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CHS Electronic Charts and How to Use Them

This is a short post to lay out some clear answers about CHS (Canadian Hydrographic Service) electronic charts.

CHS Digital Charts for the Pacific Coast
Pacific Coast Digital Chartsets

CHS does sell electronic charts- which are available in BSBv3 (unencrypted) Raster and S57 Vector formats. They are available for the Great Lakes, Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast, and Arctic. These charts are not available on CD, but must be downloaded. Users purchase access to these charts from a chart agents (like our store), and once we process your order, we will provide you with a transaction code and how-to guide so that you can access your charts and download them onto a computer or other device. Most important, however, is that you don’t need to use the windows executable that comes with the downloaded charts in order to read them- as long as the plotting software you have can read BSB3 or S57 charts.

Great Lakes Digital Charts
The Great Lakes digital chart sets
CHS Digital Charts for the Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Coast Digital Chartsets

You will need Chart plotting or navigation software to then load and use the charts- we suggest OpenCPN. Other options include INavX, which is available for both iOS and Android, and so can be used on iPads and other hand-held devices.

In Canadian waters, even if you carry electronic charts, you are still required to carry paper charts.

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Choosing Your Charts

Rich_Lake _Ontario_Ed_07_Cover 01.indd

Now that Spring has Sprung, it’s time for our annual CHARTS! post.

In the past, a number of blogs have been written about charts: what we carry, what we can order, and laws regarding charts. We’re proud to be a chart agent, providing Canadian Hydrographic Services charts, as well as charts from NOAA, Imray, Maptech, Richardson’s, NV Charts, and a number other organizations and companies. There continues to be some confusion over charts, specifically the legality of chartbooks and what is required.

The Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations, Article 5(1) (c) (i) states that boats are required to carry “…the largest scale chart according to the reference catalogue… ”

Since this is something that confuses many people:
Small Scale = Large Area
Large Scale = Small Area

To put it another way, if you’re boating around Toronto Harbour, you’ll be required to carry chart 2085- Toronto Harbour. Chart 2077 (Lake Ontario West End) or 2000 (Lake Ontario general) would not be considered to have sufficient information.

The Canada Shipping Act requires most vessels to carry paper charts specifically, even if navigation will be done by GPS or on a computer. If you’re are going to be navigating, you should be carrying charts.

There have also recently been more questions about the legality of chartbooks, such as Richardson’s, Mapquest, and NV-Charts. These are not technically charts, but instead are very high quality photographs of charts. From discussions with representatives of various law enforcement agencies it is clear that there is no universal policy towards chart books. Anecdotal evidence suggests that also, reaction will vary from officer to officer. While the odds suggest that any individual person or boat may not be stopped by the Police or Coast Guard, and even if they were a chartbook such as Maptech or Richardson’s would usually be considered sufficient, they do not technically satisfy the legal requirement to carry charts in Canada.

The reality is that chartbooks such as Richardson’s are much easier to use on a chart table than a full paper chart, and that chartbooks are much more cost efficient than purchasing a full set of paper charts. We also understand that cost is a major factor for choosing to purchase chartbooks only, and not paper charts. What we would suggest is that our clients purchase a chartbook such as Richardson’s for their day-to-day navigation requirements, but also purchase the CHS charts they need to cover their usual cruising areas. To do so is more expensive, but it will cost far less than the fines for not carrying paper charts.

Charts are just part of what is required to be carried on board. It is always necessary to update charts or chartbooks with the Notices to Mariners. In addition, boats are required to have Chart One, Sailing Directions,Tide & Current Tables, the List of Lights, and Buoys and Fog Signals.

If you’ve talked to us about charts- you know that we place a strong emphasis on paper charts, whether they be CHS, NOAA, Imray, Explorer or anything else. Digital Charts cannot be denied, however. In Canada, it is still required to carry paper charts, even if you have digital charts. If you would like to purchase digital Canadian Hydrographic Service charts, we can absolutely provide them to you.

Canadian Hydrographic Service Digital Charts

There are a bevy of options when buying charts. Keep on reading for some information on the differences between the charts we carry, and things to consider when making a decision about which charts to purchase. In this blog, I’ll discuss the various types of charts that we carry and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each. I’ll start by considering specific regions. However, what needs to be stated up front is that despite everything mentioned below, the first priority is that you feel comfortable reading your charts, and can understand them.

The Great Lakes

In the Great Lakes, there are two broad categories of charts: First, the Canadian Hydrographic Service and NOAA (US) charts, and second the Richardson’s Chartbooks.

The Official Charts
Published by the CHS and NOAA, these are “proper” charts.


