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    Re: Celestial navigation classes: looking for suggestions...
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2016 Nov 1, 11:52 -0700

    Thank you all for your suggestions.

    Greg Rudzinksi, you wrote: "Amplitude, Sumner, Polaris, and Ex-meridian". I teach about Sun azimuths in modern celestial and plan to add more of that to an advanced modern. Amplitudes per se are obsolete, but I do discuss them sometimes in my "19th century methods" class since they were very common observations 200 years ago. I teach Polaris latitudes, with the full corrections, in nearly all of my celestial classes, since it is simple and appealing. And Sumner, yes, indeed! That's the method I teach in my "Modern Celestial". The intercept method was appropriate when calculation was expensive. Thanks for mentioning ex-meridian sights! This is something I would like to find room for and it's one of the topics I'm considering for a "vintage celestial" class. In another post, you mentioned, "Artificial horizons, dip short, backsights, daytime Venus, ultra high altitude GP circle of position, and sunrise/sunset LOP without a sextant. [...] longitude by jovian moons." Yes, some of these would certainly fit into an advanced class. Good ideas all. Incidentally, we usually discuss longitude by jovian moons in the lunars class --just the basics, of course. And artificial horizons (I have begun calling these "mirror sights") come up often in the modern celestial class.

    Tom Sult, you wrote: "Emergency navigation. Using rule of thumb to approx position. Kind of a highlights of David Burch." Yes, this is what I had in mind for an inland celestial class. I often recommend David Burch's "Emergency Navigation" book, but I'm trying to find a title that has a different emphasis. The title of a class is the first or second hook that draws people in. It has to be compelling and succinctly descriptive. I'm still looking for ideas on this class, specifically!

    John Howard, you suggested: "How about a class that covers aviation cel-nav and the changes that it made in all cel-nav.  People like Weems that pushed GHA instead of RA, sight reduction like HO 249 used by many sailors, etc.  Maybe as part of the WW2 nav class." Yes, that's the idea. I have taught an "Intermediate CN" class before using 249, but I want to treat that as more of a historical class, very much as you have suggested here.

    John, you asked: "Do you now or plan to sell Video to us who are too far away to attend?" What's this "too far"?! ;) In my "19th Century Methods" class last weekend, I has one student who came in from Michigan, just to take the class. There was another who flew in from Washington State just for the class (both the two-day class and a full-day lunars tutorial on Monday). A third flew in from London in the UK just to take this class and the following lunars tutorial plus another half-day of research methods after that. Mystic Seaport is a fine museum and coastal New England is delightful in the right season. Come visit. Beyond that, I believe that videos are the worst form of education and in-person classes are the best form of education. Until I get someone willing to pay me a ton 'o money to produce celestial navigation videos, I'm staying out of that.

    Robert vanderPol II, you suggested: "Lets say you are crossing the Atlantic and Pacific, what would you carry as a backup to GPS that minimized cost and storage space, how to use those resources you brought and how to stay in some semblance of practice and how to keep your time pieces accurate.  The goal being to continue the cruise to the next major port for repairs without experiencing major pucker factor until then." Yes, I agree with that. But you see, that is very much what I already teach. In particular my "Modern Celestial Navigation" provides backup navigation as well as primary navigation, for those who choose to sail with the electronics powered down in the "safe" parts of a voyage (mid-ocean may not quite qualify as safe but at least there aren't any rocks).

    By the way, if anyone is interested, I'm teaching my "modern" class again this coming weekend, Nov. 5-6. Details at ReedNavigation.com.

    Doug MacPherson, your idea about "16th and 17th century European Navigation.....how did the Portuguese et. al. get around before the advent of lunars and accurate time pieces. How about Navigation by the Phoenicians? " is a good one, but I just can't see it in marketing terms. Not without some exotic hook to draw in an audience.

    Bob Goethe, you noted that I "feel passionately that the best backup for a GPS unit is another GPS unit." Yes, it is, and there is no doubt that it is. But you would be amazed how many people have trouble wrapping their heads around this. Far too many come to celestial because they "have been told" that celestial is the proper backup for their GPS. They are led to believe that this is the established answer to the question. They frequently have no conception of how inferior celestial is compared to GPS. Most newcomers believe that celestial is available all night long, or that a single sun sight yields a fix in just a minute or two, and a great many people naively believe that celestial navigation is available under overcast skies (you would be surprised how many people imagine that telescopes can miraculously penetrate clouds). You added: "But viewing interested people as customers of your course, [...] This group really does, rightly or wrongly, think of celestial as a good backup to GPS." You're preaching to the choir here :). I've been an entrepreneur longer than I have been actively teaching celestial navigation, and I deliver what the customer wants for their money, so long as it doesn't strike me as completely preposterous. Regardless, the positive case for celestial is not backup, to be used only in the event of emergency. The case for celestial is entertainment, situational awareness, and the application of the most basic principle of navigational philosophy: use all available navigational information as often as reasonably practical (we need a name for this). When approaching harbors, we still look at landmarks to validate our positions, and we should use the Sun and stars, in less confined waters, too. Not to replace GPS in an unlikely failure of the entire system, but to defend against human error, criminal mischief, and Murphy's Law.

