Navigational Chart 16700 Prince William Sound - Credit: NOAAThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed and released a navigational tool aimed at the recreational boater. Known as BookletCharts, these nautical charts available for download and printing at home. Thousands of area charts from across the United States are available and Alaskan charts are well represented in the initiative.

BookletCharts come as PDF documents in an 8½-by-11 inch format that break down standard navigational charts in to smaller, organized sections. The compact charts contain all the information found on a standard, full size NOAA chart. Each page is easily handled in the cramped confines of a smaller boat and can be laminated to prolong their lifespan.

Captain Jon Swallow of the NOAA Coast Survey’s Navigation Services Branch, says, “It is especially appropriate that we unveil these easy-to-use nautical charts as recreational boaters begin to think about their boating adventures for 2013. Many boaters don’t use nautical charts, trusting local knowledge or their memories. But that can be dangerous, as seafloors constantly shift, shorelines erode, and dangers to navigation are discovered. BookletCharts will tell a boater about these developments, and will help ensure a safe voyage, whether it is around the bay or down the coast.”

These handy booklet charts should encourage more boaters who don’t normally use a chart to carry one aboard. NOAA notes one shortfall for the BookletCharts, they don’t satisfy chart carriage requirements found in federal regulations for regulated commercial vessels. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey publishes a blog that provides additional information on coastal surveying and charting.