Routing 6 of 7 : A Chart by any other name…

Most sailors are well aware of the difference between Raster and Vector charts. I have access to both on board plus of course real paper – albeit gradually getting out of date šŸ™ I think we are all past having long debates about which format is better. You will probably have huge amounts of storage on your laptop or various USB drives – so long as you archive and backup all those terribly interesting digital photos and videos!.

If you are like me you will just download and store all the charts that you can get your hands on for the waters that you sail. If you are in N American waters then the process is easy. At the very least you can just download the free (vector)Ā  NOAA ENCs charts – latest edition notices for paper charts are here

NOAA Raster Navigational ChartsĀ® (NOAA RNCs) are full-color digital images of NOAA’s entire suite of paper charts. NOAA provides weekly updates to the RNCs, which are available for free. NOAA RNCs are official data that can be used in many types of electronic charting systems, including Raster Chart Display Systems (RCDS) and Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS)

Vector charts are more suitable for manipulation by software programs attempting to calculate optimal routing – especially if it comes to manipulating stored data about obstacles; charted dangers or merging charted data with data that you yourself may have stored using the PBG type functionality.

Vector charts use a database to build the chart display. This data is held in layers and records every feature on a chart such as coastlines, buoys, lights, etc. These features and their attributes (position, color, size, shape, etc.) are stored in a database that allows them to be selectively displayed and interrogated. Vector charts are extremely accurate at their reference scales (as long as they are not ā€œover-zoomedā€œ), but can appear quite different from traditional paper charts.

Vector data is created by certain companies like Navionics. Navionics established itself in 1984 as the pioneer in electronic charting, and introduced the first electronic charts to the world. It is based in Italy with a data centre in Hydrabad. What Navionics does is take the FREE NOAA database as the product baseline and adds (and corrects) data (wrecks, obstructions, georeferencing, shoals) to add value and accuracy. The vector data should be better than the NOAA/S57/paper data because it isĀ  updated more often.

System Charts
  • C-Map NT & MAX, Maptech PCX, Bsb charts, including v4 and v5, Softcharts, NV-Verlag charts
  • Chart-plotter that seamlessly rotates, mosaics and moves between charts
Deckman v9.1
  • C-Map version supports: C-MAP, BSB, Maptech, PCX and REML charts
  • Euronav version supports: ARCS, Livechart, BSB, Maptech, PCX and REML charts
  • Alternatively use any image file as a chart for a powerful planning or analysis tool e.g. satellite photo, aerial photograph or ocean current chart)
  • Charts primarily from C-Map sources
  • Use Chartmaker utility to make charts from various sources
  • C-Map NT (preferred), Navionics Gold
MaxSea Time Zero Navigator Pack with optional Routing Module
  • Worldwide planning charts (Special C-Map and Navionics Platinum versions – you cant use your current versions)
  • One Mapmedia mm3d chart area included (charts, 3D and satellite photos)
SeaPro 3000 Performance Sailing
  • Vector charts – Livechart, S57 data (Primar & UK HO)
  • Raster charts – ARCS (UKHO); Seafarer(Australian HO); NZ Mariner (NZHO); Maptech BSB,BSB4,PCX
RosePoint Coastal Explorer
  • Complete Set of US Charts in both Raster and Vector Formats
  • Integrated Gazetteer, Coast PilotĀ®, Sailing Directions, and other Guide Books
  • Compatible with Many Electronic Chart Formats
    • USACE IENC / S-57 ENC (including S-63 encrypted)
    • Maptech BSB (raster nautical charts)
    • Admiralty Vector Chart Service (AVCS)
    • ChartWorld ENCs
  • Quilt Vector, Raster, and Photo Charts Together Seamlessly

Another development to enhance charts especially charted depths is the recording of the data being received by your own echo sounder and stored in your own database for greater accuracy in areas that you sail often. This “Personal Bathymetry Generator” is a module that is already available in MaxSea PRO for professional mariners. Connected to your depth sounder and GPS, MaxSea PBG records your position and the depth as you steam along, enabling you to create your own 3D charts with pinpoint accuracy in real-time. You can now venture into difficult waters with greater confidence. The software records a sounding point every second and this with a resolution which can reach 1.5m x 1.5m.

These two videos amply illustrate this feature which is of course of immense use for fishing – but would also be a fantastic aid to anchoring.

This video was uploaded by Captain OJ – a very accomplished sea fishing guide based in La Rochelle, France and illustrates the way bathymetric, sedimentary and chart data is presented in the professional version of MaxSea 3D. This video was shown at a seminar before the World Fishing Exhibition in Vigo, 2009

There is quite a variability amongst the TableA and TableB packages listed in terms of chart compatibility. In the case of MaxSea TZ you will need the special version of C-Map and Navionics Platinum charts that are available with the software – you cannot just use the charts you may already have.

There is a very useful site created by Jesper Weissglas a Swedish yacht designer where he has captured screenshots of many different packages and chart display combinations for the same sea area between Beauchamp Point (South of Camden Harbor) and Hewes Point on Islesboro Island, Maine – well worth having a look at.

I would expect that all advanced routing systems will eventually depend on vector based charts since all the information is held in a database and is much more easily filtered; can be displayed and filtered in layers; can be merged with PBG data – and can even be shared across the Internet using the various social networking techniques that are being explored such as geocaching and POI referencing, and photo tagging.


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