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Old 07-03-2008, 15:01   #1
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Anyone Still Use a Sextant?

This thread may have been made before, but I just joined, so... does anyone still use a sextant? I'm looking into finding out how to read and efficiently use one. Tips would be appreciated.
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Old 07-03-2008, 15:40   #2
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Not me. When I was a kid a played around with a bubble sextant that my father had from WWII. Sextants are gone along with 8 track tapes.
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Old 07-03-2008, 15:57   #3
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I learned celestial nav at the maritime academy but have never had the chance to put it into actual use because of an electronics failure...just to practice it. I think it is a skill worth having but there are others who will completely disagree with me on this.

I think many people are intimidated to learn it. Its really not very hard like all things if you practice it. When you get good you can do a fix with four lines of position in a half hour...easily.

It will be interesting to see how many thousands of yachties are lost at sea if the GPS system ever goes down for whatever reason. You can only get by on a DR for so long, eventually you will need a fix. I think having backups when going to sea is a healthy philosophy to live by.

It will be interesting to see where this thread goes. This is one of those "emotional" topics because it is so qualitative. ..like the life raft thread.
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Old 07-03-2008, 16:02   #4
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Mitch,

See this thread: Celestial Navigation Primer?

Celestial navigation is alive and well amongst a small but still significant group of sailors and cognoscenti :-)

Bill
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Old 07-03-2008, 16:54   #5
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I still own a sextant, I can still remenber "how" to take a sight but can't remenber how to use the almanac or tables. Maybe a primer is necessary - I like to use modern systems but be independant of them if necessary. Captain Cook embraced the lastest technology of his era but still had the older ways to fall back on.
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Old 07-03-2008, 18:22   #6
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I just bought a sextant and in the process of learning celestial nav. I'm finding it absolutely fascinating. More importantly I am learning this as a backup to the possible total failure of electronics aboard. I am intending to perform some real practice during my stint as crewing during this years ARC to Europe.
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Old 07-03-2008, 18:31   #7
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Aloha Mitch,
Yes, I've taught 3 classes in the last year and it has been well attended each offering. I only do a basic introduction and a "how to" on meridian passage/noon sights.
Any general questions I can help you with. "American Practical Navigator" Bowditch is a very good source on how to tune up and use your sextant. I would check it out of the public library or look for one at a used book store.
Do a search on this forum for "celestial navigation."
Kind Regards,
JohnL
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Old 07-03-2008, 18:34   #8
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Celestial Navigation ( 1 2 3)
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16-01-2008 07:44
by hellosailor
411,962Navigation
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Old 07-03-2008, 18:34   #9
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I still use mine on all offshore trips. More just to keep the hand in than in vengeance. The GPS does tend to make you lazy.

I'll often run on Sextant for a few days then check it against the GPS. 95% of the time I'm very happy but had 2 occasions where I was 60 miles out. Searched back and yeap drop a degree in the maths.... Grrr.
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Old 07-03-2008, 19:56   #10
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On our circumnavigation, I used the sextant only two times, and both times it was for fun.

When I used to travel in the Arabian Desert, I frequently used a WWII aircraft bubble sextant for desert navigation. It usually got me within a couple of miles of my GPS position.

It's a great idea to have a sextant on board as a back up to a lightning strike that takes out your electronics, or an international crisis that affects the GPS system.

Even if you only take a noon site and get a latitude, you can go anywhere in the world you want by simply doing latitude sailing. You simply sail north or south until you arrive at the desired latitude, and the follow that latitude to your destination. Latitude sailing is easy to do, and you don't need an exact position to make it work for you.
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Old 07-03-2008, 20:38   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maxingout View Post
Even if you only take a noon site and get a latitude, you can go anywhere in the world you want by simply doing latitude sailing. You simply sail north or south until you arrive at the desired latitude, and the follow that latitude to your destination. Latitude sailing is easy to do, and you don't need an exact position to make it work for you.
Max. I am sure your seamanship skills allow you sail down your lat. but I am not so sure that the navigational / seamanship skills of SOME of those who are GPS born and breed, could do it. And SOME of those who havn't got such skills don't know they don't have them.
I am not disagreeing with your point just adding a provisio for some to be wary that what is easy for an accomplished master possibly "shouldn't be tried at home"
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Old 07-03-2008, 21:57   #12
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You don't want to have to practice at sea after the GPS falls over. A little practice first is a good idea. It's not hard once you've done it a couple of times.
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Old 07-03-2008, 22:29   #13
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Oh look at that!...as soon a GMac becomes a moderator he gets away with a pin-up girl in his avatar! On the other hand, I post a pirate girl and it gets deleted. What is this world coming to?
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Old 07-03-2008, 22:45   #14
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Only been there 30 minutes, gezz you're fast and I'm still not to sure about her. Lets call it a work in progress.
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Old 07-03-2008, 23:41   #15
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Though I have little actual need for one in my current sailing area of the Great Lakes I usually take one with and on a trip and use it once or twice if the opportunnity presents itself. I just find it interesting. I have a 1943 U.S. Navy Mark II and a WWII vintage German Navy C. Plath so it adds a little historical perspective too.
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