Mapping the Fabled Northwest Passage

December 15, 2017

When Sarah Porter, a fourth-year student at the Marine Institute, was offered the opportunity to map the Northwest Passage this summer, she jumped at the chance.

“I was on a work term with the Centre for Applied Ocean Technology when my supervisor, Kirk Regular, offered me the opportunity to partner with the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) to survey through the Northwest Passage using their new shallow water multibeam system, Norbit,” said Ms. Porter. “As a student, I was so fortunate to have been trusted with such an incredible project.”

The fabled passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic, is one of the most unexplored areas of the ocean floor. Indeed, the last nautical chart production for the Northwest Passage is dated 1957.

As an ocean mapping and bachelor of technology student, Ms. Porter was well suited for the task. During the 28-day expedition, her job was to mobilize the Norbit system on a small boat and collect data during stops in Pond Inlet, Bellot Strait, and Cambridge Bay.

“To take a system, get familiar with it and its software, take it to the North and to survey areas that are unknown, with no charts, was an incredible experience,” she said.

Ms. Porter hopes the data she collected will be published at some point—and used to benefit boating activity in the North.

When the Northwest Passage was discovered in the mid-1800s, it was expected to provide a major shipping shortcut from Europe to Asia. Until recently, however, the presence of thick, year-round sea ice made the route virtually impassable—and extremely dangerous.

Today, however, average annual temperatures in the Arctic are warming, and the sea ice is melting. As a result, open water in the Northwest Passage is beginning earlier in the year and lasting longer. Although the passage is still not practical or safe for commercial shipping, there has been a recent increase in “destinational” traffic—small boats, private yachts, and occasional cruise ships.

As the ice continues to melt in the Northwest Passage, and vessel traffic continues to increase, sea floor mapping will play a crucial role—both for the safety of mariners and the health of the environment.

“I love the ocean and I really enjoy discovering the unknown underneath,” said Ms. Porter. “I think it’s crucial to know what our sea floor is all about.”




My Favorite Chart Format

December 4, 2017

Bob Sweet, Senior Navigator

So many charts! So many formats! How do you choose?

Selecting the right charts to cover your route is only half the battle. Once that’s done, you need to choose your formats. Do you want your charts rolled or would you rather have them folded? Mapfold, trifold or folio? Waterproof or water-resistant?

It’s nice to have choices. But too many options can be paralyzing.

In the end, we just need a format that works the way we want, when we want it. Something that’s easy to pick out and use.

I’ve used all the chart formats for various situations, but there is one format that sticks out way ahead of the others. OceanGrafix calls it the “Small Format” chart.

Five Reasons to Love the Small Format Chart:

  1. SIZE: At 21-inches wide, small format charts are perfect for use at the helm, on a chart table, or even on your lap. Even though the width is less than the full-size NOAA charts (which are typically 36 inches), you need not worry that information is missing. The small format chart is split and printed on both sides, with a large overlap. To find the rest, just flip it over.
  2. SCALE: They are not rescaled like the charts you’ll find in chartbooks and many waterproof formats. Small format charts are full size—which means the scale is consistent with your plotting tools. They are also easy to read, with no squinting to read reduced-size copy.
  3. FOLD: Small format charts come pre-folded like a map, which is great for a couple reasons. Closed, the title and chart number are right on the top, so it’s easy to pick out the one you want. Plus, you can stack a whole bunch of charts in a relatively small space—and quickly pull out just what you need.
  4. DESIGN: They are flip-fold—and printed North-up, with the long dimension along the shoreline—so you can open up the chart to just where you need it. Assuming you’re running along the shore, the small format chart will always unfold along your path.
  5. PAPER: Printed on quality, water-resistant paper, these are durable charts. You can write on them to plot courses or make notes (which you can’t do on your chartplotter)—or just glance ahead for interesting places to view or visit. And because they aren’t printed until you order them, they always have the latest information.



It’s Hurricane Season—Be Prepared!

September 29, 2016

Part 3: Practicing Preparedness

Throughout the hurricane season, which runs through November 30, it’s important to increase awareness, pay attention to news and emergency alerts, and know what to do before, during and after a hurricane. Learn how to prepare.

Boater Safety
For boaters, hurricane preparedness requires extra diligence—and extra steps. Here are some tips and resources from the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • Check marine weather: Check the weather each and every time you head out and continue to monitor it throughout your time on the water.
  • Get the Coast Guard Mobile AppDesigned for boaters, this app lets you check the weather at nearby NOAA buoys, including wind speed and directions, along with wave height.
  • In the event of a hurricane watch: If you have a boat, review your marina’s hurricane plan and secure your boat. This might mean taking your boat out of the water and strapping it down on shore or ensuring it is properly equipped to ride out the storm at the marina.


Hurricane Tracking Charts
OceanGrafix offers a variety of hurricane tracking charts that let you track and record storms throughout the hurricane season. Select the hurricane chart that’s right for you.

OceanGrafix Responds to Maritime Community Clamor, Offers Charts in a Traditional Format

July 17, 2014

Sometimes, a product is discontinued and no one breathes a word of remorse. But that was not the case when, earlier this year, the federal government stopped producing its lithographically printed paper charts; there remained in the boating community a subsection of navigators who had grown accustomed to the specific look and feel of the government’s nautical charts—and did not want to see them go away.

We were surprised that there were individuals in the maritime community who were so stirred by this change. We knew we had the capacity to produce charts with the traditional look and feel they wanted, so we did.

