NOAA electronic charts - free

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Jan 13, 2005
If you use PC-based electronic navigation charts .....

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) nautical charts are now available for free download from the NOAA web site. Previously Maptech, developers of nautical charting software, had an exclusive agreement with NOAA which meant you had to pay Maptech or some other company such as Nobeltec for the charts. Maptech's agreement with NOAA has expired, so the charts are now freely available.

One caveat is that NOAA's conversion of charts to digitized vector format will take some time (estimated at up to 5 years). Meanwhile, raster charts in the universal BSB format, which are a digital image of the NOAA paper navigation charts, are available for all U.S. waterways.

Another caveat - you still need charting software to read the charts on your PC.

Edit: Thanks to Jerry Fitzgerald for the pointer to Sea Clear chart viewing software (free download) and a link to a CD version on eBay. There's also a free online nav chart viewer at the NOAA web site. Free chart downloads and an online viewer are also available at the MapTech web site.
Folks using PC charting software in conjunction with a GPS might run into a problem where the PC thinks the GPS is a mouse. The result is that the cursor appears to move to a random position every time a position update is transmitted, which can be quite disconcerting if you happen to be replying on the chart for navigation when this happens. In the past I've used various methods to avoid this, but Sea Clear provides a link to this Microsoft fix. One caveat - I haven't personally tried this fix, so I suggest checking it out before casting off lines.
I find that happens if I have the GPS plugged in and turned on when I boot the computer.. Since my GPS has an 9-pin RS-232 connector and my computer has only USB I have to boot as follows

1: Turn on computer with or without USB-RS232 adapter plugged in
2: Plug in adapter (If not already plugged in) with GPS either OFF or Disconnected
3: Connect GPS to adapter and/or turn it on.

If I power on the computer, or plug in the USB adapter, with the GPS on and connected it reads it as a mouse and does as you describe.. EVERY TIME.
That was one of my prior workarounds John.

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