Friday, March 17, 2006

Puzzling again!

detail of DKW 1811 -

As a kid I was fond of puzzling. Every Friday, when the post delivered a new TV-magazine, the first thing I did was looking at the last pages for the puzzle pictures. My favorite ones were the species of "looking for the 10 differences". You will surely remember these puzzles: on the left side the original picture, on the right side the altered one with hidden differences. Of course I was very good with these puzzles; much better then my parents anyway. I forgot about the puzzles, but they still exist. Now my kids are puzzling, and they do it much better then I...

As I am to restless for puzzling now, I don't hesitate to take advantage of new technologies that do the job for me. So I became an enthusiast user of the digital edition of the Dutch Nautical Charts. The big advantage of these charts is that they are frequently updated: with one push on the button all recent changes in the position of buoys, traffic lanes, restricted areas and other modifications are made. Just make a print the day before your kayak-trip, laminate it, and you have always an up to date, tailor made chart on you kayak deck. (I must admit it took some puzzling before this all worked out, but it did!).

But I have to make a warning. The navigation software on which the charts are based upon has changed. The old version offered the option to export the charts as a bmp-file. This offered the possibility to make a selection, to zoom in and out and to print with any Photo-editing program. With the 2006 version of the charts and software however, this won't work any more. You can only print out directly from the navigation software. And this works rather rude; it is almost impossible to make a good selection and to get a print of a larger area in a readable quality.
As you can't take a laptop on the deck of a seakayak, this limits the usability of the digital maps for seakayakers dramatically. I probably have to return to the paper edition and do all the updates (Admiralty Notices to Mariners - Berichten aan zeevarenden) by hand!

Yesterday I contacted the editor of the digital charts (Stentec). I have spoken with the software designer, a very kind and helpful man. He explained me that new international rules of the UKHO prohibit the bmp-option. Stentec is working on a more sophisticated print option of the navigation software (WinGPS), but that will not be available before the end of this year. He explained me there is still an option to export the maps in pdf-format. It should be possible to export the whole map as an pdf-file and to use that file to make your prints. I have tried it, but I didn't manage tot do this without loss of sharpness: the details of the charts fade away. Perhaps it works with other settings of the pdf-printer, but that takes a lot of puzzling. If you have found a solution: please let me know!
Conclusion: I am afraid in 2006 Dutch seakayakers have to work with the paper edition of the Hydrografische kaarten (DKW 1810 series).

Even on the IJsselmeer (a region where you could use your charts for years because seldom anything changes) you need a new chart for 2006. Seakayaker Peter Grobbee drew attention on the new buoyage for IJsselmeer and Markermeer; there will be more safe water marks and less unlit buoys. By the way: Peter's kayaksite is worth a visit. It is regular updated with nice pictures of his kayaktrips. His first trip this year was on the Lek with an odd combination of a low height of water and a high current.
Another kayaksite worth a visit is Zeekajakvaren from Han and Arie Kreuk. Their site presents the seakayaking program of the other Dutch kayaking association: TKBN. The site is restyled this year and some (Dutch) reviews on kayakgear are added. As I am up to buying a VHF radio myself, I was especially interested in Arie's experiences with the Simrad MT50. It sounds like a good piece of gear, but it is also one of the more expensive VHF-handhelds on the market. With all the uncertainty about DCS and the question how long the coastgard will continue monitoring Channel 16, I have some restraints about investing a lot of money in the perfect (but non-DSC)gear. I suppose an Icom or a Raymarine handheld should also be reliable. And they cost the half! (although I write my posts in English I am still Dutch ;-) ).

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