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Chart Updates from NOAA

posted Nov 6, 2013, 9:03 AM by Bob Mueller   [ updated Nov 27, 2013, 6:12 AM ]

Last week, I posted information that NOAA is no longer offering litho printed charts.  It's important to keep in mind that NOAA is continuing to keep all their charts up to date, and the importance to having up to date charts aboard your boat has not changed at all.  Many people get complacent thinking that their chart area does not change that often.  If you would like to see the updates to any NOAA chart, you can visit this link:


Agree to the terms and then enter in a chart number to see the updated.  For the West End of Lake Erie use chart no: 14830.  For the Island of Lake Erie including Sandusky Bay enter chart no: 14844.  As you can see there were quite a few changes to both of these charts in 2013, including moving some navaids around.

One of the great things about electronic charts is that you can easily download up to date charts directly from NOAA for free!  

NOAA provides Chart Booklets that you can easily print on your home printer.  Just before your trip, you can download the latest chart book and print it out.  Here is a direct link to the Islands in Lake Erie including Sandusky Bay. For a complete list of all the Chart Booklets available:

For a limited time, NOAA is offering a download of every full chart in their catalog in PDF format.  Here is a link to the chart list of downloads:

I'll go ahead and give you direct links to 14830 West End of Lake Erie and also 14844 Island of Lake Erie Including Sandusky Bay.  These full size charts are less useful to the average person, unless you have a very large, wide format printer at home.  Another option is to take these PDF files to a local quick print shop and have them output on a wide format printer.  Quick print shops that output these files are more ubiquitous and convenient then marine chandleries such as West Marine.  NOAA is not yet certain how these PDF's will be used, and may discontinue offering these full chart PDF downloads in the future.

For quite some time NOAA has offered the free download of their charts in the RNC/BSB format.  You must use some type of plotting software such as Coastal Explorer (PC), Fugawi, MacENC (OSX) or iNavX (iPad/iPhone).  There are plenty of others out there as well, the list is to long to post here and the list will never be complete.  There are so many that it's impossible to have familiarity with them all.  I have familiarity with MacENC.  MacENC allows you to export the full charts to a file that you could take to a quick print shop to have printed on a wide format printer.  Even if NOAA discontinues the PDF's that I linked to above, there are still ways to obtain these files for printing.  

In spite of NOAA discontinuing offering litho printed charts, there are plenty of different ways that you can continue to carry paper charts on your boat.  Not only that, these new methods make it more simple to keep your paper charts up to date.  These are partially the reasons that NOAA stopped offering the Litho printed charts.  

Don't let anyone tell you this is the end of paper charts.  When computers came into the office place in the '90's, the experts proclaimed that the paperless office had arrived.  Here we are 20 years later, and I don't know many offices that are completely paperless.  There is one thing that computers do really well, and that's print paper!

Paper charts are simply evolving with the times, and will likely remain relevant for many mariners.  They still have a place on my boat.