New tips for understanding nautical chart symbols

SymbolGlobeAs a responsible boater, you examine your nautical chart before sailing, determined to avoid problems during a nice trip along the coast. Charts are packed with symbols and abbreviations, so you might refer to the free copy of U.S. Chart No. 1, which lists all of the symbols used on NOAA nautical charts. It is an excellent quick reference for identifying unfamiliar symbols.

However, sometimes mariners need a deeper understanding…

Coast Survey is now providing additional information about complex or particularly confusing chart symbols to augment what is available in U.S. Chart No. 1. The first two tip sheets are available now. Coast Survey will add more chart symbology tip sheets to the U.S. Chart No. 1 webpage as the need arises.

Understanding NOAA chart symbology

K46.1 - FishHaven

Fish havens: The typical U.S. Chart No. 1 entry, such as this one for fish haven, lists only the name and the symbols. The tip sheet explains what fish havens are, what they look like in context with other charted features, and what restrictions may apply to them.

AnchorageSymbols

Anchorages and harbors of refuge: The anchor symbol has been used for decades to represent an anchorage on U.S. nautical charts, but the specific meaning of the symbol has evolved over the years. The tip sheet explains what the symbol means now – and, perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t mean.

Questions or suggestions? Email USChart1@noaa.gov.

U.S. Chart No. 1 moves into electronic age

For the 65 years since the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey issued the first edition of U.S. Chart No.1 in 1948, mariners have had a standard guide for understanding the symbols, abbreviations and terms used on paper nautical charts. In a major step forward, a new edition of that guide also describes the symbols specified by the International Hydrographic Organization for the display of electronic navigational charts (ENC) on Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS).

SymbolGlobeSeveral maritime nations produce their own versions of Chart 1. The U.S. Chart No. 1 describes the symbols used on paper nautical charts produced by NOAA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The new U.S. Chart No. 1 is the first “Chart 1” produced by any country to show paper and electronic chart symbology side by side.

“Navigational charts moved to electronic format more than 15 years ago, and downloads of NOAA ENCs® now far outpace sales of paper charts,” explains Commander Shep Smith, division chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division. “Most of the symbology used to display ENCs is intuitive to the experienced mariner, but caution tells us that mariners will be safer when U.S. Chart No. 1 explains the symbols that appear on their electronic displays.”

U.S. Chart No. 1: Symbols, Abbreviations and Terms used on Paper and Electronic Navigational Charts, produced jointly by NOAA and NGA, is actually more like a book than a chart. The 129-page Edition 12, now being released, supersedes all previous editions and is available for free from the Coast Survey website. Printed copies may be purchased through one of the certified publishing agents listed on the NOAA U.S. Chart 1 download webpage.