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Old 03-25-2013
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Hand Bearing Compass Advice

I just finished the ASA 105 navigation class and I'm looking forward to trying some of it out this summer. I would like advice on hand bearing compasses. Should I get a puck or a pistol-grip? Any brands or features that are must haves? Or should I skip it and get binocs with a compass?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 03-25-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

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Originally Posted by Minnesail View Post
I just finished the ASA 105 navigation class and I'm looking forward to trying some of it out this summer. I would like advice on hand bearing compasses. Should I get a puck or a pistol-grip? Any brands or features that are must haves? Or should I skip it and get binocs with a compass?

Thanks in advance!
The pistols grip handbearing compasses are junk. Get decent handbearing compass. My favourite is the Morin



It stabilizes faster than others.

For value for money I would recommend the Plastimo Iris 50



I have a set of binoculars with a built-in compass, but i prefer the HBC.
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Old 03-25-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

Thanks for the suggestions!

You prefer the HBC over the binocs? It seems like you could be more precise with the binocs, or does it not make any difference?
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Old 03-25-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

Both the Morin and Plastimo are precise - 1 degree. They are lighter and I can keep them around my neck. They are especially useful in determining the risk of collision.

My binos are inexpensive. The Steiners and Nikons (image stabilized) are very nice and very expensive.
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Old 03-25-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

agree with Jack 100%

I've used the pistol grip, and did not like them at all. Too jittery and hard to focus the eye on the card and object at the same time. seems that one of them is always out of focus.

I have Nikon and WM Tahiti binocs both have compass, neither are image stabilized. I find that on land (steady footing) you can take very accurate bearings, but on the water, the magnification (which also magnifies motion) makes it hard to get a good fix. It also seems that the card (in both) does not settle as quickly. Binocs with a compass are great, they can get you withing 10 degrees easily, maybe even 5. But not well suited for taking bearings while underway.

I've got the Plastimo 50 for taking bearings, and it's superb. The card image is projected into your line of sight, it's always in focus. The card is damped and settles quickly. It glows green at night and is very readable.
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Old 03-25-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

Not very nautical and quite old school; but I intend to use my lensatic hand compass from land nav days...at least til I can get a decent buy on a bulkhead mounted unit. That should suffice for the pottering about I plan to do. hwile not accurate enuff for crossing the high seas; it should do the trick on the few miles of Bay work it'll have to deal with . A map's a map. Bearing is bearing and North is still North!
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

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Not very nautical and quite old school; but I intend to use my lensatic hand compass from land nav days...at least til I can get a decent buy on a bulkhead mounted unit. That should suffice for the pottering about I plan to do. hwile not accurate enuff for crossing the high seas; it should do the trick on the few miles of Bay work it'll have to deal with . A map's a map. Bearing is bearing and North is still North!
Wrong school.

Hand bearing compasses and ship's compasses serve very different purposes. Land based compasses lack the stability / dampening needed on the water.

There are no maps on a boat - I hope; we use charts. A ship's compass is subject to deviation and variation, a hand bearing compass accounts only for variation. True north, magnetic north and compass north are three different things.
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Last edited by jackdale; 03-26-2013 at 12:17 AM.
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Old 03-26-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

The Vion hockey puck is the nuts. Accurate and no potential for parallax error. Much easier to use than binocs and you can wear it all day without fatigue.
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Old 03-26-2013
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

I've found that a hand-bearing compass is unnecessary. It's all relative and if you know your heading, major bearings off your boat are all that's needed. And, given everything that's been discussed so far, that's the best you can hope for anyway. So why spend $200 for something your eyes can do for you just as well?
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Re: Hand Bearing Compass Advice

There ya go, Stu !
Visual bearing/sighting to "X" "Y" and "Z" and a bit of mental calculation... Yup! Yer somewhere's about *here* on the ....*ahem*... CHART

For the sort of gross navigation calcs I'll be doing; I'll be using the depth meter more than a compass anywho.
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