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How to Read a Nautical Chart : A Complete Guide to the Symbols, Abbreviations, and Data Displayed on Nautical Charts [Paperback]

Nigel Calder
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 5, 2002 0071376151 978-0071376150 1

The best handbook on chart usage, from one of the most trusted names in boating

In 2000, the U.S. government ceased publication of Chart No. 1, the invaluable little book that generations of mariners have consulted to make sense of the complex system of signs, symbols, and graphic elements used in nautical charts. Now Chart No. 1 is not just reborn but expanded and improved in How to Read a Nautical Chart. The demand for a book like this has never been greater.

Arranged and edited by Nigel Calder, one of today's most respected boating authors, --and containing four-color illustrations throughout,-- How to Read a Nautical Chart presents a number of original features that help readers make optimum use of the data found in Chart No. 1, including a more intuitive format, crucial background information, international chart symbol equivalents, electronic chart symbology, and thorough explanations of the practical aspects of nautical chart reading.

Editorial Reviews


Here is everything the navigator needs to know about the nautical chart, attractively produced in a large paperback edition...informative and enjoyable. Cruising 20050803

From the Back Cover

"Calder has done it again. This comprehensive and, as importantly, readable book on navigation should be required on all boats."--Peter Nielsen, editor, SAIL magazine

"This is a wonderful chart companion: an intriguing investigation of chart development combined with practical, hands-on data on how to really put a chart to use."--Tim Queeney, editor, Ocean Navigator

Charts, whether paper or electronic, are your most fundamental navigational tool. Using them to your best advantage requires a thorough understanding of the symbols and abbreviations and an awareness of the limits of accuracy in positions and soundings.

Did you know, for example, that hydrographic standards used to collect the majority of data on modern charts are considerably less accurate than GPS position fixes? That the majority of soundings still come from lead-line surveys? That a wreck symbol surrounded by a dotted circle means it is considered dangerous? That there are four different kinds of rock symbols, each with a different meaning? And that the definition of "danger" has changed over time and will depend on the age of your charts?

In How to Read a Nautical Chart, trusted boating authority Nigel Calder answers these and hundreds of other questions clearly and concisely. He covers in detail:

  • Fundamental chartmaking concepts in plain language
  • The limits of accuracy of modern charts (paper and electronic)
  • Dozens of full-scale illustrations from actual charts
  • Expanded versions of U.S., British, and international chart symbology descriptions contained in NOAA's Chart No. 1, the British Admiralty's Chart 5011, and the IHO's INT-1
  • And much more essential information designed to improve vital chart-reading skills

How to Read a Nautical Chart should be on every navigator's bookshelf.

"Nigel's enthusiasm and insight turn a mundane chart into a map of buried treasure. Every navigator should stow a copy in the chart table."--Paul Gelder, deputy editor, Yachting Monthly

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press; 1 edition (August 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071376151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071376150
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 8.5 x 10.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book August 7, 2005
I picked it up expecting a summary of the symbols in nautical charts and wondering why on earth anyone would write a book on such a simple subject.

What this book actually does is show why your charts might be completely inaccurate compared to GPS information and what you can do about it. It's something nobody who depends on the information in charts should be without.

It's also highly technical material and although the author's explanations are lucid and clear, it's inherently not the easiest book to read. But the information there is crucial, especially if you're planning to rely on GPS navigation and electronic charts.

The bottom line message is that many charts do not use the same way of mapping the earth as your GPS, and so navigational hazards placed on the charts may not precisely line up with information plotted off a GPS. This is particularly hazardous when you have an integrated GPS/chart plotter, which makes it appear that everything's precisely in sync. In addition, much of the information on charts as created by chart makers is not as accurately positioned as a GPS might make you think. Many charts are quite inaccurate compared to GPS.

This is important stuff and it should be emphasized that not understanding this fully and blindly relying on electronics may cause you to lose your boat.

I think it's well worth defending this book from other reviewers, who clearly didn't take the time to understand the arguments laid out so carefully by the author. For coastal cruisers who only go out in good weather, this book is probably overkill. But if you're doing long-distance cruising, these arguments could save your boat.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do it yourself navigation September 18, 2004
This is an excellent book. It is well organized, and the illustrations are large enough that you can actually see what the author is talking about. If you are new to navigation, the "Includes Chart No. 1" on the cover will be confusing. The government no longer publishes Chart No. 1, which was a guide to symbols on nautical charts. The author included the entire contents of "Chart No. 1" in the text of the book, so don't look for a seperate item labled "Chart No. 1."
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and in-depth July 20, 2005
I am sorry that previous reviewers, who really wanted something a lot less that this book offers, have chosen to diss this book because it offers so much. I once picked up a copy of a Henry James novel to take along as a light read on a camping trip. A mistake. But I would not criticize James for not meeting my more limited need. It was my mistake. Anyway, Calder's book is excellent and provides wonderful insight into the difficulties of making charts, and of reading them. Especially insightful on the dangers and values of chartplotters. I consider this an excellent resource for people who really want to understand all that a chart can tell them and also its limits. Excellent, excellent, excellent!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A different take than the other reviewers April 2, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gets great marks from everyone so I figured when I wanted to learn how to read a nautical chart, this was the go-to book. Not so much.

