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January 24, 2020

NOAA Is Phasing Out Paper Nautical Charts and Seeking Public Comment

Sorry for the short notice, everyone, but The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is seeking public comment on the “sunsetting” process by which paper charts will be phased out. You have a week to comment.

“NOAA is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production and is seeking the public’s feedback via a Federal Register Notice,” a statement on the NOAA website said. “Chart users, companies that provide products and services based on NOAA raster and electronic navigational chart products, and other stakeholders can help shape the manner and timing in which the product sunsetting process will proceed. Comments may be submitted through NOAA’s online ASSIST feedback tool.”

Comments must be submitted by February 1. Again, sorry for the short notice. We’re curious how you feel about this move, what kinds of charts you use, and what kinds of backups you have. We’ll ask a few questions below.

Sure, electronic charts are convenient, updatable, and even cheaper. (Is that actually true?) But if you love sailing, you probably love paper charts, such as this rendering of our beloved Central Bay.
© 2020 NOAA

Production will ultimately be shut down for “all raster chart products and services associated with traditional NOAA paper nautical charts, including: Print-on-demand (POD) paper nautical charts, Full-size chart PDFs, NOAA raster navigational charts, BookletChart PDFs, NOAA RNC tile service, and Online RNC viewer.” NOAA said that these products will be phased out starting in mid- to late 2020 and be completed by January 2025.

NOAA said that since 2008, there’s been a 425% increase in the sale of electronic navigational charts, or ENCs, while sales of paper charts have dropped by half, “similar to the transition from road atlases to GPS navigation systems that we have witnessed in this digital era.” In addition, NOAA is in the midst of a multi-year program to improve its ENC coverage “by replacing over 1,200 irregularly shaped ENC cells, compiled in over 130 different scales, with a standard gridded layout of ENCs, compiled in just a dozen standard scales. This will increase the number of ENC cells to about 9,000 and significantly improve the level of detail and consistency among ENCs.”

For some of us old-school sailors, or for those of us who prefer a few analog systems, our question is, “What do you use as a backup if your electronics fail?”

“The NOAA Custom Chart (NCC) application enables users to create their own charts from the latest NOAA ENC data,” NOAA said. Users are able to define the scale and paper size of custom-made nautical charts centered on a position of their choosing. “NCC then creates a geospatially referenced Portable Document Format (GeoPDF) image of a nautical chart. Chart notes and other marginalia are placed on a separate PDF page. Users may then download, view, and print the output. NCC is an easy way to create a paper or digital backup for electronic chart systems or other Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled chart displays.”

Top and bottom, a comparison of NOAA Chart ‘16204’ and the corresponding NOAA Custom Chart. “Although it looks a bit different from a traditional NOAA chart, NCCs show the latest data as compiled in the NOAA ENCs. The prototype is in the early phases of development and many improvements are needed to make NCC a viable replacement for traditional paper nautical charts. We hope you will try out the NOAA Custom Chart prototype and tell us what you think through NOAA’s online ASSIST feedback tool.”)
© 2020 NOAA

Tell us about how you use charts, and how you feel about the end of paper charts.

Do you write notes directly on your charts as you’re at sea and nosing around the coast of somewhere? Do you have charts framed around your house, or otherwise employed as art or ambience? (Are electronic charts ultimately cheaper than their paper kin?) Please send us some pictures via email, or comment below.

How Low Can You Go? Very, Says San Rafael

We don’t want to make too big of a deal about the completely normal seasonal tides ebbing and flowing into and out of our winter lives. But as we walk our beat through San Rafael, the bottom of the ebb is pretty dramatic-looking on a waterway that was only partially dredged in 2011, and hasn’t been fully dredged since 2002.

We’re not quite sure what happened with this sailboat. We snapped it on Wednesday, across the San Rafael Canal from the Marin Yacht Club, with the mast on the deck and sails strewn about. The dinghy on the left is ironically named Escape. It appears that this boat’s master did just that, though walking — or wading through the mud — looks possible.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC /

The Canal’s problems are exemplified at its bitter end, near Terrapin Crossing and Montecito Plaza, where the super-low tides pull nearly all the water off the mud.

