Our old N62, and some thoughts on charts for the GSSR

Greetings all. Sorry to have been out of touch for so long.

Roberta and I have been hard at work moving. We had convinced ourselves that we really didn’t have much “stuff” in Seattle, and that our move, from a house to a condo, was going to be easy. We were wrong! It feels like we’ve done nothing except pack and unpack boxes for a week (which is indeed about all we’ve done).
Soon, life will be back to normal. In the meantime…

Thank you to George L, who has a Nordhavn 68 on order. In an impossible, but true, coincidence, George was visiting David Sidbury, aboard the second N68, when my old Nordhavn 62 went steaming by. This is the Nordhavn 62 that Roberta and I took across the Atlantic as part of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally. It is currently owned by a rock star and her artist husband, who painted it black. I’ve never seen a good picture of it since the paint job, and was curious to see how it looks. 

Form your own opinion.

And… on a different topic…

I’m deep into trip planning for the GSSR. In my limited free time, I’m trying to layout our route, and put all the waypoints into Nobeltec. As part of the effort I decided I should go ahead and buy the paper charts for our entire run. Out of curiosity, I went to the website of a company that prints charts (http://www.tidesend.com/) and looked to see what it would cost for the complete package of charts along our route. Can you guess the total??? You won’t believe this number: $3,900.00!

After putting everything into the cart, and then closing the browser without clicking the “Order Now” button, I called Steven Argosy, owner of Seabird, an N62 traveling with us, to ask what he was going to do. Steven said he already had $1,000+ invested in Alaska charts, and didn’t know what his strategy would be for the Bering Sea, Siberia and Japan. I decided I’d contact the company to see if a serious discount is available if I buy three sets of charts. I hope so!

In actual practice, I very rarely use paper charts, and there is some debate in the boating community over whether or not having paper charts aboard ship is really mandated by law. There are credible cruisers who argue that electronic charts meet the USCG requirement. That said, I’ve also heard that Canada requires paper charts, and that they must be originals. The requirement is irrelevent on my boat, in that I am of the opinion that paper charts are required for safety reasons, and I will dutifully buy them, fold them up, and someday toss (or sell) them.

As I told Steven, I will have at least two independent sets of electronic charts on board, with multiple copies on different computers. I will have Nobeltec, that uses C-Map charts. I will also have Furuno’s Navnet 3-d, which uses charts from Mapmedia. In addition, I have the coast pilots, which have some charts. I also have detailed print outs from charts provided by Alaska which have all of the anchorages marked off. Overall, barring a horrendous lightning strike, I can’t imagine why I would ever look at a paper chart.

Back to unpacking…

-Ken W

PS I hope everyone got what they wanted for Christmas, and that all of your New Year’s wishes shall be fulfilled!

7 Responses

  1. Jim: The original Sans Souci has now been renamed “Dimma” .. which I’m not sure what means.

    We’re happy that the boat was renamed. Had they kept the name Sans Souci we probably would have had to find a new name for our boat.

    A fun piece of the story is that when we were trying to decide what to call our N68 I put up an internet poll to let visitors to my blog vote on possible names. Sans Souci was one of many names considered. The most seriously considered was “Vamanos” (which means “Let’s go” in spanish). I speak french and named our N62, and Roberta speaks Spanish, so it seemed fair that she should pick something in Spanish.

    But, then two events caused us to reconsider:

    – Someone, I’ve long forgotten who, made a joke, and said that “Vamanos” was spanish for vomit (yuck…).

    – And, a certain Nordhavn CEO voted for the name Sans Souci, with many exclamation votes after the name, on his ballot.

    Between these two, the writing was on the walls… we couldn’t change Sans Souci’s name.

    OK .. one more embarrassing story on the boat name…

    When asked why we named the boat (our N62) Sans Souci, I used to tell people that I liked Bob Marley’s music, and was thinking to myself “Don’t worry, be happy!” when picking a name, so I translated the words “Don’t worry” to french. The day following me saying that on the blog, I was beseiged by email saying: “KEN! You messed up. That’s a Bobby McFerrin song!”. And, it is. Oops. Oh well… the sentiment was what mattered, and I got that right.

    And.. one last story on this topic…

    When Roberta and I first arrived, with Sans Souci the first, in france, we had a fair number of problems. We were new to Med Mooring, and new to how they do things in france. After about my 20th visit to the harbor master’s office, the first week, he declared that my boat had now been renamed, as just “Souci” (worry).

    And, with all of that I’ll say:


    -Ken W

  2. “My plan is to stay at least 5-10 miles offshore, and to use the
    charts only as rough guides — real navigation will come from the
    radar, depth sounder, and the sonar. I’ll believe what I see, not
    what I read.”

    It is that type of navigational attitude that keeps boats floating on water instead of on granite!

    Arild raised some valid points regarding the accuracy of some electronic charts. Many of them are now available from government sources, and I would put a heck of a lot more faith in them than I would on those from strictly commercial sources.


