Stop the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from phasing out Paper Charts!

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The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, has recently announced that they will be phasing out Paper Nautical Navigation Charts, in their Traditional Format. This is a horrible idea that affects everyone that puts to Sea, and could potentially cost lives. Paper Charts have been in use for Centuries, and are virtually foolproof. Even if you get them wet, they are often salvageable (Even a damaged Chart, is better than no Chart!). They want to completely replace Paper Charts with Electronic Chart Plotters. The main reason that one shouldn't rely solely on Electronic Navigation Equipment, is that it is susceptible to water damage (Sea Water & Electronics, don't mix well). Therefore Paper Charts should always be on hand as a backup (As well as readily available). Accurate, up to date Charts are crucial, when it comes to safe Navigation!

The lives of everyone aboard, depend on this!

Electronic Navigation devices, are not only susceptible to damage from Sea water, they are also vulnerable to Corrosion, EMP, Fire, Heat, Cold, Dampness (It is very damp, at Sea), Power Surges, Computer Glitches, Impact, Overheating, Interruption in Power Supply (I.E. Dead Batteries), and Issues with the Satellite Network, to name a few. They are also, quite often, defective, right from the factory! Any one of these scenarios can render a GPS Unit or Chart Plotter, completely useless! It has been my experience(I've spent my whole life at Sea), that Murphy's Law reigns, "Anything that can possibly go wrong, can and will!" Smart Mariners live by the K.I.S.S. Theory (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is why Redundancy is so important. By all means, have a Chart Plotter aboard, but you should also have a GPS, and Paper Charts, at the very least. To quote the immortal Capt. Ron "If anything [Bad] is gonna happen, it'll happen out there!" [On the open Ocean]

To quote a few of the many concerned members of the Marlinespike Sailor's Guild:

  • Douglas Nordby: "You have nothing but a screen full of pixels, one glitch, you have nothing but a black screen.
    Relying entirely on electronic charts is foolish. We musn't let this happen!"
  • Mike Sundstrom: "Y'all know the difference between a GPS and a paper chart both with bullet holes in em?
    The chart still works!"
  • Kimberly Mulrooney: (Deckhand and Medical Officer for Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild) "WTH??? I can't just whip out my electronic chart on the fly.
    After my antennae snapped and my inverter failed...
    This is potentially dangerous!
    This would potentially risk many Sailors with less than Dark Ages technology.- being subjected to only electronic images of charts. What about equipment failure? = no electronic charts...lol
    No charts?
    No way.                                                                           In a lifeboat, you NEED hard copy paper charts!⚓"
  • Steve Dow: "The USNA has started teaching sextant use again after many years. High tech is great, but alone it’s an Achilles heel!"
  • John Butcher: "Phasing out Paper Charts, is discriminatory, towards Sailors that have issues with poor Eyesight, and can't read the screen of a Chart Plotter, but can still read Paper Charts. As well as those that are technologically illiterate! Not to mention the prohibitive costs associated with Electronic Navigation Equipment. Paper Charts are a necessity, when it comes to safe Navigation. Forcing us to switch to Electronic Chart Plotters, is against our Civil rights! It is inviting disaster! Think of the potential Lawsuits that could ensue, if not having Paper Charts available, were to cost even a single life!" 
  • Rudy and Jill Sechez: "I cannot speak for anyone else, but we use only paper charts and demand their continued printing. We’ve seen or heard of too many incidents wherein folks got into trouble relying on their charts, paper or electronic, new or old. In fact, we seem to hear of fewer problems from experienced folks who use old charts. Like us, they just do not trust them to begin with, a position that folks with so-called, up-to-date charts might want to adopt." (Source: https://www.passagemaker.com/trawler-news/litho-chart-debate

I will add, that many people (Including myself) still Navigate solely by Celestial Navigation & Paper Charts. For us it is not only a tradition, but it is the only way that suits our needs. Removing access to up to date Paper Charts, is not only highly discriminatory, but it is against our rights! Long story short, Electronic Navigation is not even remotely foolproof! Paper charts are the closest thing you can get, to being foolproof! They have been the Gold Standard, for Centuries! Why take them away?

Case in point, back in 2013, when I was working as a Lobster Fisherman, on the Bay of Fundy, the glass was knocked out of our wheelhouse by a rogue wave. All our Electronics were fried! Including our Electronic Navigation Equipment! The waters we were on, are particularly hazardous, as the shallow rock bottom has been the cause of many Shipwrecks over the years, and many lives have been lost on account of this! The only reason we made it back in one piece, is the fact that we had Paper Charts as a backup! Even though they had gotten wet, they were still legible enough to guide us on our 3 day voyage home!

What we are proposing, is that the NOAA repeal their decision to cease production of Paper Nautical Navigation Charts, and to continue to produce them, in their Traditional Size & Format (Forever!), marked in Nautical Miles & Fathoms (For us Traditional Sailors), as well as in Metric (For the International crowd), and to keep them affordable. 

Furthermore, I would like to propose that the USCG & CCG make Paper Charts a Mandatory Requirement, on all Open Water Vessels!

Sincerely,

John D. Rae, Lifelong Mariner, Rigger, & Founder of the Marlinespike Sailor's Guild (We currently have over 3,800 Members, World Wide)