Chart wars? Post acquisitions, what’s the status of charts?

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

20 Responses

  1. Joe Casey says:

    You do not mention using NOAA source charts — ENCs — rather than commercially repackaged/re-engineered chart products. I have used pc-based OpenCPN and ENCs downloaded from NOAA for the better part of 10 years and enjoy the flexibility that MFDs do not provide.

  2. Ray Davies says:

    Sometimes now the choice of marine chart is determining the choice of MFD. Apparently Garmin and MapMedia couldn’t reach an agreement on data security which is why Furuno devices that accept cards get Navionics but TZT don’t.

    • Donald Joyce says:

      If I recall correctly the TZ charts from Mapmedia are all securely encrypted. A physical device, such as an SD card doesn’t enable data security by itself. The Furuno TZ plotters all utilize a physical device such as an SD card to load cartographic data from. I think its a simple shameless commerce decision to enhance the standing of Garmin MFDs vs Furuno TZ MFDs. I don’t like it as an owner of TimeZero and Furuno TZ MFDs. None the less its normal commercial behavior.

  3. Brian says:

    Unrelated to the actual post, but I noticed that pic of a C-Map Reveal X chart is putting the marks on elevated “hatch marks” with the result that the mark symbols don’t appear to be where they actually are. Confusing and poor interface design imho. Hope there is an option to disable that feature and put there marks where they actually belong.

  4. This is why programs like OpenCPN are so great. Not being tied to one source of charts from a single company’s charts makes sense on many levels; most importantly, it is the safest way to navigate. Every charting source has errors. Comparing multiple sources (as one can do in OpenCPN) is an important practice. There are now many free sources of MBTiles charts for download (like You can also download all NOAA charts directly from within the program (for free, of course).

  5. I have a Garmin Plotter on one vessel I will soon be letting go of (the vessel), and have been contemplating what to use on my catamaran. Presently, I use my iPad and see no reason to change that as this device seems to be in a category of it’s own. It’s light on power, and updates regardless of the system I want to chart with based on the manufactures app updates/improvements. I’d sure like to see a thorough exploration of tablet navigation at this stage, in an article with your expert insights. Why buy a plotter that will be out of date in a couple years, when you can use a tablet (often much cheaper) that will be able to keep up with the back end changes the plotters can’t?

    • iPADs certainly work well if you have a nearby power source AND don’t use them in direct sunlight. I am in the middle of an MFD replacement and will end up with an Axiom 12+ at the helm and eliminate my Nav station MFD. Down there I can use my iPAD.

      • Robert says:

        Yes, the functionality of an iPhone/iPad beats a chart plotter all day long, but try using an iPhone at an exposed helm in weather and you’ll wish you had a old school MFD.

        • You are absolutely right, Robert. The move to everything having a touch screen is a huge problem. Wet hands, cold temps, moving boat, dark night, flying spray… give me a keyboard and a mouse, or buttons on a panel. They are the only thing that work.

  6. Atsushi Inoue says:

    I had been using Navionics charts on my iNavX.
    But recently, Navionics stopped providing their cherts to iNavX. I don’t Know why.

  7. Can’t stress enough how important it is to have multiple sources of charts. Here in the Tuamotus, multiple satellite image sources (ArcGIS, Google, Bing) make navigation much easier and safer in the atolls when combined with marine charts. If you buy an iPad or chart plotter you will not have options. If you have an android tablet, raspberry pi, PC, or Mac, you can install OpenCPN and can install charts from multiple sources.

  8. Atsushi Inoue says:

    Our problem is Japanese chart is protected under copyright.
    In the past, I heard none of the distributions, such as C-Map, Navionics and so on.., had licensed the charts.
    I don’t know about current versions.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Atsushi. Most countries copyright their chart data — the U.S. a big exception — but they usually license it to commercial chart makers. In fact, both Navionics and C-Map seem to have full electronic chart sets of Japan for chartplotters at reasonable prices: (just select “Japan” in first search box)

      Also, charts for Japan for the Navionics Boating app cost $30, and I think that C-Maps for app use are similarly priced.

    • Ohayo gozaimasu, Astsushi-san,
      When we were sailing in Japan in 2016 and 2017, we used a combination of Navionics on an android tablet (the charts are much cheaper than those purchased for plotter/PC platforms), and OpenCPN using CM93 charts (the older ‘free’ version). We supplemented CM93 with some KAP charts made from satellite images (I’m happy to share what I have). I was recently considering making a set of OpenCPN marine/satellite charts for Japan but have been advised that almost everyone is using NewPec these days. Still, I may make a marine chart version for OpenCPN before we return… but that won’t be for several years. Mata ato de.

  9. Robert Rice says:

    Lets talk about a different problem. Just how out of date are those charts you get for your MFD. Astonishingly, they may be a year old. That warning that pops up about not using your chartplotter for actual navigation seems to be a real thing.

    This is actually an important question.

    Just how important was highlighted in an article in the Nov/Dec issue of the BoatUS magazine.

    Those charts for your expensive marine chartplotter – may be either reasonably close to current (only a month or two or three behind the NOAA updates) or dangerously stale (perhaps close to a year out of date.)

    The advantage of Rosepoint Coastal Explorer which I have and like or OpenCPN which I have also played with – you can use the actual NOAA ENC charts. which get updated regularly and are free.

    The article mentions some examples, based on the author or friend checking to see how long it took for NOAA chart updates to show up in the chartplotter maps.

    Raymarine – charts are only updated infrequently, perhaps only once a year. Garmin – within a couple months after NOAA publishes updated ENC chart data. Aquamaps – within about a month. While the examples listed in the article are one-off anecdotal, the Raymarine marketing manager is quoted “LightHouse Charts are updated on an annual basis, or more frequently,” said Raymarine marketing manager Jim McGowan.

    C-Map would not answer questions. That does not inspire confidence.

    I am rethinking my reliance on my Raymarine chartlotters for navigation info. I am now thinking the better choice is Rosepoint Coastal Explorer or OpenCPN for charts that are current and include all recent USCG and NOAA updates, plus Aquamaps for the intelligently presented Army Corps of Engineers data, and Navionics app for the crowdsourced sonar chart data.

    Note – I am assuming that Rosepoint NOAA charts are actually very current. I’ve asked that question, and am waiting on an answer.

    • Robert Rice says:

      Heard back from Rosepoint – updated NOAA ENC charts show up in the Rosepoint chart store/auto update process within a couple of hours after publication by NOAA.

  10. Robert Rice says:

    Heard back from Rosepoint – updated NOAA ENC charts show up in the Rosepoint chart store/auto update process within a couple of hours after publication by NOAA.

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