Your boat is ready? Don’t forget your nautical chart…   1 comment

Ah, the boat is ready, the safety vests are stowed on board, the sky is blue, and the water beckons… But hold on a sec, sailor! Where is your nautical chart?ChartDefinitionTransparent

A terrific t-shirt is sold in tourist shops at some of our nation’s harbors. It has a “definition” of a nautical chart splayed across the front: “chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.” It’s funny… but unfortunately, too true too often.

Resolve to get your nautical chart this year and consult it before you hit something. Advancements in Coast Survey’s digital processes now allow us to review and update charts weekly, and get them to boaters’ fingertips faster − and with less expense − than was possible years ago.

So, what product is best for you? Check out the options…

Paper nautical charts, printed “on demand.” Coast Survey maintains 1,025 nautical charts and provides the digital chart images to NOAA-certified agents, who print the latest version (incorporating weekly updates) when you order it. Order from any of our print agents – several with distribution to local marine shops – that offer different papers and optional premium services.

Free PDF nautical charts. Almost all nautical charts are available for download from our map-based interactive chart catalog or the numbered list. Crop, re-size, print or display them. (Just don’t use them for navigation if you are a SOLAS vessel, since regulated vessels need charts from NOAA-certified printers.)

Free BookletCharts™. For easy printing at home, choose NOAA BookletCharts. These PDFs have the same information as the regular paper charts, but they are sliced and diced into 8 ½ x 11” pages, so you can keep them in a regular notebook. Some boaters like to slide the pages into sheet protectors to protect them from the spray.

Free raster navigational charts. The NOAA RNC® is a geo-referenced digital image of the paper chart, used in a variety of commercial electronic charting systems.

Free electronic navigational charts. The NOAA ENC® is produced from a vector database of features. It supports real-time navigation as well as collision and grounding avoidance. ENCs are used by many computer navigation programs and mobile apps, as well as ECDIS.

Free historical charts (in jpg). Reflecting Coast Survey’s beginnings as the first scientific agency in the U.S. government, the Historical Map & Chart Collection has nearly 35,000 images of nautical charts, topographical maps, sketches, and more.

Okay, you’ve decided which product you want. Now, what chart do you need?

Coast Survey’s map-based interactive chart catalog makes it easy to find and download the chart(s) you need.

Chart catalogs are handy to have around. (Note: Coast Survey is transitioning from the large format to an easier 8½ x 11″ PDF catalog that you can print at home. Some of the catalogs are beginning to appear on Coast Survey’s website now, with all five catalogs scheduled for completion by the end of June.)

More information is available to make your trip more enjoyable.

The United States Coast Pilot® is a nine-volume book series (geographically based) that contains a wealth of information: regulations, facilities, weather, prominent features, radio procedures, currents, small-craft facilities, and more. They are now available as free PDFs, or you can purchase hard copies from NOAA-certified print agents.

nowCoast is a map-based portal that provides one-stop access to coastal observations and forecasts.

Coast Survey’s wrecks and obstructions database provides latitude and longitude on thousands of wrecks along U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes, along with some historic and descriptive details (where available).

Does a chart have wrong or outdated information? Report discrepancies.

Seafloors, channels, shorelines, and aids to navigation are constantly changing. Coast Survey applies corrections to charts and the Coast Pilot every week, but we need the public’s help pinpointing changes in the 3.5 million square nautical miles of U.S. charted waters. Report charting discrepancies.

Have a happy and SAFE boating season!

NOAA Coast Survey, Coast Guard, and Army Corps of Engineers schedule public “listening sessions”   3 comments

Over the past few decades, mariners have witnessed the rapid development, reliability, and availability of e-navigation components, such as the global positioning system (GPS) and electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS). These systems, and other technology, have fundamentally changed mariners’ reliance on traditional navigation services. In addition, the ability to manage data and information provided to the mariner through the automatic identification system (AIS) and cellular service has enhanced the interconnectivity between shore side information providers and shipboard users. These technological advances and data flow will help the mariner receive data, transmit data, and generally improve bridge resource management, situational awareness, and navigational safety.

These fundamental changes present the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey with an opportunity to take the next steps in modernizing federal navigation services. Technology development compels these federal agencies to optimize the current aids to navigation, other maritime information systems, and nautical charting.

We want to hear from you, as we develop a federal development portfolio that will provide coordinated and timely delivery of navigational information and services. We invite you to attend one of our listening sessions, to tell us your emerging requirements for navigational information and service delivery systems in an eNAV environment.

