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On the Water


Some advice for boaters, specifically in the Campbell River area. Note that any advice is general, and may not be applicable in your situation. Also, consult the latest regulations for any updates.

When should you call Coast Guard for help?

Marine Distress Flares

Automatic Identification System

Why doesn't Red Right Returning work for Discovery Passage?

Digital Charts and Chart Plotting

  • OpenCPN, open source chart plotting software. (link to external site)

  • OpenCPN's Instructions for installing OpenCPN. (link to external site)

  • Unfortunately, unlike the US and other countries that allow boaters to download charts for free (because it reduces accidents), Canada still charges for electronic charts. If you are taking the Boating course, we will provide the password to open an electronic copy of the CPS practice chart. The zipped file is 2.5megs, and will download immediately, without further confirmation. Immediately download zip file. Check your download folder after clicking the link.
    Once you have unzipped the chart, 999601.KAP, move it to the folder where you want to store your charts. Then start OpenCPN.
    We now have to tell OpenCPN where to find the chart.  Starting in Version 5, at the top left of the display there is a black box with several icons.   Click on the gear shaped icon (Options - see red circle in image below), to bring up a new menu box. Select the Charts icon from that menu box, and in the Charts tab (which should be selected) you will see an option to add directory. Add the directory (folder) where you placed your chart. Click the OK button and the Options window should close.
    We now need to make two more small changes to other options. At the bottom right of the display, you will see a small black box, with a magnifying glass with a plus and a second one with a minus, a boat outline, and at the far right three horizontal lines.  Click on the three horizontal lines to bring up a menu box (green button - menu shown open in image below).  In that box, check Show Chart Outlines (this makes it easier to locate the chart boundaries)  and uncheck the Enable Chart Quilting box (if left checked, the chart will disappear when you get to its edge as it can’t quilt another chart to the same zoom). Then click the three horizontal lines again to close that menu.


    If you scroll (use your mouse to drag or the arrow keys) to the general area of Vancouver Island, you should see either a red outline of the chart, or the entire chart displayed in the area of Nanaimo.

    chart visible

    Zoom with the plus/minus key or mouse wheel.
    OpenCPN is an extremely powerful program, able to overlay tides and currents, weather, Satilitte maps, Radar and AIS  onto charts, among other options. You can view/download their manual from the site.

    If you wish to compare raster and vector charts. Canadian Hydrographic Services offers two more free electronic charts of another made up area. The link is The US has decided to offer all their digital charts for free, as a safety service. You can also download them from here

    (If you think that Canadians should also be able to get free copies of already produced charts, to enhance marine safety, you might want to let your MP know.)

Sail Plans

Saving Money when boating

Charts and Publications

Cold Water Shock

Sharing the channels

Collision Regulations

Tidal Currents