A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Position-Finding
From: Bruce J. Pennino
Date: 2017 Mar 17, 09:53 -0400
Many folks here will help you, and I’ll tell you my learning curve. I’m pretty good with math, so that was not my concern. Don’t be concerned about math because a simple cheap TI 30 calculator is more than enough. Furthermore, you really only need to add and subtract and use tables. Probably you will learn first to determine Local Apparent Noon , LAN. You need to have the Nautical Almanac, published yearly. All of this celestial data is available on line, but a book is nice. You will probably also need sight reduction Tables for the simplest tabular method via H.O. 249. I use Volume 3, lat 39- 89 because I seldom travel beyond this range. H.O. 249 never changes.
I became curious about CN , celestial navigation, because my father-in-law was a sky gazer and I used to ask him questions about astronomy,etc. You must find a basic book you really get to understand. My introduction was via Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell by Hewitt Schlereth. I admit I did not realize how excellent it was until the second or third reading. It is excellent but there are many others. Various organizations offer brief courses. I really got started with a weekend course at Mystic Seaport. Frank Reed taught it.
Another excellent book is Celestial Navigation in the GPS Age by John Karl. Hopefully you live near a large lake or close to the ocean. It is nice to use a natural horizon. Ideally the lake will be at least a few miles long for your sights. If shorter, some error will be introduced . But you must start somewhere.
Oh, nice to have some very basic plotting tools and grid paper. Need a watch which gives you digital time to the nearest second. Iphone etc works fine. I use a $25 USD Iron Man which gains about 2 seconds per month. Has big numbers which are easy to read in fading evening light if you are trying to sight Venus or the moon. My eyes don’t seem to allow me to ever see the horizon and Polaris before total darkness occurs. A basic hand held compass is nice so you know which star or planet you are looking at. Many people like the “hockey puck”. I just upgraded my Boy Scout compass $6-7 to one with bigger numbers.....$ 25. The Naval Observatory has an online site where you and plug in your latitude and longitude, and time, and will give you true bearings of celestial bodies and their altitude above the horizon. You gotta start thinking in terms of Universal Time (old GMT). It is fun to recognize Venus, Mars, Sirius and some others which are very easy to spot. Must be able to convert mag bearings to true bearings, etc.
Get started, have fun and keep in touch.
In your opinion, what is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to learn celestial navigation. I just purchased a Davis Mark 3 and would like to learn the basics as a backup for electronic marine navigation.