NOAA's latest mobile app provides free nautical charts for recreational boating
As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, NOAA is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, will be released on May 20.
MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has "geotagged" some of the major locations—embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app—and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play app store.
"Easy and workable access to nautical charts is important for boating safety," said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA Office of Coast Survey. "I've seen a popular t-shirt that has a 'definition' of a nautical chart splayed across the front: 'chärt, n: a nautical map that shows you what you just hit.' As creative as that is, a boating accident can kill. Keeping a nautical chart on hand – to avoid hitting something – can save lives."
The beta test for MyNOAACharts will expire this Labor Day, Sept. 2. Coast Survey will then evaluate usage and user feedback to decide whether to release a finished version of the app.
"Expanding the app across a multitude of platforms, ensuring easy accessibility to over a thousand charts and nearly 5,000 pages of U.S. Coast Pilot, will take considerable resources," Glang said. "We can do it if the boating community likes the app. We truly want the users to let us know if the app meets their needs."
Boaters without an Android tablet should not despair. The Office of Coast Survey provides free BookletCharts, which are 8 ½" x 11" PDF versions of NOAA nautical charts that can be downloaded and printed at home. The U.S. Coast Pilot is also available in a free PDF version. Those products, and information for purchasing other nautical products, are available at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.