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Old 23-06-2019, 16:04   #1
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Paper Charts or Just Electronic

Just curious how many people still reference paper charts before sailing somewhere. It seems that the electronic charts are so reliable and paper charts would only be needed in rare circumstances. Just curious as I have just begun getting into sailing.
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Old 23-06-2019, 16:09   #2
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

We occasionally use small scale charts to get a good feeling for passage planning over large areas. It is often easier to visualize a group of long passages on a large paper chart on a table. All navigation is done on electronic charts.
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Old 23-06-2019, 20:30   #3
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

Regardless of how reliable "electronic" charts are and how redundant someone's electronics set up is on their boat I still think it is important to have paper charts and a compass available - preferably both a steering compass (mounted to the boat) and a base plate compass (to read the chart with). The catch is knowing how to use them.

If you are new to boating and navigating in general I suggest you take some time to learn the basics. You want to dial in your compass also. Most mounted marine compasses have ways to adjust for deviation (this doesn't mean magnetic "declination" in and of itself, though it does include it - deviation takes in to account magnetic interference on your boat - screws in the console with iron in them [stainless coated - if they are an iron/steel core], electronics, wiring, etc can all throw off a compass's reading). Shoot some headings of known values and hold those courses to see what your compass reads. Adjust if necessary, then re-check. It may take you a couple hours. Don't just take a compass out of the box, install it, and call it good - take some time to dial it in and get to know it.



Also don't get complacent and never brush up your navigation skills. Electronics do make things a lot easier, but if you don't use your basic skills every once in a while to know you can still trust them if you have to use them and are a bit rusty it could be a pretty big set-back.
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Old 23-06-2019, 21:04   #4
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

There are 15 pages of recent discussion on this topic here.
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Old 23-06-2019, 21:48   #5
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

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Originally Posted by Brian2109 View Post
Just curious how many people still reference paper charts before sailing somewhere. It seems that the electronic charts are so reliable and paper charts would only be needed in rare circumstances. Just curious as I have just begun getting into sailing.
How did you come to the belief that electronic charts are "so reliable"?

Electronic charts suffer from several limitations:
1. Reliability of power supply
2. Susceptibility to lightning strikes.
3. Important features may disappear depending on the level of zoom.
4. Reliability of underlying chart data.
5. Susceptibility to water damage.
6. Cost of charting systems
7. Don't show large areas for long or even longish passages very well. No good for passage planning.

As an example of 3. Almost 5 years ago a fully crewed and well financed round the world racer piled onto a reef and totaled the boat because the reef did not show at the level of zoom they were using. https://www.yachtingmonthly.com/sail...ary-tale-31042

As an example of 4. a US Navy minesweeper piled onto a reef because the chart they were using did not show the reef in the correct location. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Guardian_(MCM-5)

One of the major e-chart providers has a serious reliability problem with parts of all of the Caribbean. Can't remember which.

Paper charts suffer from several limitations:
A. Cost for the amount of coverage.
B. Susceptibility to water damage
C. Reliability of underlying chart data.

Regarding A., it generally costs a lot more to get the same amount of chart coverage using paper.

Regarding B. Damp or wet is not good for paper charts, they deteriorate, mold and can fall apart. Generally the worst will be some features are obliterated, and maybe slightly distorted. Printing on plastic paper can help this some, but just makes the cost problems that much worse. On the whole I would rather have a water damaged paper chart than a water damaged chartplotter which likely as not wouldn't even start.

Regarding C. Just because they are charts complied by a government doesn't mean there aren't errors, or that features haven't changed over time. I almost ran a boat up on a reef in the Canadian Gulf Islands because of an improperly charted reef across a bay entrance. That said it was a plastic chart so I don't know if a Gov't issued chart was the basis for the chart I had that was wrong. I had a different chart that covered the same area but at a worse scale that showed the reed in the correct location.


On the whole the risks of each type of chart are different which argues for carrying both.

