Cartography lessons learned searching for the best charts of Cuba

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

9 Responses

  1. Larry Shick says:

    Thanks for this post. Skulduggery and furtive movements in the chart vault!
    Is there a publicly available utility for generating/updating MM chart packages for Furuno MFDs? Specifically, my brand-new Furuno MFDs carry the latest chart chips, but their US East Coast data is more than a year and a half old. The old MaxSea V10, which I still use, has a utility for converting S57 files into whatever internal format MaxSea uses (.C00), and it works like a charm. It sure would be nice to be able to apply new charts to my MFDs as they come out.
    Obviously, MM uses such a utility to generate the files they deliver, but I haven’t found anything comparable available to the public.

  2. phiggins says:

    I have been sailing Cubian waters for many years and have found that often charts created from satellite images give a clear view of the passages through the reefs. Here is a link of chart created using GE2KAP from the Eris staelite ArcGis.Imagery for the area around Cayo Campos and you can clearly see the reef passages:

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thank you, phiggins! It looks like you are author of GE2KAP… …and it looks quite interesting.
    Larry, I don’t know the answer to your question but notice that the new TimeZero Professional V3 can read S57 charts directly…
    …and of course a version of TZ is what runs in Furuno NavNet MFDs. So maybe the S57 feature will eventually arrive in the MFDs?

  4. Richard Gard says:

    Great article and comments so far.
    Thank you, Ben, for all you contribute to boating, digital boating, and the Good Life.
    happy new year.

  5. Andrel says:

    What the awesome post.
    Honestly, I didn’t read it to the end and bookmark the article to finish later. The great knowledge base with good valued source links.
    I just wanted to make my two cents relating the topic about Cuban nautical charts. I am the ex-navigating officer and used to sail many times to Cuba for loading grapefruits and oranges to be carried to ex-USSR ports. It was back in mid 80-ies and first 90-ies. Not any electronic charts were available just satellite navigation NAVSTAR and first nonmilitary GPS receivers. The primary source of navigation was radar observation, DECA and LORAN-C somewhere.
    So the detailed paper nautical charts with due corrections were crucial for safe navigation. Yes, and, at least our company ships have such charts and weekly Notices for Mariners (not Admiralty but USSR Ministry of Defence edition ). As far as I know, that the Russian hydrographers did surveys and not all data were globally available.
    So my two cents is that actually there are high-quality hydrographic survey data for Cuban waters. Otherwise how we could cruising 21 knots on 500 feet length and 23 feet deep draught reefer ship on Cuban coastal waters.

  6. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Another interesting thing about Cuba, one can find many very old American books and magazines in Havana.
    Ben, do you remember a magazine published in 1948 called “The Rudder”? “America’s First Boating Magazine”
    Do you remember the section “Gadgets New and Old” by J.A. Emmett?

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Dan! The WoodenBoat library in Brooklin has an excellent collection of The Rudder and other historic boating magazines, so I’m somewhat familiar. Better yet, Google Books has some fully scanned older issues and I absolutely lucked into this 1910 issue almost entirely devoted to a powerboat race from Philadelphia to Habana:
    Fascinating on many levels!

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Happy to report that the Nobeltec TimeZero (and Furuno TZ) charts for Cuba have been vastly improved since I did this research. MapMedia, the sibling company that processes all TZ charts, now has an agreement “directly with the Cuban HO” to use their paper charts. And the new raster charts just became available on my iPad’s iBoat app.

    Note that I was given a long license for testing purposes, so regular TZ iBoat users may need to pay the $25 annual renewal fee, but also that iBoat Caribbean also includes Central America. And that MapMedia nicely publishes lists of all the included charts with sources, scales, and revision dates:

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Drat, this update email from Nobeltec suggests that in-app chart pricing is going up, largely thanks to Apple rules:

      “We will soon have to use a unique pricing for chart subscriptions due to App Store rules…
      FYI It is impossible to sell subscriptions with different prices on the App Store (Eg: Starting price at $50 and renewal at $25)
      This is why Navionics is also using a unique price now.
      We will most probably sell this area {Caribbean discussed above} for $49,99/year and this will include all the updates for 1 year.”

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