We Heart Charts

A while back my blogging friend Ellen over at The Cynical Sailor and His Salty Sidekick mentioned that she scored a bunch of paper charts on the ‘free’ table at her marina in Florida. I might have been just a wee bit envious of her score because we really need paper charts on board Galapagos. We can buy charts at about $25.00 a pop, but we need a lot of them, so that begins to very quickly add up to a ton of money, especially as they will not be our primary means of navigation. And especially as we have many other things we need to get. (Hey, I’ve spent some time updating our project list and creating a list of things we still need to buy.  Check them out.) I began to double down on focusing on getting charts to appear somehow. Somewhere. charts2

So why do we even want to carry paper charts? Isn’t that going a bit too far? Well, considering that the paper charts will be back ups to our back up to our back up, I can see why people who do not travel by boat might wonder that. But our GPS, great as it is, just cannot take the place of a big paper chart. With big charts there is no scrolling around on an electronic device, no zooming in and out on a relatively small screen, and generally no driving old eyes insane. You can see at a glance and a magnifying glass what the coastline looks like, what kinds of depths you will find, where might be a good place to tuck in for the night. You get the ‘big picture’ fairly quickly. They are also dead best for route planning. No one sits around the table dreaming and planning about their voyage over a hot GPS screen. Charts are required for that. So I want them. We heart charts.

Enter a man named Gary. Gary works on ferry boats and lives on a sailboat at our marina. He also used to work on tug boats where he was in charge of keeping the charts updated. Gary has a garage at the marina; we have a garage at the marina. Gary was cleaning out his garage, I was getting rid of stuff from ours, putting it in the ‘free’ area. I noticed these HUGE rolls of charts sticking out of his garbage box.

“You throwing those away?” I asked, breath held ever so gently, eyes casual.
He says yep, he is.
“We are looking for charts for our trip down the coast. Would you mind if I took them off your hands?”
He didn’t mind if I took what was trash for him, but could be treasure sure as the world for me.

I scurried away, charts bundled tightly under both arms lest he change his mind. Two days later, Mike would deliver a couple of 6 packs of good beer to his boat by way of ‘thanky very much, fellow sailor!’. Can we use his old charts? Why yes. Yes we can. charts3

What a gold mine! There are charts that show the entire west coast of the United States, including up to Alaska. There are charts for the Columbia River and Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, even Hawaii! Mike and I had too much fun looking over each one and sorting them in piles. Want, Don’t Want, Wish we wanted but we probably don’t. We were kind of a little bit in heaven. Both of us love paper charts. There is something, I don’t know, so ‘tactile’ about them.

These charts are several years old, of course. So they need updating, and you wouldn’t want to use them as your primary means of navigation without updating them. Fortunately for us, NOAA has the updates on line and has made it simple, if time consuming. You simply enter a chart number, and a list of the updates will be given.

Here's a screenshot of the kinds of updates you will find.

Here’s a screenshot of the kinds of updates you will find.

Most of the changes are minor, such as moving a buoy a bit. But there could be changes in depth in areas, and there are additions and deletions to aids to navigation. I took to the interweb site to update this chart of the coast of Washington State. charts4

Yeah, I could use some actual tools for plotting on charts, but for now this sheet rock square helped. By way of example, I had to move a buoy just a little further from the rocks on this chart. I plotted the new location for the buoy, which, frankly wasn’t very different from the first location and I thought , ‘man if we couldn’t find that buoy without a location that was precise to the minute, we probably have more problems than an out of date chart’. Still, we’re talking crunchy rocks here that this buoy alerts us to, so it’s not like it’s unimportant.

The black dot is the new location. Not too far from the old, but still, it's either correct or it isn't. Now it is.

The black dot is the new location. Not too far from the old, but still, it’s either correct or it isn’t. Now it is.

Again, these are back ups to our backups. They are great for getting an overall picture, and for planning, plotting,  and dreaming. So if the shit hits the fan and every single one of our other navigation tools somehow fails us, we can take that trusty little sextant out of the cupboard and carry on! (Yeah, we’ll blog about that another day.)

We’ll choose the ones that are most useful to us and then update them. But we’ll also buy a couple of new charts that are the most important ones, just to be sure. This has saved us a lot of money and we’re very grateful! Next, we’d really like to find some charts of the Pacific Coast south of our border, and the Sea of Cortez, Central America, the Galapagos Islands, the south Pacific Islands, you name it.  We’ll buy them off you if you’ve done your trip and don’t need them anymore. Pass the word to your friends! We heart charts.


11 thoughts on “We Heart Charts

  1. Okay, it wasn’t enough to be envious of Ellen, now I am envious of you! There is no such thing as a “free table” at our marina, and if there was, it would have old fishing nets, and ratty old carhartts. (mostly commercial fishing vessels, I found monster chain in the dumpster once) Wanna send some of the “don’t want” my way? 😉 (shameless begging)
    Donna/Denali Rose

    • Yes, absolutely! I’m sure we’ll be sharing the excess with several people. Seriously, there is no way we can use all these charts, and there are several copies from different years of some, so I’ll text you when we’ve pulled out what we need.

  2. Have you guys taken a look at the used charts for sale at Long Ship Marine in Poulsbo? Most of them are really old, but we did find a complete set for the west coast of Vancouver Island that were as close to brand new as you can get for under $6 a piece (I think we paid $90 in total). Aaron has a lot of charts for sale and they’re not organized as well as they could be, so it would take a few hours of searching but it’s hard to go wrong when you spend a day in Poulsbo!

    • I was by there today to see if he had Mexico charts. He does, but getting to them would have been impossible. He said to come back in a couple of weeks, so looks like perhaps a field trip up to Poulsbo. We’ll see.

  3. I totally get it! We still keep a gazetteer(s) around (Plus, we just plain like maps). It’s like being nearsighted when you lose the ability to see further and plan or discover something new with more of a small scale view of the world rather than the “You are HERE!” large scale you get with GPS/nav apps. I actually worry how that view is narrowing the world for people who blindly use nothing but…

    • When I was in Scotland last time I spent a lot of money on big maps of different areas. I just love them. My daughter though I was a little ‘old school’, but there is nothing like a map when there is no cellphone service in the mountains. Just saying! Maps don’t usually need a signal of any kind. I stand by my old standbyes.

      • I can easily drive off the end of Google phone Nav within a 45 minute drive of the house, buh-bye 4g LTE, he-e-e-lllo no coverage land! Why hello map book of all of Oregon and Washington! Hey, look at THIS neat road…. 🙂

        ( Ps, this is highly old school, in fact, we inherited it from Rick’s GM, we have a giant 3d relief map of W. Wa circa late ’60’s on our wall (i-5 is missing in parts, it’s really fascinating, and Mt St. Helens still has her point) It’s about 6 x 4 ft.)..

        • I totally get that! Mike does, too. He loves maps of all kinds. We got a huge world map to dream with, but actually, it’s so big there isn’t a wall space large enough in our house to put it, unless we take a bunch of other stuff down. Still, pretty cool!

  4. Thanks for the shout-out 🙂 What a great score! The Universe was looking out for you. I know what you mean about charts being so tactile. It’s so different looking at a paper chart rather than one on a chart plotter.

  5. Old charts for Mexico? I wouldn’t want them. Difficult enough ensuring your Mexican charts are the actual up-to-date ones (they DO exist for many areas), getting old old charts would add confusion.

    I’d be careful too about old Canadian charts. We had all official old 2002 AND new 2016 CHS charts during our Van Isle circumnavigation (currently in Sidney) and found MANY (!) changes.


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