Paper or Electronic or ?
In the USA, since the 1860s, NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) traditional paper charts have been printed using the lithographic process.
Since they are printed in batches, with lag times of up to ten or more years, they do not contain critical updates that were published in the United States Coast Guard’s Local Notice to Mariners (LNM) or in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Notice to Mainers (NM) since the chart publication date.
Effective April 13, 2014, the US federal government will no longer
print nautical charts using the lithographic process. NOAA Print on Demand (POD) paper charts will still be available from certified vendors. (See announcement here.)
Print On Demand Charts are up-to-date at the time of printing, so you know you are getting the latest information. For more information on charts in the USA, see http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/paperchart.html
Canada hasn’t gone to Print on Demand, so charts must be updated manually. For more information on updating Canadian charts, see http://www.charts.gc.ca/charts-cartes/paper-papier/index-eng.asp?step=3#h2
It is Canadian law that “the master of a ship shall ensure that the charts, documents and publications required by these Regulations are, before being used for navigation, correct and up-to-date, based on information that is contained in the Notices to Mariners, Notices to Shipping or radio navigational warnings.”
Many boaters are using electronic devices for navigation these days, because it is so easy. Just use a chart plotter, laptop or smart phone and all the information is at your fintertips. However, we all know that there is a chance for electronics to fail.
You can purchase and keep a second electronic device for your backup or simply keep up-to-date printed charts as your backup. And don’t forget good old VPR. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and you will be better able to cope if you do have a failure. (See What if Your Chart Plotter Quits?)
If you don’t have an electronic backup, or paper chart backup, take time to investigate the best options and get one.