We use the older Explorer raster charts with Coastal Explorer. We also have the brand-spanking new paper Explorer charts and can compare them with the older raster charts. For navigation through Bimini/Gun, New Providence, Exumas
, Jumentos/Raggeds, Cat, Eluthera and the Abacos, we found no navigational differences between the two. I can't speak for other areas. The new paper charts had better colors and more up to date local information
. The Jumentos and Raggeds have not been updated since the older raster versions. I know this to be true because I met the Lewis's down there resurveying the area and they told me it was their first visit down there in 15 years.
I have seen the C-map
version of the Explorer charts and they are vectorized and much better looking. But they do not provide any more usable navigational detail than the older raster charts. Any navigational updates they might have regarding shifting banks, etc should only be used as a rough estimate anyway - are you really going to shoot Hog Island Cut with your eyes glued to your plotter? These are the areas you should be navigating by eyeball and brain.
The Lewis's made the decision to not provide general electronic charts to the public and instead to provide them through a specific vendor. That means your choices of navigational software are limited to those the vendors work with. I don't agree with this, but it is their choice.
The out of date argument is specious and only sounds good when not examined. Most charts you use outside of the US are out of date simply because the last surveys were done in a different century. If you go with an electronic charting vendor, you are only up to date when they provide updates to their charts and you buy them again. For some vendors like Nobeltec
, you are forbidden to use the continually updated and FREE US vector charts, and instead are forced to buy their outdated versions of the same charts for a whopping amount of money
So you will NEVER have current charts and continually obtaining the "most" current editions will set you back a lot more than your insurance
premiums. Your best bet in the US is to get an electronic charting package that allows you to use the freely available and updated US vector charts. Some of the packages, like Coastal Explorer, even download and install these automatically for you.
While in theory it is a good idea to have up-to-date charts, I just wanted to point out that in practice this isn't possible, and you still have a good option for suitable electronic navigation with Explorer charts without paying a lot of money
to completely change your navigation system.
EDIT: I do not mean to imply that one should rely on their insurance as protection against bad charts. I was only addressing Sandy's comparison.