Should I learn the sextant? - SailNet Community

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Old 03-14-2014
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Should I learn the sextant?

Hello everyone, I'm looking to do some sailing in the Caribbean soon and I thought it may be good practice to learn how to do celestial navigation, not just for fun but as a secondary means of navigation in the event I don't have gps. The captain who taught me most of what I know sailingwise said I shouldn't bother with celestial navigation as its not too accurate and a lot of work. But she also told me to have a plan a,b,c and d. So I have purchased the book "celestial navigation, step by step by warren norville" . So my question is, should I spend some of my hard earned cash for a nice sextant? Buy a used one at say bacons sails or similar? How do I know if a sextant is of greater or lesser craftsmanship? And lastly, is celestial navigation something I should strongly consider learning before setting out solo in my small craft? Thank you in advance
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

No, don't bother. Buy some expensive electronic navigational devices instead for greater peace of mind. Plus it is easier. And you can join in on the multitude of discussions about how to spend more money on sailing, which helps the sponsors of this website, since we are in a recession and sailing is a dying sport/activity.

Electronics have the additional benefits of distracting yourself from nature, preventing you from being in the moment and from being more self-reliant, and relieving you of the burden of carrying on a beautiful tradition of maritime navigation.

Look around any public place nowadays and what do you see? A multitude of douchebags with their noses in their iPhones.

Better to be totally reliant on your batteries and your engine, not your wits!
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Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-14-2014 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

I have done celestial for real (pre fancy electronic stuff or at least that I could afford), but just completed a circumnavigation without a sextant onboard. If you want to learn it for fun, go ahead. For practical use spend your money elsewhere. For the price of a decent sextant you can buy at least a couple of GPS units. Heck you can buy a VHF radio with a built-in GPS for something like $150.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

It's a little like learning Latin. Yes, you may get some collateral benefit, but you won't use it.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

Still it's great fun. Of course use gps as mainstay and carry a handheld with extra batteries in the ditch bag but it's still fun. I learned at planetarium in local high school. Used it so wouldn't get penalized in Marion to Bermuda. Don't use it to navigate just for fun. Don't need much even a new metal sextant is just 600 bucks.used less. Any Zulu time source and reduction tables are digitalized. If I was spending for use wouldn't do it but as a hobby it's still fun.oh did I say that already.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

Why not get a Sextant by Davis? You can get the "basic" plastic one for $60.00. Play with it to learn and have fun.

By the way, that plastic one WILL work just fine!

Greg
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

I would get the sextant if for nothing more then peice of mind.

I bought one on ebay several years ago (stay away from the replicas) that was pre world war two vintage and in relatively good shape for about $100. I fyou want to get a navy mark II again wwII vintage it will cost you about $250 but they are nice.

The hard part is learning how to use them well. If you use one half a dozen times you wont be very accurate. It took me the better part of a year using a artifical horizon (minnesota) to get reasonably accurate. I still can't rival the precision of a gps unit but I wouldn't miss an island.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

Depending on where you live you may need an artificial horizon to practice
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

Yes.
Do what ypu want even if its totally irellevant.
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Old 03-14-2014
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Re: Should I learn the sextant?

Most Caribbean passages are less than 100 miles. The chances of hitting a a harbour within 5 miles over that kind of distance using a sextant is pretty slim no matter how good you are.

Do it for fun and entertainment if you like but don't think it's going to be useful.
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