Chart software: never buy another chart

Just have to share.

Most of you know you can get free US raster charts online from NOAA.

But the charts aren’t very usable or printable, they’re just good for looking at online.

A paddler in Victoria, BC wrote software to convert these raster charts into a chartbook form. It’s very reasonably priced ($30) and the end result is a chart book that prints out looking exactly like the expensive paper chartbooks. With waterproof paper and a cheap binding system you can make your own waterproof charts easily and for a fraction of the cost of commercially available charts. He also wrote a program that allows you to Photoshop the charts ($20). This allows you to determine which sections of the chart you want to print, and you can write in comments, etc.

The guy who wrote the program, Sean, is very responsive to email questions.

I have no financial interest in this, but decided to try it after spending 5 hours copying large charts designed to be used on a yacht to a book format for last year’s paddle. This is really fantastic software!!


thanks for the links, this could be pretty nice. I’m going to try and weigh in after playing around with it a bit.

Thanks Lyn
That looks like a very interesting website to check out. I don’t know how many charts I bought last year alone, and they cost a pretty penny.


Very nice.
Downloads fast. Easy to use. Launches fast. Creates the map book in about 30 seconds, even on my Pentium 3. Makes a nice indexed book, as you say. Appears to be efficient code.

I have a bunch of maps already downloaded from a demo version of Coastal Explorer. Coastal Explorer is also nice as you can right click on any location on a map and get tide and current information, as well as pilot book entries. Very easy to explore the maps, mag up and down, scroll, etc. You can print one page at a time, at whatever mag you have currently on the display. Cost $400 though.

The license for Chart Maker is by machine. It appears the license number that enables the program (removes the checker board from the maps) may be keyed to the product ID which is unique for each install. I have a question in to Sean on whether the license can be moved from one machine to another. I’m do to upgrade to a new lap top in a couple months.

Very nice. Looks like a purchase. Thanks Lyn.

Paul S.

Water fast ink.
While printing on waterproof paper, make sure the ink is water fast, too, of course. Many aren’t.

Paul S.

Here’s Sean’s answer on license

Thanks for asking.

Most people don’t get the whole license thing.

You just send me the new product id that shows up when you install on

a new computer and I’ll send you a shiny new key code.


On 4/12/07, Paul Stivers wrote:


Your Chartbook Maker looks like great software.

I will be changing to a new laptop in a couple months.

I understand your license is for one machine.

Can the one license be moved, however, from one machine to another? That

is, uninstall the software on one machine, install it on another, and use

the same license?


Paul Stivers

Laser jet, in color
and they look really beautiful and last a very long time.

Sean is very fast to reply, even on the weekends. I’m glad you like the program! I’m surprised there’s not more interest in it, considering how expensive store-bought charts are (and what a do-it- yourself place pnet is).


i’m at work right but i’ll try it when
i get home later tonight. looks promising. thanks for the link!

Just curious
Did you buy the photoshop add on? That has to be the most feature dense program! I need to go out and buy a copy of Photoshop for Dummies right away.



– Last Updated: Apr-13-07 5:39 PM EST –

Photo Shop is alluring for it's power to manipulate digital images, of course. I've never quite gotten up enough interest to spend the money or time learning it.

I have Paint Shop 5 at work. I used it to create a few images for web pages (not my main job.) Even with that, all the layers and pallets and stuff are confusing.

Paul S.

Not sure why Photoshop
If you need a graphics package to manipulate images, and Photoshop is to much on the budget, you may want to try a package called ‘The Gimp’

It’s a pretty fantastic application - - and best off, it’s free. Not shareware, but Open Source. The Windows version is pretty nice, opens ahbout every format imaginable, and works with cameras and scanners too.

OK, I’ll ask
Just what’s needed to view the charts? I downloaded a few off the website but have been unable to open them. Finding a FAQ page let me to a couple programs that need another program to be installed first. I figured before I dug a hole any deeper I’d ask.

Forgetting for the time being that I’d want to print them out with the software you mentioned…what if I just wanted to look at them?



It’s a good question, Alan.
By far the easiest, though probably not the least expensive, way I know is to download and install Coastal Explorer. It’s a fantastic program.

You can download a free, fully functional trial for 15 days or 15 uses, or something like that. After 15 days, you can still view the charts, you just don’t get the extra info like tides, currents, pilot book entries. Well worth the trial, at least.

For more possibilities for NOAA chart viewing software, see

Check out the Archives for June, July, and August 2006, for articles on viewing NOAA charts. I never did find free software that I could get to work. It probably exists. Others may know.

Paul S.

Apples and oranges
Coastal Explorer may be great but it’s a Rolls Royce. The program I posted about is a VW bug.

Anyone who’s ever planned an extended trip knows that you need to buy at least 4-5 nautical charts to cover the area you plan to paddle and these cost at least $20 each. For $30 (plus the price of waterproof paper) you can get Chartbook and make your own charts for any US waters. It seems like a no brainer to me.


I agree.
The OP is about software primarily to print a book of charts.

My reply was about software that’s optimized for viewing charts on a PC, along with all the related navigational information.

Paul S.

I find the GIMP…
…to be extremely confusing to use. Locating the basic functions I use most is a complete pain in the rear. After searching around a bit online, I found a program that’s quite powerful, but with a much more user-friendly interface. It’s called and it’s a free download at It’s won a lot of industry awards recently for it’s high performance and ease of use.

I use photoshop and am happy with it so I’m not real familiar with the other products out there. I did download Gimp a couple years ago to try it out and found the interface very difficult to use. Perhaps it would have come with a little practice though.

Irfanview is another one of those free, good, and extremely popular photo editors. Photography is my main hobby and irfanview is very popular. It’s what I load on my families machines in case I’m at their place and need to edit a photo real quick.


Is this available for…
…Canadian charts? I’m not sure that Canada has the ‘chartmaker’ website.

AreCanadian charts
available online as raster charts? If so, yes.

You might email Sean and ask what’s available online. He’s Canadian.


This site shows raster charts…
…but I’m no computer whiz and these have 0 detail or navigational info as far as I can tell.