SailNet Community banner
41 - 60 of 69 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,269 Posts
To me, electronics is digital, magnetic (or gyro) compass is analog. I love analog. And I too am shocked when I'm on a boat where all the red instrument lights work except the one on the mag compass, and no one cares but me.

Easier for me to love magnetic here in New Orleans, as these days we are along the Agonic (?) line where there is no variation between true and magnetic. So a good magnetic compass is "true", and we have Many Dull Companions, but don't need the True Virgins to get there ;-). Anyone else on this line, say, in the Great Lakes?

Most of my sailing is on smaller sport skiffs where I'm teaching Basic Keelboat on weekends. No compasses on these speedsters and certainly no GPS nor electronic charts, but I love compasses so much i regularly lick and stick "my" compass on the cabin bulkhead so the students can see generally where we are headed on this large Lake with its few shoreside structures/reference points ahead, on most north and east headings. You can "see" the boat rotate around the compass card (or ball, with my cheapo stick-on)

It's a precision marine instrument, too---$2.99 from PepBoys ;-). But, it works, helps me graphically demonstrate the nature of tacking or jibing, and in a blackout rain/squall, will help me head us away from shore rather than at it while riding it out. The card points are 15 degrees apart, but that's close enough for squall work, and it doesn't mind the rain as much as a pocket Garmin might. Plus, i want them to learn old-school before new-school.

I just grew up (racing, then deliveries) with magnetic compasses, since there wasn't much else except Consolan or Loran, which was way expensive and fancy-schmancy. Compasses are my old friends. I shall forsake them not, even if I'm occasionally on a larger cruise charter with the mesmerizing glam dashboard display (television!) behind the wheel, to which I do refer occasionally, but not primarily, it's the eyeball lookout and the "real" compass card.

I'm hopeless, I know. And John E and I may be among the happy few who would prefer (nanny state concerns aside, now) to see engine use on beautiful sailing days and headings, made a third degree misdemeanor, or a felony if your boat actually sails fast but you don't know that. ;-)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
515 Posts
I navigate primarily by my chartplotter and GPS, but I almost always steer by my compass. I also always bring my hand bearing compass up to the binnacle, for more accurate measurement of the angle of an object and as a backup. Of course I never have occasion to actually use it, but it is there every time. I would really feel lost without the old compass, though, even if I would not be lost.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,376 Posts
Sorry Jack I look to the future not the past.
I look both directions.
Undergrad major - 20th Century history.
Grad work - Studies of the Future.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,960 Posts
Easier for me to love magnetic here in New Orleans, as these days we are along the Agonic (?) line where there is no variation between true and magnetic. So a good magnetic compass is "true", and we have Many Dull Companions, but don't need the True Virgins to get there ;-). Anyone else on this line, say, in the Great Lakes?
On Lake Superior variation is around 1º, so it can be ignored. No true virgins needed here either. (If they were needed Minnesota might have a couple, but for sure there aren't any in Wisconsin.)

I steer by the compass too; it feels very natural to me. And maybe it's because I don't have enough helm time to just do it by feel, but the compass helps a lot in tacks too. By looking at the compass I can get a feel for when I should turn back, so I can make a 90º tack instead of a 120º tack.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25,128 Posts
I accept the premise that most steer by the compass, they don't navigate. Probably the last time I navigated by compass was when my father had me use the wiz wheel and calculate all the dead reckoning from Norwalk, Ct to Block Island when I was a teenager. But the first thought that went through my mind, when I read the OP, was anyone who doesn't use a compass, doesn't sail out of sight of land much. Just adjusting course for an obstacle or to head up and reef or whatever, causes one to take note of present heading and return to it. Even the autopilot sailors we've become can't just press the button from any deviation angle and expect it to correct well. However, I've also had so many autopilots fail (on the boat and in the plane) that I simply don't trust them. No one should. I cross check what they are doing constantly. They are a good way to reduce long term fatigue, but the electrons are not crew.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,069 Posts
I have been asking about this and one reply I got from someone who had been hit by lightning on a boat said it also threw his compass out.
His fluxgate compass, or his magnetic one?

I'm waiting for someone to talk about how they came into a harbor, dropped anchor, and took bearings (so as to know if they were dragging) with their GPS.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,833 Posts
His fluxgate compass, or his magnetic one?

