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    Re: Checking a sextant calibration.
    From: Fred Hebard
    Date: 2003 Oct 6, 15:21 -0400

    Good post.  I might note, however, that not all on this list are small
    boat navigators.  Some, indeed, are BIG ship navigators!  Apparently,
    they routinely can get their positions to under one mile, and even
    under 0.2 miles.  That is true also of land-based observers.
    I found the quest to determine errors in my sextant to be useful in
    motivating me to use the instrument enough to where I became proficient
    with it.  For me, the key element of proficiency in taking altitude
    shots was accurate timing of the sight, while for measuring
    interstellar angles, it was accuracy of measurement alone.  There are
    significant differences between the two.  Ultimately, I chose to take
    altitude sights since that is the common use of a sextant in navigation
    I don't think errors of 10-30" of arc could be detected by an observer,
    but grosser errors, of over a minute, should be easily detectable from
    land with an artificial horizon.
    On Sunday, Oct 5, 2003, at 06:55 US/Eastern, George Huxtable wrote:
    > Let's be realistic about all this: Sextants were designed to measure
    > lunar
    > distances, a measurement that demands (but seldom obtains) 30 times the
    > accuracy of a normal altitude sight. That degree of accuracy is no
    > longer
    > needed, except for the "lunartics" among us. Except for such lunar
    > observations, if your sextant can give you position lines within 3 or 4
    > arc-minutes, that's as good as a small-boat sailor normally needs. And
    > as
    > much as a small boat sailor can usually expect, with the motion of a
    > small
    > craft in a turbulent sea.
    > So should a small-craft navigator be worried if his sextant has no
    > calibration certificate from its maker? I doubt it. It's almost
    > certainly
    > good enough for his needs. He should relax and enjoy using it - but
    > always
    > keep his eyes open for signs of any serious discrepancy, as applies to
    > any
    > instrument, new or old.

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