Imray paper charts of the mediterranean with a hat and dividers
  • 20th February 2024
  • Blog
  • by Pete Green
  • 0

In today’s age of cutting-edge technology, the question arises: do we still rely on traditional paper charts to navigate when we are sailing? With GPS systems and electronic chart plotters becoming the norm, it’s easy to overlook the age-old practice of chart reading. However, before we cast aside our trusty paper charts, let’s delve into why they still hold a vital place in the world of yachting.

Imray paper charts of the mediterranean with a hat and dividersFirst and foremost, there’s an undeniable charm to unfolding a crisp paper chart and tracing your intended route with your finger. It connects us to the seafaring traditions of old, reminding us of the artistry and precision required in navigation. There’s a certain satisfaction in mastering the skill of coastal navigation. Finding our location from a three-point fix or simply plotting our position from the latitude and longitude coordinates can be extremely rewarding. 

But beyond nostalgia, paper charts offer tangible benefits that electronic systems often overlook. Consider the reliability factor. While electronic devices are susceptible to malfunctions due to power outages, software glitches, or water damage, a paper chart remains steadfast, unaffected by technological hiccups. In the event of an emergency, having a backup navigation method can be a lifesaver.

rya chart work and training on board a yachtMoreover, there’s something to be said about the depth of understanding gained from studying a paper chart. It requires a level of engagement and spatial awareness that simply cannot be replicated by glancing at a screen. By honing our chart-reading skills, we sharpen our ability to interpret depths, contours, and symbols, empowering us to navigate with confidence even in unfamiliar waters.

Let’s not forget the importance of redundancy in navigation. While electronic chart plotters offer convenience, they are not infallible. Just as seasoned sailors keep multiple sails on board in case of damage, so too should we maintain multiple methods of navigation. A well-prepared mariner knows that relying solely on electronic devices is a risky proposition.

So, do you still use paper charts?

If not, perhaps it’s time to dust off those old navigational tools and rediscover the artistry of chart reading. After all, in a world where technology is ever-evolving, some traditions are worth preserving.

We have noticed over the years that more and more sailors are now relying on electronic navigation. If you want to improve your skills with paper charts or need a quick reminder of some of the essential techniques, we have produced a series of videos to help: 

  • Dead Reckoning

  • Course to Steer

  • Course to Steer (Allowing for Leeway)

  • Estimated Position

  • Tidal Stream (Using a Tidal Atlas)

  • Tidal Streams (Using Tidal Diamonds)


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