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Hello Fellow Sailors,

Does anyone have any recommendations for a good pair of binoculars to buy for sailing? I don't know much about binoculars and wanted to check with the community to see if anyone has experience with buying a pair especially with features that might be handy for navigation?

Thanks,
 

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Steiners with the compass inside. Wife got me one for my bday. After 3 decades of sailing finally have a set that
Works in haze, dim light and hasn’t fogged and truly no chromatic distortion.
Allows quick triangulation to get quick bearings.
Works when it’s bumpy.
I was horrified at the price even though they aren’t stabilizied but now 4 years later think it was justified. I had Nikons but now they are the never used spares. The compass on the Steiners is readable without having to tilt your head just so and the image is great.
 

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Depends on how much money you want to spend.

You can get really good binos relatively cheap.

Bird spying is different that just locating a steeple.
Need compass built in?
Need super light gathering, need X magnification....

The IS binos are big bucks but deliver.

Maybe buy a nice, inexpensive one promoted for hunting that is water/weatherproof and see if it works for you. It's a spare if you ruin/overboard the next one you buy...
 

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For handheld (unstabilized) binoculars, go for 7x50s and avoid the temptation to go cheap. By "cheap", I mean the kind you find on charter boats. Name brands like Nikon are usually safe, but they come in different grades. Whatever you get, try them out first. If you look through a pair and the viewing doesn't feel comfortable, it could be that the two optical systems are not properly aligned, which is characteristic of the cheaper binoculars. The better binoculars are structurally superior and have superior optical components, like larger prisms and better antireflection coatings--all of which costs more.

One test of superior optics is to hold the binoculars at arms length while pointed at a light color wall or the sky and observe the circle of light at the eyepiece. The expensive, high grade binoculars will have a uniform bright circle, whereas the bargain versions will have a light square inside a gray circle. The difference is due to the size of the porro prisms that are used to make the image upright.

If you get a higher power, say 10X, you will have a hard time because you are magnifying image motion. If you have to have the higher power, you need to go for image stabilization.

You don't have to buy Steiners, but you won't go wrong there for performance. You can save a few bucks by using a handheld compass vs. built-in. But, then again, Outbound's recommendation is sound if you can afford it.

That said, I use binoculars that are a step above the bottom end, but several steps below the Steiners and find them quite serviceable for coastal sailing. I rarely use them for navigation and find them most useful for checking out an anchorage before heading into the crowd. I also use them for identifying other boats, including the launch or service boats (eg., pump out or harbormaster). Mine are in the $100 +/- category.
 

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Although we have and use several anchor apps. Find taking bearings on boats around us and land objects behind them useful. Quickly know if they are dragging or if we are.
Also find taking several lines of position over time helpful when skirting a headland. Particularly so if it’s to leeward of us. Sometimes get confused at night. Surprisingly you can screw up a ships points of closest approach on the AIS when there are two of them. Like to just see the bearings are changing and which way they are going before and after a course correction or tack. Still review the AIS data but seeing is believing and somehow more comforting.
Find these tasks much easier with the binocs than with the hockey puck. Find the hockey puck cumbersome to use.
 

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Although we have and use several anchor apps. Find taking bearings on boats around us and land objects behind them useful. Quickly know if they are dragging or if we are.
Also find taking several lines of position over time helpful when skirting a headland. Particularly so if it’s to leeward of us. Sometimes get confused at night. Surprisingly you can screw up a ships points of closest approach on the AIS when there are two of them. Like to just see the bearings are changing and which way they are going before and after a course correction or tack. Still review the AIS data but seeing is believing and somehow more comforting.
Find these tasks much easier with the binocs than with the hockey puck. Find the hockey puck cumbersome to use.
No problem with your technique, but I use a laser rangefinder for a more precise check on dragging (me or the guy in front). GPS anchor watch is not as accurate, but you don't have to actively manage it, either. When it comes to closest approach for larger vessels, I use my radar, which is quite useful even outside MARPA mode. I agree that the puck or other handheld compass can be cumbersome, but I rarely do visual bearing measurements and wouldn't find the built-in compass worth the extra expense for my daylight coastal cruising.
 