  • These are the official charts, and strictly satisfy the requirements (under Canadian law) for carrying charts
  • Individually, CHS charts are relatively inexpensive as most cost approximately $22.60 ($20 with taxes).
  • These are absolutely readily available in large numbers (with a few days advanced notice
  • These are up to date- most CHS or NOS charts don’t remain in our chart table for more than a few months


  • When buying multiple *different* charts, this can get fairly expensive- a complete set of the Canadian and US Charts for Lake Ontario would cost approximately $1000.
  • These are huge, when unfolded- 85cm by 120cm- and can be unwieldy to deal with. (This is for *standard* charts- strip charts and Chart 2201 (Georgian Bay General) are different dimensions. NOS charts, however, come in a number of different dimensions (but all relatively similar) this makes working with charts on small chart tables very difficult.

Richardson’s Chartbooks

Rich_Lake _Ontario_Ed_07_Cover 01.inddThis is a series of chartbooks, with one each for Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Hudson River and New York Canal System. These chartbooks combing charts into a single package.


  • These are very high quality photographs of the US and Canadian charts. You can lay them on top of each other for comparison purposes
  • In terms of form factor, these are much easier to use in a canoe, kayak, or small yacht/cruiser where table space is at a premium
  • They reduce some of the double-coverage that can happen in charts (At the same scale), so there is less actual paper involved
  • They make it quite clear how to progress from one chart to the next
  • a Richardson’s Chartbook is substantially cheaper than buying the equivalent amount of information in “Proper” charts- for Lake Ontario, a saving of something on the order of 85%
  • It is possible to purchase a vinyl cover for them to keep them dry when using them


  • It can be tedious to bring Chartbooks up to date according to Notices to Mariners
  • They can be somewhat visually busy and confusing.
  • The Richardson’s Hudson River/ New York Canal Systems is designed for a voyage from New York City to Owsego/Buffalo/Montreal, so it can be confusing if you’re travelling the other way.
  • They are marked *NOT FOR NAVIGATION*, which means that if something goes wrong, they can’t be sued. This can be disconcerting to some.

Other Great Lakes/North American Charts

For the other common cruising areas within North America, you can purchase NOAA charts (which are same as above), Waterproof Charts, or Maptech Chartbooks.

Waterproof Charts



  •  These charts cover much of the US East Coast, as well as parts of the Caribbean Sea
  • They are actually water-resistant, which makes them really good for using in the cockpit
  • The paper is a lighter weight than standard charts, and so are easier to use and store.
  • They very much focus on the areas that matter to cruisers- and so for example will have much less open ocean than a comparable NOAA chart. For example, the image to the left is of Cape May to Sandy Hook
  • The visual design is very clear- for example the way to transition between panels on the Hudson Rive chart is more clear than the comparable Richardson’s chartbook.
  • These charts often are on the front and on the back, and can have both large and small scale charts on the same sheet.


  • If you purchase these charts, it is especially important to make sure that you update them to the most recent Notices to Mariners- although because of the surface of the paper it makes it more difficult to update than NOAA charts.
  • These charts are ~$40 CAD including taxes, and so if you’ll be transiting large areas it may be more cost efficient to go with a chart book
  • These charts really do often stick close to shore along the ICW, so if you plan on going further offshore you’ll need to purchase other charts

Maptech Charts



  • These charts are made by the same company as Richardson’s, so they the produce of a similar process create from taking NOAA data.
  • These chartbooks are divided into useful areas, such as New York to Nantucket, Chesapeake, Norfolk to Florida (Atlantic ICW), Florida East Coast, and FLorida West Coast
  • They’re very good for cruisers who want to explore an area as they provide passage charts, inshore charts and harbour charts
  • The whole series can also provide continuity as cruisers continue to travel the US East Coast
  • There are also chartbooks for the US West Coast
  • They come in a heavy duty plastic cover for protection, which can also be used to keep them dry in the cockpit.


  • There is an element of sticker shock- these chartbooks can cost approximately $190 CAD, which seems like a lot although it is considerable savings compared to purchasing individual charts
  • These chartbooks are relatively heavy- approximately twice the size of a Richardson’s they require more storage space

The Caribbean

There are a number of charts options for the Caribbean as well. For example, the Waterproof Chart series mentioned above continues down past Florida to the Mona Passage, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and has a good general chart. We have several options that mainly deal with the Caribbean.


