Is it true news that “NOAA wants to stop making NOAA charts”?

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.

23 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t think the time is right yet, but when and if I call my congressional representatives about NOAA, it will probably be to protest draconian budget cuts:

  2. Denham Ward says:

    After the email from Landfall, I sent a note to Senator King. Soon I received a phone call and subsequent email from Peter Benoit in his office and Peter had researched the topic, referred me to your post (which I had not yet seen) and copied me the link to the report. Very impressive response from Senator King’s office and bodes well for his watching out for boating interests, particularly in the face of the proposed “draconian budget cuts.”
    Thanks for taking the time to post your excellent analysis.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Denham, thank you so very much for taking the time to tell me about your experience. It’s gratifying. I’d like to think that anyone might have gotten those results from their senator or congressman, but it’s especially nice to hear it was from my own Senator Angus King. I have heard that he runs a crack office and I’d also like to think that he’s on the road to becoming a stellar U.S. Senator.
    Calling our representatives is a great privilege, some fascinating history here:

  4. Pat McQueen says:

    I can’t wait for my electronic charts to be updated weekly with the latest from NOAA. It seems silly that I can get realtime traffic for my car but my Garmin chart plotter has to wait months (or more!). To learn about a new bouy location. I applaud the Office of Coast a survey for putting together a cogent plan which will move us into the future. This is real progress. I love paper charts and use many to decorate my home. I even have them on the boat however the more efficient tool is reciently uodated electronic charts. Landfall, Maptech and others need to help ensure that electronic products improve our safely and experience and not just claim the sky is falling.
    I’ll bet that my plotter is internet connected and getting regular chart updates a la active captain database updates in less than five years. It does not have to be always connected but just enough so it updates perhaps when I get fuel …

  5. Re: Metricification … I got used to the metric system when I was one of Uncle Sam’s troops, and I don’t have a problem with metric depths and distances — BUT — I do have a problem with how conversion might get done – when a sounding shows “35 feet”, replacing that with “10.66 meters” is just plain wrong, because the original measurement is NOT within 100ths of a meter in accuracy. Same for channel widths and lots of other depicted values. The problem is that figuring out the ‘best’ conversion and rounding algorithm is a non-trivial task, and perhaps not a good one for the MFD’s electronics to handle.
    We just cruised the Bahamas with both our RayMarine plotter (nm and feet) and a book of Explorer Charts (meters), and the only issue was the mental shift required when changing references (getting older is a factor in mental agility!).

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    NOAA has responded well to the raster worries, I think:
    “We recognize the continued popularity and dependence of many of our users on our paper and raster charts, and NOAA will continue to update these charts with all critical information. Despite some reports to the contrary, the draft plan does not offer a timeline for ending the production of NOAA paper charts or RNCs. We expect this process may take decades to complete, as user communities continue to adopt electronic navigation and our production system and products continue to improve.”
    They also extended the comment period a month and finished with an interesting story about a new Merrimac River ENC that’s notably contrary to Maptech’s claim that ENCs are all about expensive ECDIS systems and charting waters where ships go.
    I’ve already seen the new free chart live in the free iOS and Android app SeaPilot. It’s not as nice looking as a raster chart, but my feelings about ENC change radically when it’s used to create new large scale coverage for an area that never had it and where a new raster chart is understandably impractical.

  7. Norton Rider says:

    You stated, “No, I haven’t gotten used to metric units either, but I am aware that aircraft pilots, engineers and many other professionals who work with international standards have somehow gotten comfortable with what looks like a pretty easy measuring system.”
    This is not totally correct. Here’s a good article on the units used in aviation: Moreover, US made aircraft are designed and built using imperial units. This includes all fasteners.

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    “Not totally correct” is kind, Norton Rider! Thanks, that’s an interesting and fun article. At least all pilots use the wonderful nautical mile — it’s earth centric, not cultural — for measuring courses and tracks over the ground. But it’s not reassuring to learn they have to mix meters, statute miles and feet when dealing with runway lengths and visibility.
    Did you delve into the anti-metrification link…
    …though obviously no expert myself, I too would “love to hang out with Tom Wolfe and talk furlongs.”

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m reminded of hearing the impressive Navigator of the U.S. Navy advocating for all electronic navigation 15 years ago in a fairly spectacular setting. The pictures are lost but my description of the scene is still online:
    The all digital, and probably all vector chart, future seems obvious to me too, but I don’t see anyone rushing it, especially not NOAA. The naysayers should relax.

  10. Rolando says:

    Ben, At least in Europe everyone uses nautical miles, not kilometers, in measuring distances in the sea. The same for speed is knots, not KPH or MPH like in the US. Got used to the metric system for everything else (land use) coming from the US. Perhaps my biggest problem is relating to temperature for preconceived idea of what is really cold weather – below 0ºF. I grew up in Puerto Rico and there they really confuse everything. In land, distance in KM while speed limits are in MPH, gasoline and milk are sold in liters but soft drinks in ounces. I give up.

  11. Ben – your comment about chart compatibility caught my eye –
    “On my test boat Gizmo: the Furuno, Simrad, and Raymarine plotters, plus charting programs like Coastal Explorer, Time Zero and Fugawi, plus apps like iNavX, TZ, and Memory-Map, can all display raster charts either downloaded directly from NOAA or reprocessed from NOAA raster files.”
    As of today, I have not figured out how to upload free NOAA BSB raster charts to my Simrad NSS EVO2 – and the manual and dealer don’t know either. My previous Furuno Navnet 3D system worked easily just by uploading the chart file off an SD card. So, I’m stuck with either the unimpressive included Insight charts, or purchasing Navionics or CMap charts – am I missing some technique here, or did I misunderstand your statement?

