UPDATE: While not universally or rigidly enforced, regulations about what ships in Canadian waters carry are quite explicit and not at all ambiguous. The Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations of 1995 clearly require all vessels to carry up to date, corrected paper charts for all the waters they travel as well as Notices to Mariners, Lists of Lights, Radio Aids to Marine Navigation these three are available as free PDF downloads on our site. Sailing Directions and, where applicable, tide tables are also required.[More Great Lakes Chart Info Here]
We’ve heard scuttlebutt about some Lake Ontario boaters who have been charged for not carrying the proper charts. While the Canadian Shipping Act is very clear about what is required on large ships, it is less prescriptive for small boat operators. Although the law requires all marine vessels to carry charts, small boat operators are exempt as long as they have “local knowledge” of the area. It is the definition of “local knowledge” that is variable and can get the average mariner into trouble.
Whether it illegal or not to operate your boat without charts, mariners should always have at least a large-scale chart of the area they regularly boat in. And if in unfamiliar waters, charts are a helpful aid for keeping your boat out of trouble. In addition to maritime law and basic self-preservation, some boat insurance policies may also require current charts of the area you’re operating in.
A short note about scale and terminology: small scale charts show large areas, and are for example the Great Lakes general chart, or passage charts. Large scale charts show smaller areas, and are for example 2085, the Toronto Harbour chart
We know that buying a ton of individual charts can be expensive. There is often a more economical solution. For example if you are boating on the Great Lakes, there is a Richardsons Chartbook for each lake that includes both the small-scale, large area charts and the more detailed charts. New editions are issued every few years. However, they may not be considered “proper charts” by the very strictest/most litigious authorities.
We list thousands of charts on our site, and have free PDF copies of the Canadian Hydrographic Service chart catalogues down the right-hand side of our chart pages. We keep our inventory fresh so are charts are always up-to-date, and we’ve had years of experience in chart selection and can help you choose the right compliment of charts for your needs, anywhere in the world. Have a look at the Chart section of our website, or call or email us for a tailored list.