Why Mariners Continue to Carry Paper Charts in Addition to Navigational Tools


In 2015, there were over 70 million recreational mariners on the water. Add commercial vessels to these statistics, and you get a whole lot of traffic on today’s waterways. Not surprisingly, some mariners run into mishaps. So before you head out looking for that next boat or yachts for sale heed this advice. A major reason boaters carry charts is fear of striking a submerged object and groundings, two scenarios in which accurate NOAA surveys and charts can play a major role. Not only do numbers such as these present a strong case for the use of navigation tools, they indicate that no one is immune from potential trouble.

yachts for saleWhy Do the Charts Change
NOAA currently maintains over 1,000 charts, each providing important cartographic data. The nautical chart is an essential tool for insuring safe navigation and as a result must be kept up-to-date, explains a report by the Marine Chart Division of NOAA. The nautical chart depicts information vital for safe navigation such as water depths, obstructions, regulated navigation areas, buoys and landmarks. The information can change hourly. NOAA quickly applies all critical safety corrections to its digital files that are made available to the mariner in the form of its Print-on-Demand paper, and Raster and Electronic digital chart products.”

Why Are Paper Charts Essential?
Experienced sailors know that using paper charts is one way to avert problems, and they use paper charts in conjunction with other means of navigation. Every boat should have charts and a skipper who knows how to read them, explains Phil Bass from boatmo.com, who has been navigating the waters of Southern California for over 30 years. About the only thing that will be around longer than charts are electronic failures. Charts are inexpensive insurance. There is absolutely no excuse for not having the appropriate charts on board.

Daylight Readability
Paper charts can be read in bright daylight, whereas some electronic screens require a particular angle or lighting. You can hand write notes and highlight with colors on paper charts, such as good anchorage here or fish traps here. Many chart plotters and chart software allow you to add marks, label them and add notes, but it is far quicker on a paper chart.

No Electricity Required
Paper charts don’t need electricity, the only exception being if you need a light to read at night.

When in doubt, trust the pros. According to the USCG, A safe boater will always have the appropriate nautical chart(s) on-board their vessel. The exact meaning of an aid to navigation may not be clear to the boater unless the appropriate chart is consulted when they have questions or concerns.