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Yipes, Grant, that’s a low information dealer. Fugawi has offered NOAA raster charts that work on NSS Evo2 since about 2014, mentioned here:
    As of 2015 they became available for download on the GoFree Shop (which is run by Fugawi):
    I have to say that I’m having a hard time finding the “Fugawi Aboard” NOAA raster charts at the GoFree Shop right now — they seem to want you buy C-Map or Insight 😉 — but the cost for a region or the whole East Coast should be about $10, like this:
    Note that no MFD I know of can display straight NOAA raster files; they are all reprocessed, including Furuno’s (by MapMedia). That may change now that NOAA is serving tiled rasters that are MFD and app friendlier.

  13. O Guidry says:

    I believe the USCG uses yards for distance measurement.

  14. Ben, your wealth of knowledge on all issues chart-related is surpassed only by the detail of your responding posts – many thanks for steering me in the right direction here! And I’ll be sure to share this with the local dealer… 😉

  15. Norton Rider says:

    I too grew up in Puerto Rico and got used to using the various units. Some of the Metric ones come from having been under Spanish rule prior to 1898 (road distance markers in KM, for example), as well as Puerto Rico being an early adopter of the US Metrication initiative (fuel dispensed in liters).
    In addition, there are a few older, archaic units of measurement still in common use in the island. For example, many in PR use a cuerda as a measurement of land area. One cuerda is approximately 3,930 square meters or 0.97 acres.

  16. Coquina says:

    ” No, I haven’t gotten used to metric units either, but I am aware that aircraft pilots, engineers and many other professionals who work with international standards have somehow gotten comfortable with what looks like a pretty easy measuring system”
    Say what??? I am a commercial pilot and I buy fuel by the gallon, altitude is in feet, weights are in pounds, manifold pressure is in inches, oil temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit, and I can’t recall any metric units for anything.
    Also note that OpenCPN works wonderfully with raster charts and generates an unusable mess with ENCs.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Coquina. I was definitely wrong about the pilot part, but I already received my comeuppance in comments above.

  18. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I was semi wrong about Simrad multifunction displays using NOAA raster charts. They can, but neither source is currently available. The $10 Fugawi Aboard download that used to be available at Navico’s Insight Store…
    …is not available at the GoFree Shop that’s now run by C-Map (instead of Fugawi):
    I also have a C-Map 4D Max+ card for Simrad NSS that nicely includes a set of NOAA raster charts in addition to C-Map vectors, but surprisingly that format is not currently available at the GoFree Shop either. I suspect that a new 4D Max+ format for Navico MFDs is in the works, and that will be good, but I hope they will also consider offering an inexpensive NOAA raster only chart set again.

  19. Thanks for confirming that Ben – I spoke with Fugawi, who directed me to GoFree “Support” – which unfortunately for all intents and purposes doesn’t exist. The Navico support line directs you to “press 1 for Lowrance and GoFree products…” – but after multiple calls and disconnects, all I got was folks who presumably know a lot about fishfinders and zero about charting. I finally talked to Craig on the Simrad side, and he apologized that the whole Gofree charting division was “in transition”, and there was no one to talk to about charting options (or the lack thereof). Instead, he directed me to NV Charts – which provides raster charts for Europe and the East coast – but zero for anything on the West coast.
    So I guess if I want to view raster charts aboard my boat, I need to rip out the Simrad gear and go back to Furuno/Maxsea. Or, paper…. ;-( Very discouraging…

  20. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Dang, I got confused again, but the news is good, Grant. The format of the Simrad C-Map card I have with a raster chart layer is called C-MAP MAX-N+, not 4D Max+. Here are the product details here:
    The West Coast Wide MAX-N+ card retails for $299 but contains a whole lot more than a full set of NOAA raster charts, which they call “dynamic” because the vector info on nav aids and similar is nicely accessible by touch or click on the raster presentation.
    You can theoretically download the cartography bundle (8.1 gigs!) to your Simrad NSS evo2 here:
    But it’s also available at outlets like Defender:

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    StarPath Navigation put up a great page of links to NOAA chart assets that aren’t always easy to find:
    I’m also impressed with David Burch’s new book about vector charts, called an “Introduction to Electronic Chart Navigation” (which I am slowly reviewing). No one is going to take your raster charts away anytime soon, but ENC vector charts are the future, and this book can help you use them better.
    (Also available in Kindle and iBook formats at lower cost)

  22. Ben, thanks for both those posts – I too spoke with C-Map on the phone, and learned about the raster charting included in the Max-N+ charts – not cheap at $300, but it sounds like the most complete and easiest solution for my NSS Evo2. Still a little frustrating that all those freely downloadable NOAA products end up essentially unusable on current technology chart plotters – at least mine.
    I’ll check out the Starpath links ASAP – thanks again,

  23. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Today NOAA announced the next step: They will stop updating all raster chart products, paper and electronic, at least by 2025, maybe sooner in some cases depending on feedback from chart users and vendors. But it doesn’t mean the end of paper charts and many NOAA vector chart improvements are in the works.

    I’ll post a full entry about this later today. In the meantime, lots of info here:

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