The Case for Paper Charts (Part 2 of 3)

By Bob Sweet
Author:  The Weekend Navigator, GPS for Mariners and former U.S. Power Squadrons National Educational Officer

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about NOAA’s announcement that they will no longer be printing “litho” charts, but that paper charts will still be available on demand.

Now, let’s look at why you still need paper charts.

Before we get into the details, let me say I am an electronic navigation guy! I wrote two of my books and several guides to help boaters use electronics. But, I recognize that electronics can get squirrely from time to time – or maybe it’s just the user.  In any case, you’ve got to have paper, too.


Chartplotter Tracking Boat


Chartplotter View superimposed on Folded Full-Sized Chart – The Chart gives you the larger view

Some people believe all they need is their iPad and digital charts. That’s downright risky! Any boater who has used GPS aboard can tell you stories about when it didn’t work quite right – usually when you needed it the most.  Recently, I was testing a handheld GPS the day before a seminar I was giving, only to find that the GPS would not turn on.  Changing the batteries didn’t help either.  Somehow, the next day it worked. But suppose that happened when I needed it on the water? It happens.  And that was a waterproof GPS designed for marine use.

Paper and digital charts are a team.  You use both at the same time.  I like the paper charts because they provide the full view, while my chartplotter is just a small window to the world.  If I zoom in so I can see where I am, I can’t see where I’m going.  If I zoom out to see where I’m going, I can’t see where I am.  You know the drill.  I like using a chartplotter to navigate since they have vector charts, which are less cluttered and the notations scale as you zoom.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll talk more about how to make the most efficient use of both chart types.


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