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Old 11-11-2018, 22:54   #1
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Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Ocelot came with a 5" Venus (C. Plath) compass. After 8 years, the diaphragm failed & all the fluid ran out (in French Polynesia). Since we couldn't send it away, we repaired it as best we could with the resources we could find. The diaphragm failed again 5 years later, then 4 years after that, and 4 years after that (last year).

We now find that Plath expects you to send your compass back to them every 5 years for refurbishment (for US$300+shipping). They repair it for 2 weeks & ship it back. Assuming we could get it back into the countries we cruise (very problematic in Indonesia) we'd be without a compass for more than a month every 5 years.

For a compass that lists for over US$ 1,600, this strikes us as … silly.

Our Sestral Moore compass on our last boat was 25 years old & worked perfectly. Friends here have a 100 year old compass (on their 100 year old boat).

Our questions:
  • Is having to send our main navigational compass back for refurbishment every 5 years (for a month) reasonable?
  • Are there any long time cruisers who can recommend more reliable compasses?
Thanks!
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Old 12-11-2018, 00:31   #2
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

My old boat has a Suunto compass on the binnacle which has been out in the Australian sun and weather for 20 years without service and other than the paint on the housing looking a bit tired still pretty well looks like it did when I put it on.
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Old 12-11-2018, 01:04   #3
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Good life and performance from our Ritchie binnacle compass, now ~ 24 years old... no repairs or issues so far.

Jim
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Old 12-11-2018, 10:10   #4
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

The magnetic compass is a relic, unfortunately. I removed mine a long time ago. A $50 flux gate is better in every respect, a $600 solid state compass is superior to anything else and a $2,000 GPS compass is just amazing. Plus, it is much easier to keep a compass course on a chart plotter.

Keep a small magnetic compass as a backup somewhere but if you are spending serious money on a compass, consider the alternatives
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Old 12-11-2018, 10:26   #5
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

I see good used compasses selling on ebay for under $100 if you are patient.
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Old 12-11-2018, 10:26   #6
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Good life and performance from our Ritchie binnacle compass, now ~ 24 years old... no repairs or issues so far.

Jim

+1 for the Ritchie binnacle. Ours is going strong after 20 years

Ron
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Old 12-11-2018, 10:36   #7
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

I bought a couple Suunto Handheld Compasses as backup to my GPS and for taking bearings on ships to see if I can clear them. (this after the old Danforth Compass the PO had failed and it was ancient)

They also come in handy when I am low on power and am only running my autopilot

They go for $17.50 and up.

https://www.suunto.com/en-us/Product...all-compasses/
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Old 12-11-2018, 14:25   #8
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

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+1 for the Ritchie binnacle. Ours is going strong after 20 years

Ron
+3
.......
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Old 12-11-2018, 18:21   #9
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

My Ritchie has give me almost 11 years of faithful service, strong recommendation from me.
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Old 12-11-2018, 19:30   #10
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

MOre info: I've only owned two proper binnacle compasses, one Ritchie as above and one Danforth. The Danforth was on our previous boat and had been purchased in San Francisco. Obviouslu, the balance was set up for that area. When we were approaching New Zealand, the card began tilting way off horizontal (as the magnetic field dip angle increassed) and before long (somewhere around 30 deg S IIRC) it hung up and stopped working. RATS! A friend from the SF area who was sailing the same route had a Ritchie and it never faltered. The Ritchie on our present boat has worked from Alaska to the Southern ocean. They are obviously less sensitive to changes in dip angles than some other compass designs... something they don't tell you about at the boat shows!

Jim
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Old 12-11-2018, 19:51   #11
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Thanks everyone! And especially to Mod Jim for your thoughtful elaboration.

C. Plath came back & offered us a new Venus for $700, which is something like $900 off list. But they also say the diaphragms only last 5-8 years, & with shipping it would cost ~$400-500 every 5 years to refurb it. Not really practical for world cruisers.

It seems Suunto isn't making yacht compasses anymore. So Ritchie is clearly the winner. Now I just have to find one to fit our mounting location (flat mount, 7" OD, 6"ID).
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Old 12-11-2018, 20:57   #12
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Our boat has a 20 year old Plastimo Offshore 115 compass, flat mount, that is still going strong after 2 circumnavigations.
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Old 12-11-2018, 23:29   #13
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Silva also makes very high quality compasses. Ritchie. My current boat has 3 24 year old Plastimos that are fine.
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Old 13-11-2018, 10:31   #14
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

i have a davis complete with air bubble which seems stable, and a larger ritchie. ritchie will be installed leaving up for grabs the davis. come to mexico to receive the ultimate bubble inclusive yet accurate compass of your dreams.
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Old 13-11-2018, 13:28   #15
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Re: Reliable Compasses for Cruising

Ritchie has not lied or let me down in the last 5 boats.
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