From my earliest days in the eariest days, in 1956, I had the exploratory interest. I was regularly finding errors in the charts and correcting them, then sending the information to the British and American Hydrographic Offices. In some areas the U.S. charts gave better coverage than the British Charts, and in other areas the British Charts gave better coverage than the U.S. charts. Also the French Charts on the area of Martinique to Guadeloupe were far superior to either the British or the American charts. As a result I ended up carrying with me roughly 200 charts made up of British, U.S., French and a few Dutch. Each time whenever I wrote or updated my guides I listed areas where I had found errors in the charts. Each time I would obtain a new set of charts only to discover that the errors were still in the charts. They had not been corrected.
In 1979 I approached Stanford the private British company who produce their own charts to see if they would be interested in doing charts of the eastern Caribbean. I was turned down flat by Stanford. Then next booth in the London Boat Show was the Imray booth. I went in to the Imray booth, and discussed the situation with the late Tom Wilson and his wife Ettie, and they decided that as Imray had made charts of the Caribbean in the 18th Century and sold the rights to the British Admiralty, so it might be a good idea to try again. We signed a contract and off to the races.
At that time the British, American and French Hydrographic charts were based on surveys of the mid to late 19th Century with a considerable number of errors in them. Further, they had not been very well laid out. For example one American layout broke the Gorda Sound in half between two charts; One British layout broke cut Bequia Harbour in half; the British chart of the Grenadines ended one mile south of West End, Bequia so you could not use that chart to layout your course from Canouan to Bequia but had to switch to the next size up and then needed a magnifying glass to find Canouan and Bequia! My solution to this was to glue on a piece of paper to the top of the chart with an X showing the position of West End Bequia. Further, the government charts would have one chart showing the islands, then a separate chart for the harbours.
Needless to say, when I laid out the Imray-Iolaire charts I laid them out in the fashion that would be useful to the average yachtsman. Thus we put in the blank areas of the charts inserts of the harbour charts for the relevant islands. All ranges/transits were laid out in magnetic rather than true readings —find me a navigator who hasn't made the mistake in coverting true to magnetic or magnetic to true— Any navigator who claims never to have made a mistake in this calculation is a either a liar or hasn't navigated too often. Some people complain that this is not proper as the magnetic variation changes each year. However, the magnetic variation is so small each year, that it would take 5-6 years to change one degree. —Find me the yachtsman who can either take a bearing accurate to one degree, or steer a course accurate to one degree.
Further, the charts are printed on waterproof paper, and on the back of the charts one can find sailing directions for inter island sailing, piloting directions plus tidal directions.
By setting charts up in the above fashion I reduced the number of chart stock on Iolaire from somewhere over 200 down to 54. Giving the same coverage, all updated and all accurate.
Twice a year we supply to all our chart agents a summary of the corrections that have occurred the previous six months. These corrections will be published on this web site approximately every six months.
We have also done charts of the Atlantic Islands. Each island group is covered by one single chart and in the margin of the chart you will find the harbour plan for the harbours of each individual island. Over the last ten years there has been a tremendous expansion of harbours and marinas in the Atlantic islands. Thus we are redoing our Atlantic Island charts and on the back of these charts you will find the plans for all the harbours in the island group. In this way we are keeping each island group covered by a single chart.
Meeting the changing demands......
Finally, we are in the process of compiling a new TransAtlantic Chart of Gnomic Projection, where a straight line is a great circle course. It is amazing when looking at a course line of Gnomic Projection: Bermuda to the Azores, if you swing north to pick up the prevailing westerlies you discover you are very close to the southern limit of the ice bergs. On the face of this chart we will be showing the position of distinctive icebergs that have been recorded through the years. One of them almost reached Bermuda and a number of them have drifted down as low as 30°.
Also on this chart are shown the major port to port courses, for going both eastwards and westwards across the Atlantic
On the back of this chart you will find weather charts for May, June and July; October, November and December. We are only showing those months, as boats should not be trying to cross the Atlantic, sailing to or from the Caribbean outside those months. The weather charts will not only show roses for every 5° square, but it will also show the areas and frequencies where gales are expected, also areas and frequency where waves can be exptected of 12 feet or more. May, June and July weather information will show where the icebergs can be expected, and areas where the growlers have been recorded regularly. There will be brief sailing descriptions of the various routes to and from the Caribbean, from the United States and Panama. Plus the transAtlantic routes. This chart will be available hopefully by the fall 2003.
Notice to Mariners are published. They will appear on this web site twice a year.