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Author Topic:   Free electronic charts and viewer
Camuyano posted 08-12-2004 04:32 PM ET (US)   Profile for Camuyano   Send Email to Camuyano  

NOAA has electronic charts available for download:

These are “vector” charts, a data file that the software in the viewer assembles into a chart as opposed to a picture of the paper chart. The files are in an international open (free) standard called ECS. I also found a couple of free viewers that can be used to display the charts:

I played around with these a little and like the first one because it displays place names as well as navigation information but it is limited to only three charts at once. I don’t know how accurately these viewers represent the charts. I read on the NOAA website that there are standards for evaluating viewer software but don’t know if these viewers have been validated.

Too bad you can’t use these on commercial plotters. I suspect that marine electronics manufacturers will keep their proprietary standards and make you buy the charts even if they contain the same data that is freely available from NOAA.


15ftlover posted 08-12-2004 05:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for 15ftlover  Send Email to 15ftlover     
Thanks for the link, I just tried the software and spotted a few wrecks I didn't know were there, my next fishing trip. If you like geography checkout they have shareware you can use to view satellite obtained digital earth images, you can zoom in and even see cars in cities like Birmingham and Atlanta (not real time of course)
elaelap posted 08-12-2004 06:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
I had some problems printing out one of these charts some time ago, but anyone who knows about my incredible stupidity when it comes to computers won't be surprised at that.

I'm posting not to seek help with my computer illiteracy, but to again thank jimh for providing this amazing website. This topic epitomizes the strength and power of the continuousWave Whaler fora, and demonstrates the generous nature of and cooperation among most of the CW crowd. Thanks, Imanuel & Hen.


4whaler posted 08-12-2004 11:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for 4whaler  Send Email to 4whaler     
I've found this site to have all I need. Not only ocean charts, but topo, air photos and nav charts.
Plus you can build a little Your map section. They print great on a high rez color printer.

Chuck Tribolet posted 08-13-2004 12:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The ENC I compared the ENC chart to Garmin Blue Chart using
an area I'm familiar with (Carmel Bay).

The ENC chart was 1.3M, the Blue Chart 111K.

The Blue Chart seems more detailed.

The ENC chart looks less like a paper chart, but that may be
the colors used by Fugawi.

The ENC charts weren't available for some areas I boat
(Monterey Bay for one).


Camuyano posted 08-13-2004 11:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for Camuyano  Send Email to Camuyano     

You're welcome. As soon as I saw this I knew that it was a topic that many would find useful. As pointed out by others the ENCs are not perfect but they may be good enough for planning trips when one doesn't want to buy expensive electronic charts. For our Cape Cod trip I had trouble finding charts that I could use to plan for possible cruises without spending a lot on paper or electronics charts.

As for a permanent solution for displaying electronic charts on board, I still have to keep looking. The Garmin Blue Chart sounds interesting. I have a GPSMAP 76 but have never gotten any of the detailed maps for it and would like a higher resolution screen.


erik selis posted 08-13-2004 12:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     
Very good information Imanuel! I wish they had something like this for the European waters.

I was also playing around with the Fugawi ENC viewer but I couldn't see the names and navigation info as you described. I must be doing something wrong.


Camuyano posted 08-13-2004 02:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Camuyano  Send Email to Camuyano     

I would do a web search for ENC charts of Europe since ENC is an international standard maintained by the International Hydrographic Bureau in Monaco. I think I saw something about charts for German waterways and some news about ENC being approved by a Russian hydrographic agency.

About the Fugawi viewer, I think that if you go into the “View” menu you can turn on or off different features; however, as Chuck pointed out, the level of detail is not as high as on most of the commercial charts. I downloaded the spec to see if the missing level of detail is just not implemented by the free viewers or if it is not encoded on the ENCs.

We were going to the lake this weekend but we might get some bad weather from the systems hitting the east coast so I may get a chance to do some more research. The spec is kind of hard to follow (even for a software weenie like me) but I’m sure I could figure it out. I read the spec for the Garmin interface protocol and have written some code to connect to the GPS but the spec that they publish doesn’t to allow you to upload maps to the unit but only to get position data and inject waypoints, etc. I’ll let you know what I find out.

I really need to get a life…


Chuck Tribolet posted 08-15-2004 08:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The spec for the Garmin maps is VERY closely held, and the
license agreement (which you agree to by opening the package)
specifically states (in lawyerse), "no hacking". And Garmin
aggressively defends that license.


eportfolio posted 07-09-2007 05:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for eportfolio  Send Email to eportfolio     
Is there any way to get the free NOAA charts into a Garmin GPS?

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