The CSIG has reached yet another major milestone this month with the release of Version 3 of the Beta charts. This release is a huge improvement over previous versions in many ways and includes deeper colours, more soundings, additional navigations and new platforms. The team, in particular Brian Willson, Pat McManus, Colman Byrne, Robert Navan and Peter Maxwell have been beavering away over the last few months to help reach this milestone. The testers have been issued with the new charts to help improve them even more and identify any anomalies they may find.


The testers from the Beta 1 and Beta 2 Versions had identified that in strong sunlight the lighter colours were sometimes difficult to see, so this time round the colours are now much deeper thus highlighting the shorelines, reed lines, shoals, islands and background. More detail is included with roads and harbours, contour lines have been changed to remove the solid colours between them, and shading has been included in Lough Ree for areas not yet surveyed. Also the markers are now larger, particularly on the 1 meter and 2 meter resolutions to allow for use on lake transits.

Many more soundings have been recorded particularly around Lough Ree and many of the shoals are highlighted.

In Version 1 and 2 the charts covered areas from Limerick City to Lanesboro. Version 3 has been extended to include the North Shannon from Lanesboro through to Lough Key, the Shannon Erne Waterway (SEW) from the Shannon through to Lough Erne and Belturbet, and both the Upper and Lower Lough Erne lakes from Belturbet through to Beleek. The CSIG have decided not to include the shading on the Erne systems since unlike the Shannon where navigations are marked, on Lough Erne the hazards are marked.  Routes have been included to assist navigation on the Erne. The basemap is now one single chart from Beleek to Limerick at the 2 meter resolution. For Memory Map users the 4 resolutions, 2 meter, 1 meter, 50cm, and 20cm are still available.

And now for the biggest change, the CSIG announces the availability of new platforms for tablets as well as the Memory Map application. Many of us techie users love Memory Map because of the ability to personalise one’s own charts by adding overlays such as videos, documents, pictures and routes, but there is a cost to doing this. It requires a level of expertise and is very heavy on storage and the number of sub charts (tiles). For example at the 1 meter resolution for Lough Derg alone there are 26 tiles, and when you include the 50cm and the 20 cm and then all the areas the number of charts runs into the hundreds. The reason for this is Memory Map uses what are called Raster charts. In short, Raster means the format is like a picture, so we need new charts for each resolution. A better format would be if we could use Vector Charts. The CSIG develops the charts from a program called Global Mapper, which uses vector charts.

Brian Willson and Colman Byrne set about trying to find low cost applications to perform this function.  Whereas the application which uses a format called SQLitedb for the Android tablets was found relatively quickly it took much searching to find the equivalent for IOS based tablets. The apps were found, LOCUS on Android and GALILEO on IOS. This format is very light on storage, only requires one very small chart, but allows for additional content to be added as one zooms in. In the CSIG case it was chosen to run with six levels of resolution on this new format. The CSIG Charts have been produced to run on both of these platforms as well as on Memory Map, and the cost of the apps from the Play store and the App Store are free for Locus and €3.99 for Galileo.

The size of the single chart is less than 200mb for the whole system and contains all the resolution levels. This is an amazing development and will ease the distribution to those users who just want a really nice tablet based chart. The penalty for Brian in particular is that the rendering of the data into the chart takes almost 24 hours of intensive computing on his super-fast eight-core machine.

Surveying is at an early stage on the SEW and Lough Erne, but the CSIG is lucky to have some new very enthusiastic surveyors in that area. They have been out during the winter months surveying when most of us are at home watching the TV.  Robert Navan and Peter Maxwell have done extensive surveying of the Newry Ship Canal which runs from Rostrevor on the east coast into the heart of Newry, and have also surveyed the River Bann from Portadown, through Craigavon, and into Lough Neagh. Brian has produced nice charts for both of these historic navigations, and the intention is to move into Lough Neagh and start surveying there. Our two intrepid surveyors and others have also started into the surveying of the Erne lakes with data coming from the Lough Erne Yacht Club to Carrybridge. Although this is hampered by the weather particularly in the winter period they fully expect to extend the Erne surveys further during the coming season. It is a real bonus to have survey teams now operational on the Northern systems and the CSIG looks forward to bringing more surveyors on line this season particularly on the North Shannon where Paul Martin and Colin Corcoran are getting set up to operate. Our plan is to run a training day for the new surveyors and I will update you all when this is finalised.

It was my intention to write up here a little on the history of the Newry Ship Canal, but space has beaten me this time around. Some detail can be found on the IWAI site and I will include it in the next bulletin.

So, in summary, what a winter it has been for the CSIG team, new surveyors, new charts, new platforms, new navigations and the release of a product which is really useful. Brian is a little zonked out after his marathon chart making this winter, and the CSIG would especially like to thank him for the innovative and hard work undertaken by him. Brian is also very approachable and passes on his knowledge to anyone who asks.  Thanks Brian.

If you would like to become a tester and try out these new charts please contact me, Les Saunders at barge41m@yahoo.co.uk, or respond to the info request on our website which is easiest found by selecting the Charting Project from the left side of the main IWAI web page.

Have a great boating season in 2015.

© Les Saunders