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One of these days, I'm going to splurge for stabilized binocs. I have an old pair of West Marine Tahiti 7x50s. For the price, I've always found them acceptable. Not the best, not the worst. They get the job done. Unfortunately, I think they had a problem and don't sell them any longer.

How about a recommendation for a set of stabilized (which are the best, mid range, low?). Extra credit, if they float.
 

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As my eyes get worse I tend to use the binocs less and less. Formerly I used them to pick out distant buoys/marks... but I am relying more on the heading line on the plotter which is quite accurate and reliable. When I am close enough to see with the naked eye I don't need binocs for that. I've never been surprised I sailed to the wrong buoy!
 

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Hello Fellow Sailors,

Does anyone have any recommendations for a good pair of binoculars to buy for sailing? I don't know much about binoculars and wanted to check with the community to see if anyone has experience with buying a pair especially with features that might be handy for navigation?

Thanks,
Westmarine are selling re-branded Steiners at good prices.
Get a set with a compass in them.
 

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Have used many different binocs over the years and my favorite would have to be Swarovski 7x50 with Steiner in second place.
 

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Fall arc we picked up a laser range finder monocular for short money as use that as well. Find doing both helpful particularly if other boat multi or motor so reacts differently than you. Very much like the range finder to be sure there’s no skinny water or rocks within the swing circle.
 

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So much has changed since the last "Which binoculars?" thread. I like the ones with a video overlay in the screen, fully integrated with the chartplotter. that presents AIS targeting information anytime an AIS target moves into view.
 

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Some years back I started reading about "stabilized" binoculars and they sounded too good to be true. So, when it came time to buy a pair, I made absolutely certain I could return them if they were the con I thought they might be.
They are not a con! They are by far the best investment in navigation gear I've made since GPS chartplotters became cheap enough that anyone can afford one. They make a world of difference because they are much lighter than standard pair and they don't bounce around, making it very easy to hold what you are looking at in view in almost any seas. Well enough to read the name of a yacht, ship or buoy markings (and even signs) at an incredible distance.
If you want serious binoculars for serious navigation, spending money on any other kind of binocular is silly, IMO.
 

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....If you want serious binoculars for serious navigation, spending money on any other kind of binocular is silly, IMO.

Which one did you buy? Would you buy the same again, or have you discovered a better model since? I'm thinking of putting these on a birthday list. :)
 

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Binoculars are not adjustable for astigmatism.
That's true, but eyeglasses can correct for it. They have contact lenses that theoretically can, as well, but they're not great at it.
 

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dunno... I use small opera binocs for the theatre and ballet/opera and they help but are not completely sharp either...
Eye sight has always been a critical thing to me, for a variety of professional and personal reasons, beyond the obvious need to see. I've been going to an eye doctor at least annually for almost 40 years now.

Last year, my doc said she could see the beginning of cataracts. I have no real symptoms, other than things don't seem quite as crisp as they used to. I complained about that, when I saw her, but she tested my vision at 3 different distances and I'm 20/20 (I used to be 20/15, so that degradation could be part of the issue). In any event, cataracts can't be fixed by eyeglasses or corrected by adjusting the binocs. We also lose our ability to see at night, as we age. Nothing can be done about that either, but it can be exacerbated by cataracts as well. Finally, the fluid inside our eyes thickens as we age and one can see little floaters that move around. Not much one can do about that either, I believe.

The biggy is a partially detached retina. I know a guy who was just having minor symptoms, so went to see the eye doc. He was put in surgery that day for a partially detached retina. If it had fully detached, he would have lost vision in that eye permanently.

Assume you've seen the doc. I hope it's all just age related. Good luck.
 
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