The Red Icon Shows Our Position, Safely Anchored In The Lagoon At Dhanghethi Island
In some cases smaller nations simply can't afford to fund extensive maritime surveys. Further, the electronic charting companies often simply won't pay for the latest data, so we rely in many cases on data and soundings that were collected by master mariners (sometimes) centuries ago.
This means that many islands and reefs are not exactly where the charts say they are, with the errors being both substantial and dangerous.
The image above is captured from our Open CPN navigation software, using charts created from Google Earth images. It doesn't have depths and soundings, but in these tropical areas we can use the water color to plan our route and we certainly know exactly where we are at all times.
This puts our position as outside the lagoon ! In fact it doesn't show the lagoon clearly at all. I estimate the charting error places the island at least 500 meters further east than it actually is. Not surprising, when you think it was probably positioned by a 19th century chronometer and sextant.
So charts made from Google Earth images are now a valuable part of our navigation tool set.
You can produce your own, it's easy and fast so long as you have a decent internet connection. Here is how it's done :
Satellite Image Chart Production
First, download and install a shareware program called GE2KAP. Like the names says, it creates precise charts using Google Earth (GE) data, and publishes them in KAP format. Download GE2KAP here. Install it using all the default settings.
The KAP format images can be read by the excellent shareware navigation program, Open CPN. Download Open CPN here.
Then pan and zoom in the Google Earth environment to define your chart area, then select "create chart" in the GE2KAP control window (at right). It is very simple to use.
In the image at right you'll see how the GE charts will "tile" or overlay automatically on the Open CPN plotter screen (click the image at right to enlarge).
You can also create a route (with Open CPN) and export it as a GPX data file.
Load that GPX file into the GE2KAP application and it will automatically create a series of overlapping satellite charts that follow your selected route. Powerful stuff indeed.
Our friend Dana Fowlkes on the Villa G has used this function to create accurate charts covering all his recent travels through Indonesia.
Satellite Image Charts - Useful, But Not Perfect
On the left you can see clouds obscuring part of the lagoon, which means any reef areas are hidden from view.
Top right, the satellite image for that area is extremely low resolution - of little use to us.
At bottom right, the image quality is astounding, but wave action offshore can mask some of the bottom detail.
So we use these new charts concurrently with all our other aids to navigation, plus a very intense application of our Mk.II eyeballs, to stay safely afloat.
Now We Can All Share The Data
These .KAP files are readily stored, transmitted and shared. Ours are now available for download - check the tabs at the top of this page or use the link here to access them. Simply download and install in Open CPN to view.