I would carry a tablet or small laptop with a free charting app like OpenCPN.
Charts for many areas are free, but others you are going to pay significantly for.
Plus a waterproof hand-held plus a small solar battery charger for that style battery, and keep the backup handheld, batteries and solar charger inside a Ziploc inside a metal ammo box. The Ziploc and ammo box don't guarantee protection from a lightning strike but improve the odds.
Finally I would carry large area charts for my intended passages with Island and harbor charts for pre-selected bailout locations.

Regarding reliability of underlying data, check multiple charts to see if they show conflicting info for the same location. If you go to that location, put extra effort into your lookout and attention to the depthsounder, and do so in good conditions.
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Old 23-06-2019, 22:36   #6
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

I keep my paper charts handy and all the old school stuff that goes with them... parallel rules, dividers... pencils... I'd feel naked without them... in fact I pulled some out yesterday in local trip planning though I know where I am going very well... maybe it's just old habits die hard. But who am I to advise? I still have a lead line for sounding too to back up my depth sounder.
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Old 23-06-2019, 23:03   #7
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

Electronic charts are great until you lose power! Then you are you are up a creek without a paddle literally and figuratively!
After about 50 years at sea, now retired, I have never gone out of a Harbor with out paper charts, a working swung compass and the local book on bouys and hazards!
Anyone who does is tempting fate!
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Old 23-06-2019, 23:27   #8
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

I think most sailors would consider it very poor seamanship to sail without paper charts, even if they’re imperfect or old or small scale you can get somewhere safe with them.
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Old 23-06-2019, 23:27   #9
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

If you are concerned about loosing your electronic charts there alternatives to having the same paper charts onboard. Since we left the US we have probably spent about usd$2,000 on up todate electronic charts. The same coverage in up todate paper charts would probably be 5 to 10 times as much. Just not practical.

A much more cost and space effective altenative is to have a few offshore charts along with a cruising guide for the area. The cruising guide generally has more accurate anchorage and harbor charts than the official charts.
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Old 24-06-2019, 09:14   #10
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

Having recently moved our boat to Genoa from Gibraltar I have bought, massively over priced, a paper chart of the Ligurian sea area. Why? I have not even removed it from the plastic envelope. If I want to go on somewhere I have the pilot books. I have a ridiculous amount of electronic redundancy. Much of it with internal batteries. If all the nautical stuff clunks Google maps on the numerous smart phones on board will tell you where the coast is and where you are in relation to it. Close in I have enough analogue data in the books to triangulate a fix. La Laterna is a lot clearer in those than on any chart. Yet I still feel safer with that paper chart that will probably be well out of date before I ever look at it.
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Old 24-06-2019, 09:35   #11
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

As was mentioned before small scale paper charts are where we start when planning a long trip. Big picture, right? Then a larger scale paper chart for choosing harbors. At this point I'll fire up the chart plotter to get even more detailed info on harbor entrances and anchorage details. Then I'll pull out the cruising books to get more minute info as to anchoring.

When we resume our trip we exit with plotter information then as we get underway we start using the smaller scale paper again.

So, my answer would be - the more detail I want the more I go to electronics, if I want the "big picture" it'll be paper every time.
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Old 24-06-2019, 10:13   #12
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

Last winter I did a delivery on a boat with only electronic charts. I won't do that again! Electronic charts do not sure the big picture adequately in my opinion. Electronics are very useful, but not to replace paper charts. Zoomed in the electronic charts are great for very immediate info, but zoomed out too much detail is lost.
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Old 24-06-2019, 10:21   #13
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

always official paper too!! never ever trust gps and especially navionics
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Old 24-06-2019, 10:50   #14
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

I would not leave with out paper charts.
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Old 24-06-2019, 11:33   #15
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Re: Paper Charts or Just Electronic

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Originally Posted by Brian2109 View Post
Just curious how many people still reference paper charts before sailing somewhere. It seems that the electronic charts are so reliable and paper charts would only be needed in rare circumstances. Just curious as I have just begun getting into sailing.
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