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Navionics Initiative: An ICW Magenta Line Re-Do

Steamboat ICW

Navionics, a leading electronic cartography company that has embraced crowdsourcing, wants to recruit cruisers to restore the “magenta line” to Intracoastal Waterway charts. The line began its life as a “recommended route” in the 1930s, but over the years shoaling has changed the way boaters use it. In response, NOAA is now describing the new magenta line as an “advisory directional guide” that helps prevent boaters from going astray in the maze of channels that comprise the ICW.

But Navionics has a plan to recreate the equivalent of the magenta line as it was originally conceived.

Today’s echosounders let users record depths along a boat’s path. Navionics has a program that lets its customers upload these paths for inclusion on a “community layer” of its electronic charts. Another facet of the ICW initiative is the crowd-sourced edits that boaters can make using smartphones and tablets enabled with Navionics apps. Navionics will also used enhanced satellite imagery to augment data submitted by boaters.

According to Navionics, ICW charts will soon feature up-to-date commanding depths, vertical and horizontal bridge clearances, accurate speed limits, vertical overhead cable clearance, updated coastlines, improved shoal presentation and more, using daily downloadable updates. This Freshest Data program will update charts with improved bottom contours and, most notably, the heretofore disappearing Magenta line.

Navionics sonar harvesting initiative works with echosounders from Raymarine, Garmin and Humminbird. It’s possible that Navico companies Simrad and Lowrance will come aboard in the future, but for now they are touting their own competing sonar logging initiative.

Shaun Ruge, global product manager for Navionics, says the company is considering giving participating cruisers free charts and subscriptions to Freshest Data updates. He says Navionics might even furnish hardware from some its echosounder partners.

The reason the plan could succeed is the sheer size of Navionics’ customer base. The company claims three million chartplotter and app customers. So far it has incorporated edits for the community layer of its charts from more than 100,000 individual contributors. And in 2013, it registered more than 40 million app sessions by boaters with smartphones and tablets.

Navionics had a dress rehearsal of the ICW initiative as Freshest Data subscribers criss-crossed New Jersey waterways to record changes in the bottom in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

The Navionics ICW initiative will be coming online as you read this, Ruge says. His email address is