A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: Buying a sextant- a cautionary tale.
From: Robert Gainer
Date: 2006 Apr 27, 18:18 -0400
From: Robert Gainer
Date: 2006 Apr 27, 18:18 -0400
George, I buy on Ebay only if the price is low enough that I can resell it if I don?t like the instrument. There is no trick I know of to guarantee a good purchase without looking at it first. I have a few sextants (3 I use and 6 I display) and chronometers (4 I display)) but my main interest is Walker taffrail logs and I will buy and sell 5 to 8 before I get one I want to keep. Robert Gainer > > From: George Huxtable
> Date: 2006/04/27 Thu PM 05:10:22 EDT > To: NAVIGATION-L@LISTSERV.WEBKAHUNA.COM > Subject: Buying a sextant- a cautionary tale. > > On this list, I have frequently expressed my opinion that a cheapo plastic sextant is the appropriate instrument to carry on a small > boat, in view of the rough-and-ready nature of the observations that result from an unstable platform underfoot, and a viewpoint so > close to the waves. That remains my view. > > However, in recent years I have coveted a "real" sextant, and particularly a Vernier instrument rather than a micrometer. For > historical reasons, mostly, in that the basic design of a Vernier sextant remains unaltered since its introduction about 250 years > ago. Although I might keep it on the mantlepiece, rather than install it on my little boat, it would not be just an ornament, but > would be asked to do a proper job. Such as measuring lunar distances, for example; a precise task which my plastic Ebbco is > certainly not up to. I am quite aware that the micrometer sextant was a real advance, making it much easier to read an angle, > without sacrificing precision. But the nice thing about the Vernier is that its precision is so apparent, demonstrated just by a > close look at the nicety of the scale divisions, though my old eyes are probably not good enought to do it justice. Anyway, A > Vernier sextant it was to be. > > Alex Eremenko has also expressed interest, in a thread "Problem with a sextant", when he wrote- > > "And I hope my next sextant will be one of those old ones with Vernier and microscope and no teeth to worry about! If I find a good > one." > > I have been keeping my eye on Ebay, the UK version ebay.co.uk, and decided to bid for a 1920's Heath Hezzanith Vernier sextant that > appeared.. That model was the "standard" British instrument of its time, widely sold and used. It was being sold by a fellow who had > used it, as a navigating officer in the 1960's, and had inherited it from his father who had possessed it since the start of his > merchant-navy career, in the 1920's. So: good provenance, no antique-dealers involved to add their markup and polish the > scale-divisions off the arc. It was stated that mirrors, shades, and arc were all in perfect condition, though a brass spring-clip > (that opposed the action of a mirror adjusting screw) was broken and needed replacement. That wouldn't present a problem. What more > could anyone ask? So I bid, and as there was little contest, got it as ?185 (about $300 by my reckoning), which pleased me as quite > a bargain. I would have paid more. It was interesting to get a message from another mariner, after the bidding had finished, to say > that he had been unable to bid, and offering to buy from me for more than I had paid. > > A point that the seller had emphasised was that although Brasso had been used to polish other parts, only breadcrumbs were ever used > to clean the silver arc (a trick I had heard of before). I made a long drive to collect it, and it was a surprise to discover that > although all the other claims were indeed true, there were serious problems with the arc. Although, over most of the arc, the fine > divisions were clear and sharp, at angles less than 10 degrees, they had become faint and hard to read. Below 5 degrees, through the > zero-point, to the end of the off-the arc section, there was no trace of any fine-divisions whatsoever. They had been completely > polished off. That, of course, made it quite unusable as a measuring instrument, though it would still have some value as an > ornament. > > By this time, money had already changed hands, and the seller didn't quibble at all about making a full refund. That put me back > where I had started off except for my wasted time, and a wasted long journey through the West-country. Not entirely wasted, I should > add; glorious Spring weather, lots of blossom out, England at its (rare) best. > > My experience shows up the problems that can occur when you buy something as finicky as a sextant, sight unseen, at auction. Will I > be tempted to try again? Probably, yes. What more can I do to avoid another disappointment? I have no idea. Perhaps others, with > more experience of these matters, can offer suggestions. > > George. > > =============== > > contact George Huxtable at email@example.com > or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222) > or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK. >