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Why We Still Need Paper Charts

With all the new technology that navigates for us, can pinpoint our precise location on the planet using GPS and is able to plot a course, you might be forgiven for thinking that paper marine charts are becoming obsolete.

But as Nicole Sours Larson recently pointed out writing for The Log, there are still many instances where traditional nautical charts are preferable to any amount of technological gadgetry.

She explained that there are, in fact, more shortcomings in the electronic chart plotters than you might imagine. For US waters, for instance, many of the chartplotters use older, non-copyrighted US government charts that haven’t been updated. This means they might not sync with GPS readings.

By contrast, the latest paper charts will have all the detail required for safe navigation. What’s more, electronic charts need to be displayed on a high-resolution screen to allow you to zoom in and view all the underwater obstructions that may be present in your area.

This is not an issue with paper charts and if you’re having difficulty seeing the finer details a magnifying glass can always help.

Of course, another big con to electronic devices when you’re at sea is that they can easily fail if they come into contact with water.

Captain Ann Kinner, owner of Seabreeze Nautical Books and Charts in the US, commented: “Electronic charts are a convenient tool. They don’t replace paper charts because you can’t see the larger context and they increase the risk of tunnel vision.”

If you will be using charts for navigation, it’s important to buy the latest Admiralty charts for sale in the UK. Although you might think an old chart will be sufficient, the disappearance of a Japanese island earlier this year indicates just how quickly our coastlines can change.