  3. Kevin: I debated another Nordhavn owner last year on the topic of whether or not paper charts are required. I strongly held the position that paper charts ARE required, and he strongly felt that they are not. After much googling, he backed me down, at least enough to where I agreed that it is not as clear as I thought it was.

    Irregardless of what the law might be, I would argue that common sense should be the dominant factor, and that not having paper charts seems less than wise.

    Of course, once you decide that paper charts should be on board, then you have to say “OK — so, what charts should I buy?”

    This is a trickier question than is apparent. To answer it I’ll divide the world into:

    – Regular cruising grounds (where your boat is most of the time)
    – Areas you pass through while moving from point A to point B
    And, – Regions you spend some time in to explore

    And, here’s another way to slice it:

    – Places that are extremely well documented
    – Places that are poorly documented

    I would argue that the common sense paper chart requirements may not be the same in all of the above examples.

    For instance, let’s say that I was planning a non-stop offshore passage from the Panama Canal to Cabo. At several dollars per chart, do I really need paper charts for every marina and bay along a 2,000 mile stretch that I’ll never approach? Does the answer change if there’s a reasonable expectation that bad weather or mechanical problems might force me to shore somewhere along the route?

    My policy, which isn’t perhaps a perfect policy, is to have detailed electronic charts, with EVERYTHING, for everywhere I’m planning to go, whether staying or just passing through. If I’m within 100 miles of Cuba, I’ll want to have detailed electronic charts for Cuba. There are lots of reasons why I might need to get to shore, and I’ll want to know how to get there safely.

    However, I WON’T buy the detailed paper charts, if I’m not planning to stop, unless I can buy a reasonably priced chart book. Inexpensive chart books are available for most popular regions; for instance, you can buy “The Bahamas” or “The Pacific NW”. These are usually under $100, and make sense to have on board whenever in the region.

    This upcoming run to Japan will be unusual, in that given the potentially bad weather, and uncharted territory, I’ll be making a significant investment in paper charts, even though my hope is to never get close to land. There really isn’t an “Aleutian Island Chart Book” I can buy, so I’ll have to write a big check, and find space for a thick stack of charts. But, I don’t believe electronic charts alone are sufficient for cruising in a region that prone to “surprise.”

    -Ken W

  4. Arild: I agree with you. I didn’t really “get” this point until this last trip when we were cruising in central america. Charts can not be counted on to be reliable. My policy, when cruising in poorly charted regions, is to use AS MANY different reference materials as possible, and consult them all when there is any question. This includes electronic charts (on different systems), paper charts, guide books, coast pilots, and anything else I can find.

    In areas like the Pacific NW, I am perhaps a bit sloppier, in that the area is heavily traveled by boats, and the charts tend to be more detailed and accurate. Even in these waters though, I always have up both Nobeltec and Navnet, figuring this gives me two completely different electronic charts to compare. I also keep a chart book for the region, and will consult it to see the approaches to marinas, and to look for any chart notes which exist. The electronic charting systems, in my opinion, make it too easy to miss important details, such as military zones and other areas to avoid.

    I should also mention one other important use of paper charts: On major passages, it is critical to plot your position on a wide area chart at least once an hour. In the event of electronics failure, this allows you to know where you were when the lights went out.

    -Ken W

    PS I’m VERY nervous about the Aleutians. They are poorly charted, and I’ve been told that the islands are volcanic and constantly changing. My Siberian contact mentioned that he had gone aground with an experienced crew that knew the islands well. My plan is to stay at least 5-10 miles offshore, and to use the charts only as rough guides — real navigation will come from the radar, depth sounder, and the sonar. I’ll believe what I see, not what I read.

  5. From my days when I was actively involved in surveys and checking electronic charts versus paper charts I an tell you that C-Map failed to update a serious misplacement of navigation markers as much as two years after I notified the Vice President of Marketing North America.

    In Georgian Bay there were two similar looking islands and CMap had misplaced the navigation markers beside the wrong island. That wasn’t the only fault. Just the most glaring. I counted somethign like 2 dozen mistakes ranging from mislabeling place names to the navigation buoys to missing a couple of BIG rocks which were either island or submerged rocks depending on water levels.

    By comparison Canadian Paper charts are guaranteed triple checked for accuracy. Consider this. Who is going to check the fine details of some remote out of the way place that only sees a dozen or so cruisers a year.
    Except that you might just be that one in a thousand who happens to find that misplaced rock with your keel.

    Remember Bruce Kesler lost his first boat to a pinnacle rock in Alaskan waters.

    When it comes to the ultra fine details only trust the Government Hydrographic Office paper issue.

    The quality Assurance on some electronic charts is less than optimum. Do you know the process used to validate every kind of eChart?
    Especially in northern latitude waters with a much lower trafic count.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the first to know when

the game releases!

Plus, receive special insider, behind the scenes, sneak peeks and interviews as the game is being made. Don’t worry. We will not spam you, and we will not flood your box with too many emails.
 — Ken Williams

Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson