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My favorite tool.

This tool has taken me across several oceans..
About 40 years ago some friends and I decided to sail around the world. We took different roles in this project. One of mine was navigation. I had been sailing all my life, so that was a natural.
I went to night school and got a Danish 500 ton Captain’s license.
In Danish waters it is very hard to get a clear horizon because there are islands all over the place. Once in a while we could get far enough offshore to get proper readings. What fun, to be able to get a position with just a chronometer, a sextant and a set of star/sun tables. A Sextant is a very accurate hand held angle finder. It can measure Degs, Minutes and .25 of a minute. In 10 foot waves on a 40 ft boat forget the .25 minutes. The minutes will get you within a one mile triangle. With waves you could get inside a 3 nautical mile triangle.

Since then I have sailed across the Atlantic 3 times. Each time using the sextant as a navigation tool. In the late 80’s we sailed from Texas to Denmark, via Halifax and north of Scotland. From Halifax to Fair Isles at Scotland’s north tip we only managed to get two sightings in 14 days because of bad weather. But got dead on using dead reckoning.

Unfortunately the racing rules have been changed to allow GPS and other tools to be used during races, making for more safety but cutting down on the challenge of navigating the oceans.

I will miss using this tool.


-- Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

Yes I do need one of those at some point, Horologist. We used good watches and checked them with the WWV radio station in Ft Collins Colorado once a day.


-- Tor and Odin are the greatest of gods.

But then you also need one of these.

My dad did take the celestial navigation course and had a similar sextant but most of our sailing was in the Gulf of Mexico so such things really weren’t necessary.

-- Troy in Melrose Florida

I am not sure digital is safer Mike.

It take a bug in the software running on the equipment to make our life miserable.
The civilian GPS is hackable. One can imagine what the possibilities are.

I like the old stuff. They work.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

It sounds like you have had some wonderful sailing adventures Madts and I like the idea that the sextant is a hand tool rather than a digital instrument. Modern technology is making everything safer these days, but maybe reducing the romance and adventure that comes with risk taking. We still used only sextants when I was in the Navy (not me personally). I loved being at sea, but that was on a freight ship not a cork bobbing in the middle of the pacific. I would like to think that I would have enjoyed sailing, but I never took it up as my wife isn’t comfortable being at sea. I did spend a short time on a friends inflatable sail dinghy in about 4 ft. of water in the North Sea. Pretty rough going but I survived it!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway

That is a skill in its own class . I read a lot of history books , and it was amazing that they could get their location using those instruments .

-- Wheaties

I never seen a real one. only pictures.

Last year I read a book about the longitude. Interesting information about clock making and position at sea.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

Ah yes, but your sextant will work when all the batteries are dead.
I am sure there are lots of blue water cruisers who would agree with your choice.

-- The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

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