NOAA Nautical Chart Survey: Serious Boaters May Not Be Sailing Safe

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Recent survey of recreational mariners shows low levels of awareness of, and usage of, critical NOAA nautical chart updates necessary for safe sailing.

Results of a December, 2008 survey of hundreds of recreational mariners has revealed surprisingly low levels of awareness of, and usage of, readily available NOAA paper chart update information that is critical to safe sailing.

NOAA nautical charts are widely used by recreational mariners either as a primary navigational aid, or as a complement or back-up to electronic systems. To sail safe, paper nautical charts must be kept up to date and it's the mariner's responsibility to do so.

The survey, conducted by the United States Power Squadrons (USPS), in cooperation with NOAA print-on-demand chart manufacturer OceanGrafix, reveals that although 78% of the 238 respondents say they use NOAA paper charts in some capacity, they do not generally keep those charts updated by means of the two most common federally-provided methods: the Local Notice to Mariners (LNMs), and new NOAA chart Editions.

The vast majority of mariners in the survey are aware of LNMs, but most mariners (54.9%) do not update their charts using the LNMs. Regarding Editions, both awareness of and usage of Editions is very low: 46.7% were not aware or only somewhat aware of Editions, with an additional 41.0% "I am aware but I do not normally get new Editions when issued."

Various recreational sailing, safety and charting organizations - from USPS and sailing clubs to manufacturers of chart kits and cruising guides - as well as NOAA itself, stress the importance of keeping paper charts up to date for optimum safety at sea. Commercial mariners are required by law to keep fully-corrected-and-updated NOAA paper charts on hand at all times.

"Safety at sea is our mission," says Richard Sillcox, Chief of NOAA's Chart Update Service. "We continually stress the importance of sailing with updated charts and we provide update data daily. I was surprised at the findings."

LNMs are issued weekly by the U.S. Coast Guard and provide dozens of updates per week for NOAA charts including sunken vessels, buoy changes, obstructions, changes in channel markers, navigation aids that are missing and more. Such changes should be annotated as "changes" on a mariner's nautical chart(s) to ensure safe sailing.

Editions are issued by NOAA as deemed necessary, and are all-new NOAA charts which include all of the LNMs since that chart's last Edition, plus other changes.

Dave DeGree, president of OceanGrafix, stated, "A low level of chart update activity combined with a pretty wide usage of paper charts could mean that the majority of U.S. recreational mariners who use NOAA paper charts are using ones that are not up to date. We will make it a goal for 2009 to increase awareness of sailing with an updated chart."

A complete summary of the findings plus methodology and background information can be found at

St. Paul, Minnesota-based OceanGrafix is the first company to offer print-on-demand nautical charts for recreational and commercial boaters. Working in partnership with NOAA the company ensures the most accurate information available is reflected on its charts.


For information on how NOAA and its partners and other federal agencies update NOAA charts, go to:

For comments from NOAA regarding "a NOAA chart is of vital importance to the navigator..." go to:

For information on USPS, go to

For information on NOAA's POD (print on demand) partner, go to:


Yvonne Hill
United States Power Squadron (USPS)
(888) 367-8777

Richard Sillcox
Chief of NOAA's Chart Update Service
(301) 713-1205

Dave DeGree
President, OceanGrafix LLC
(218) 349-2698

Larry Kocon
General Manager, OceanGrafix LLC
(651) 523-9602

Joe Hendershot
President, B2B Inc.
(651) 905-1400


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