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The Baltic is popular with Yachtsmen, so there is a wide range of up-to-date charts, many of them published expecially for yachtsmen. In the archipelagos of Sweden and Finland, local charts are simply vital - dont leave home without them! The ones below are the most widely used, but there are others.

The good old British Admiralty covers the world, and is finally beginning to get its act together for yotties. Their main use for the Baltic though, is in getting there. The North Sea bouyage changes often enough to warrant reasonably up-to-date charts, but their Baltic coverage is essentially British reprints of national charts. There are better and cheaper options available. BA charts are widely available in the UK and from Kelvin Hughes and Small Craft Deliveries on the net.

Charts for Denmark and Northern Germany

The German Company NV publishes a series of 4 packs of charts covering the whole of Denmark and Northern Germany, with a further 2 for the Schlei and the Limfiord. I think these are the best on offer for the south west Baltic. The charts have a clearly defined 2 metre contour (in Red) and have waypoints printed on them at strageically sensible points. The lat/longs of these waypoints are printed in a small book (Wegepunkte OSTSEE) that can be purchased to accompany the charts.The charts are in German, but the symbols are international, and a card with the charts gives English translations anyway. There are also Harbour Guides (Der Grosse N. V. Hafenlotse), linked to the charts, again in German, and now with colour chartlets. There are 'landfall' drawings, but no pictures.

The latest versions of these charts (Combipacks) come with an accompanying electronic copy on CD-Rom, a 'Maptech Light' navigation program (which now includes a GRIB viewer), and a copy of the related Hafenlotse. Prices vary, but a typical combipack costs about €80. These charts are available direct from the suppliers or from Nautisk Forlag. Another good source is Iver Weilbach with their shop right by the Keil Canal.

Delius Klasing are now producing sets of Baltic Charts. Available in 4 packs covering Denmark and Northern Germany, the charts are similar to the NV series but have particularly clear cartography. The paper charts are about €50, but the CD-Rom versions only €20. They are available from various sources, including direct from the supplier.

Charts for Sweden

The Swedish Maritime Administration publishes the popular Batsportkort packs of charts for yachtsmen in Sweden, as well as more traditional large shipping charts, There are 6 coastal packs and 4 inland packs covering the most popular areas and they dovetail with the NV packs in southern Sweden. The packs are good value, with some providing over 40 charts for less than £50. They are clear and easy to read, in International format and with an English key. Archipelago routes are clearly marked, with the more interesting being the restricted draft 'dotted' ones. The charts are not waterproof, and locals often keep them in plastic folders which are widely available. The more recent ones now seem to be provided in a smaller, wire-bound book format. The charts are also available in electronic BSB format.

Generally the charts are at 1:50000 with some archipelago charts at 1:25000. They are available from a wide range of chandlers and bookshops, although many stock only their local area ones. The entire range is available from Nautiska Forlarget in Stockholm, from Kartbutikken.com, from Nautisk Forlag and from John Nurimen.

To get into the Nature Harbours and the outer islands the Batsportkort charts are not really enough, and you will need something extra, either the chartlets in the harbour guides, or the Hydrographica ones.

Hydrographica is a relatively new company that has recently started selling high resolution charts of the Stockholm archipelago. This has opened up whole new areas for the locals to explore (on the Batsport charts the areas look unnavigable). One of the people behind Hydrographica is Lars Granath, who also provides the excellent nature harbour chartlets in the Nautiska books (e.g. Arholma-Landsort).

The charts are available in paper or CD-Rom (BSB) form, and cover popular parts of the archipelago in high resolution (1:10,000). The charts are highly thought of in Sweden, where no real equivalent exists. Unfortunately, the company only produces a few new charts every year, so it'll take a long time to cover everywhere! A map showing the coverage is on their website. The charts are available in increasing numbers of shops, including Nautiska Forlaget and some Watskis, and also direct from the company.

For the Gota and Trollhattan Canals, although the Swedes publish a book, we think the one from NV (NV8) is better. Read our review here.

Charts for Finland

If you think that local charts are important for Sweden, then they are indispensable for Finland. The maze of routes and islands are almost impenetrable without some help.

In the last few years the Finnish Maritime Administration has been converting their charts from their own local (and non-standard) format to International (BA style) format, and the small craft charts are now available in familiar colours. The packs come in wire bound books printed on good, but non-waterproof paper. The plastic cover that comes with them can be used to protect them. They are not cheap, at about £42 a book, but there are over 30 charts in each at 1:50,000. In addition, many of the more interesting anchorages are expanded in smaller 'chartlets' at between 1:20000 and 1:5000.

If you talk to both Swedes and Brits who have visited the area, they will often give you dire warnings about the Finnish charts, as to how the areas are not fully charted and rocks abound. If you talk to Finns, they think the charts are wonderful and don't understand what the fuss is about. Our (limited) experience is that what they show is what exists, but you should treat areas with no soundings with obvious care.

One drawback we have found is the fact that there are so many marked routes in Finland, its difficult to understand at a glance how to get from A to B, particularly as your route might stretch over three packs. The newer packs highlight the 'main' yachting routes.

Three packs are necessary to get from Sweden to Helsinki - 'C' which covers Åland, 'D' which covers the Turku Sea of Archipelago, and 'B' which covers Hanko to Helsinki. Other areas are covered by other packs.

All marinas are marked on the charts with a number. An accompanying harbour guide (Käyntisatamat Besökshammar) uses these numbers.

The packs are widely available in bookshops in Finland, and on the web from John Nurimen and Nautisk Forlag

The packs are also available in electronic BSB format.

Charts for Norway

Charts, like most other things in Norway, are not cheap. The best bet are the Båtsportkart packs. These are produced for Yotties and consist a range of 22 packs of about 9 charts each covering the bulk of the coast. You'll need two packs just to get to Oslo from Sweden (Packs A and B) - these are about 40 quid each. The charts are good, but, at 1:50000, you'll need some additional help to get into the nature harbours. Beacuse they are so heavily overprinted its sometimes difficult to ascertain whats going on, so its also a good idea to have the electronic ones as backup. These charts are widely available in Norway, from the usual suppliers (see above) and from SeaGB in the UK. A graphic showing which charts cover which areas is available here.

C-Map also produce a printed set of charts at 1:40000 in a ring bound book. Nautisk Forlag sell these.

Electronic Charts

All the above local charts are available from their suppliers in the widely used BSB (vector)format for use on a PC. In many cases they come with a 'free' viewer which will also track from your GPS. Generally, the electronic charts are more expensive than the paper ones.

Other sources are available. We use C-MAP on our plotter. The data appears to come from the same sources and their coverage is good for the Baltic (the company is Norwegian), although take care - the areas covered are not identical to the paper charts, and C-MAP in particular have a habit of varying the coverage of each cartridge from year to year.

One great advantage of C-MAP is that they operate an update service for cartridges which allow you to swap areas for the same cost of updating the existing charts on the cards. This is great if you move around a lot. I'm told that this update service is not available in Scandanavia, so get the charts before you leave the UK. Most vendors update their charts in the spring, so make sure you order them at the right time.

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