    Jackson MacDonald, you wrote: "So my suggestion would be a course surveying the history of navigation from the earliest days until the advent of GPS. [...] a broad, sweeping overview, not a technical course with hands-on sight-taking and calculations." Yes, there's some room here for a class. I have been talking with folks for a few years about "twenty-five objects" tour of navigation. We would romp about the museum, examining twenty-five unique artifacts in a sort of treasure hunt. This sort of program works very well, and the key is surprise. Unfortunately, there are a number of technical problems with this at Mystic Seaport (department turf, limited access to the Collections Research Center, etc.). It's also difficult to get people to pay for a workshop that provides no take-away, like a set of navigational skills. But I want to emphasize that I do consider this a good idea. A "sweeping overview", as you put it, of navigation history, could be a nice introductory teaser, even a loss leader, that brings people back for more later. Doug MacPherson, your idea of a "review of all the instruments used through the ages to position oneself at sea? Astrolabs, Back staffs, Cross Staffs, Kamals, Quadrants, Octants, Sextants, Compasses, Chronometers, Nocturnals, Ring Dials" would also fit nicely in a "twenty-five objects" tour.

    Francis Upchurch, you wrote: "How about on line notes and videos of your courses for those of us who live in lands far far away?" As I noted above, I'm opposed to this as a teaching method. And when was the last time you visited Mystic Seaport? Trans-atlantic air travel can be fun! That's probably impractical, but do you think you could make it to Greenwich (the one in London, UK)? I've been trying to convince the folks at the NMM to host some of my classes. If I could get air fare and basic lodgings covered, I would be happy to teach there just for the pleasure of visiting London a few times a year. How far are you from Greenwich? I realize London has become a "difficult" city for commuters and visitors, and I would consider other locations --if it pays.

    Bruce Pennino, you wrote: "I just read my recent Mystic Seaport Bulletin and there was a very successful 'adventure series' afternoon and evening lecture recently.....265 people in the afternoon and 290 people in the evening. I’ve been to a couple of these and they are excellent. Usually the speaker presents the talk for an hour or so and answers questions for another 30 minutes."

    Yes, those are successful mostly because the museum advertises them actively. The navigation classes are essentially ignored by the museum's higher management. This is good, because it gives me great autonomy. I have the freedom to propose nearly anything I want, and run the classes in ways that make sense to me (this is also aided by the fact that I am an independent contractor, teaching Mystic Seaport's own classes but outside their hierarchical structure. And this is bad for the obvious reason that it leaves money on the table. They could do much better. Of course the "Adventure Series" programs are successful for an entirely different reason: they provide a venue for "famous people" to speak, and there's little product from each of these lectures except 90 minutes of inspiring entertainment. They are "events" rather than classes. Related to the timing, you wrote: "because people are so busy, would a briefer lecture combined with some 'hands-on' be more popular? How about an afternoon or evening time slot??" These are good questions. And the only way to answer those questions is experimentation. I am currently doing some special navigation-themed planetarium presentations at the Wickware Planetarium at ECSU in Windham, Connecticut. It remains to be seen whether these are successful in the sense that they convince people to part with their hard-earned cash to learn more. :)

    Brad Morris, you wrote: "As a result of sitting through endless lectures at the university, I find that the enthusiasm of the professor far out weighs the exact topic of the lecture." Not to worry, Brad. When I get going I am an enthusiastic teacher. One of the students in my last class (not one of the ones who had traveled hundreds or thousands of miles but instead someone from right across the street) announced at the end of the class that it was the "best class ever" and the "most interesting weekend of the last twenty years of her life." Not bad, eh? And just to toot my own horn a little more, here's a quote from a happy customer, who happens to be the professor who teaches Harvard University's celestial navigation class:

    "A great opportunity to learn celestial navigation in an immersive environment under the guidance of a fantastic teacher, cartographer, and master navigator. Frank Reed's style integrates history, mechanics, observation, and the planetarium together to produce the best two-day course available, anywhere."

      --Philip Sadler, Lecturer in Astronomy, Director Science Education, Harvard University.

    Brad, you also added: "For example, it is clear that you are not a fan of the 2102-D.  You have expressed strong opinions on the topic.  Feel your blood boiling??"
    No... but I can hear yours boiling from here. Ha ha ha. :)

    In the last reply in the topic so far, Robert vanderPol II, you wrote: "He knows what works currently, it seemed like he was looking for new ideas that might rope in new audiences. What has worked or failed before at Mystic or elsewhere doesn't give him the previously untried approach." Yes, spot on. You got it exactly. And more specifically, I'm looking for workshop or class titles. A few short enticing words are the key to drawing people in. As I noted above, Mystic Seaport provides minimal marketing. I have to grab them when they first read about the class. In many ways, it's like selling navigation manuals 200 years ago: there was very little advertising. The primary draw was word-of-mouth and the all-important hook to seal the deal was the title page of the book itself! That's why a book like Bowditch's Navigator back then was like a nested list of title and subtitle and sub-subtitle, each drawing the potential customer deeper in. Similarly, I need to create topics and titles for those topics that sound like digestible nuggets and gourmet food at the same time (hmm... must be lunch time).

    Thanks again for all the replies. They have helped me brainstorm. And I welcome any other ideas or comments.

    Frank Reed
    Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
    Conanicut Island USA

       
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