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Old 11-09-2020, 08:36   #31
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

on my last trip to Bermuda....I was about 4-5 days out, when I spied a white sail on the horizon heading my way.....
sure enough, about 30 minutes later this little sloop pulls up alongside me...onboard were a couple in their 80's...butt naked and brown as berries...
they asked me for " directions" to Bermuda....their sole navigation aid was a schoolboy atlas, nothing else....they had left from the Florida Keys some days earlier...
I gave them a lat/lon fix, a compass course and pointed my finger at the horizon telling them that Bermuda was " thataway".....they thanked me and were soon on their way...

nah, I'm not making this up.....I never found out if they made it or not....but admired their moxy...

we, ourselves were practicing our navigational skills with a plastic sextant....taking noon sights every day.......and comparing them to our electronic fixes......it's fair to say that the results had a large margin of error...

I take my hat off to the people that have mastered this art...
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Old 11-09-2020, 08:40   #32
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

some people, like the couple mentioned above, depend on coming across shipping for a fix...but in 3 trips I have done to Bermuda, I have only ever seen one ship....hardly a dependably source of navigation...
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:23   #33
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

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on my last trip to Bermuda....I was about 4-5 days out, when I spied a white sail on the horizon heading my way.....
sure enough, about 30 minutes later this little sloop pulls up alongside me...onboard were a couple in their 80's...butt naked and brown as berries...
they asked me for " directions" to Bermuda....their sole navigation aid was a schoolboy atlas, nothing else....they had left from the Florida Keys some days earlier...
I gave them a lat/lon fix, a compass course and pointed my finger at the horizon telling them that Bermuda was " thataway".....they thanked me and were soon on their way...

nah, I'm not making this up.....I never found out if they made it or not....but admired their moxy...

we, ourselves were practicing our navigational skills with a plastic sextant....taking noon sights every day.......and comparing them to our electronic fixes......it's fair to say that the results had a large margin of error...

I take my hat off to the people that have mastered this art...
Pretty clear they certainly took off more than their hat!
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:35   #34
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

So, I got bored during the lock down and taught myself celestial navigation with an actual sextant. I also came across an Android app called CamSextant. I used it to help me identify stars and check my calculations. The funny thing is that I was never able to get better accuracy than the app did. It wasn't my intention to do all the calculations with a paper and pencil, and I found some MS Excel spreadsheets to help me with that. So, I figure if I am going to use a computer anyway, why not just use the app. It is a whole lot easier and faster, and cheaper than buying a sextant.
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:36   #35
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

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...onboard were a couple in their 80's...butt naked and brown as berries...
nah, I'm not making this up.....
Normally "If you don't have pictures, it didn't happen" but in this instance verbal testimony will suffice.
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Old 11-09-2020, 11:21   #36
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

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I knew a guy who sailed from San Diego to Hawaii on an Aquarius 23 using nothing but a protractor like the one shown and a National Geographic map as a chart. He also used an AM radio as direction finder when he got close enough. He wasn't trying to break a record or prove a point. He basically didn't know any better. He had no gps. He did have a compass. His mainsail was from a Hobie cat. His 2 way radio was a CB. He used the north star as his reference. He left Kauai bound for Alaska several months later and was never seen again. Sad story but true.
One can find the Hawaiian Islands by following the jet trails.
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Old 11-09-2020, 11:50   #37
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

We were heading from Avalon to Mission Bay at around 2:00am. Our Auto pilot went out. I had my wife sit at the helm and tried to teach her how to steer by compass. Didn't work. It was a clear night, so I looked for a bright star in the general direction. There was one perfect one. I told her to steer towards it. Problem solved, at least for a while.


I went below to troubleshoot. After about an hour I returned to the bridge expecting the star to be too high to use. To my surprise it was a bit lower, but still perfect.


Puzzled, I went below again. About 30 minutes later, my wife hollered down, "That STAR is attached to a sailboat" .
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Old 11-09-2020, 14:22   #38
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

my first trip to the B'mas was in the early 80's.....lighthouses still worked, radio beacons, etc, etc...
I didn't have the first electronic gadget....
it was all dead reckoning, keeping a diligent hourly log, etc..and making use of landside features as I could see them....
approaching West End at night I was looking for a signature light they had there, but there was nothing....until in the distance I saw a white light....I duly altered course a bit to make for the light...after an hour or so, I notice my compass bearing to the light had changed.....and then it dawned on me I had been following a ship...
I eventually crossed north of West End somewhere...I wasn't sure where...West End was not in sight....this at daybreak......I didn't hit anything...I didn't run aground...I had one or two anxious moments because the water is so clear you can see the bottom in intimate detail.....

all I can add at this point is that the good Lord looks after drunks, fools and sailors...so I was handily covered under all three descriptions...