  • Juneau, Alaska:  1 May, 1600-1700 hrs, Prospector Hotel
  • New Orleans, Louisiana:  7 May, 0900-1130 hrs, Port of New Orleans Auditorium
  • Honolulu, Hawaii:  19 May, Harbor View Center, 1129 N. Nimitz Hwy.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida:  22 May, 1700-1900 hrs, Embassy Suites, 110 SE 17th St.
  • Hampton Roads, Virginia:  22 May, 1700 hrs, Renaissance Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center, 425 Water St., Portsmouth
  • Boston, Massachusetts:  3 June, 1000-1200 hrs, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, 55 Broadway, Cambridge
  • Seattle, Washington:  3 June, 1800-2000 hrs, Downtown Seattle Public Library
  • New York, New York:  10 June, 1000-1200 hrs, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, 1 Bowling Green, Manhattan
  • Oakland, California: 10 June, 1800-2000 hrs, Oakland Marriott, 1001 Broadway
  • Port Huron, Michigan:  12 June, time 1700 hrs, Double Tree Hotel, 800 Harker St.
  • Long Beach, California, 17 June, 1800-2000 hrs, Hyatt Regency Long Beach (Shoreline Ballroom), 200 South Pine Ave
  • St. Louis, Missouri:  18 June, 0900-1100 hrs, USACE National Great Rivers Museum (adjacent to the Melvin Price Locks and Dam, in Alton, Illinois)

The Coast Guard is also developing an online survey tool for public comments. It will be available on or about 15 June.

Use the response box below to let us know if you want more information about any or all of the sessions.

Coast Survey finds historic City of Chester wreck, again   Leave a comment

NOAA announced that one of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams found the underwater wreck of the passenger steamer City of Chester, which sank in 1888 in a collision in dense fog near where the Golden Gate Bridge stands today. City of Chester had just left San Francisco and was headed up the California coast to Eureka with 90 passengers on August 22, 1888, when it was struck by the steamer Oceanic. Impaled on Oceanic, which was arriving from Asia, City of Chester remained afloat for six minutes before sinking. Sixteen people died in the accident.

Navigation Response Team 6 (NRT6) found the wreck in May 2013 while they were conducting regular survey duties for safe navigation, assessing a potential pollution threat from the S.S. Fernstream, a wreck from 1952. Sonar images confirmed that the target was the 202-foot steamship City of Chester, sitting upright, shrouded in mud, 216 feet deep at the edge of a small undersea shoal, rising 18 feet from the seabed.

The City of Chester is shown in NRT6's multibeam image.

The City of Chester is shown in NRT6’s multibeam image.

This NOAA team is not the first to find the shipwreck. Last year, John Cloud (NOAA Library) discovered an unpublished manuscript chart, showing that in 1888 a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey team used a drag survey from the tugboat Redmond to successfully locate the City of Chester after it sank. Tony Reyer (Office of National Marine Sanctuaries) geo-rectified that manuscript chart onto the modern seascape, and was able to provide NRT6 with the lat/lon coordinates.

The U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey created this chart of the wreck in 1888.

The U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey created this chart of the wreck in 1888.

“Connecting to the history of the Chester is sad in one way, but we were also connecting to scientific history on a different level,” said NRT6 team leader Laura Pagano. “Using our high-tech multibeam echo sounder to re-discover a wreck originally found over a century ago – by Coast Surveyors dragging a wire across the seafloor – is immensely fulfilling.”

“We are equally proud to have provided information on an important link to the rich heritage of the San Francisco Chinese-American community,” Pagano explained.

The rediscovery of the wreck restores an important historical link to San Francisco’s early Chinese-American community. Reports at the time initially criticized Oceanic’s Chinese crew in the racially charged atmosphere of the times. Criticisms turned to praise, however, when the bravery of the crew in rescuing many of City of Chester’s passengers was revealed. The wreck was then largely forgotten.

“Discoveries like this remind us that the waters off our shores are museums that speak to powerful events, in this case not only that tragic wreck, but to a time when racism and anger were set aside by the heroism of a crew who acted in the best traditions of the sea,” said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, whose past work has included documenting historic wrecks in California.

In addition to Pagano, NRT6 is crewed by Edmund Wernicke and Ian Colvert. Vitad Pradith also assisted on the project.

NOAA hydro field season underway   1 comment

The 2014 hydrographic survey season is underway, with the NOAA fleet beginning its projects for this year.

Have you ever wondered how Coast Survey goes about determining where to survey and when? Several considerations go into prioritizing survey plans, which are laid out several years in advance. Coast Survey asks specific questions about each potential survey area.

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Coast Survey’s 2014 projects reflect these priorities.

Alaska

NOAA Ships Rainier and Fairweather will be surveying Kodiak Island, specifically Kupreanof Strait to the north and Sitinak Strait to the south. These are considered emerging critical areas, because of both old soundings (1900-1939 for North and 1900-1969 for South Kodiak Island) and increased demand from the tourism and commercial fishing industries to chart safe passages closer to shore.

