Originally Posted by tenuki
Anyone have recommendations for beginner sextants? The math doesn't scare me (to tell the truth it attracts me
), but don't know anything about the equipment.
Davis makes two plastic models (I think they are called the 15 and the 25?) that are adequate for land-based learning and for something to put (with an almanac or a PDF of same in plastic!) in the ditch bag. I would pop for the better $200 one.
I own the Astra IIIB (*not* the "Professional" one at $795 but the one that was sold until recently for $510). It's very nice, steady and light and will serve you well at sea if kept reasonably clean and dry. I got the "whole horizon" model.
I also bought for the wife a Freiberger sextant from the '70s that is half-silvered mirror. While I would say that the Freiberger is a marginally better sextant (German optics are usually excellent: I have my father's "U-boat captain's 7 x 50 binoculars bought in 1946 in Hamburg on the cheap that are still superb), you would have to do a LOT of celestial to see the superiority. The difference between whole horizon and half-silvered (I would recommend you Google under "sextant methods") is fairly significant, however, and I can see how in day vs. night conditions, and in stellar vs. lunar limb conditions, one might have the edge over another.
But that's for later. Take a Power Squadron class and see if you like it. It's an excellent, mind-exercising skill to possess, it positively reeks of salty seamanship to wield a sextant with intent to plot, and it does tend to engender an almost instinctive sense of navigation that can't help but serve you in some sticky situations where you can see the sun, but not the shore.
As for GPS, get a cheap digital watch and use the "long dash" of the radio to keep it co-ordinated. I bought a digital "sailing watch" about three weeks ago, set it to the SW receiver's "atomic clock" and it's dead on accurate, whereas I've seen with my own eyes the GPS time code stopping briefly or correcting itself 10-30 seconds on an irregular basis.