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  #1  
Old 07-21-2007
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Hand Bearing Compass Recommendations?

Don't know as I need a hand bearing compass, but it seems like it'd be a handy device to have on board. Problem is: Which are of good quality and accurate? How much do you have to spend to get a good one? I notice some are lit, for night time use. How do they keep the lighting circuit from inducing deviation? (Tho I imagine, if the lighting is via LED, maybe there wouldn't be enough current flow to induce appreciable deviation?)

Recommendations?

TIA,
Jim
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I am very partial to the one originally made by Sestrel and now made by Sirs in England. It is called the Radiant and the ones I have use a beta light to illuminate the card. That’s a small capsule that glows in the dark so batteries or errors from a magnetic field are not a problem. One is mounted near the helm in a rubber holder and can be used as a backup steering compass and the other is mounted at the chart table in a very nice teak box with bronze hardware. It serves as my telltale while I am below.
All the best,
Robert Gainer
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I have and use a Plastimo Iris 50, which is a hockey puck style handbearing compass.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
I have and use a Plastimo Iris 50, which is a hockey puck style handbearing compass.
Looks like you have to hold that one right up to your eye to use it? Will that work for somebody who needs, but does not normally wear or have upon his person, reading glasses? (Yeah, I'm being stubborn .)

Jim
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Jim-

You'd be better off with the Plastimo 100... Bigger numbers, easier for the presbyopic sailors...

Or, for just $995 more, you can get one eye LASIK surgery...
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Quote:
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Jim-

You'd be better off with the Plastimo 100... Bigger numbers, easier for the presbyopic sailors...
Hmmm... It's unclear to me how that's used as a hand bearing compass. I see no "sights."

What the world obviously needs is a hand bearing compass that allows one to "sight" on ones "target" and lock the compass' reading, so one can then position the compass such that the bearing can easily and conveniently be read.

Jim
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Old 07-22-2007
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There is a Puck style like sailingdog mentioned on ebay. I just might have to bid..

Puck Style
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Jim,
The small boat sailor has a bit of a conundrum. If he can mount a pelorus, which resembles a compass or gyro repeater, he can take relative bearings. The pelorus may be gimballed, will be accurate to one degree, and has sights that are aimed at the object being observed. Offshore, it is valuable for taking azimuths of the sun. Where to mount it so as to have an unobstructed view of most quadrants is an issue as well. And, since the pelorus only gives you a relative bearing you must know exactly what course you are on as you take the bearing. It is not so bad with two people. The helmsman can just call out "mark" when he's right on course and the navigator, looking through the sights of the pelorus, notes the relative bearing at that instance.

Most of the hand bearing compasses are only graduated to five degrees accuracy and, given their size, that is about how accurate you'll be. Deviation is not generally a factor as you commonly use the compass away from metal objects. The pelorus does offer the potential for greater accuracy, if you can overcome the mounting issues.

I believe Valiente has a pelorus on his boat, he'll probably wander along through this thread before long and you can ask him how he likes it. Camaraderie, when he bought his Tayana, had pelorus stands that were installed port and starboard in the cockpit. He took the two pelorus' off and duct taped a GPS to each one. Averaging the two readings he gets usually puts him right at the wheel, but not always. (vbg)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailaway21 View Post
Camaraderie, when he bought his Tayana, had pelorus stands that were installed port and starboard in the cockpit. He took the two pelorus' off and duct taped a GPS to each one. Averaging the two readings he gets usually puts him right at the wheel, but not always. (vbg)

ROFL... I thought he had GPS antenna mounted on the main mast and mizzen as well...so he'd have both the latitude and longitude of the boat averaged..
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Sailaway21,
I have a large pelorus and find it’s very useful for swinging ship and making my compass card but as a bearing instrument its not very useful nor is it as precise as the graduations would suggest. As you point out because it only takes a relative bearing you need the ships heading to get a bearing you can plot. If you are single-handed the boat usually doesn’t stay on course long enough to read the steering compass after you shot the bearing and before the boat has turned somewhat. Even if you sail with a crew most small boat crews will have a problem coordinating the use of a pelorus.

The fact the pelorus card is in degrees doesn’t mean much if the difference in course between taking the bearing and reading the steering compass is greater then the graduations on the pelorus. At anchor its OK for checking to see if you have dragged but a good hand-bearing compass is able to do that also so I don’t see much need for a permanently mounted pelorus.

If you want to round a point by using a horizontal angle between landmarks after setting a minimum distance off I think you will find the sextant is better suited to this then taking two quick sights with a pelorus. No math and an obvious answer to the question are we too close to the point. The sextant also can measure vertical angles so rounding a point with a single landmark or headland of know height is practical and neither the hand-bearing compass or a pelorus can do that. I have a Heath sextant on board for this use so that my Cassens & Plath stays safely below and doesn’t get used by anyone except myself. Using a sextant this way is good practice and the crew will have an easier time learning to shoot celestial bodies with a sextant if they are already familiar with using one for coastal piloting.

The hand-bearing compass I use is heavy and has inertia so it’s easy to keep it stable. You use a prism to split your line of sight so you see a full view of the horizon and an image of the compass card at the same time. It also has a glazed strip on the handle so you can write down the bearings of each object and with my lack of memory nowadays that alone makes the Radiant worth the price. In harbor I write the anchor bearings on the handle and for the remainder of my stay I know if I am dragging anchor without referring to the chart or my deck log.

One way to get the best of both worlds and have a pelorus that gives you magnetic bearings would be to get a compass similar to the Sestrel Moore that has a sighting vane attachment. I am considering mounting one of them on my sea hood.
All the best,
Robert Gainer
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