July 26th 2014 has become a very big day in the life of the Charts Special Interest Group (CSIG). It is just over two years now since the formation of the CSIG, and all its members have come through a large learning curve to reach this day. We have surveyors who through bitter experience have now become expert in how to survey, when to survey, what are the best tools and equipment to use. They have hundreds of hours logged and produced multiple millions of soundings to date, and more importantly are very willing to pass on their expert knowledge to anyone interested in helping.

We also have Chart makers thanks to the great efforts of Colman Byrne, Donal Boland and Brian Willson who spent many hours configuring the mapping tool, Global Mapper, so that all charts produced by the team will have the same look and feel. The Mapping Course led by Brian, was fascinating, and there will be more courses, so if your interest is in making maps, come join us. Other team members help in many different ways, and it is because of the whole team that on the 26th July we reached a major milestone. We released the first set of charts for Beta Testing to a group of eighteen testers in Athlone. Again, we thank the Athlone Sub Aqua Club for the use of their premises for our meetings.

The initial set of charts for beta testing cover the areas from Limerick city to Lanesboro including the two major lakes, Lough Ree and Lough Derg. There are four zoom levels for each area, a basemap at 2 meters per pixel, a 1 meter set, a 50 cm set and  a 20cm set. This makes for a huge number of charts in total, but when in use gives very detailed readings for off-piste cruising and very good coverage for long transits. Places of interest, local roads and interesting items are included.

One of the big concerns we have is that users of the charts will assume that all areas covered by the shorelines are safe, and this is patently not the case. We have overcome this concern by hatching over areas that we have not surveyed, we are not saying don’t go in to those areas, just that we have no idea what is in there. There is still an enormous area to be surveyed, and it will be years before we get anywhere near to completion.  But as they stand, the CSIG Beta charts are excellent and we fully hope our beta testers will enjoy using them.

The testers have been asked to evaluate the charts and to give feedback on any changes they might like or any errors they find. The CSIG Technical Team will then consolidate these recommendations and where appropriate incorporate them into the charts. We need all the local information we can find, so please tell us of interesting areas to survey, where best to eat, and so on, and we will add these to the charts.


One the prime objectives of the CSIG, is to open up channels for safe navigation that have previously been effectively off limits to the average boater. Last year we opened the channel behind the Wood Shoal leading into Blackbrink Bay in Lough Ree. This finally put to bed the rumours that there was a shoal between the Wood Shoal and the Mainland, because when it was surveyed in detail it was proven no such shoal existed. This passage is now known to be safe and can be very usefully used in westerly winds to save travelling out into the mid lake to access Blackbrink Bay.

In the last few months the CSIG opened yet another channel, immediately south of Meelick Lock. This channel runs right up to the six hundred year old church and into Meelick village. A number of barges and cruisers enjoyed a weekend here in June but a warning, please ensure you have our chart of the area before entering. There is good water depth and in many places good depth right up to the bank. This is a very quiet place with no passing traffic, ideal for a weekend getaway.


As the CSIG moves from strength to strength, opening new areas for cruising, burying myths, and learning new skills, why don’t you come and join us to help to make this project even better. We have new surveyors starting in Lough Erne and in Lough Key, and we need more. It is not hard, we will teach you from our extensive experience, and you never know, you might just enjoy it. Having reached this major milestone on July 26 th, we look forward to uncovering even more areas for cruising and developing the charts for general use. If you have an interest please visit our web page or contact me Les Saunders CSIG PRO at barge41m@yahoo.co.uk

© Les Saunders 2014