"heading", not "bearing"? - SailNet Community

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Old 01-12-2011
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"heading", not "bearing"?

I notice some folks describe what compass direction they're going as "bearing", as in, "Wind was from South, I was bearing Southwest on port tack, close-hauled".

I always thought 'bearing', whether as noun or verb, referred to the direction (either true or relative) another object is to you ("I'm heading west, lighthouse abeam bears north"), or "the bearing of boat A off my bow was 20 degrees", etc.

And where you're headed, is "heading" or "course", and referring to it as "bearing' might cause confusion.

Is there an evolution in terminology here of which I'm unaware (wouldn't be the first time)?

Last edited by nolatom; 01-12-2011 at 09:10 AM.
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Old 01-12-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
Is there an evolution in terminology here of which I'm unaware (wouldn't be the first time)?
Don't think so... I'm with you on the distinctions.
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Old 01-12-2011
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I agree. Many people think that they are interchangeable apparently.
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Old 01-12-2011
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Actually, I think "heading" refers to the orientation of the boat (which direction you are pointed), which in some situations could be very different from your "course" (which direction you are actually moving), but I agree with the OP on the meaning of "bearing."
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Old 01-12-2011
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Heading To, Bearing From

In aviation, where the terms are very specific, "heading" is the magnetic direction that the aircraft is pointing. It may or may not be the course as there are all sorts of variables that act on the aircraft and influence the actual course.
Bearing is the magnetic direction away from the reference source that the object identified is.
Fortunately, with a little amplification, people can understand where they are relative to another object or on a map using either term (correctly or incorrectly) and understanding is what we are really after isn't it?
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Old 01-12-2011
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I was explained that you are "headed" somewhere and other vessels are "bearing down on you".
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Old 01-12-2011
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In marine navigation, a bearing is the direction one object is from another object, usually, the direction of an object from one's own vessel. In aircraft navigation, a bearing is the actual (corrected) compass direction of the forward course of the aircraft. In land navigation, a bearing is the angle between a line connecting two points and a north-south line, or meridian.[1] Bearings can be measured in two systems, Mils and Degrees.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bearing_(navigation)

An aircraft's heading is the direction that the aircraft's nose is pointing.


Heading (2) is the angle of the vessel, aircraft or vehicle to an object (eg true north) (the heading of the ship shown in the image below is 058°).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Course_(navigation)

And...

Remember that a bearing is the reading in degrees of the compass towards an object or landmark. A “heading” in contrast, is the direction in degrees that you are moving.

Using hand-bearing compass for navigation
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Old 01-12-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdbee View Post
And...

Remember that a bearing is the reading in degrees of the compass towards an object or landmark. A “heading” in contrast, is the direction in degrees that you are moving.
You see, that's how the corruption begins.

A heading is where the boat is pointing, not the direction in which it is moving (as stated correctly in some of the earlier posts). A course is the direction in which the boat is moving.

The difference between a heading and a course can be profound. Once while sailing in the Agulhus Stream (5 knots of current) off Mozambique, we had a heading of 035 mag (displayed on the compass) and a course of 125 Mag (displayed by the GPS). In other words the boat was actually going sideways.
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Old 01-12-2011
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Speaking of corruption, has anyone heard a phrase like "A northerly wind" ?

A North Wind blows from the North, a Northerly wind blows toward the north.

Except in recent years, the latter has been abused to mean the former, that it is blowing from rather than towards the direction of the wind.
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Old 01-12-2011
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Course to, Bearing from. Aviation origins.

When I'm sailing my HEADING is what the compass says.
That lighthouse over yonder is BEARING xxx degrees. (from my position)
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