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Old 16-09-2005, 14:24   #1
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Bellingham Chart Printers

Has anyone used the copies of NIMA charts that are produced by Bellingham Chart Printers? I have been quite happy with the chart kits produced by Maptech but those are pretty much limited to the US coast and other popular cruising gounds. Bellingham Charts are supposedly up to date and printed in either full size (24x36") or 2/3 size. The prices, particulary for the area kits, are very attractive when compared to the full color NIMA charts. I will be using these as backup for my GPS chartplotter. They advertise that for $10 they will send a sample copy. Trying to save the bucks and hoping some of you folks have experience or good hearsay knowledge of these black and white copies. Thanks to all.
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Old 20-09-2005, 09:38   #2
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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 (www.tidesend.com 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 and France are current 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 & Caribbean 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.

Jack
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Old 20-09-2005, 15:58   #3
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Jack, Thanks much for your thoughtful and detailed reply. You mentioned some considerations to which I had not given thought. Your remarks served to increase my perspective, especially the remarks regarding other countries proprietary rights and those regarding NIMA's apparently varying interest in different parts of the world. Hoping that the charts will serve me on my planned trip after hurricane season to the western Carribean, particularly the area between Cancun, Mex. and Nicaraugua. Think I will buy Jon's charts for that area. I hope that those along with my chartplotter with C-Map, the Rauscher cruising guide, Reed's almanac and Pilot Charts will give the tools a short handed sailor needs. And to think Columbus (and others before and after him) struck out as they did to explore makes me feel kinda wimpy. Course my motives are different. Not looking to make a great fortune by opening new trade routes. Just want to have some fun. YeeHaaa! Think that is cowboy/redneck lingo. Translated into Pirate talk_ Aarrrgh!
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Old 20-09-2005, 18:29   #4
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Hello, we purchased 2/3 copies for our trip in the Pacific. The charts we purchased covered the west cost of NA, Mexico, the South Pacific, Hawaii, and the North Pacific Ocean. I'm very happy with the quality and the price. I did look at a sample of the 1/2 charts they also offer but they were just too small, even for a backup.

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Old 21-09-2005, 06:41   #5
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Mark, Thanks for your response. Your comments, along with those of Jack's, have further helped me cement my decision to buy the Bellingham Charts.
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Old 21-09-2005, 08:08   #6
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Joe, a couple of add'l thoughts for you...

For the route you have now identified - W Caribbean as far S as Nic - I'm afraid the NIMA charts serve better as routing/passagemaking charts than close-in coastal cruising references. Were I you, I'd probably cherry pick the charts vs. buy the kits...but as I said before, use the NIMA catalog and see what you think. This is where you need to form your own opinion of the scales you find most helpful to work with, which will insure more detail (if going with larger scale charts) vs. less bulk/expense (with smaller scale charts).

Don't forget that the Pilot Charts are available on-line now from NIMA. Download and unzip...altho' I don't think they will help you much. The REEDs pubs we get in N America/Caribbean are a poor, inadequate cousin of the parent that is published for Atlantic Europe but I did found it useful for the Pilot info it contained while in the Caribbean. You might also consider downloading the Sailing Directions for that area; they too are free.

Rauscher's guide is terribly outdated now and she omitted almost all GPS waypoint references, which doesn't help given the nature of her fold-out sketch charts. Steve Pavlidis is doing new guides for the Central and W Caribbean right now, and his carefully measured chartlets are excellent, but these guides won't be published for another year or two, I would think.

I would encourage you to add two things to your navigational kit: First, visit www.ssca.org if you haven't already, go Store, Pubs, and purchase their latest CD of the past 8 years of SSCA Bulletins. Wait until November to do this, as they should be reissuing the CD at the time of their Gam (which if you could attend, would be invaluable to you; look for info on the website). This CD is easily 'searched' with Adobe Acrobat and there is a TON of useful info on the cruising area you plan to visit; there is no better single source of info that would meet your needs than you will get off that CD...and for only $25 or thereabouts.

Second, I'd recommend you try to scrounge up an old copy of Wallce Stone's Caribbean Cruising Guide, last published in the mid-70's. If you can find one, it should be available for peanuts. Folks often overlook the fact that much of the Caribbean - the part without cruise ship ports and charter fleets - has changed little in the last three decades, and Stone's book can be very useful. (In a blow, it saved our bacon on the S coast of Hispianola, offering us a protected river anchorage we would otherwise have been clueless of). Moreover, his discussion of weather systems, seasonal changes, routing recommendations and such is far more useful - and just as accurate - as anything you would get from the Pilot Charts.

Good luck on the prep; remember: this is when the cruise has begun so savor the momemt...<g>

Jack
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Old 22-09-2005, 05:13   #7
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Jack, Many thanks again for your comments and recommendations. I will take them to heart and follow up and try to obtain those other cruising resources. I just recently joined the SSCA and have gone online to their members only section and reviewed some of the past copies of the bulletin and have downloaded and printed out some of the more pertinent articles. I will try to do a more thorough job of it. Also, I was hoping to attend the SSCA meeting this year. My general plan was to cross the Gulf from Pensacola to Tampa Bay towards the end of October to attend the St. Pete Sailboat show during that 1st week of November. After that, I would sail across the Bay and put my boat in a marina at Palmetto or Bradenton for a few days, rent a car and drive to Melbourne and go to the SSCA meet. While there I was hoping to meet some folks who can give me some tips about the areas I want to visit. I would then do some final provisioning in Palmetto or Bradenton and then sail down to the Keys with stops in the Charlotte Harbor area before going to the keys and waiting for a weather window to head east toward the Yucatan Channel. Depending on conditions at the time, I will wait in Marathon, Key West or at Garden Island in the Dry Tortugas before heading to Isla Muheres. I particularly want to find out how Garden Island has fared through all the hurricanes this summer and if the once good anchorages have changed. I can find that out easily in Key West. Yes, much of the enjoyment I get is in the planning and the anticipation.
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Old 26-09-2005, 09:11   #8
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Joe, you've got a great trip ahead of you and your prep work and routing plan is right on target. You might consider working thru the U.S. Nat'l Park Svc to inquire about the condition of the channel into the Dry Tortugas; someone in that org will know given their presence there.

Your plans re: Sail Expo & the Gam are similar to what many cruising folks do at that time of year. You'll find the Gam a virtual shopping center for info on the route you plan; just make sure you reach out, introduce yourself, network your needs, and attend the seminars that offer the most help to you. Stay away from the vendor exhibits, however; the folks in there are far too nice and offer far too many tempting goodies for we cruisers and our limited kitties. <g>

There's lots more to discuss about this, tho' you have the basics down pat and are working the problem correctly. Don't forget that CD of Bulletins; really helpful and f-a-r less labor intensive than downloading individual bulletins. You can pick it up at the Gam.

I'll be there, too. Hope to be doing a couple of Intro to Cruising Europe seminars on Fri and Sat, and hope to bump into you there. Meanwhile, if you want to chat further, feel free to email me direct.

Jack
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Old 27-09-2005, 06:40   #9
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Jack, I placed my order with Bellingham Chart Printers last week and should be receiving them in a few days. I appreciate your remarks about my planned cruise to Mexico and Central America for the winter. I travel with a laptop computer so it makes sense to get a copy of that CD. Saves on paper too. I will look you up at the SSCA gam if we make it there as planned. Maybe I can pick your brain a bit over a cold beer. Thanks again.-Joe
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