Printing Charts????

I am looking for a good solution for finding and printing charts and wondering if anyone can offer advice.

I know where to find charts on the noaa site at their “online chart viewer” and I also have Garmin’s Blue Chart program for my GPS. Both allow me to view and print charts; however, I don’t find them to be very good, as I can’t print a large enough area to be useful for a trip on a single sheet, and if I zoom in close enough where I actually can read info on the buoys etc I can see only a very small area.

I bought some legal size paper yesterday and have been trying to get it to print a larger area on the larger paper; however, it prints the same 8.5 x 6.5 image which really is of little value.

Any advice on a better location from which to print charts or on how to get them to print out larger so that they are actually useable?

It would nice to be able to print useable charts at home rather than buying charts which gets quite expensive (and which have to be cut down to size usually anyway.



Follow-up Question
Doing some more research I have found something on the NOAA site describing “chart rendering” software / Raster Chart Navigation Software

(for viewing NOAA RNC™ (BSB format) files).

Would purchasing such software allow me to do what I am looking to do or would it not give me any more capability for printing charts than what I already have.

Frankly I have no idea what this software is / does (or costs).



One option
A paddler in Victoria, BC wrote software to convert raster charts into a chartbook form. The software is $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.

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. I haven’t bought or used this program.

The guy who wrote the program, Sean, is very responsive to email questions. I have no financial interest in this but used the chartbooks last year in AK and was very happy with the results.


Free software and charts
I find Maptech’s free software and access to NOAA charts helpful. Printing is easy, and GPS data is on the borders of each printed page. A big bonus is that each chart has the tidal and current stations located with tidal and current data based on the time setting of your computer. You can open a graph and adjust the time to check tidal and current data. You first load the free viewer, then load as many charts as you want. The viewer and the charts are on your computer so it can be used in the field without an Internet connection. I learned about it from a member of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association. He discusses it here:

What lyngo says…
I use Sean’s chartbook program because I don’t have Photoshop. If you have or can afford Photoshop, his photoshop plug in is probably the way to go. However, if you’re willing to do a little cutting and splicing and spend some time getting to know the chartbook maker program, it can also work quite nicely for you.

The above is the site you’re going to, right? With Sean’s programs you can view and print any of the NOAA charts there on the site, from what I’ve found.

The prgrams listed on the NOAA site to view their products (at least last year) were of little help to me. I wouldn’t bother. Go to the site lyngo put up and used one of Sean’s programs would be my advice.

I’ve been using glossy photopaper (regular letter size) on an HP inkjet and believe I can get better print quality (after messing aroudn with diff. print settings) than the purchased paper chart. I’ve printed out and splice together and then tape back to back two (what would be adjoining) sections to the size of about 9.5 by 15.5 and then get it laminated in the heaviest 11 x 17 (standard size) laminate at the local Office Max. The 3/4" extra clear on th edge lets me punch a hole though it to secure it under the bungies with a small biner ( ) otherwise the surf will take it from you. I got tired of myself and friends losing chart after chart and chartcase after chartcase in the surf. This is the best system I’ve found so far. Good luck.

It still seems to print out in a ‘chartbook’ format so you still have to do some cutting and splicing to get the areas you would want in particular, but the fact that you can put routes on there and other features make a it a good (free) product.

Related to your question
Current issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine has an article written by a guy who tested several home-printing papers for use as kayaking chart/map papers. He tested both inkjet and laser printer papers.

There is no info about whether the inkjet papers are just dye-based inkjets or include pigmented inkjets, but other than that it’s a good article, with a useful table of his test results.

Raster Charts/Printing
Since you’re talking about NOAA Raster Charts I’m assuming you’re only going to paddle coastal waters since that’s what’s on their site. And, if you go to and get a free program to download the charts. An easier way is to order MapTech’s US Boating Charts ($50.00) which also covers ALL coasts of the US plus BVI and HI and COE inland waters maps. For $100.00 you can get the version which has tides and currents.

Now, if you’re planning on paddling away from the coast I like Maptech’s Terrain Navigator which allows me to lay down a track in advance (with wayponts and notes). I then print the map on plain 11x14 paper (printer limits)sometimes printing on the boths side if the trail is really long.

If you have a navigation program which came with your GPS (assuming you have one) you can do the same thing at no additional expense to your budget. Or, you can do the same thing with Goggle Earth.

Oh yeah, after the map is printed I spray them with two coats of watersealer (such as Thompson’s). Rolls up easier than plastic, doesn’t leak like a baggie and you can write on it a common ballpoint pen or pencil.

I did see that article. That combined with the money I have spent in the last year on charts has motivated me to seek other options.

One question I have about the software mentioned above…will it allow me to print charts on legal size paper and actually have it print to fit on the larger paper ? The current options I have tried don’t print the chart area any larger on legal paper than they do on letter size.



Legal size paper…
If you follow the info in ‘hermiting’s’ link and do what it says, you’ll get to the point where you can choose some printing options. (Only took me a few minutes to do what his link said. And, the emails with the code from Maptech came back much faster than the poster in the link said they would–like a coupla minutes.) It lets you go up to ll.5 x 9.5 inch page size, or down quite a bit smaller than letter size. But it really doesn’t matter a great deatl if you cut and splice a bit and laminate it as in my link above. That’s likely the only way you’re going to get a section of exactly what you want anyway.

I saw that article in SK too and wasn’t too impressed with how any of that paper/ink weathered. Laminating doesn’t do that and will last for years. I really wonder how the paper in the article fares in the surf.


– Last Updated: Mar-03-08 3:04 AM EST –

Simply use printscreen;

It's free. I use it to print my BlueChart(s)

With this software, you could draw a rectangle around the area, you want to print.

Low Tech Alternative
Since NOAA charts can be freely copied, I just take them to a copy store, select the portions I want copied, have 11x 17 color copies made, add scale and compass rose if needed, then laminate them. Results in a very waterproof chart of just what I want and I can mark on it to my heart’s content with a Sharpie while on water and erase when I get home.

The latest issue of Sea Kayaker Mag. has an article about waterproof paper. If you are planning to print charts it may be useful. VF

Well I downloaded the Maptech stuff. Not bad, but still not ideal.

Better resolution, but still only allows you to print a small area with sufficient resolution. Prints on legal size paper but does not provide a bigger area of coverage when doing so.

Seems that you can get okay resolution for a small area that you may want to poke around and explore, but not enough for a day’s worth of paddling on one sheet.

I am going to keep experimenting.

I think my problem will be solved if I can find a program that allows you to print on legal or bigger sized paper and actually gives you a bigger image. You just can’t fit a lot of coverage with sufficient detail in an 8.5x11 box.


Again…cut and splice (tape)…
…and laminate (and double side it) and you can make whatever size you want! I’ve been doing that for quite some time and it works great!

Again, I haven’t done it, but my understanding is that you can print exactly the area you want if you use Photoshop and Sean’s plug in. This is the only way I’ve heard of of achieveing what you want.