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    Re: Just getting started
    From: John Cole
    Date: 2007 Jan 17, 18:27 -0800

    Gary:
    
    I got started in cel nav about four years ago. Here's my two bits on
    the learning experience. I have a math background and my approach might
    not work for you but I was interested in practical cel nav, knowing
    what I was doing and why, like Francis Chichester who with a sextant, a
    chronometer, an almanac, a pencil and log tables could determine his
    position at sea. No computer.  No GPS. No sight reduction tables.
    
    I'm self taught and didn't join this group until a few months ago
    though I followed it for  a year before that.  Initially I tried some
    of the standard "how to" books including Mary Blewitt's "Celestial
    Navigation for Yachtsmen".  Maybe I was just dumb but I found that what
    was in essence a set of very simple calculations was hopelessly
    obscured in these books by the long explanations of corrections and
    interpolations and all the workarounds preparatory to looking up the
    solution of the navigational triangle in tables.  Take a look at
    Chichester's calculations in the back of his book "Gipsy Moth Circles
    the World".  It's really simple!  True, Chichester used sight reduction
    tables to save work, but he didn't need them.
    
    One publication I found very useful as a beginner was Bowditch, "The
    American Practical Navigator". This is a gem.  I purchased "Norie's
    Nautical Tables", and a used 1963 edition of "Burton's  Nautical
    Tables" (IMHO far more user friendly than Norie's), both of which
    contain the haversine formulas, trig functions, log tables and
    haversine tables.  Basically everything else you need to know is in the
    back of the almanac.  Over two years I spent many leisure hours
    working out numerous examples of the most important kinds of practical
    navigational problems which included developing my own work sheets for
    each type of problem.  When I was comfortable with manual calculations
    I moved on to machine calculations and basically programmed everything
    into the Excel application on my Mac following the  instructions in the
    back of the almanac.
    
    Meanwhile I was developing practical sextant, charting and plotting
    skills, as well as confidence in my results. Ultimately I did buy some
    sight reduction tables (Pub 229) and they are certainly easy to use.
    But the journey from the haversine formula was great fun and  on the
    way believe I learned many important principles.  Last summer I was on
    vacation up in the mountains of California and had been shooting some
    sights when my son drove up in his new car with built in GPS.  Seeing
    my sextant he inquired what I was doing and eyeballed my calculated
    position on the chart.  "Let me check your result with my GPS", he
    said.  "No", I replied, looking at the GPS result.  "Let me check your
    GPS!  See, your position is off by 1.5 miles!"
    
    As others have said, there is a vast amount of expertise and experience
    being shared in this group from the very esoteric, to the very
    practical.
    
    Welcome to the group and good luck on your cel nav journey.
    
    John Cole
    
    
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