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Getting and Viewing Free Online Nautical Charts
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Author: Steve Shivers (
Date:   01-25-06 11:30


In preparing for my first trip to island, I've downloaded the relevant NOAA navigation charts. Since I haven't seen any mention of the availability of these on the Culebra related web sites, I thought I'd post the procedure to get them here. It's a bit involved, but most computer users should easily be able to handle it. This process would be possible with dial-up service, but I've no clue how long the downloads might take. It's actually quite fast with broadband.

These are scanned up-to-date versions of the paper charts that are "geo-referenced" for use with GPS navigation systems. Go to:

A little less than half way down this page, click on the link that says "Click here to download NOAA RNCs™". This brings you to a user agreement. Read it, it's not too long and is actually interesting. Click on the "Proceed" button at the bottom of the agreement to continue.

The next page offers "Graphical" or "Textual" selection of charts. I haven't had success with the graphical method, but perhaps that's just me. Click on the "Textual" button and a table of chart names and numbers will be displayed.

At the very top center of the table is a little box where you can set the number of charts per page that are displayed. Change it to "1016" to avoid having to scroll through many pages. The Culebra charts are very near the bottom of this long list. The three charts of primary interest are #25653, #25654, and #25655.

I recommend downloading the charts one at a time. Click the check box on the right side of the table in the row for chart 25653. This chart covers the entire island and surrounding waters. A check should appear in the box.

Scroll back to the top of the table, and click the "Review Selections" button at the top right. A table listing just the one chart should appear. Click the "Order Selections" in the top right. On the next page, click the "Download" button on the lower left. When the "File Download" window pops up, click the "Save" button, and save the file to a directory of your choosing. You will need to remember where you saved it to access it later. You can repeat the previous steps to get additional charts.

Now that you have a chart, you need software to view it. I prefer the free version of Global Mapper that's available from USGS. Go to:

Click on the "dlgv32 Pro Latest Release" button at the top left of the page. When the "File Download" window pops up, click the "Open" button and follow the prompts in the Install Wizard windows. Launch the program at the end of the install procedure. When the registration window pops up, click "Continue Without Registering" and then "Yes". Registration is for the paid version. The free version has less functionality, but is great for viewing the charts.

It's finally time to view the chart. Click "Open Your Own Data Files" in the center of the Global Mapper window. Navigate to the directory where you saved the downloaded chart file. It should have a file name starting with "NOAA" and ending in ".zip". Double click on the filename, and the chart will be displayed. Use the tool bar at the top of the Global Mapper window to zoom and pan around the chart.

If you do download more than one chart at a time, they will all be saved into one library file and will all be loaded at once by the software. That's why I suggest downloading one at a time - so you won't have to deal with unzipping the library first to separate the files. The free version of the software will only load four layers (in this case charts) at once. Click on "File" and then "Unload All" to close a chart before opening another.

I hope these instructions are clear and complete. I guess I should add a disclaimer. The charts and the software come from U.S. Government sites, so I trust them to be safe. You must make that choice for yourself. I won't accept any responsibility for any problems you might have. I will be happy to try to help though. I hope you find these instructions and the charts useful.

Happy Sailing!

S & L in VA
"Stercus Evenit"

Reply To This Message
Re: Getting and Viewing Free Online Nautical Charts
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Author: Michael (---.c3-0.nyw-ubr2.nyr-nyw.ny.cable.rcn)
Date:   01-25-06 12:47

Thanks Steve - made the links live :)

Enjoy Culebra!


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