Kodiak N and S_text_inlet

The Rainier will also continue her work in Cold Bay. The projects focus on charting potential areas of refuge for ships approaching the harbor, especially when currents are strong. Cold Bay is a very small harbor town on the Aleutian Peninsula. (You may recall that when the Rainier visited last year, all eight of the town’s school children came aboard to learn about driving the ship and making nautical charts!)

One of NOAA’s hydrographic services contractors will survey Bechevin Bay, a priority area because it constitutes the easternmost passage through the Aleutians from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Alaska. In addition, hydrographic surveys in this area will help validate an algorithm, being tested by NOAA’s Remote Sensing Division, that estimates water depth strictly from satellite imagery.

Bechivin Bay and Cold Bay_Aleutian_text

West Coast

Fairweather will survey south of the San Juan Islands, in the Straits of Juan de Fuca in Washington. The team will also investigate reported shoaling in Friday Harbor.

One of Coast Survey’s navigation response teams, NRT6, is surveying in San Francisco Bay, where the San Francisco Bay Pilot Association requested surveys in San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay at the Reserve Fleet area, and in Richmond Harbor to address charting discrepancies and other concerns. The ship will then survey Anchorages 22 and 23 (Carquinez Strait, near Benicia, CA) to chart a shoal that has migrated toward the federal channel and caused a tug and barge to run aground.

Gulf of Mexico

Pilots and port authorities requested hydrographic surveys in Galveston Bay and the vicinity, and NRT4 is responding. Anchorages in this area are of particular interest; the team will survey Anchorage Basin A in Bolivar Roads and the newly charted barge channels and charted features along the main Houston Ship Channel.

A NOAA contractor will survey in Louisiana, offshore of Barataria Bay. About 5,000 deep-draft vessels transit the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River per year. Surveys will be looking for turnoffs and turning basins for large vessels. A re-survey of sandy, changeable bottoms in the areas of Mobile Bay, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida, will also be conducted to finish surveying approach lanes to these ports. A NOAA contractor will survey the approaches to Lake Borgne/Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana, where charts still use data acquired by the U.S. Coast Survey in the 1800s.

NRT1 is surveying in Panama City, Florida, acquiring data in St. Andrews Bay and West Bay. The team will also investigate shoaling and a changing channel course in Grand Lagoon, depths and features in West Bay and West Bay Creek, and depths along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. After they finish up in Florida, NRT1 will continue the rest of the 2014 survey season in Louisiana.

Western GOM_text_inlet

East Coast

NRT2 will survey in the St. Johns River area near Jacksonville, Florida, in response to a request for support from the U.S. Coast Guard. The survey team will investigate hazards to navigation in the waters of a proposed anchorage area seven nautical miles northeast of St. Johns Point.

NRT5 will survey in the area of Eastern Long Island Sound. Along with providing contemporary hydrographic data, this survey will support the Long Island Sound Seafloor Mapping Initiative. NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson will also survey in Long Island Sound, performing essential habitat mapping in Fishers Island Sound, and continuing Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy surveys that were started in 2013.

LI Sound_Sandy_text

In central Chesapeake Bay, the research vessel Bay Hydro II  will survey critical areas, measuring depths where shifting sands and shoaling have been reported. NOAA Ship Ferdinand R. Hassler will survey a possible wind turbine site in the approaches to the Bay.

The Hassler will survey off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This data will contribute to habitat mapping and the state’s effort to locate sand resources for beach replenishment.

Finally, the Thomas Jefferson and Hassler will survey an area offshore of Rhode Island Sound to identify a safe route for deep draft oil tankers. The area is also a potential site for wind turbines.

Navigation Response Team 1 finds vehicle during survey of Intracoastal Waterway, assists sheriff’s office   Leave a comment

While surveying the approaches to Panama City (FL), St Andrews Bay, and West Bay, Coast Survey’s Navigation Response Team 1 recently made an unexpected find. When team members Mark McMann and Aurel Piantanida reviewed hydrographic data collected with their side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder, they discovered an upside-down vehicle in Panama City’s West Bay Creek, part of the Intracoastal Waterway (see chart 11385).

NRT 1's multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car's image.

NRT1’s multibeam echo sounder captures the submerged car’s image.

The vehicle location was adjacent to the channel maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and so it was not an obstruction to navigation. However, it was near a bulkhead where a local company loads gravel onto barges, and NRT1 was concerned about the safety of the barges.

NRT 1's side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.

NRT1’s side scan sonar shows the car adjacent to the channel in West Bay Creek.

The team relayed the information to Bay County’s sheriff who sent divers to the location. With the NRT’s assistance, the sheriff’s divers found the vehicle and called in heavy equipment from the local gravel company to remove it.

The Bay County Sheriff's office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.

The Bay County Sheriff’s office called in heavy equipment operators to remove the car found by NRT1.

