Today maritime navigation is being carried-out with the use of global positioning system data and computerized course plotting. Sophisticated Electronic Chart Display & Information Systems (ECDIS) and Electronic Chart Systems (ECS) display both a ship's position along with chart details, overlaid with real time navigation data and pointers to further resources.
While electronic navigation chart advances are an important milestone in the science of nautical navigation, many mariners carry on the traditions associated with navigation by plotting a position and a course on a paper nautical chart. They accomplish this task using traditional marine navigation tools, including: compasses, chart dividers, rulers, protractors, sextants, chart plotters, binoculars, chronometers, star finders, and more.
Most large commercial ships use electronic navigation methods as they are required under the SOLAS convention to use ECDIS as the primary means of navigation. However, many navigation officers and smaller, recreational vessels continue to work with traditional nautical charts to navigate and plot their courses using the same basic, yet ingenious, nautical tools used by ocean-sailing mariners for centuries. It is important that mariners remain knowledgeable on the use of these navigation tools in case the need arises to use paper nautical charts. It is good seamanship for mariners to know how to use these nautical tools work and to pass on that information to the next generation.
High-quality modern nautical tools also make great gifts for anyone with a love of maritime history. Any sailor who uses traditional navigation techniques would appreciate receiving these items as a gift.