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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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Senior Smart Aleck
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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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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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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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It's a little like learning Latin. Yes, you may get some collateral benefit, but you won't use it.
 

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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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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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Yes.
Do what ypu want even if its totally irellevant.
 
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Dirt Free
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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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Using a sextant and learning the geometry and movements of the bodies used in celestial navigation will give you a better understanding of your surroundings and make you a better navigator and seaman.

How much better? I don't know...only you can estimate that and can put a price...in money and time...on it.

You can also learn to use the sextant in coastal piloting by using it to shoot bearings of landmarks and bearing differences between landmarks.
 

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Learning how to use a sextant and do basic solar navigation is no harder than learning the myriad of menus, settings, options, networking setups, etc. that modern chartplotters require. I know, I've done both. My sextant is dead simple compared to my chartplotter, and I grew up with computers. :)
 

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Go ahead and get one. Learn to use it. Keep the updated charts and tables. One day flying rocks in space or a solar storm may take out all the satelites. You will be the sucker who can find his way home while the rest of us just head in what we hope is the right general direction and hope for the best. ;-)

Me? I'm still trying to make a decent splice in braided line.

Have FUN!
O'
 

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From what i have learned from the movie "All is Lost".

It only takes 15 minutes to learn, You just need the book and sextant. Why waste your time right now?
 

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You don't even need the book. The Dabis sextants come with instructions in the box.
Learn in the liferaft if you want to know where you are drifting uncontrollably.

:D
 

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I think the others have the right of it here.

For safety, just carry a backup gps with batteries. I am sure commercial grade boats, fishing trawlers are not carrying sext ants, they are carrying gps.

For something to learn, go for it. I consider it the same place as learning to splice ropes, but even then, perhaps not as useful.

I plan to learn to splice rather than 'sex' (is that the right verb?)
 

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██▓▓▒▒░&
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Think of sextant navigation today like equestrian dressage, or chess. Fine hobbies that may have good collateral effects on your life, but hardly a modern necessity.

Yes, your GPS can break, but if you drop a sextant, crash, tinkle tinkle, it is just as broken.

It can be fun, it can be good mental discipline, and if you buy an inexpensive used one you can probably sell it again for most of what you paid. But for practical navigation? I'd stick a spare GPS and some batteries in a ziplock bag.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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A cheap plastic sextant is fine. I managed just fine for years with an Ebbco.

Lighter to use too. They turn up on Ebay and you can find one for 25 -50$

Don't expect to do better than 5 mile accuracy. But it is very satisfying when your fix corresponds with the GPS.

Is it necessary to know how to fix your position with the sun and stars, well it depends on how much you trust electrons.
 

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A sextant is like a bottle of alcohol.

Get one if you want one, not because you need one.
 
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