For more than ten years, since NOAA introduced its electronic navigational charts, you have needed to purchase a specialized chart display system to view the NOAA ENC® as a seamless chart database. Starting today, you don’t need a system to view the ENC depictions; you can use Coast Survey’s new web-based viewer called NOAA ENC® Online. (IMMEDIATE CAVEAT: You still need a specialized display system to use the multi-layered functional data that make ENCs so valuable. NOAA ENC downloads are still free to the public.)
Since NOAA ENC Online is web-based, there is nothing to download. Users can click on the web map and zoom to selected features or locations, to see the information contained in over a thousand ENCs of NOAA-charted waters. Each zoom moves you through an ENC depiction that takes into account the ENC scale band and other attributes that are encoded in the ENC, such as scale minimum and feature masking. This allows the user to seamlessly zoom from the high level of detail of the large scale Band 5 ENCs, to small-scale overviews available on Band 1. Viewers can measure areas and distance, and use other functions.
Screengrab from NOAA ENC Online
In addition to providing public access to chart data, ENC Online will also help NOAA cartographers improve our current suite of ENCs. For instance, this web service allows cartographers to more easily pinpoint areas that may need additional hydrographic surveys for chart updates and corrections.
ENCs are increasingly popular with commercial mariners, who value the charts’ flexibility and multi-layered information. Starting today, we hope other chart users will plumb the depths of ENC Online and discover its many uses as a practical resource.
NOAA ENC Online is not certified for navigation. It does NOT fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
The NOAA ENC Online viewer is powered by Esri Maritime Chart Server technology. The technology provides features that can be leveraged in various GIS and OGC WMS compliant applications.
Public is invited to try beta version of MyNOAACharts
As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, NOAA is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, was just released.
MyNOAAChart, which can be used on land and on the water, lets users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has geo-tagged some of the major references and provides links to appropriate federal regulations.
MyNOAACharts, a mobile app beta test for Android tablets, can easily integrate the user’s location, the nautical chart, and all the navigational information from the U.S. Coast Pilot.
Easy and workable access to nautical charts is important for boating safety, says Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA Office of Coast Survey. He recalls a funny, but poignant, reference to charts.
“A popular t-shirt has a ‘definition’ of a nautical chart splayed across the front: ‘chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit,’” Glang explains. “As creative as that is, a boating accident can kill. Keeping a nautical chart on hand – before you hit something – can save lives.”
The beta test for MyNOAACharts will end on Labor Day, September 2, 2013. Coast Survey will then evaluate usage and user feedback, which will be pivotal in any decision to move forward.
“Expanding the app across a multitude of platforms, ensuring easy accessibility to over a thousand charts and nearly 5,000 pages of U.S. Coast Pilot, will take considerable resources,” Glang notes. “We truly want users to let us know if the app meets their needs.”
Boaters who don’t have an Android tablet shouldn’t despair. The Office of Coast Survey provides free BookletCharts, which are 8 ½” x 11” PDF versions of NOAA nautical charts that can be downloaded and printed at home. The U.S. Coast Pilot is also available in a free PDF version.
Important notice for commercial mariners: The mobile app MyNOAACharts and the BookletCharts do not fulfill chart carriage requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Getting free information
One of NOAA’s handiest navigation products, especially for recreational boaters, has been Coast Survey’s experimental BookletCharts™ — nautical charts that are easy to download and print from home computers. We have now moved the BookletCharts from experimental stage into official production.
Nearly a thousand newly updated BookletCharts are available free on the Web. The BookletCharts, which cover the 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline and the Great Lakes, are smaller scale than our traditional paper charts, but they contain most of the information found on a full-scale nautical chart. They are in an 8 1/2 x 11 inch PDF format for home printing.
“It is especially appropriate that we unveil these easy-to-use nautical charts as recreational boaters begin to think about their boating adventures for 2013,” explained Capt. Jon Swallow, chief of NOAA Coast Survey’s Navigation Services Branch. “NOAA’s nautical charts help to protect lives and property, and boaters should take advantage of these free nautical products.”
“Many boaters don’t use nautical charts, trusting local knowledge or their memories. But that can be dangerous, as seafloors constantly shift, shorelines erode, and dangers to navigation are discovered,” Swallow said. “BookletCharts will tell a boater about these developments, and will help ensure a safe voyage, whether it is around the bay or down the coast.”
Getting boaters to recognize the importance of carrying charts is an uphill climb. A tourist shop in Charleston recently offered (an admittedly funny) t-shirt for sale. It had a “definition” of a nautical chart splayed across the front: “chärt, noun: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.”
Of course, smart recreational boaters know that a chart is more than that. It is the first line of defense for the lives of boaters. Hundreds of boating accidents happen because boaters are inattentive or unaware of the environment around them – underwater obstructions or shoals, for instance, that are depicted on a nautical chart.
As your boating experience bears out, the bottoms of our waterways and oceans change from the effects of storms, accumulation of sediment, and debris. Our shorelines are in a state of change, from natural powers or because of human development. And that brings up another important safety issue: Coast Survey, as the nation’s nautical chartmaker, is responsible for updating the nation’s nautical charts, to reflect those changes.
Regular readers of this blog see the fantastic work done by NOAA’s four survey ships (Fairweather, Rainier, Thomas Jefferson, and Ferdinand R. Hassler), our survey research vessel Bay Hydro II, our six navigation response teams, and independent survey contractors. They face a huge challenge: the U.S. has nearly 3.5 million square nautical miles of coastal waters, and surveying those waters, relying solely on current NOAA resources, would take 545 ship years and $5 billion just to acquire the data.
