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    Re: Buying a sextant- a cautionary tale.
    From: Robert Gainer
    Date: 2006 Apr 27, 18:18 -0400

    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
    > 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 george@huxtable.u-net.com
    > or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    > or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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