don't try to scrimp there, those are the only way to go...
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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You can get chart books for the ICW, the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean, so the cost savings with them is huge. For the trip you are considering you would need far more than 10 to 15 charts. Without checking, I would guess you are looking at 50+.

Also look at these guys as they offer tray-scale chart reproductions much cheaper than the original. They are on good quality paper and up to date. You can often buy used charts as well, but they would likely not be up to date
https://tidesend.com
 

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You can get chart books for the ICW, the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean, so the cost savings with them is huge. For the trip you are considering you would need far more than 10 to 15 charts. Without checking, I would guess you are looking at 50+.

Also look at these guys as they offer tray-scale chart reproductions much cheaper than the original. They are on good quality paper and up to date. You can often buy used charts as well, but they would likely not be up to date
https://tidesend.com
Bellingham portfolios can be a good option for many parts of the world, but I don't think they offer particularly good value for the US East coast, especially for anyone planning to run the ICW... For example, look at Bellingams' portfolio #188 for Norfolk to Charleston, which for $150 includes NO charts for the ICW, but includes a number of charts - Core Sound, for example - which no southbound cruiser is ever likely to use... for $25 less at many retailers, the Maptech Region 6 covers the ICW beyond Charleston to the FL line, and includes places like Pamlico Sound and all the coastal waters and entrances one is likely to use, in a far superior format to the grey-scale monochromatic Bellingham portfolio... Plus, lots of additional information, pages of aerial photos of harbors and inlets, bridge schedules, and so on...

If the OP is just gonna run the inside all the way, I like the Waterway Chartbook that John Kettlewell does... Nice small notebook format, easy to use in the cockpit, takes you all the way from Mile 0 to Miami, including most inlets, for under $50... Doesn't include coastal/offshore charts, however...

If he's planning to do any hops outside, Steve Dodge's SE Inlet Chartbook can also be very nice to have...

 

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There are also Booklet Charts that are free to download. Think of them like cutting your full sized charts into 8 1/2 x 11 sheets for inclusion into a notebook. They are designed for smaller boats, pocket cruisers and those dreaded stink potters that have limited room aboard. A color laser is best ti print them but an inkjet will do. I put all mine in page protectors and seal with clear tape. The are not good for planning, however, those times when you want the big picture. I downloaded them for BVI (we leave in the AM) and have everything but the most northern points of Virgin Gorda and Anegada. I also have most of the Maine coast, all except down east. This would have been a significant investment in paper charts, one that I probably would have avoided.


Don
 

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If you have a tablet/phone , phone might be to small, you can get MX Mariner app for 6.99 which has all NOAA charts by region included with app. This is a cheap option.
 

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For the East coast, the Maptech chartbooks represent the best bang for the buck... Pretty easy to find outdated editions on eBay..
I have bought used MapTech Chartkits on Craigslist and eBay for $10-$25 a pop (vs. $130-150 new) and use them in conjunction with a handheld GPS with chart chip, cruising guides, and some up to date Heinz Va. and Md. chartkits. I haven't seem a whole lot of relevant changes, between the old charts and the new charts, for the way I navigate.

Works well if you pay attention and cruise conservatively.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Jon, I mentioned chart books for the ICW, the Bellingham packages would be for places east and south of the Bahamas. Perhaps I was not clear enough.
 

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Jon, I mentioned chart books for the ICW, the Bellingham packages would be for places east and south of the Bahamas. Perhaps I was not clear enough.
Nah, you were certainly clear enough, I should have realized that's what you meant...

Still, it's a bit surprising the Bellingham portfolios aren't a bit more competitive, pricewise, for this region. We tend to forget that chartbooks are now available for the entire passage to the islands via the Thorny Path...

Until fairly recently, there was a gap between the Bahamas and PR and the Virgins, that could really only be filled by DMA charts, which weren't all that great for yachts... But years ago, CYC which morphed into N.V. got into the game and filled that gap with a series of charts more user-friendly to cruisers. The price for this region is about $65:



Bellingham's portfolio for the same area - which does not include Puerto Rico - is $95:

 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow, a lot of information here, thank you all very much! Its surprising that there isn't more of a "standard" with these charts, one is better here and another there - its good to hear from people who've actually used them. We are not sure at the moment whether we will exclusively stay in the ditch on the way down, we are hoping to have the luxury of picking each days travel as we go based on weather and how we feel. We like the idea of a handheld but are still not sold on the clarity or battery power, does anyone have any complaints on their scope? We will look into used charts as we approach mid summer, there may some added benefit in those as the backup we intend them to be. As has been said, things can change rapidly, especially after hurricane season so charts in general can only be relied upon so much, knowing your water depth and leaning on the conservative side is prudent. I guess it can't hurt to ask; if anyone reading this has run the course we've outlined and find they want to shed some 50 odd charts that aren't needed anymore and aren't too outdated we would like to hear from you. Thanks gang, good luck to everyone this season!
 
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