I'm waiting for someone to talk about how they came into a harbor, dropped anchor, and took bearings (so as to know if they were dragging) with their GPS.
I can remember doing that (with a hand bearing compass). I'm sure that if you handed a set of parallel rulers to most sailors these days and asked them what they were for, you would get a blank look. :)

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts
Of course the compass is just part of the total package and was never meant to be taken in isolation if you could possibly help it. The problem is, it doesn't tell you where you ARE - just which direction you're headed. You're supposed to have a firm grasp of wind, tides, currents, the leeway your boat makes, yadda yadda yadda. That's asking a lot of today's sailor. Naturally it's 100 times easier to look at a screen and see the little boat that tells you right where you're at. As those systems become more dependable, the magnetic compass will start to fade in importance or even disappear - for that set of sailors who choose to drink the Kool Aid.

Hey - have you heard about the other new thing? You don't need an anchor any more - you have bow and stern thrusters, port and starbord, coordinated with your engine, and your position is maintained with constant GPS monitoring. Makes all that chain and that dirty old hook look SO twentieth century! Of course, you have to have a second auxilliary engine to run the battery bank, but it's a small price to pay for the future.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,833 Posts
Of course the compass is just part of the total package and was never meant to be taken in isolation if you could possibly help it. The problem is, it doesn't tell you where you ARE - just which direction you're headed. You're supposed to have a firm grasp of wind, tides, currents, the leeway your boat makes, yadda yadda yadda. That's asking a lot of today's sailor. Naturally it's 100 times easier to look at a screen and see the little boat that tells you right where you're at. As those systems become more dependable, the magnetic compass will start to fade in importance or even disappear - for that set of sailors who choose to drink the Kool Aid.

Hey - have you heard about the other new thing? You don't need an anchor any more - you have bow and stern thrusters, port and starbord, coordinated with your engine, and your position is maintained with constant GPS monitoring. Makes all that chain and that dirty old hook look SO twentieth century! Of course, you have to have a second auxilliary engine to run the battery bank, but it's a small price to pay for the future.
It won't tell you where when you are out of sight of land. But, when you are coastal cruising and can see identifiable landmarks it can sure tell you.

Instead of a hand bearing compass, it's also easy to just point your boat at two visible and identifiable landmarks that you can find on your chart, and calculate your position using the bearings you record.

I used to do it a lot like that before getting my first GPS.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
173 Posts
Discussion Starter · #51 · (Edited)
His fluxgate compass, or his magnetic one?

I'm waiting for someone to talk about how they came into a harbor, dropped anchor, and took bearings (so as to know if they were dragging) with their GPS.
We have an anchor watch on I pad, I phone and on the chart plotter. What are these bearing things. I have some in the engine somewhere but never looked at them through a compass.

Joking aside..as you know these are all gps devices and let you know if you are dragging.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,111 Posts
I'm waiting for someone to talk about how they came into a harbor, dropped anchor, and took bearings (so as to know if they were dragging) with their GPS.
Aboard a tiller-steered boat without a binnacle, one of the sole drawbacks to my bulkhead-mounted ship's compass is the lack of utility for taking accurate bearings... but I've always loved hand bearing compasses, one of the first navigational tools I ever purchased way back when I first started doing deliveries, was one of these beauties. I can't believe I actually used to drag one of these clunky things along on deliveries... :)



Finally, along came Autohelm with their first electronic hand bearing compass, and it was love at first sight... These things are awesome, I can't believe how quickly they were discontinued... They still pop up on eBay, and places like Bacon's usually have a couple lying around on the shelf, IMHO they are a steal at any price...



One use where I think compasses are woefully underutilized today, is aboard tenders... If you sail in places like New England, where the fog can come in surprisingly quickly, you really want to have a small dinghy or kayak-style compass stowed on your tender, and always be in the habit of taking a bearing back to the boat. It's shocking how easy it is to become totally disoriented in a small boat in a remote spot in heavy fog, no need to ask how I know this, of course...

I usually pack a handheld GPS with the boat's position saved if I go off exploring in a place or time when the boat might quickly 'disappear', and I'm sure many today use smartphones or similar to do the same, but I still think it's a really good idea to pack a small compass in your safety kit in your tender...

Another nifty gadget is the Fujinon PalmStar digital compass/barometer/altimeter, another valuable tool if you take off exploring away from the boat in a place with rapidly changeable weather... Another product that was quickly discontinued after its introduction to the marketplace...

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
830 Posts
"Compass....old hat?"