A Lesser Antilles–Puerto Rico to Martinique


  •  Imray is a hugely important company for cruisers- their cruising guides and pilots are the gold standard, and often refer to their charts.
  • Imray charts are single page- sometimes back and front, for example A233, which combines charts A231 and A232 to cover all of the Virgin Islands
  • These charts (like the Waterproof charts) are relatively light, and so can be stored easily- they fold down to a A4 size. Likewise, they each come with a heavy plastic cover to protect them
  • Imray covers much of the world- for example the Mediterranean as well, and so can provide consistency for longer voyages and trips.


  • These charts are ~$40 each, and so to cover a large area will be relatively expensive
  • Imray charts are based on older data- in some cases dating back to the early 20th century- and so are less up to date than other chart series.

NV Charts

NV-Charts Region 9.1: Bahamas–NorthwestPROS

  • These are similar to Richardson’s/Maptech in terms of the benefits of a chartbook
  • This series covers all of the Caribbean from the Windwards and Grenada, the Leewards, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas (in 3 volumes) and Cuba (4 editions) and so can provide continuity.
  • They do come with electronic charts- which either are on a CD or can be downloaded.
  • Recently NV Charts has switched many of its editions to ‘Atlas’ format, which stores as effectively half the size of a Maptech chartbook or similar to a Richardson’s chartbook.
  • These chartbooks contain planning charts, harbour charts and coastal charts
  • they provide GPS waypoints and are designed to be used with electronic navigation as well


  • Again, like with Maptech, there is the sticker shock. These chartbooks are more expensive than getting a small number of Imray charts

Explorer Chartbooks

Explorer Chartbook: Near Bahamas

The Explorer Chartbooks are the gold standard for Bahamas charts. They are the most up-to-date, and most accurate. They are divided into the Near Bahamas, Far Bahamas and Exumas. These are a very different style to the NV Charts or Imray charts- but they are created by experienced cruisers for cruisers. They are printed on tear and water resistant paper. In addition to charts, they also contain tide tables, and an up-to-date list of marinas and services.


As always, we at the Nautical Mind are happy to help you all of your chart needs and requirements.


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Come Visit Our Booth at the Boat Show

The Nautical Mind Will be at the Toronto International Boat Show, January 12-21st. Booth G545

Nautical Mind Boat Show Booth G545

Meet the Boat Show Reading Series Authors:


What Was I Thinking? Adventures of a Woman Sailing Solo











Pamela Bendall, author
What Was I Thinking? Adventures of a Woman Sailing Solo
Saturday 10th, Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th,

Janet Peters, author
The Reluctant Sailor

Bruce Kemp, author
Weather Bomb 1913 – Life and Death on the Great Lakes


Frsyth Front Cover JPEG for Media Release


David J. Forsyth, author
Too Cold for Mermaids

Yves Gélinas, author & film-maker
Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd
With Jean-du-Sud Around the World DVD

Plus charts, cruising guides and our usual fabulous selection of books.


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Guest Post: Yves Gélinas and “Jean-du-Sud and the Magick-Byrd”

Thank you to Yves Gélinas for this guest post. His new book, Jean-du-Sud and the Magick Byrd, is a translation of the memoir relating his circumnavigation.

Jean-du-SudbookAfter a few cruises between Québec and the West Indies, then a sail to Europe, I felt the need for a long voyage around the Great Capes, alone aboard my Alberg 30 Jean-du-Sud. I knew its hull was strong and seaworthy, but it would need a stronger mast and rigging, new sails, self-steering…

I had returned almost penniless from a summer cruise with my daughters in the Stockholm Archipelago and found work in a yard in Brittany. Confident this axiom would verify: If you are deeply convinced that you must do something, it becomes possible, I started to prepare Jean-du-Sud for a long voyage in the Southern Ocean. Having previously worked in cinema, I would shoot film as I sailed.

I attempted to do my share most efficiently. The other share, I entrusted to a little Byrd woven from a Magick coconut palm, which was hanging from the handrail in my boat. Since we had been sailing together, the performance of my Magick-Byrd had been more than adequate, I had never run out of the essential…

Three years later, I sailed from Saint-Malo in France, headed for the Gulf of St. Lawrence the other way around the world, via the Southern Ocean. I rounded Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin, but was capsized and dismasted in the Pacific and I landed at Chatham Islands under jury rig. I spliced and re-stepped the mast, sailed around Cape Horn, and landed in Gaspé after 28 200 miles in 282 sailing days.

