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Old 13-12-2005, 10:08   #1
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Hand Bearing Compass Suggestions

To finish the holiday shopping, I'd like to pick up a hand bearing compass.

At the boat show last year, I picked up a Suunto model that seemed very good:

http://store.yahoo.com/landfallnav/-nec02.html

However, I note that it isn't carried by West Marine and a few other major marine vendors. Instead, they have more of the "hockey puck" models. Is there a strong benefit for these instead of the smaller Suunto design? The pucks also seem more expensive.

I've also seen the pistol-grip models, but they seem to less precise in what bearing can be read, and the fore and aft plastic sights look like they could break easily.

Two other options-- binoculars with a built-in compass (starting at $150), or a monocular range finder with compass (which appear to be uncommon).

Thanks!

Jim
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Old 13-12-2005, 11:42   #2
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After using the "hockey puck" type of handbearing compass as well as the binocular type I feel that the most accurate means of taking a bearing is using the binocular type of compass, especially at night.
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Old 13-12-2005, 12:50   #3
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In addition to the Binocular-Mounted (Fujinon “Mariner” #WPC-XL) Compass, I’ve always kept an orienteering type Sighting Baseplate Compass (ie: Silva “RANGER” 515) aboard. Cheap, durable, effective, portable (to dinghy) and easily stowed.
http://www.silvausa.com/
Of course, there's nothing wrong with a $350 Data Scope monocular
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Old 13-12-2005, 13:26   #4
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Binocs

I've also used a high-end set of binoculars with the internal compass, and I thought they were great.

What's not so great is the typical lifespan of binoculars with my kids around. I normally go for the West Marine ones that are marked down to $40, knowing whatever I buy will be dropped and damaged in about a year. Thus, losing both binocs and compass wouldn't be so fun.

Thanks for the link to the Silva. We have a backpacking one, but not a hand bearing model.
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Old 13-12-2005, 17:16   #5
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Bought a pair of cheap Tasco Marine Binoculars (<$50Cdn) in late seventies. Used 'till mid nineties, when one lens clouded over (moisture fog).
Separated them, and used the good side in the dinghy.
Perhaps two years ago (10 yrs later), I found the fogged half in storage, and it was 'clear'. Took it to work, and use it on construction inspections, etc. I have no idea how it cleared itself.

Although I prefer "good" binoculars, I happilly used "cheapo's" for over 15 years, and never knew what I was missing. The range finder and compass are nice, but seldom neccessary.

Having opined on bearing compass', I must admit to seldom actually using them (perhaps 6 times/year). Mostly, the binacle compass suffices.
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Old 13-12-2005, 17:21   #6
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There are is on the market, at least one very slim, digital, flux gate, hand bearing compass that I have used on other boats. It is miles ahead of any magnetic. I am too cheap to replace my old one, but if I were buying new . . .

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Old 13-12-2005, 18:22   #7
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I've used the binnacle compass as well, but (horrors of horrors) most of the smaller club sailboats we take out don't have any compass at all, so I'd like a decent handheld.

Sunspot, in the future when I am wealthy and wise, it would be fun to have the KVH Datascope Gord mentioned (with fluxgate):

http://www.defender.com/product.jsp?...|343226&id=376

Probably not the best choice to hand to the kids, so I think I'll order the $45 Suunto I found. I've already spent enough on charts and books this year for under the tree...
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Old 14-12-2005, 11:46   #8
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Do any of the hand bearing compases have some sort of lock on them? I'd love to be able to point at something then lock the card down to read it. For some reason I have nothing but troubles holding the cross hairs on something and reading the card at the same time.

-jim lee
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Old 14-12-2005, 12:00   #9
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I prefer the old style military hand bearing compass... has a lens system so that you can simultaneously look at a distant object and at the compass dial and both will be in focus. Most have a 'button' to lock/stop the compass card so you can read the card/sighting later. Only problem is that the compass cards are not 'damped' and on a pitching boat this can be a problem. Camping and 'outdoor' shops usually have inexpensive 'knock-offs' of the standard military hand bearing compasses. If you could find one whose compass card is 'damped' ... that would be very good.
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Old 14-12-2005, 12:00   #10
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Beware flux gate compasses

The signal-to-noise ratio of the electronics used to determine direction with a flux gate compass is expensive to obtain and have the repeatability and accuracy of a decent magnetic compass. Without flash memory and a calibration obtained by swinging the flux gate compass (also adds to the expense) a flux gate compass definitely is not as accurate dollar-for-dollar as a decent magnetic compass.

