Joe, we've had lots of exposure to Bellingham Chart Printers, a small business owned by Jon, a guy who struggles to get everything you need to wherever you are when you need it, no matter what.
The good news, as I see it from a cruising perspective, is that all the features Jon advertises re: their chart reprints are factual (not embellished) and relevant. As opposed to borrowing someone's ratty collection of charts and getting varied issue dates, which you tote down to a copy place and hope the machine is working well, Jon has first class equipment
, copies only current
issues, binds the chart sets (or will bind a collection of individual reprints you order, as well), and these then store easily and are relatively legible and readable. There's a lot of value in his service
for readers of this thread who don't know what we're discussing...) and many cruisers know about and use this business.
There are also some inevitable tradeoffs. Most countries own the duplication rights to their charts, which is why Jon is copying only NIMA charts. If you want to sail along the English Channel
, the charts in his W Channel chart kit of England
but intended for a ship, not someone in a sailboat. Don't look for detail on all the estuaries, or tidal race
symbols (especially helpful given the disruption that tide over shallow bottoms causes) and so forth. Also, the USA dos not have strategic interest in vast areas of the globe and so updates world charts for only select areas. For other areas, NIMA charts are based on regionally published charts from other countries, some of whom may lack sufficient financial resources to survey
their coasts regularly. So...NIMA may or may not fit your needs, depending on your geographical cruising plans. Second, to make this approach financially viable, John prints up ALL the charts you'll find in a NIMA catalog for a given area. (You should have & carry these NIMA catalogs for your planned areas if you don't already; very helpful in giving you an idea of what you're buying
- $5 each from Jon, as I recall). Choose these complete chart kits & it doesn't take long for this to add up, in dollars, weight and bulk. If you're working off a detailed guide (let's assume you have some of Steve Pavlidis' guides for the Bahamas
with their detailed sketch charts...or you're using an Imray guide for coastal Spain
& Protugal), you may not care about having each chart. Instead, you will prefer to have some mid-scale charts for coastal passagemaking and rely on the guide(s) to help you cope with selection of anchorages
, estuary movements, etc. This is accommodated by cherry-picking the charts you want and ordering them instead of a kit...but it does take some prep effort on your part. Finally, some folks find these charts hard to use (as in 'see') in their black/white format. My wife is one such person, so we use various colored highlighters we keep at the nav station and outline the coastal features of a chart we're using to help distinguish shallow depths, lights, etc. It doesn't take but a few moments of doing this to pluck out the important things...AND it helps familiarize you with the coastline as well, I've found.
Hope that helps. Order Jon's intro package; it's easily worth the info. I also recommend him as a guide/pub vendor, BTW.