The basic definition of the nautical chart Is a graphical interpretation or representation of a maritime geographical location and the corresponding coastal areas situated in relation to them. They may include information regarding water depth and land height, and infrastructure such as bridges, buildings, and harbors.

These charts may also include other items such as information about seabed features, coastline details, hazards to navigation, currents, tides, and even localized details about the Earth’s magnetic field, and more.

The Purpose of Nautical Charts

The Law of Navigation

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Boat captains and other mariners find that the use of nautical charts is essential to plot courses for boats and watercraft vessels. It is required by law by many different countries that boat captains or other maritime personnel carry nautical charts with them while on the water.

Recent technological developments have made it possible for the downloading of cartographic information immediately prior to use, as soon as the day before in most cases. With its on-demand printing, the most intricate details are updated daily so that captains and other maritime personnel have the most current information at their disposal.

Using Nautical Charts for Marine Navigation

Boat captains and other mariners nautical charts

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Those piloting watercraft, such as boat captains need accurate information to steer their vessels by. In most cases even though electronic nautical charts are readily available and widely used, paper charts are almost always kept as backup for the electronic systems in case of electrical failure.

Nautical charts typically feature a wealth of information, including the longitude and latitude of different spots upon the Earth’s surface. Lights, buoys, beacons, even the possibility of submerged ships and shipwrecks are calculated into your average nautical chart.

Nautical charts are intended to be as complete as possible to aid in every facet of the navigational process and serve the needs of a boat captain or crew as they plot their course along waterways all over the world.

How to Access and Use NOAA Charts

Use of Nautical Charts

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For the maritime personnel operating in and around the United States of America, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) provides charts for private and professional use.

They are the nation’s chart makers primarily, and one of their main areas of specialty is providing the nautical chart as it is an essential tool for waterway navigation for the nation.

Ports and waterways service and are accessed by the extremely high number of watercraft and personnel every year. For example, 1.34 billion pounds of cargo go through our ports estimated with an estimated value of 1.73 trillion dollars in 2011. Waterways carry this cargo through and navigation charts are used to safely deliver it.

Nautical charts play an extremely important role in the safe and Timely delivery of the nation’s goods and goods all over the globe. Nautical charts are an indispensable part of nautical navigation in the world of transportation.

The NOAA has services available online and through official channels that make nautical charts available for commercial and private purposes across the nation. The NOAA can be used and accessed by anybody who needs nautical charts. There are certain fees to access the charts and more information can be found at the NOAA website as well as instructions on how to apply to access the charts.

The Use of Lake Maps

NOAA Teacher at Sea Marsha Skoczek Aboard NOAA Ship

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Besides the many uses for nautical charts along the waterways of the world as far as transporting goods and important cargo for commercial military and private purposes, there are more uses for them.

In the smaller waterways of the world, many private fishermen and other sportsman used boats and other watercraft to conduct fishing, hunting, and recreational activities. Many people who use watercraft for sports and recreation purposes rely on lake maps to navigate along the waterways of lakes across the nation.

Lake maps are also available to various online channels in the NOAA for private parties and for non-commercial uses.


Who Usually Uses Nautical Charts?

Who Used Nautical Charts?

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There are many people who usually use nautical charts such as boat captain and other maritime personnel. Nautical charts can be used for private for commercial purposes, and by any citizens engaged in recreational sports activities or by companies or corporations transporting goods in and out of ports and in waterways throughout the world.

Most individuals who use nautical charts are some kind of boating expert, and usually, possess a boating license which is required for the use of most watercraft in most locations. The use of nautical charts takes a certain degree of technical skill to master.

There are courses on how to read and use nautical charts for the purposes of watercraft navigation available in many locations and online at certain websites. Those interested in learning more about nautical charts and how to use them for their own purposes can contact the NOAA or other boating organizations or institutions for more information.

Feature image via  NOAA’s National Ocean Service