Why was the 2007 Ford Escape in the creek? The investigation is in the able hands of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. In the meantime, thanks to the sheriff’s response, led by Sgt. William T. Brotherston, a risk to the barges was removed.

The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.

The star on West Bay Creek marks the location of the submerged car.

obstruction_West_Bay_Creek_Chart_Location

NOAA’s paper nautical charts are here to stay   3 comments

New certified printing agents bring buying options

It won’t be long before mariners and the boating public will have a wider choice of options and special services when they purchase NOAA paper nautical charts, thanks to NOAA’s expanded “print-on-demand” chart production and distribution system, Coast Survey officials announced on April 4. Coast Survey recently certified new print-on-demand chart printing agents, and gave them the flexibility to offer different color palettes, various papers, a cleaner margin, and a range of services.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

Rear Admiral Gerd Glang and Capt. Shep Smith inspect sample charts submitted by new print agents.

NOAA has now authorized seven companies to sell NOAA’s paper nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them — or “on demand.” The information on the charts is still maintained by NOAA, and the charts are corrected with Notices to Mariners up to the week of purchase.

“Last October, we announced that NOAA would stop using the government printing and distribution system we originally adopted in 1861,” explained Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “We asked private companies to help us transition from the government-run system to a robust and competitive market for paper nautical charts, and we are pleased with the results.”

Five companies have now joined the original “print-on-demand” distributor OceanGrafix and the more recently certified East View Geospatial. The newly certified companies are Frugal Navigator, Marine Press, Paradise Cay Publications, The Map Shop, and Williams & Heintz Map Corporation.

Glang is confident that the expansion of the print-on-demand program will lead to new options for all who purchase U.S. nautical charts. As a premium service, for example, print agents are authorized to customize charts with user-specified overlays.

“With more chart printing agents, we hope to encourage competition and ensure fully up-to-date charts are widely available. Buyers can shop around and find different types of paper, or choose between traditional or new color palettes. Our printing agents can offer delivery or in-shop service, and customers can have their navigation track lines or other information printed as overlays on their chart,” Glang pointed out.

Rear Admiral Glang certified one of the new printing agents for NOAA's paper nautical charts.

Rear Admiral Glang certifies one of the new printing agents for NOAA’s paper nautical charts.

“All charts sold by NOAA-certified printing partners are NOAA charts and fully meet navigational requirements.”

For the last 150 years, the federal government produced nautical charts using lithographic printing presses. Although chart-making techniques advanced from the 19th century’s delicate hand-applied etchings on copper plates to a process that is now completely computer-based, the system remained based on printing large volumes of charts, then selling them from stock for years. Charts for sale were gradually more and more outdated until a new edition was printed. The print on demand system allows the changes made by Coast Survey cartographers to reach mariners much faster.

Coast Survey continues to examine applications from additional companies wishing to become certified as NOAA chart printing agents. The examination process includes testing of applicants’ sample charts, to make sure they stand up to normal onboard usage conditions.

The paper charts sold by the NOAA-certified printing agents meet carriage requirements for ships covered by Safety of Life at Sea regulations, specified in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

UPDATE (4/18/2014):

Coast Survey added three more printing companies to its roster of certified agents for paper charts, bringing the total to ten companies authorized to sell NOAA nautical charts that are printed when the customer orders them ‒ or “on demand.” Companies with histories going back decades, and even centuries, support a firm foundation for the continuing production and delivery of U.S. paper nautical charts. Iver C. Weilbach & Co. A/S, which became a certified printing agent this week, is one of oldest private owned companies in the maritime industry ‒ established in 1755 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Granville Printing has provided services since 1988, and East End Blueprint has also been in business for over 25 years.

Coast Survey unveils NOAA ENC Online enhancements   1 comment

In November 2013, we introduced NOAA ENC Online – a continuous viewer for our electronic navigational charts. You can click on the web map and zoom to selected features or locations, to see the information contained in over a thousand electronic charts of NOAA-charted waters. Each zoom moves you through an ENC depiction that takes into account the ENC scale and other attributes that are encoded in the ENC, allowing features to become visible or invisible as you seamlessly zoom in and out of the data.

NOAA ENC Online is based on Esri’s Maritime Chart Server.

Now this latest release of NOAA ENC Online lets you:

  • Set a shallow and deep depth contour, which changes the shading to those parameters
  • Set a safety contour (In electronic charting systems, the safety contour is set based on the ship’s draft changes the depiction of rocks, wrecks and obstructions to isolated dangers depending on if the water is “safe” or “unsafe” for vessel navigation.)

ENConline Safety contour

  • Change between S-52 simplified and S-52 traditional symbols

combined

  • Change the background colors of the display based on the S-52 color palette for different light conditions on the bridge of a ship

ENConline color palette

  • Turn off certain features based on different categories such as buoys and traffic routes

ENConline layers switching on and off

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.

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