Giving free information
Fortunately, thousands of citizen volunteers in this nation’s nautical community are committed to helping us ensure safe navigation. Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, Coast Survey’s director, recently met with many of them at the U.S. Power Squadrons annual meeting in Jacksonville. The meeting was a tremendous occasion, as NOAA and the USPS renewed a 50-year commitment to a cooperative charting program that facilitates updates to the nation’s charts.
U.S. Power Squadrons Chief Commander John Alter (right) presents Rear Adm. Gerd Glang with an honorary USPS membership at the ceremony for renewing the 50-year Cooperative Charting Program.
As Glang explained in his remarks at the USPS meeting, “Coast Survey is a small program with a very large mission. Our few hundred people dedicate themselves to protecting people who venture on the water for their livelihood, for the nation’s defense, or for enjoyment.” He was quick to point out, however, that we also count on the U.S. Power Squadrons and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members who scrutinize their local charts for accuracy and report discrepancies to us.
Coast Survey and the U.S. Power Squadrons formalized the voluntary program by signing an updated Memorandum of Agreement. Under the MOA, members of the U.S. Power Squadrons look for changing conditions that could be reflected on NOAA nautical charts and submit their reports online. Coast Survey cartographers review and incorporate changes to charts and the United States Coast Pilot.
Over the last ten years, volunteers have submitted over 28,000 corrections to NOAA’s nautical charts and the Coast Pilot. More than 4,000 USPS members submitted reports, adding their particular local knowledge to NOAA’s national effort to keep navigation materials accurate.
“Sailors must be able to trust their nautical charts,” Glang pointed out. “Since charting began, cartographers have tried to capture the ocean depths at a moment in time, so we can depict them with accuracy and precision. You and I know, however, that what is precise and accurate today may be inaccurate with the passing of a single storm. So our job never ends.”
You don’t have to belong to a Power Squadron or the Coast Guard Auxiliary to give us a chart update. Anyone can report a charting discrepancy, any time. NOAA – and recreational boaters – will thank you!
Updated nautical charts help all recreational boaters stay safe.
The United States Coast Pilot®, originally called the American Coast Pilot, has been published for over 200 years. This set of sailing directions for U.S. coastal waters has kept millions of mariners safe from perils at sea. Last week, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey unveiled yet another improvement to the nine-volume set geared to modern mariners who need updated information as soon as it becomes available.
Anyone can now access PDF versions of the United States Coast Pilot that are updated weekly. The volumes, and the list of corrections or updates applied each week, are available for free on the NOAA Coast Survey website. For those who don’t want to print corrected pages (or the entire volume!) on their home printer, the most up-to-date volumes are also available as Print-on-Demand products from some commercial vendors. (The traditionalists among us will still be able to purchase the hard copy printed annually.)
Coast Pilot has one of the longest publishing records in U.S. history.
Edmund March Blunt published the first American Coast Pilot in 1796. Blunt’s Coast Pilot was not the first book of sailing directions, or even the first such book concerning American waters. However, it was the first book of American sailing directions published in the United States.
The U.S. Coast Survey, an early predecessor to NOAA, had the knowledge, the capacity, and, one could argue, a responsibility to ensure the timeliness and accuracy of sailing directions for U.S. coastal waters. The agency published its version of sailing directions in George Davidson’s Directory for the Pacific Coast of the United States, as Appendix No. 44 in the 1858 annual report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey Showing the Progress of the Survey.
From Notes on the Coast of the United States, Coast of South Carolina, page 14.
In 1861, as the federal government prepared for naval action for the Civil War, the U.S. Coast Survey assembled the Notes on the Coast of the United States, secret documents used by the Union Blockade Board. The 1857 edition of the American Coast Pilot was available for the war effort but, as John Cloud points out in The U.S. Coast Survey in the Civil War, it “assisted the mariner in getting from here to there. The Coast Survey needed a guide detailing why one would want to go there in the first place, and what the strategic significance of there was.” The Notes series, covering the Delaware Bay to the Mississippi Sound on the Gulf Coast, contributed to the efficacy of the Union blockading squadrons. The volumes were handwritten, in an effort to avoid disclosure to any Confederate sympathizers who may have been working with the printing presses.
In 1867, the United States government bought the copyright to Blunt’s American Coast Pilot, then in its 21st edition.
U.S. Coast Pilot modernizes its update capabilities.
Fast forward through the next 145 years. Today, United States Coast Pilot users can be their own printers if they wish, and they have an easier way to keep track of changes. The “Weekly Record of Updates” (now preceding the index) provides a quick reference and cumulative listing of all affected paragraphs revised at the time of download. It also serves as a record for future hand corrections. To serve you better, we have also made it easier to self-correct the printed Coast Pilot. In the past, updates identified only those lines of a particular paragraph that required revision. Now, we will replace the entire paragraph that contains the change, as explained here.
To increase efficiency and timeliness, Coast Pilot updates will only be posted here on the Coast Survey website. They will no longer be included in the Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners.
Coast Survey has thoroughly tested this new Coast Pilot update system. While the changes are substantial improvements for navigation safety, we realize that customers are accustomed to the traditional books and updates. If you have questions or comments, we’d like to hear from you.