A More Classic Look
What separates our new “traditional” charts from the print-on-demand charts we’ve been printing for years? The paper and the colors.

Traditional charts feature warmer colors on cream-colored paper.

Traditional charts feature warmer colors on cream-colored paper.

Printed on water-resistant paper using a warm, classic color palette, our traditional charts contain the same up-to-date, NOAA-approved content as any other OceanGrafix navigational chart, yet they appeal aesthetically to those mariners who prefer the look and feel of the lithographically printed charts that the federal government discontinued earlier this year.

For more information about buying or selling traditional charts from OceanGrafix, contact us.

Historic Charles W. Morgan Sets Sail on 38th Voyage

May 20, 2014

After a lengthy restoration that began in 1968 in Mystic (Conn.) Seaport, the Charles W. Morgan set sail on May 17, 2014, on its history-making 38th voyage. The Charles W. Morgan’s 38th voyage will make a nearly three-month long journey that will include stops in historic ports of New England. In recognition of this event, OceanGrafix has partnered with Landfall Navigation to donate 24 charts to the voyage, which will span ports from Mystic, Conn. to Boston, Mass.

According to the Mystic Seaport website, the Charles W. Morgan was once a part of an American whaling fleet comprised of 2,700 vessels; today, it is America’s oldest commercial ship that is still afloat. Over an 80-year whaling career, the Charles W. Morgan embarked on 37 voyages between 1841 and 1921, most lasting three years or more. The Mystic Seaport website states, “Built for durability, not speed, she roamed every corner of the globe in her pursuit of whales. She is known as a ‘lucky ship,’ having successfully navigated crushing Arctic ice, hungry cannibals, countless storms, Cape Horn roundings and, after she finished her whaling career, even the Hurricane of 1938.”

After her whaling days ended in 1921, the Charles W. Morgan was preserved by Whaling Enshrined, Inc. and exhibited at Colonel Edward H.R. Green’s estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, Mass., until 1941. In November 1941, the Charles W. Morgan arrived in Mystic Seaport, where she was a centerpiece of the Mystic Seaport and more than 20 million visitors have stepped onboard to tour and learn more about America’s history.

According to the Mystic Seaport website, in 1966, the Secretary of the Interior designated the whaleship a National Historic Landmark as well as a recipient of the coveted World Ship Trust Award. In January 1974, the Charles W. Morgan was hauled out on the lift dock in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard for inspection and hull work.

In November 2008, the ship returned to the museum’s shipyard for restoration. The Mystic Seaport website says the project renewed areas of the vessel, from the waterline down to her keel, and also addressed the bow and stern. When the vessel returns to Mystic Seaport in August 2014, she will resume her role as an exhibit and the flagship of the museum.

To follow the Charles W. Morgan as she makes her three-month voyage, you can visit the Mystic Seaport website. You can also follow OceanGrafix on Twitter (@OceanGrafix) and “like” “OceanGrafix” on Facebook as we will provide timely updates.

How to Fold a Nautical Chart

May 14, 2014

Folding a large, nautical chart can be tricky. But it doesn’t have to be.

Before you take off on your next journey, watch this brief video featuring Bob Sweet—senior navigator, author of The Weekend Navigator & GPS for Mariners, and former U.S. Power Squadrons National Educational Officer—folding a nautical chart. You’ll learn how easy it is to sail with a chart you can easily use and unfold.

Check out the other videos in this instructional series:

>How to Use a Paper Chart to Plan a Route

>How to Plan a Path Using a Paper Chart & Course Plotter

>Bob Sweet Defines the Three Phases of Safe Navigation

The Case for Paper Charts (Part 3 of 3)

April 30, 2014
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. In Part 2 of this series, I explained why you still need paper charts, in addition to digital charts. Now, let’s take a closer look at how to make the most efficient use of both chart types.

The tough part with digital charts is getting them updated. It’s downright expensive, since in most cases you need to buy a new chart chip. I recently purchased the latest in chartplotters to use in my seminars. It came with the entire U.S. chart set. Just one problem – it’s really hard to find out when the charts were made. And if I want new charts, you guessed it: I need to buy a new chip.

One fine guru had the opinion that paper charts are dangerous since they are so difficult to update. Ever hear of a pencil? You can go to a Coast Guard site, enter your chart number, and get a list of all the changes on your chart. What I recommend to those attending my seminars is to update the charts for your local waters. If you set out on a cruise, chances are you’re going to venture on new waters. So, order the charts as you need them along the way. Then they will be up to date. If you’re doing the Great Loop, order the charts in groups and have them sent to marinas along the way.

Some people complain about the size of the NOAA charts. The solution is simple: fold them. Then, you just unfold the section you need in order to see where you are and where you’re going. Other printed charts may offer an alternative. When using other charts, however, be sure to check the date, as some may have been on the dealers’ shelves for a while.

In my books and seminars, I explain three phases of navigation: planning, navigating, and checking. Here’s a brief overview of which charts work best for each phase:

  • Planning is when you decide where you are going and pre-qualify the paths. This is when you need the most up-to-date charts.
  • Navigating is simply following those pre-qualified paths. Vector charts are best for that.
  • Checking is when you make sure you are where you are supposed to be. For this, you need feature-rich charts to identify landmarks, and usually a wider view that is afforded by paper charts.

My final message is to use all of the navigation tools available to you. Redundancy is security. Paper charts and your compass are your backup when all else fails. Oh, and don’t forget to have an extra GPS on board, too.