Note the sailboat in the foreground, side-tied two-deep next to Active.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’ll have the ‘latest’ on the efforts to get the San Rafael Canal dredged in the February issue’s Sightings. Spoiler alert: There’s no real news to report, other than the continued efforts of concerned citizens — such as Nadine Urciuoli, the CEO of the newly-formed San Rafael Channel Association and general manager of Helmut’s Marine — to lobby the federal government to allocate the funds to dig the darn Canal.

Just six hours until things turn around for this boat.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC /

Is your local waterway in need of a dredge? Please let us know by commenting below, or emailing us here.

Sunny Days at San Diego’s Sunroad Marina Boat Show

The great thing about California’s two big bays, San Francisco Bay and San Diego Bay, is they’re both full of sailboats and sailors. We always enjoy getting down to San Diego for the Baja Ha-Ha kick-off, but there’s lots more going on in this last-stop-before-Mexico sailing ground.

It’s a warm, pleasant sailing area with numerous events from Sabot races to San Diego Yacht Club’s Hot Rum Series, the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race coming up in March, and boat shows. We made a quick trip down to visit with friends and customers at the Sunroad Resort Marina Boat Show running January 23-26. While San Diego has a big powerboat contingent, the show was also chock full of sailboats from Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, Tartan, Hanse, Elan, Moody, Bali, Lagoon, Fountaine-Pajot, Nautitech and a few more.

Jeff Brown Yachts
We saw Pete McCormick, formerly of North Sails, with Karen and Jeff Brown aboard the new Sirena 64 from Jeff Brown Yachts. Pete will soon be opening the new Jeff Brown Yachts office in Sausalito with Jason Farrow.
Mexico Harbormasters
The Mexico welcoming committee was on hand: Gabriel Ley from Marina Costa Baja, Nathan from Marina Puerto Escondido, Raffa Alacantara from Marina Riviera Nayarit, Diego Fernandez from Baja Naval, and Fito Espinosa from Marina Coral.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Barrett Canfield Jeff Thorpe
Barrett Canfield of South Coast Yachts and Jeff Thorpe of Quantum Sails were reconnecting on the Sunroad docks.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Kenyon Martin Seattle Yachts
Kenyon Martin, formerly of JK3 Yachts, was settling into his new role at Seattle Yachts aboard a brokerage Moody 54.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
San Diego Sunroad Boat Show
The docks were busy for a Thursday. Sunny weather should hold through the end of the show on Sunday.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
San Diego sunset
The quick walk back to the airport was enhanced by the orange glow of a San Diego Bay sunset.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

One of the amazing things about the Sunroad show is that you can easily walk the 1.1 miles from the San Diego airport to the marina. After a great day at the show we did just that, and jumped onto a plane back to that other great California bay to be back in time for tomorrow’s Three Bridge Fiasco.

Minney’s Yacht Surplus Closing for One Year

The Minney family has been running Minney’s Yacht Surplus in Costa Mesa for well over 50 years, with Ernie Minney at the helm since he and his family completed their circumnavigation in 1970. So right now seemed like a good time for a break. But it is just a break. Ernie sent us the following note:

“We will be closed the entire year of 2020 for remodeling. My staff has departed, and there is no one to handle sales or shipping.”

Minney's Yacht Surplus
Minney’s Yacht Surplus is closing for 2020 and will be buffed up and ready for you in 2021.
© 2020 Minney's Yacht Surplus

“Projects include the repaving of the back parking lot, new restrooms, cleaning and painting sail containers, building new spar racks, and better display spaces and lighting in the lower part of the store.

“Sorry for the inconvenience. I am reading your emails but don’t have the time to answer all of them. If you have a refund coming, want to cash out of Minney Money, etc., I’ll get back to you. Have a great year.”

America's Cup News
America's Cup Defender Emirates Team New Zealand revealed their new test boat yesterday in Auckland. Te Kāhu, meaning ‘The Hawk’, was named and christened by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, a local sub-tribe of Maori.
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ASA 101/103 Combination Course: Basic Keelboat Sailing and Basic Coastal Cruising at Modern Sailing School & Club.
Sausalito Community Boating Center
Richardson Bay is a particularly popular destination for spawning herring, so it's fitting that Sausalito would be home to a herring festival. Herring is quite healthy and delicious smoked or fresh.