I recount this leap of faith in Jean-du-Sud et l’Oizo-Magick, a book published in Québec in 1988, then in France in 1996, now out of print. Latest contribution from the Magick-Byrd, it is translated in English by Karen Caruna 35 years later and published by Annapolis-based 59 North Sailing.Map of Voyage_preview


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New Book: Weather Bomb 1913

Bruce will be signing copies and answering questions at the Nautical Mind Bookstore (108-249 Queen’s Quay W. 416-203-1163) on Saturday Nov. 25 from one to three pm. They make great Christmas presents so please come down and join us for an interesting afternoon.

Thank you to author Bruce Kemp for this blog about his new book Weather Bomb 1913: Life and Death on the Great Lakes, which is about the 7-10 November 1913 hurricane and blizzard that destroyed 19 ships and damaged 19 others on four of the Great Lakes. This is a fantastic book that combines the feel of a nautical thriller with local history, colourful anecdotes and insights into Great Lakes weather.

Disasters don’t just occur on the far side of the world and they are more than what we read about online or see on television. They happen every day to people like you and me and become tangible events hanging over us with stories spanning generations. For millions of Canadians and Americans growing up around the Great Lakes the Weather Bomb, that 1913 hurricane which killed so many people and sank so many ships, still resonates.

SS Hawgood, beached at Sarnia

Coming from Sarnia, the Storm was always a part of our background noise, but it wasn’t until I became a scuba diver and visited the wreck of the submerged Charles S. Price that it came home to me. Right away I knew it was a story in need of a good telling and I began what eventually became 40 years of research and writing – becoming a Ulysses on what turned into as much a personal odyssey into our history as it did a great story to write about.

SS Regina

I didn’t realize when I set out that there were a number of people who survived the blow and wanted to tell their stories. Some of the tales were by people who were directly involved with the devastation and others came from folks who vividly remembered the horrendous weather system and it they meant to their families.

As proof the hurricane is still a factor, in interviews with modern ship captains, I learned they keep the Storm in mind when planning fall voyages and professional weather men study the causes and impacts to better prepare us for the next time the Witch of November comes storming in from the west.

SS John A. McGean
SS Charles S. Price, before the storm
SS Charles S Price, after the storm.


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New Book: Marine Diesel Basics by Dennison Berwick

Here at the Nautical Mind, we have books written by all kinds of perspectives. Many of our books are by experts like Nigel Calder and are filled with technical details. Others, like the book I’m going to talk about today, are the the product of hard experience, but are written for those without advanced technical training. Marine Diesel Basics by Dennison Berwick is a brilliant book that should be part of the boat’s library for everybody Canadian sailor who has a diesel engine aboard their boat.

Dennison Berwick is an experienced Canadian sailor, and this book is borne of his hard-won experience aboard Oceandrifter. This book specifically targets many aspects of diesel engines, from ongoing maintenance, to winterization, re-commissioning in the spring, and preparation for long-term storage. It is very specifically targeted to diesel engines- and doesn’t cover other topics. But this is absolutely fine because this should be the only book on diesel engines most people should need. Frankly, it seems that if there issues you can’t address with this book, they are probably ones that you should seek professional mechanical help for anyways.

For day-to-day maintenance, and for the seasonal maintenance requirements, this book is really well laid out. It considers the diesel engine as a system. The book is divided into three main sections: Maintenance, Lay-Up, and Recommissioning, and each section contains many individual processes.

Although this book doesn’t have many photographs, each process has a number of illustrations. These, for example, show the reader what the process they’re doing will generally look like. And further, visual clues of good things and bad things to look for. When it comes to maintenance for example, it provides examples of both what is to be expected, and then lists of alternatives and necessary actions.

Although it may seem like a minor thing, each process details all the equipment needed- including for cleaning up before and after. This kind of attention to detail will make this book ideal for those who are not especially experienced and yet are entirely capable of maintaining their engines themselves

Overall, this book is highly recommended for anybody who has a diesel engine aboard their boat.

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Guest Blog from Janet Peters

Thank you to Janet Peters, author of The Reluctant Sailor, for this great guest blog. This blog provides some context for her excellent book.

I live in a small town on the shores of Georgian Bay. The area is commonly known as the Georgian Triangle comprising Meaford, Craighleith, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach. In this area, we have a number of artists, sculptures, and writers. It is here that I started writing my book, The Reluctant Sailor. In our local library the CEO of the library started a writers group which meet twice a month. During the time it took me to write the book I met a number of would-be writers. We helped each other by reading passages from our writings and giving help and encouragement. This is one way a new writer keeps going and not giving up. After seven years I finally finished my book.

