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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is from a discussion we have been having on a British forum where I believe they are far more traditional. It would be good to get the views of others sailing.

I said that the ships compass for us is basically a weapon of last resort and has been downgraded to a back up if all else fails rather than a primary means of navigation.

With the type of sailing we do then the chart plotter, GPS, radar and auto pilot are far more use to us than a ships compass.

I cannot remember the last time I actually hand steered a course by compass alone.

Please don't get me wrong. I think having a ships compass and being able to navigate by traditional methods is essential.

It is that with the type of sailing we do the electronics are far more useful and make sailing far easier.

The question is ... Is the ships compass still the primary means of navigation to you or is it a back up should all else fail.?
 

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I would agree a compass is pretty useless for navigation, but I drive by one all the time on the race course.
 

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For me compass is now mainly for exhibition. But still if I have to sail I will keep magnetic compass with me as even if it is out of fashion but more trusted than electronics ones.

I prefer GPS for identifying the short distance.
 

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About 7 or 8 years ago I got my first chart plotter. Used it all the time for about 6 months. But as time goes by, I find myself steering more and more by compass alone. I use the chart plotter when visibility is crumby, and I use it to check my position now and then. But for the most part I just turn off all the electronics and sail.
 

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I sail on a lake. I've been boating on this lake since I was a kid. Barring a sudden pea soup fog I don't think I could get lost on it if I tried. On my lake about the best use for a compass would be to try to pick a heading for the next tack.
I wouldn't get out of close sight of land without one though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
When insight of the coast the compass is really just a backup...
Out of the sight of land, the gps is my backup... ;)
I am puzzled a bit here. In sight of land you could use your compass to get a fix but out of sight of land are you saying you use a compass rather than GPS?
 

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I'd like to say I still look at my compass a lot, but I have realized I don't. I was on my boat the other day, and noticed that my compass needed a lot of oil in it, and I realized I had absolutely no idea when the last time I looked it was. :D
 

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I must be the exception, i guess. I use my compass most of the time. I use my chartplotter to help establish a course. I use a compass heading to set my auto-pilot. But, i steer using my compass the vast majority of the time.
I spend a lot of time away from behind the wheel where the chartplotter is. My compass is mounted forward where i can see it from all sitting areas.

I find this a strange topic. Most of you are using the "compass" feature of your GPS/Chartplotter. If all you had was lat/lon then most would be lost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I must be the exception, i guess. I use my compass most of the time. I use my chartplotter to help establish a course. I use a compass heading to set my auto-pilot. But, i steer using my compass the vast majority of the time.
I spend a lot of time away from behind the wheel where the chartplotter is. My compass is mounted forward where i can see it from all sitting areas.

I find this a strange topic. Most of you are using the "compass" feature of your GPS/Chartplotter. If all you had was lat/lon then most would be lost.
Benesailor,
You are not alone and make good points.
I am just trying to say that things do change and now most sailors rely on electronics as a primary means of navigation and the compass becomes more a back up. It is important to know how to use both but things have changed.
It does not mean either method is wrong.
At one time we would use lead lines going into a port to check depth but I doubt anyone does now and instead relies on their depth sounder. It is still important to have a lead line and know how to use one though.
 

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What benesailor said, although I have compasses at both helm stations, and the chartplotter is mounted in the companionway door

On my boats, electrickery is secondary to keeping my head out of the boat, eye on the compass.
 

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I use it mostly for timing tacks along the coast, to clear a headland or shoal. Rarely do I steer by it(lubber lines are nice as I'm rarely behind the binnacle).

Occasionally for a casual land bearing to cross check the chartplotter.

I never used the ships compass a lot even before I started using loran as most of my steering is done with an AP. But I still like having it for casual visual bearings for tacking. And it's handy when fog closes in or at night but I can't recall the last time either happened and I did rely on it for steering.
 

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You are not alone and make good points.
I am just trying to say that things do change and now most sailors rely on electronics as a primary means of navigation and the compass becomes more a back up. It is important to know how to use both but things have changed.
It does not mean either method is wrong.
At one time we would use lead lines going into a port to check depth but I doubt anyone does now and instead relies on their depth sounder. It is still important to have a lead line and know how to use one though.
I see your point now. Yes, i do rely on electronics to a certain extent. My days of laying a course and timing my tacks, speeds, headings are pretty much done. I check the chartplotter now. I do catch my self memorizing course headings as i go. My compass is my default setting. I guess a lot depends on where your compass is located.
 

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It's nice to have it, but it's kind of a back up for me now.

But, I remember the days of sailing by it. And, to show it's not foolproof, either, I once was sailing and my wife had put our portable boom box on the seat next to me so we could listen to some Jimmy Buffet tunes. I was trying to sail an east course to Florida from Mississippi out in the Gulf of Mexico, but noticed that the coast kept getting closer and closer and I couldn't make what I was seeing happen match up with my chart.

Suddenly it hit me, and I moved the boom box farther away on the cockpit seat, and watched the compass swing around about 50 degrees. :D
 

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Maine Dub
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The compass is always part of my continuous cross check. It is most likely the most reliable tool on the boat. After a lightning strike takes out all the toys it is nice to know that DR( time and heading) will still get you home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The compass is always part of my continuous cross check. It is most likely the most reliable tool on the boat. After a lightning strike takes out all the toys it is nice to know that DR( time and heading) will still get you home.
I don't know the answer to this so anyone who does please advise.

If lightning struck the boat wiping out electrics is it liable to magnetize the compass making it inaccurate or throw it out in any way?
 

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Maine Dub
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Don't know about a boat but the 3 or 4 times I have had lightning strikes in an airplane the compass was not damaged.:D
 
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