Long before my family had a boat and long before I ever ran my own boat into the ocean, I remember being enthralled with a few old, heavy-stock paper nautical charts that belonged to my grandfather. They were tattered and yellow but they had character, and I used to pretend to navigate to the wrecks marked on the charts from my fishing boat (a.k.a. my grandparent’s couch). Somewhere, buried deep in one of the holds on my boat now, I have a few curled up paper charts of the waters off Central Jersey. I haven’t looked at them since I first loaded my GPS with waypoints, but I know in a pinch, if I needed to study a contour line or find a wreck not on my screen, they’re available. And it’s a good thing I have them, because as of April 2014, the classic paper nautical charts produced by NOAA will be no more.


According to this story on, NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), has decided to axe paper charts like the one above because they’re just too expensive to produce. From the article:

The Federal Aviation Administration, which took over federal chart-making in 1999, wants to save some money and informed NOAA earlier this month that it is going to stop the presses, according to the ocean agency. FAA representatives did not return calls and emails for comment.

The agency will still chart the water for rocks, shipwrecks and other hazards, but sailors, boaters and fishermen will have to use private on-demand printing, PDFs or electronic maps to see the information, said Capt. Shep Smith, head of NOAA’s marine chart division.

In the overall scheme of things, is this a big deal? Not really. But this quote in the piece from Newburyport, MA, harbormaster Paul Hogg kinda sums up how I feel about it.

“It’s the nautical history, you know, pirates and ships,” said Hogg, who has a chart on his office wall. “It seems more nautical. There’s just kind of, like, a feel to it.”

‘Tis a digital world. Have a great weekend, and keep those batteries charged.