Good accuracy is not required in order to "lock on" a specific heading when using a flux gate compass to control an autopilot and, even the, a flux gate compass is, in general, much more sensitive to dc current flowing in a vessel's wiring as well as inadvertent placement of magnetic material in the vicinity than is a magnetic compass.

If you compare the accuracy of a binocular/compass with that of a handbearing flux gate compass you will be very dissappointed. One very pointed application of requiring accuracy is when taking bearings to/from land through a small opening in a reef so that those values can be used by others to safely gain access through a reef.

Accurate, repeatable compass readings CAN be made using flux gate technology yet I doubt that most handbearing compasses available today have that technology built in for less than the price of a binocular/compass combination. Has anyone found such a product?
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Old 14-12-2005, 19:07   #11
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What you really need is a ring laser gyro. Having worked with these a few years they really are mostly magic. Deadly accurate. One of the inital things you do when you get one of these is to calibrate out the rotation of the earth as it drives these thing nuts. Pitty they cost more than many boats.

Fluxgate technology is only OK for minor applications like driving an auto pilot.

I like my hockey puck hand bearing magnetic compass. It just works.
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Old 15-12-2005, 00:20   #12
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Quote:
Sunspot Baby once whispered in the wind:
There are is on the market, at least one very slim, digital, flux gate, hand bearing compass that I have used on other boats. It is miles ahead of any magnetic. I am too cheap to replace my old one, but if I were buying new . . .

Sunspot Baby
Sadly think you'll find these were discontinued years ago. I've struggled to recall the brand name (and failed) but we also had one back in Oz a decade ago and found it to be brilliant.

Taking multiple sights by clicking one button sure beat 'guessing' an averaged reading on a magnetic compass.

If I recall correctly - one could store up to 10 headings in the device and recall them quickly down belo wlater for chart use.

Was it Autohelm who made them? The name was on the front. It was a slim black jobbie with red buttons and red neck cord, around same price as a quality magnetic handheld in those days.

Cheers

JOHN
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Old 15-12-2005, 00:41   #13
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I haven't yet had to use a dedicated hand bearing compass. No, that's not that I don't need to, I just haven't needed to yet. I do have a Casio Pathfinder watch with an electronic compass built in. Along with a Barometer, tide graph, moon phase, sailing countdown timer and thermometer. The later being rather useless as your body temp viods any useful air measurement. But the compass has proved to be quite sufficient for the sightings I have needed to make so far. The Barometer gives me a 24hr history and the tide graph tells me when I can start my transit of the channel. It's been well worth the money.
Oh yeah, and it tells the time as well.
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Old 15-12-2005, 04:18   #14
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John,
It was indeed Autohelm (Raytheon) and they discontinued these some time ago. I use an Iris 50 (made by Plastimo) hockey puck. While it took some time to get used to where to hold it (right against the bottom of my glasses frame) .. once I got the hang of it, I find it works well.

L S/V Sew Good

Bob & Lynn
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Old 16-12-2005, 03:08   #15
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Quote:
Wahoo Sails once whispered in the wind:
John,
It was indeed Autohelm (Raytheon) and they discontinued these some time ago. I use an Iris 50 (made by Plastimo) hockey puck. While it took some time to get used to where to hold it (right against the bottom of my glasses frame) .. once I got the hang of it, I find it works well.

L S/V Sew Good

Bob & Lynn
Thanks guys - good to know I was not too adrift and a few of the brain cells are still blinking. I never use one any more - we've always got a good pair of bino's complete with lit compass that could suffice in an emergency - and tend to use radar to get our most accurate bearings.

Merry Xmas

JOHN
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