Originally Posted by SeanPatrick
... But returning to a specific location such as one's home port was - I dare say - not an uncommon skill amongst pre-chronometer mariners. Otherwise I don't think sailing would have really taken off.
We used to go fishing
beyond sight of land. After moving around from spot to spot, and drifting a lot, we didn't really know our starting location. We usually had a compass
, but it wasn't much more help than just glancing at the position of the sun.
With that, we got close enough to see a landmark. Our best one was three hills which ran roughly North-South. If the big one was on the left, and they were evenly spaced, we were due East. If they were starting to line up, we were farther North. With that, we could adjust course a little. As we got closer, more landmarks would appear. By the time we got to our home harbor, we'd been steaming a straight line in for some time.
Granted, we weren't crossing oceans. And explorers back in the day did sometimes get blown off their DR course by storms and ended up seeing unfamiliar landmarks when approaching shore. This is why early charts
always had profiles of the land, as they would first appear to an approaching sailor.