First, the book has a lot of information. Reviewers with a lot more navigational experience than me (I have none) think this book has everything you need to know. I don't doubt that. I'm sure the author's knowledge is expansive and beyond reproach. The issue I have is in the layout and delivery.

As I stated, I'm entirely new to navigation. This book is not a good place to start. The author immediately jumps into the variations in latitude and longitudnal (is that a word?) accuracy. That seems like it should be the last chapter -- i.e. exceptions to the rule, as opposed to leading with it. So right off, for someone new, this book dives into the weeds. Just doesn't seem right.

After that, the flow of the book is a little better and there is a ton of information to digest. Some practical, some historical, some excessive for the beginner. Again, it's a personal preference and I would have liked to have gotten the very basics early in the book and then build off of that. This book is more like drinking from a firehose -- getting all the detail thrown at you at once, consume what you can.

Bottom line: Ton of information on chart reading. I assume it's accurate and good information, it's just not easy to digest. If you are a beginner, I would recommend starting with a different book. I haven't found that book yet but I know it's not this one. After learning the basics, I believe this is probably 'the book' to own as a reference and for continued learning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The legend on a nautical chart is not enough June 12, 2007
As a newbie to reading charts I soon realized that much of the information displayed on a nautical chart is difficult or imposable to decode without some reference outside of the chart itself.

This book does a beautiful job of explaining all the mysterious symbols and conventions. It also has a great introduction that puts chart creation and interpretation into a practical, real-world perspective. I would consider this book to be a vital part of any vessel's safety equipment.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What does 'rky' mean? Oops!" July 30, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since the current U.S. Administration saw fit to cease publication of CHART NO. 1, the government's own guide to reading maritime maps, back in 2000 (maybe they figured Dubai might pick up the slack around our harbors), HOW TO READ A NAUTICAL CHART is an absolutely crucial educational volume for those of us new to reading charts.

It's all here. Nigel Calder does a splendid job of taking the esoterica of chart symbolism and language and turning it into something any boater can understand in everyday terms. He also does a fine job delineating the differences between harbor charts, large area charts, GPS readings and so on, all of which have their own internal but non-complimentary logic.

If you leave the dock, knowledge of and familiarity with charts can avoid costly errors, save your boat, and literally save your life. HOW TO READ A NAUTICAL CHART is a reference you must have.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for Boaters
GReat book. A must have for navigating the waters of the US coasts and inland waters. Provides some quick referances too.
Published 2 months ago by Dvid Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars gift
The winner of this was glad to have it to review the rules of the water ways. This is a very useful tool when out on the water.
Published 18 months ago by Margo L. Place
4.0 out of 5 stars ahoy
excellent book for studying up and refreshing knowledge of navigation. not a bad book for beginners, also. study it and be a safer boater.
Published 21 months ago by dj
4.0 out of 5 stars Sooo much to learn!
This book should be subtitled "More than you ever thought there was to learn about navigating with the benefit of nautical charts. Read more
Published on May 12, 2011 by Jerome I. Shagam
5.0 out of 5 stars five stars
This a great book if you want to understand the background of paper & electronic charts. If you think you'll never run aground using your GPS this book will explain why you are... Read more
Published on April 22, 2011 by whaler
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This book is essential if you're serious about learning to navigate with charts. There's some history of chartmaking and it includes the complete Chart 1 publication, which is an... Read more
Published on September 22, 2010 by Carl Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars GOLD
This is a complete, accurate and succinct reference book. It is almost required reading for mariners of all sizes.
Published on May 4, 2009 by Harley D. Nygren
5.0 out of 5 stars Navigation for the person willing to study and really understand
Very detailed. Plan to sit with coffee and really study but you will get good understanding of the material.
Published on October 29, 2008 by N. Thomas Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Nautical Chart Instruction
Brand new item, very nice. Smooth transaction with excellent communication & quick shipping. Thank You
Published on February 24, 2008 by Chester M. Wigley Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Nigel is among the most informative
Got about all Nigel's books - as I had expected, he gives a good clear insight on nautical charts and how to read them. Not much else to say! Read more
Published on July 20, 2006 by A. dutch West
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