It is also here that we started sailing on Georgian Bay. We had a 27 foot Mirage, a Canadian sailboat made in Quebec. My husband, Al, enjoyed day sailing from Collingwood into the bay and beyond. I didn’t like the boat as much since there was no proper galley and I was told to sleep in the V berth. Just under the V berth was the holding tank. One can imagine that the air above the holding tank wasn’t as fresh as one would like. I did take a few sailing trips beyond Collingwood: North Channel for one. We also practiced my first overnight passage on Georgian Bay to prepare me for our eventual voyage.

I was asked one time to compare sailing on the Great Lakes or on the ocean. My answer was the ocean since the lake waters were choppier due to a shallower depth, and we didn’t have rocks to worry about. We had no instruments on our small boat to measure weather and bad weather came up quickly.

Because of the time my husband sailed with our Mirage and loved it, he became convinced that once retired he would buy the best yacht he could afford and sail around the world. Of course, this meant a great deal of disruption: selling a house and moving away from all my life in the city. You can imagine my reluctance resulting in a lot of persuasion on my husband’s part.

Our eventual sailboat 42-foot Cabo Rico was a class above any day sailor. We had so much electronic and safety equipment that I couldn’t help feeling more secure and comfortable compared to the Mirage. My husband agreed to buy the Cabo Rico for that reason. He wanted to make sure that I was going to be happy and safe. During our six years sailing that wasn’t always the case.

In spite of our naïve expectations about this endeavor we went ahead with all the necessary planning and five years later set out from Collingwood to pick up our new yacht in Fort Lauderdale on a very snowy January day.

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Some New Books For Motorboaters

It would be fair to say that Sailing dominates the shelves here at the Nautical Mind. This fall however, we have two fantastic new books coming out specifically for motorboaters and motor cruising.

Stress-Free Motorboating
Duncan Wells

This is the companion book to the fantastic and very popular Stress-Free Sailing. There are many actions and evolutions aboard a motorboat that require two or more pairs of hands, and are complex. When boats are crewed by a single person, or there are inexperienced people or children aboard, events such as leaving or returning to the dock, using canals, navigating, or dealing with emergencies can be particularly stressful. In this book, Duncan Wells discusses these kinds of scenarios. Text is accompanied by step-by-step photos and illustrations that show ways in which these operations can be done single-handed or shorthanded. Further, he addresses things like the difference between controlling boats powered by different types and numbers of engines, and managing man-overboard situations. This is a book that everybody who owns a powerboat should have in their library. Whether it’s your first time, your first powerboat, or you’re experienced this is a great book to help substantially reduce your stress when aboard.

The Inland Voyager’s Handbook
Danny L Davis

This book is perfect for both those who cruiser the Great Lakes and the Circle Route here in North America, as well as those who venture further abroad to the inland waters of Europe. Here’s a guidebook to travelling inland waterways safely and smoothly on any budget. Davis discusses what the lifestyle offers, suggests routes, provides guidance for choosing and preparing a boat for voyaging and for transiting locks, advises on where and how to anchor, and much more


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Tall Ship Race from Bermuda to Boston


Thank you to Nautical Mind staff member Robin Leaver-Fraser for this guest blog about her recent experience above the tall ship Atyla, which is visiting North America as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration.


Tall ships from around the world have come to Canada to participate in the Rendezvous 2017 festival hosted by Sail Training International which celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday. I was able to join a Spanish ship, Atyla, on a leg of their journey. Atyla is a two-masted wooden schooner which was hand built and launched in 1984 with the goal of sailing around the world. This goal was never fully accomplished and the ship was repurposed as a sail training vessel in 2013 by the current captain and nephew of the original builder.

I joined the ship on June 4th in Hamilton, Bermuda and stayed until the next event in Boston. Although the intention was to leave the next day, dangerous winds postponed the race keeping all the ships at anchor in St. Georges for another few nights.

Finally on the 9th the race began and the ships sailed onto the open ocean. Bermuda faded quickly from sight and within a day there was no land left on the horizon. It was another eight days of sailing before we could see Boston in the distance.

While sailing the crew was split into 3 watches who took turns being awake and on watch for 4 hours, then off watch for 8. Aside from being on watch, our time was filled with lessons given by the permanent crew on board. The subjects of these lessons included knots, seamanship, engineering, sail handling and navigation as well as daily character development workshops led by the ship’s professional ‘Coach’.

You could also spend your time playing a never-ending game of fetch with the tireless ship dog Olivia!

We arrived in Boston on the 17th and participated in a Parade of Sail with over 50 other ships watched by massive crowds along the waterfront. It was an incredible end to an incredible experience.

Want to learn more about Atyla and become a trainee? Check out their website here.

Want to learn about Sail Training International and how to Sail On Board? You can find that information here.