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Old 23-11-2012, 08:13   #1
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Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

having decided to amuse myself over the long cold winter as i recover from serious surgery, i am biting the bullet and buying a good quality aluminum sextant . has anyone out there some good advice for the complete novice celestial navigator? (NB i am not interested in the Davis plastic, because of heat warp issues. ) i think i prefer one with a screw drum micrometer adjustment.. looking to buy used, not new..
eventual plans are to navigate my nauticat pilothouse back to her country of origin, finland, from the east coast...

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Old 23-11-2012, 08:42   #2
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

Some in-depth info I found useful...may it do so for you. If you want to know how something works, and how well it is built, take it to bits. If it's like my carburetor, it runs even better minus two little screws and a funny little spring thingy. Not suggesting you do that to your sextant, though....

The USSR SNO-T sextant The Nautical Sextant
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Old 23-11-2012, 08:50   #3
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

The best sextant are brass.

Here is an article to get you started.

Strait of Magellan: Celestial Navigation 101, Interlude: What sextant should I buy?
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Old 23-11-2012, 08:58   #4
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

Mitch-- I think most experienced CN's that have used good Sextants would agree that the Astra IIIB sold by Celestaire is one of the best values in Sextants with quality equal or better to competing devices costing several multiples of their price. I have been using an Astra since the late '80's with the whole horizon mirror and it has been very satisfactory and easily the equal of the much more costly Tamaya that was liberated from our boat by some miscreant. Good Luck... PS: Check your PM's
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Old 23-11-2012, 09:05   #5
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

I bought a David White sextant on Ebay. It came in the original wood box with all the adjustment tools. It carries a USN Observatory scertificate dated Feb 4, 1946 so it is, more or less, WW2 surplus. It was likely in somebody's attic all these years. I paid $250 for it. There are lots of other high quality sextants out there on line. There is not much demand for them these days.

I would also recommend William F. Buckley's DVD, Celestial Navigation Simplified. It is informative, entertaining and easy to follow.
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Old 23-11-2012, 10:10   #6
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

I had a Frieberger Yacht sextant, very good unit.

One important point I suggest is you need to do your homework to decide which type of mirror you want.
My Frieberger (as most others) had a split image, which was hard to bring the body down and hold it there, simply because no matter how loud I shouted, the boat would not stop moving/rolling/pitching while I was taking a sight. They say the full mirror is much easier to use on a moving boat, I wish I had checked this before I bought it. So there you go - some food for thought.

Another thing, use the tables, get used to have 2 or 3 books opened at the same time, don't buy electronic aids until you master the process. Good luck on your studies.

Also look here.
http://www.celestaire.com/pdf/MarineSextants.pdf
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Old 23-11-2012, 10:32   #7
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

Something to think about is a 3/4 size sextant. I did most of my long passages in the 70s and 80s with an English made plastic sextant, with a Davis for backup. When I used full size sextants on other boats I thought they were way too heavy and clunky, so when I could afford a metal sextant I bought a 3/4 size Tamaya and loved it. In theory a heavy sextant is easier to hold steady, but what I found was that holding the heavier sextant up to your eye for 3,4 maybe 5 minutes while you try to bring down a star that keeps getting hidden by clouds, can end up with a bad case of the shakes from fatigue. These are just some things to think about in your decision making process. Celestial is a very rewarding skill even in this age of 99 dollar GPSs. Good Luck_____Grant.
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Old 23-11-2012, 11:04   #8
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

I like Astra's very much and basically anything else in metal works fine too. We have some sort of ex-Eastern Germany make that is as good as anything else on the market and we paid reasonable amount for it too.

The plastic sextants are probably poorest value - I have one onboard (Davis or Davies, etc..) and man it is cr(..), but not a cheap one.

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Old 23-11-2012, 11:23   #9
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Re: Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

Don't diss plastic sextants . I did a circumnav with a plastic Davis. ( admittedly with micrometer adjustment as opposed to vernia) An accurate sextant sight is only the beginning, there are so many opportunities for error, after the sight, that sextant errors are of little significance. Also, extreme accuracy of fixes is not essential as most landfalls are visible from many miles off, ( St Helena, - 50 miles.) so your attention to detail is not a biggie.
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Old 23-11-2012, 11:47   #10
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Re: Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

Buy new if you can and don't rule out brass. Also, go handle a few sextants to get the feel for the ones you are interested in. Hopefully there are a few places (even pawn shops) that have a sextant or 2 you can hold. Just to feel the weight and how it fits your hand.

THe mark 25 Davis plastic is quite useful. The key is not changing the temp during the sight run.

Lastly, if you have a local Power Squadron you can take Celestial classes from them. JN and N courses cover Sun sights (JN) and Moon, Stars, Planets (N) using the Law of Cosines method (Just need an almanac and calculator with trig functions) and the NASR method (Just addition and subtraction with the tables in the almanac).

REgards!
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Old 23-11-2012, 12:05   #11
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
The best sextant are brass.

Here is an article to get you started.

Strait of Magellan: Celestial Navigation 101, Interlude: What sextant should I buy?
Good article, and interesting to note that he claims that the cheapest MK3 plastic sextant is better than the two more expensive ones.
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Old 23-11-2012, 12:08   #12
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Re: Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

Look at ebay, nearly all sextants get very little use in reality. I bought a Cassens Plath from a ship breaker in India for $450. I would recommend being patient and waiting for one from in the country to avoid potential issues. My seller thought he was helping by jamming packing inside the case which cracked one of the shade glasses, after some negotiating he covered the repair which was $120. Getting the sextant is the easy part, gaining proficiency at the sight reduction takes practice.
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Old 23-11-2012, 12:15   #13
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Re: advice request; which sextant to buy??

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Originally Posted by dsmastern View Post
Good article, and interesting to note that he claims that the cheapest MK3 plastic sextant is better than the two more expensive ones.
I did use a a Davis mark 25 on a friends boat once and it gave good results, but they are overpriced for what is very cheap construction.
I think the advice to go for better aluminium sextant, or for emergancy use, go for the basic MK3, seems like sensible advice to me.
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Old 23-11-2012, 13:04   #14
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Re: Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

The cheap plastic sextants do in fact work well enough
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Old 23-11-2012, 13:27   #15
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Re: Advice Request; Which Sextant To Buy??

I have a C. Plath wartime issue sextant from 1940 that works very well and a H. Hughes & Son Royal Navy Sextant. The Russian nautical sextants are very similar to the C.Plath, although the finishing of the pressure cast parts is not to the C. Plath's high standards. The Hughes is brass, unlike the German one, and is really top notch. I have heard good things about the Astra from China and it certainly offers excellent quality for half to a quarter the price of the Plath or Tamiya sextants.
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