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Old 16-02-2010, 13:35   #1
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Time to Buy a Sextant ?

For the past year I have been enduring the taunts of my fellow marina bums regarding my purchase of a sextant, many books on it's use - not to mention the many hours of torturing my poor brain learning to use it.

"Why go to such trouble when you have three GPSs aboard"? Is an often asked question.

Well, my answer has usually been that they (the taunters) obviously have a great deal more confidence in the U.S. government than I do - and the government controls the GPS grid and can switch it off any moment.

Seems that I overlooked the other inequities in the system, as pointed out in the following article:

Solar flare puts GPS off the air -- Government Computer News
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Old 16-02-2010, 13:43   #2
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I have a sextant. I've spent the past 10 years working as a marine electronics engineer... Which is why I got the sextant...

/Hampus
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Old 16-02-2010, 14:15   #3
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For me the question is more why not have one. It is true that a lot of books and people teaching sight reduction make things complicated but it doesn't have to be. A simple form and fill in the blanks is all that's necessary, it's more matter of practice.
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Old 16-02-2010, 14:21   #4
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I have a sextant. I've spent the past 10 years working as a marine electronics engineer... Which is why I got the sextant...

/Hampus
That's rich.

Got mine; thanks for the confirmation.
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Old 16-02-2010, 16:29   #5
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I see how the gov't manages everything they touch and with that in mind... I have mine, my calc to assist me and taught my kids as well. Anyone can read a digital display but when it reads all zeros' then what. LoL
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Old 16-02-2010, 17:28   #6
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It's just plain fun to add to the knowledge bank!

Astra IIIb Sextant
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Old 16-02-2010, 17:36   #7
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I'll fall back to dead reckoning if GPS goes down. Worked for thousands of years. Sextants were a 'flash in the pan' in regards to sailing history. But it can be fun.
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Old 16-02-2010, 17:39   #8
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Not sure what's you're referring to here. I guess the word is a combination of "sex" and "tantric".
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Old 16-02-2010, 18:05   #9
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Even with deduced reconing on has to have bearings of some kind to give their possition credibility. Time, speed, tide and current, windage all go into the guess. Soundings can help as can compas bearings on known waypoints. Every bit you can get! A sextant can help. As can a gps. Tantric sex however has always seemed to distract aquiring any fixed point in time and space for me though.....
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Old 16-02-2010, 18:32   #10
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I'll fall back to dead reckoning if GPS goes down. Worked for thousands of years. Sextants were a 'flash in the pan' in regards to sailing history. But it can be fun.
Ye, sure - unless you happen to be mid-Pacific.

b.
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Old 16-02-2010, 19:28   #11
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[...]they (the taunters) obviously have a great deal more confidence in the U.S. government than I do - and the government controls the GPS grid and can switch it off any moment.
True. The government also controls WWV time service which you'll need to compute longitude.

Again, true. GPS service was interrupted for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of receiver. Just about enough time to take out your sextant, take a sun or star sight (provided it isn't cloudy), get your nautical almanac and sight reduction tables (produced by the same government--or do you trust the Brits more?), calculate your position, and plot it on a chart based on some government's soundings.
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Old 16-02-2010, 19:33   #12
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Ye, sure - unless you happen to be mid-Pacific.

b.
No problem whatsoever. I'd know what latitude I as at when gps quit. Simply keep sailing towards paradise. Bound to find something. I'd ask the locals where they are when I get there. That's real sailing.
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Old 16-02-2010, 19:57   #13
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True. The government also controls WWV time service which you'll need to compute longitude.

Ah, but they don't have a monopoly on timekeeping. A $35 Casio watch will keep perfect time for a few years. My battered thirty year old Rolex only looses a predictable 15 seconds a month.

Again, true. GPS service was interrupted for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of receiver. Just about enough time to take out your sextant, take a sun or star sight (provided it isn't cloudy), get your nautical almanac and sight reduction tables (produced by the same government--or do you trust the Brits more?), calculate your position, and plot it on a chart based on some government's soundings.
Do a little more research. The predicted interference of solar flares in coming years is far greater than a few minutes here and there. Okay, so even if it's occasional would you trust your life to a GPS knowing it may - or may not - be accurate?

Look, I love my chartplotter, handheld GPS and there is even one built into my laptop. I use them all the time and they are a true marvel of modern technology. I'm not knocking the technology by any means.

My charts, tables and almanac have been around for a long while and proven their worth to generations of sailors. I don't care if the boy scouts developed them as long as they serve my needs.

Trust what you like and put your confidence in a government or technology if you choose. I offer no apologies for my distrust in either.
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Old 17-02-2010, 05:13   #14
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it is common knowledge now, in the technical world of GPS, that from 2010 the aging GPS-network satelites are in a bit of a predicament. The US confirmed that from this year on there are no more spare satelites to be shifted in place if one of the satelites fails to work.
So we could be facing less precision from this year on.

As "the taunting" ones I thought I'd never have the need for a sextant ... thinking different now ...

Anybody an idea of "good" (read "easy to understand") literature about learning the sextant ?

thanks

Bas
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Old 17-02-2010, 06:23   #15
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The European satellites are slowly coming on line, as are the Russian equivalent so the reduction in the USA sponsored system may or not be a problem. Having a sextant and knowing how to use it seems prudent for every off shore voyager but I may be a little old fashioned on this. Certainly helped me for the first 35 years of my cruising experience. I've still got my RN issue sextant sitting in it's box carefully packed away in my cabin, with up to date reduction tables. For me it's one of those 'Don't leave home without it' items.

P.
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