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Old 08-07-2010, 09:18   #1
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Celestial Navigation Fun !

Have you always wanted to learn celestial navigation, but been thwarted by the cost of a sextant, or (more likely) by those impenetrable and stupefyingly dull navigation books?

I'm stuck on shore for a few weeks, refilling my cruising kitty, but I'm putting this time to good use by brushing up my celestial navigation, and blogging about it.

I'll be starting with the simplest sight possible: a noon Sun sight, demonstrating how you can do this with the minimum amount of math and mumbo-jumbo.

If you follow along, you won't learn everything there is to know about celestial navigation, but it should clear up some of the mystery. If I do my job right, you should end up saying, "Hey, this celestial navigation stuff isn't so hard, after all!"

No sextant required, just a pencil and some graph paper and maybe a simple calculator.

If you're interested, here's the link to my blog:

The Unlikely Boat Builder: Celestial Navigation Fun!

Join us for some summer celestial fun!

Clear skies: John



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Old 08-07-2010, 09:25   #2
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Im pretty certain you can get a reasonable sextant, sufficient to learn the basics with for @ 25.00 $35?

My ex wrote and published 2 books on celestial nav. Wish I had paid more attention during those long dark nights, I might have learned something more that just how to find the pole star, Mercury and Jupiter.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:35   #3
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My ex wrote and published 2 books on celestial nav. Wish I had paid more attention during those long dark nights, I might have learned something more that just how to find the pole star, Mercury and Jupiter.
Reminds me of my youth. Nothing like lying in the grass on a dark night showing girls the stars!! Of course I'm too old and too far north to find Alpha Centauri anymore.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:49   #4
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Reminds me of my youth. Nothing like lying in the grass on a dark night showing girls the stars!! Of course I'm too old and too far north to find Alpha Centauri anymore.
Other galaxies are available.

This could get soooo rude so I shall refrain thirdwith ( its quicker than forthwith)

Is that a rocket in your pocket, will it take me to heaven.
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:54   #5
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Hey, I am the guy with the claim of a sextant being a chick magnet!

Anything gets people's heads out of the elelctronics and into the real world of navigation make it safer for me out there.

Um Saudade
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Old 08-07-2010, 10:01   #6
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For the record: My sextant is a Leupold and Stephens, 1957 vintage. It did years of merchant marine service and then me for the last 20 years. So after nearly 60 years at sea, still in great shape, no optical clouding and the scales still good and legible.

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Old 08-07-2010, 10:18   #7
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Originally Posted by UnlikelyVoyager View Post
Have you always wanted to learn celestial navigation, but been thwarted by the cost of a sextant, or (more likely) by those impenetrable and stupefyingly dull navigation books?

I'm stuck on shore for a few weeks, refilling my cruising kitty, but I'm putting this time to good use by brushing up my celestial navigation, and blogging about it.

I'll be starting with the simplest sight possible: a noon Sun sight, demonstrating how you can do this with the minimum amount of math and mumbo-jumbo.

If you follow along, you won't learn everything there is to know about celestial navigation, but it should clear up some of the mystery. If I do my job right, you should end up saying, "Hey, this celestial navigation stuff isn't so hard, after all!"

No sextant required, just a pencil and some graph paper and maybe a simple calculator.

If you're interested, here's the link to my blog:

The Unlikely Boat Builder: Celestial Navigation Fun!

Join us for some summer celestial fun!

Clear skies: John



photo wikimedia commons

Ignoring the sillyness.

John, I like both your idea and website. It would be fun to follow along and brush up on what always seems to be put on the back burner. I always like to learn something new from people like you that explain it in a way you feel comfortable understanding the process. I look forward to more posts from you here and entries on your site.
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Old 08-07-2010, 15:58   #8
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Nice one John!

I just heard from a dear friend who did the Single Handed Transat this year and then went straight back to Europe two handed with his son-in-law. He reports that both Landfalls were, really, rather flat and uninspiring. And this was because he knew where he was and when he was going to arrive, both times - thanks to electronics. He missed (as do I) the thrill and excitement and sense of achievement on making a landfall after a sometimes difficult passage, using purely "old-fashioned" methods.

People should try it...we've got too many wannabe's out there, relying on electronics without the basic knowledge of seamanship, colregs, how-to-fix-things and navigation which would, hopefully, not only add to their enjoyment and sense of achievement but also lessen the burden on the various rescue services around this planet....
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Old 08-07-2010, 16:22   #9
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Have you always wanted to learn celestial navigation, but been thwarted by the cost of a sextant, or (more likely) by those impenetrable and stupefyingly dull navigation books?

Join us for some summer celestial fun!
I'm in.
Thanks John
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Old 08-07-2010, 16:25   #10
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Me too, I love getting back to basics.
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Old 08-07-2010, 16:40   #11
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Me too, I love getting back to basics.
Love the way you think...
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Old 09-07-2010, 07:57   #12
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Nice one John!

I just heard from a dear friend who did the Single Handed Transat this year and then went straight back to Europe two handed with his son-in-law. He reports that both Landfalls were, really, rather flat and uninspiring. And this was because he knew where he was and when he was going to arrive, both times - thanks to electronics. He missed (as do I) the thrill and excitement and sense of achievement on making a landfall after a sometimes difficult passage, using purely "old-fashioned" methods.

People should try it...we've got too many wannabe's out there, relying on electronics without the basic knowledge of seamanship, colregs, how-to-fix-things and navigation which would, hopefully, not only add to their enjoyment and sense of achievement but also lessen the burden on the various rescue services around this planet....
I know what you mean. For me, sailing is a way to get away from computers... I've spent waaaaay too much time with them over the years.

That said, I'm not about to toss my lovely Garmin 72 overboard, and I do need my computer to blog...

<sigh>

-- John
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Old 10-07-2010, 08:56   #13
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The last time I crossed the Atlantic I carried a sextant , Reed's abridged tables and a little book called "One day celestial navigation" .
When I got to Florida I was getting my latitude down to within 2 miles ( once 1 ...) with the noon sight , and it felt great.
I'm looking forward for my next big enough passage to allow me to settle on a routine and start working on the longitude , and my ultimate goal is to be able , someday , to do a crossing without a GPS.
I think that if everyone experienced the thrill of finding the position without electronics everyone would be dedicated to Celestial Navigation.
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Old 10-07-2010, 09:27   #14
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I know what you mean. For me, sailing is a way to get away from computers... I've spent waaaaay too much time with them over the years.

That said, I'm not about to toss my lovely Garmin 72 overboard, and I do need my computer to blog...

<sigh>

-- John
Yep!! that's exactly the problem isnt it? But still and all, I do get a great sense of relief when I'm finally out of cell-phone, VHF (and wifi) range! T
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:22   #15
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I generally combine compass headings, dead reckoning and noon sights with the sextant (provided I have clear weather) to fix my position on a daily basis, then compare that with what the GPS has to say. I personally think it is more fun to navigate in the traditional pre-electronic methods, although in stormy weather or prolonged periods of total overcast, GPS does provide a comfortable fall back, and I would not want to be without it under certain circumstances. I have a C. Plath sextant from the 1930s, which is my favorite, but I also use an Astra III which is not so costly.
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