Sail Safely: Use a Reliable Paper Chart

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Am I legally required to have nautical charts onboard?

A: While commercial mariners are obligated to have up to date navigational charts on board, recreational mariners are not required to do so by law. However, virtually all boating experts agree that paper charts are critical to boating safety — for all mariners.

Q: I have GPS onboard. Why do I need a paper chart?

A: Unfortunately, GPS and other electronic systems are not foolproof. A paper chart serves as important backup when the unexpected happens.

Q: How often does the information on my chart actually change?

A: More often than you would think! Each year NOAA issues over 11,000 corrections to their suite of over 1,000 charts.

Q: What are NGA charts?

A: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) charts cover a variety of international waters worldwide. Previously discontinued in the spring of 2010, OceanGrafix now prints over 3000 of these charts for commercial and recreational boaters.

Q: What is meant by “Notice to Mariners?”

A: Each week the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) issues the Notice to Mariners (NTMs) for ocean-going vessels, providing timely marine safety information for the correction of nautical charts. You can review the Notice to Mariners at OceanGrafix NOAA charts for U.S. waters include all Notice to Mariner Corrections issued prior to the time of printing.

Q: What is the “Local Notice to Mariners?”

A: The nine district Coast Guard offices issue the Local Notice to Mariners (LNMs) each week, applicable to all vessels. The LNM provides timely marine safety information including the correction of nautical charts, the US Coast Pilot, and the USCG lighthouse list. The list also pertains to aids to navigation, lights, bridges, cables, pipelines, wrecks, obstructions, Federal Waterways, waterway operations and dangers to navigation. LNMs are published at OceanGrafix NOAA charts for U.S. waters include all Local Notice to Mariner Corrections issued prior to the time of printing.

Q: What is meant by a chart “Edition?”

A: A new “Edition” brings a NOAA nautical chart up to date for all chartable information available to NOAA, including hydrography, shoreline and marine safety information published in the LNM and NM. Additionally, NOAA makes some minor changes, which make the chart more useful. About 250 new editions are issued per year with the time between new editions ranging from six months to several years. The status of new editions is published at Note that new “editions” are issued by NOAA periodically, but that OceanGrafix on-demand charts for U.S. waters contain every NTM and LNTM as they are downloaded daily by OceanGrafix.

Q: NOAA uses the term “Print on Demand.” What does that mean?

A: “Print-on-Demand” refers to NOAA’s exclusive arrangement with OceanGrafix to print NOAA charts that are 100% up to date when they are ordered by a customer. OceanGrafix charts are printed (and shipped or picked up at an OceanGrafix retailer) only when an order is placed.

Q: How do I know which charts I will need?

A: To locate charts by geographic region click on search charts, and then use "search by map" to help identify which chart numbers you need based on the areas you choose.

Q: What Size are the Charts?

A: The full-size OceanGrafix NOAA chart is a single-sided product available in size from approximately 3' to 5' in length and are either 36" or 42" wide, depending on the coverage needed for each specific geographic area.

Q: What Are The Charts Printed On?

A: Charts are printed on water-resistant paper or a fully waterproof synthetic material, vessels with adequate bridge space are able to extend the chart to full length, while vessels with smaller bridges have the option to fold the paper chart to the size they require.

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