It turned out to be a wonderful trip....everything was new to me, exciting, challenging, wonderful....I had no need for instruments of any kind....I kept a diligent hourly log and always managed to find my way...I never had a single problem..I never listened to a single weather forecast...the weather was simply the weather...from whichever way the wind blew, I simply adjusted sails, Thunderstorms were welcome as they washed both me and the boat..

I look at sailors today, who have a gazillion devices of electronic charts, instruments, GPS, etc, etc, etc, but never leave the docks....they analyze and discuss weather sourced from a plethora of sources with other sailors...but they never go anywhere....

Keeping things simple is the key...!!!
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Old 11-09-2020, 15:09   #39
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

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The Polynesian voyagers did it. (still do)
I hear regularly about how the Polynesians were outstanding navigators - after all, they navigated from their homes to New Zealand using ancient techniques, didnít they?

But when they left where they came from, they didnít know that New Zealand even existed, let alone where it was. How can you navigate to something/someplace when you donít know where it is?

Surely thatís just blind luck? Surely navigation implies that to navigate to a place one needs to know where youíre going or that the place to which youíre navigating is actually there? Anyway, Iím told that they were excellent navigators so Iíll go with the hype.
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Old 11-09-2020, 15:40   #40
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

I suppose the same can be said for Columbus....Bartholomew Diaz...Vasco Da Gama....Cook...Amerigo Vespucci....etc..etc...they all charted a course into the unknown....the fabled spice islands...the new world....even the Bounty mutineers navigated to Pitcairn....all these places were " out there"....where exactly....who knows....until an accurate timepiece was made....longitude was a guessing game...
for that matter...people were known to sail of the edge of the world..wherever that was/is ???

it's all pretty fascinating stuff....fact..fable....myth....real....false....? ??
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Old 11-09-2020, 17:41   #41
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

Yes, one wonders whether Columbus (and others) went out there with a view of finding new places or never making it back home. And his ďnavigationĒ skills were probably only really displayed when he got back home because going out and randomly hitting land has got to be lot less complicated than going back to the same place you left from.

I think da Gama was less lucky than Columbus because essentially he followed the coastlines of Africa as far as he went. Columbus set out into the blue with absolutely no idea of what lay ahead of him. Diaz also originally sailed the west coast of Africa to the southern tip on his first voyage, much later crossing the Atlantic from Southern Africa and hitting Brazil.

Sorry, stopping now, thread hijack imminent
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Old 11-09-2020, 18:59   #42
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

The Polynesian Wayfinders could read the waves, birds, clouds and when I watched a program about it, he would also lie in the hull and listen to the sounds of the water.
So they could tell there was land in X direction by all of those methods. NZ would put out a pretty big wave reflection I guess!
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Old 11-09-2020, 20:16   #43
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

Piece of thread on a protractor (given exact attachment of thread to centre of arc) might read to perhaps 1/2 a degree? Thats 30 minutes. One minute of arc = one nautical mile. So 30 miles potential error.

And OK if you can see Polaris, but there is no convenient South Pole star. Just stuff like ďtake 4 1/2 times the axis length of the southern cross, and look for where that intersects with a line at right angles to the line joining the twins........Ē just point your straw at that spot of nothingness, then hang on - now Iíll just stick my head around and read the thread.

Perhaps one would be successful and become one of the hero stories in this thread. Trouble is, we only hear the success stories, not the myriad more stories of failure! (Although one was implied!)

Me? Iíll stick with practice, and a sextant that can read to 1/10 of a minute, hoping that my technique gets me to within 5 or so minutes of an accurate reading most of the time.

But the thread has been an entertaining and enjoyable read!
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Old 11-09-2020, 20:53   #44
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

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The Polynesian Wayfinders could read the waves, birds, clouds and when I watched a program about it, he would also lie in the hull and listen to the sounds of the water.
So they could tell there was land in X direction by all of those methods. NZ would put out a pretty big wave reflection I guess!
In 1946, '47, thereabouts, as a preteen wanting to become a pilot, I read Guy Murchie's "Song of the Sky:"

https://www.amazon.com/Song-Sky-Guy-...ustomerReviews


It's an easy read by this former WWII bombardier. Among his chapters, he had one on how early Polynesians found their way between islands. They were very sophisticated. Not only did they navigate by the stars, but they also "read" what the ocean was telling them, making wooden matrixes w/ various angles where, at intersections of the "routes", was an island.



I won't say the methods he detailed of their skills, but it's been long since, I believe, that man has been so in touch with nature as to "read" what she had to offer.
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Old 11-09-2020, 22:18   #45
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Re: NASA develops new type sextant

As the OP I didn't take the article too seriously. I was looking up information about sextants and it came up. I do enjoy how the thread has gone so far.

I bought a nice used tamaya sextant. I hope to start learning to use it when these clouds clear out.

Thx-Ace
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