NOAA offers free electronic chart downloads for navigational use

Boaters can now access and download electronic charts suitable for navigation from the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration free of charge via the Internet.  NOAA's Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs™ for short) are geo-referenced, full-color images of over 1,000 U.S. coastal and Great Lakes paper nautical charts published and updated by NOAA in BSB format.

NOAA RNCs are produced by high resolution scanning of the original color separates used to print paper charts. NOAA then adds additional features to the digital raster file such as data describing the chart, its datum, projection, and its “geo-reference,” which enables a computer-based navigation system connected to a GPS to locate and display a vessels position on the chart.  Chart navigation software (commercially available from companies such as Maptech, Nobeltec, The Cap’n, etc) is required to utilize the charts for navigation, however for planning purposes users can view charts free of charge using NOAA’s Raster Chart Viewer – a neat option when doing a little armchair voyaging in the comfort of your own home.

NOAA updates Notices to Mariners for the RNCs weekly on a “best effort” basis, although timing of their availability is not guaranteed and NOAA reminds users they are responsible for ensuring the RNCs they’re using are the most current edition and that the most recent updates have been applied.

For more information and a free demo, visit