Why, yes.I use both; but not usually interchangeable. When I don't want to go below to dig out my compass, I simpy doff my old hat, face North and orient myself accordingly. ;)

Granted, I sail where I can see both shores and can eyeball my position within a few feet; which is a good thing, 'cause I hafta keep an eye out for other boats.. I haven't usedthe HH GPS for naught but tracking and SOG because I'm usually too damm'd busy watching other boats to flip thru pages/screens to find useless (to mme) data

Now, if someone's gonna gimme a trade-in on an old hat for a new bulkhead compass, thatt's a diffferent yarn! :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,033 Posts
Aboard a tiller-steered boat without a binnacle, one of the sole drawbacks to my bulkhead-mounted ship's compass is the lack of utility for taking accurate bearings... but I've always loved hand bearing compasses, one of the first navigational tools I ever purchased way back when I first started doing deliveries, was one of these beauties. I can't believe I actually used to drag one of these clunky things along on deliveries... :)


{snip}
One use where I think compasses are woefully underutilized today, is aboard tenders... If you sail in places like New England, where the fog can come in surprisingly quickly, you really want to have a small dinghy or kayak-style compass stowed on your tender, and always be in the habit of taking a bearing back to the boat. It's shocking how easy it is to become totally disoriented in a small boat in a remote spot in heavy fog, no need to ask how I know this, of course...

I usually pack a handheld GPS with the boat's position saved if I go off exploring in a place or time when the boat might quickly 'disappear', and I'm sure many today use smartphones or similar to do the same, but I still think it's a really good idea to pack a small compass in your safety kit in your tender...

{snip}
That reminds me of the chapter, "Blindfold to Memmert" , in "The Riddle of the Sands". Click on the titles to read & download them for free.
 

·
Closet Powerboater
Joined
·
3,925 Posts
...
One use where I think compasses are woefully underutilized today, is aboard tenders... If you sail in places like New England, where the fog can come in surprisingly quickly, you really want to have a small dinghy or kayak-style compass stowed on your tender, and always be in the habit of taking a bearing back to the boat. It's shocking how easy it is to become totally disoriented in a small boat in a remote spot in heavy fog, no need to ask how I know this, of course...

I usually pack a handheld GPS with the boat's position saved if I go off exploring in a place or time when the boat might quickly 'disappear', and I'm sure many today use smartphones or similar to do the same, but I still think it's a really good idea to pack a small compass in your safety kit in your tender...
Sunto makes this nifty little wrist mounted compass. It has a window in the side for taking bearings, is luminous, and is reasonably accurate. Cost is around $30. I like to put one of these on my wrist when I go sailing. I can't say I use it much, but I feel good wearing it. :cool:

http://www.thecompassstore.com/51m9.html?ref=lexity&_vs=google&_vm=productsearch&adtype=pla&gclid=CJKI3ZrRg70CFecWMgodoXAA_w


MedSailor
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,641 Posts
You know, I said the same thing when the compass was first invented. Everyone wanted the new toy from China, and poo-poo'd the old fashioned ways of just LOOKING at the sun and sea and stars. Nope, the old stuff wasn't good enough. And then what happens when someone's newfangled compass breaks? Right, they all come begging, asking me which direction the sun rises from, and which of those stars is the North one.

Newfangled gadgets. Pffafffhh! Stick your compass with all the rest of them, one good lightning bolt and they'll all be equally useless.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
76 Posts
It won't tell you where when you are out of sight of land. But, when you are coastal cruising and can see identifiable landmarks it can sure tell you.

Instead of a hand bearing compass, it's also easy to just point your boat at two visible and identifiable landmarks that you can find on your chart, and calculate your position using the bearings you record.

I used to do it a lot like that before getting my first GPS.
Sure, you're 100% right - I only meant to imply that watching the compass by itself won't "locate" you, but watching the chart plotter will, and it doesn't take long to get very used to that.
 

·
ancient mariner
Joined
·
439 Posts
i used to use the compass for direction & the taffrail log for miles sailed with accurate results. now with GPS i use that & the compass. i don't have a chart plotter. now that i sail mostly on the western end of lake superior out of duluth,mn i don't have to figure in variation because it's about zero here. the further east you go the more variation there is.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Minnesail

·
Registered
Joined
·
25,128 Posts
.......I'm sure many today use smartphones or similar to do the same, but I still think it's a really good idea to pack a small compass in your safety kit in your tender...
While a little error prone, the iPhone has a compass too. :)

The "Find my iPhone" app is ridiculously helpful, assuming you have another device aboard and I almost always have my iPad aboard. It will show precisely where I am and where the iPad(boat) is. I even have the charts and tide app on the phone. Assuming the electrons flow, life has become too simple. There's almost no adventure in finding the boat in the dark/fog anymore. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,833 Posts
I freely admit, my chartplotters have spoiled the hell out of me. :D
 
41 - 60 of 69 Posts
Top