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Paper Navigation Charts - A Disappearing Story

Posted Mar 28 2013 12:00am

With The Admiral away in Singapore on a visa run, I was tasked with reviewing our huge collection of paper charts, and disposing of those we don't need to carry.  However, as I sorted through the first of many chart packs, I had a real panic attack - how could we get rid of these ?  They're a treasure trove of information.

For me, they're also an instant connection to the past, rightfully carrying the names of often famous cartographers and navigators.  Many of these charts are beautiful works of art - the land mass is carefully drawn, shaded and defined, not just filled with a color wash as we see on our modern electronic systems.

Onboard Crystal Blues we keep a paper log and an electronic log, so we have a trail of position fixes available if needed.  For years we've told ourselves that if the electronics died we'd transfer those position fixes to paper charts and work from there with conventional navigation tools.  But would we really ?

Examine the images at right, then compare them with the old paper chart image at the top of this screen - its the same area - there is so much more information readily available in the modern electronic systems.

Fact is that we have have four full functional electronic chart systems on board - two computers that run Transas Navigator and Open CPN software, plus two iPads running Navionics HD and various other charting or mapping apps.  How much redundancy do we need ?  What could cause all four of those systems to fail at the same time ? Nothing short of a nuclear holocaust or perhaps a major meteor strike I think.

So, should we continue to carry around hundreds and hundreds of paper charts, most of which are inevitably out of date and not corrected ?

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