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Top Online Boating Resources

  1. NOAA/NWS Weather Service
  2. NOAA Tides Online
  3. NOAA Charts
  4. USCG Navigation Center
  5. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
  6. Boat US Foundation
  7. Atlantic Cruising Club Guide to Marinas
  8. BoatSafe
  9. Live Weather Images
  10. NauticEd
  11. Discover Boating

Our selection of sites to highlight was actually quite easy. Although there are numerous boating resources, we asked which provide essential access to information that makes boating safer and more enjoyable. There are three factors we considered to be critical to safe boating: 1) prediction of conditions (weather, tides, etc) 2) knowledge of the rules (Colregs, state requirements for registrations and certifications, etc) 3) information about the navigable waters. With those criteria in mind, it became easy to identify what we consider to be the top boating resources available online today. The amount of information available is becoming staggering. Yet, each piece contributes to a more knowledgeable boating audience, which will hopefully translate into a safer boating community.

At the top of the list is NOAA. NOAA today has the most amazing resources available to the boating public free online, and lets hope it continues that way. It was hard to limit the NOAA listings because they offer so much but we chose to feature the NWS marine forecasts, tides and the free charts and planning software (in third position). The marine forecasts page offers just about anything you'd ever need to know about the weather and sea state. From the standard coastal, offshore, and high seas forecasts, to the sea surface buoys information, to the new regional forecasts that provide localized data for continguous regions along the coast, NOAA is constantly evolving their services to make it safer for all of us to be on the water. In fact, they've even posted a new guide to the online marine weather services from NOAA. You can even listen to NOAA weather radio on your computer!

The new Tides and Currents website NOAA launched replaces the old Co-Ops site which is scheduled to go offline April 1, 2006. It incorporates Tides Online with water level stats, and much more. With a new interface and great new selection of easy-to-use resources, you'll want to save this one among your favorites.

The third favorite NOAA service to boaters is the online charts and navigation section. The wealth of information here is astounding. There are free ENC vector charts to download to your computer which can be used for navigation (read about what it takes here), free raster charts to download that are not for navigation and RNCs that are for navigation, free charts to order (read about them here), free Coast Pilots, free Notice to Mariners updates, and free chart viewer software that you can use at home for planning before your leave. Did I mention that it's all free? There is no excuse for anyone to run aground, get lost, or avoid going any more! The chart viewer is a brand new service powered by eyespy and it is so very cool. You have to download a free software tool, but it couldn't be easier. Virtually every chart of the NE US is available for viewing.

The USCG requires vessels over 40 feet to carry a copy of the Navigation Rules (Colregs). Those are available online as a free download at the USCG Navigation Center, among numerous other resources.

Then there is the National Geospacial Intelligence Agency, a branch of the military, that provides a complete list of downloadable publications, including the full light lists for the world, radar manual and maneuvering board, American Practical Navigator (Bowditch), pilot charts for the oceans, world port lists, international code signal list, some very cool charting tools, digital nautical charts, and more. They also have subsites for children! (Who are these guys?)

BoatUS Foundation has many information resources on their site, including EPIRB and PFD rental programs, and Seaworthy Magazine which is the only magazine we know of that describes boating accidents and what could have prevented them. It's the largest boating organization in the US (probably in the world) with more than 600,000 members. The site includes weblogs on many boating topics.

BoatSafe is a great educational website. It's too bad that online boating safety courses are no longer accepted by most states (many now require proctored exams) because BoatSafe has a very good one (and may have pioneered online boating safety courses). We love their interactive tutorials on lights, rules, and ATONs. The BoatSafeKids section has really cool trivia, games like life jacket tic-tac-toe, and lots of great nautical stories that explain all sorts of maritime issues.

The next resources offer practical support for the boating public. The Atlantic Cruising Club's Guides to Marinas are an indispensable resource to anyone planning a cruise. They offer independent, highly detailed, staff-verified reviews of marinas by region of the United States. There are five available with more on the way. Anyone can have access to information just by registering. Parts of the site and ability to print the pages are reserved for members of the club, which you can join for a reasonable fee.

And just to check on all those weather reports, how about live weather cams from around the world. Live weather images is one of the most comprehensive listings of webcams, not all of which are marine oriented but many are.

Discover Boating is the National Marine Manufaturers public awareness effort in recreational boating. They have some very useful tools there including an interactive tool for choose a boat, locations of marinas and ramps, free DVDs, and best of all "the boating guy." It's an email response system for questions

By the way, we thought about including some of the really cool interactive knot sites, but we thought these were a little too specialized in the information they provide relative the sites we have listed.

And if this list doesn't have what you need, you may wish to visit BestBoating.org for one of the most comprehensive list of links available.

Of course we'd love to include CoastalBoating.net on the list but that just didn't seem very unbiased!

Please Note: Normally the number 1 selection each month receives a free link to their website for that month. This month, the resources are so valuable and generally non-commercial that we decided to provide permanent links to each.

Being named to the list does qualify those honored to sponsor links. Please contact us for details.

The list is not revealed prior to posting so the selections are made in relative absence of bias according to reasonably well defined criteria. You are invited to submit names for consideration.

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