A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Robert Eno
Date: 2015 Oct 18, 12:59 -0600
As a fellow Canuck and also a former member of the CF (the real CF – ARMY!!!! - sorry, could not resist) I feel compelled to wade in with some advice.
First off, I am a sextant snob so my philosophy is go big or go home. A lot of members will possibly come down on me but in my opinion, the best sextants out there are German-made. C.Plath, which was the Rolls Royce of sextant manufacturers has long since gone out of business but many of their sextants can be found from reputable dealers – the first and foremost which comes to mind is Robert E. White Instruments out of Medfield, Massachusetts. I have purchased items from the proprietor, Ridge White who is both honest and knowledgeable. The used sextant game can be fraught with risks, however dealing with a reputable firm like Robert E. White, removes those risks. Another notable and reputable firm is “Land and Sea Collections”. Its owner, Joel Jacobs, has an impressive professional background and a vast amount of knowledge on all things nautical. Also a good firm to deal with if you want a risk-free purchase.
The only current German manufacturer of sextants in Cassens and Plath. Depending on who you talk to, this firm produces sextants that are as good as or better than C.Plath. The late Frank Janicec, a noted instrument maker from Baltimore, preferred Cassens and Plath because they more easily lent themselves to repairs and component switch-outs. They are expensive as hell but in my opinion, a lifetime investment. You can also get them used but stick with a reputable dealer that tests and refurbishes them.
The Japanese Tamaya sextants also have a good reputation but I do not know enough about them to offer an informed opinion.
If the price of German sextants deters you, then you can go with the Chinese Astral IIIB. I do not have any first-hand experience with these units but my understanding is that under the guidance of Ken Gebhart the owner of Celestaire out of Kansas – and who, if my memory serves me right, brought these sextants to the North American market -- the quality of these sextants is quite high and from comments made by other navigators, the performance is comparable to their German-made cousins. Again, I have no first-hand experience with these sextants so I can only go by the opinions of others.
As far as purchasing from the USA, as Canadians we don’t have many choices. I have made dozens of purchases of nautical equipment from the United States and have nothing but positive things to say about the experience. You are going to get friendly and informed services, accommodating proprietors and follow-up service should things go wrong. When dealing with these firms you are dealing with people who have actual experience in using a sextant and not shop keepers who simply sell sextants as an ancillary part of their inventory. This is a significant consideration when choosing who you want to give your business to.
In a shameless plug for the proprietors that I have dealt with, you cannot go wrong with Celestaire, Robert E. White and Land and Sea Collections. All three firms have been around for a long time (and have survived the virtual collapse of the sextant market); all have stellar reputations and all are knowledgeable, helpful and honest. And no, none of these firms are giving me a commission to tout their virtues.
Yes you have to deal with exchange rates and duties etc. but it is not near as painful as you might think.
My two bits’ worth (and some might even suggest that I am overinflating the value of my opinion)
From: NavList@fer3.com [mailto:NavList@fer3.com] On Behalf Of Chris Willmes
Sent: October-18-15 10:22 AM
Subject: [NavList] Purchasing a sextant
Hello. My name is Chris Willmes. I've been following NavList for some months now, and this is my first post. I learned celestial navigation decades ago in the Canadian Navy, but it has been quite a while now since I last used a sky wrench in anger. I'm no longer in the Navy, and I don't have a boat (or even a friend with a boat), but I would like to reacquaint myself with the art. I plan to buy a sextant, and I'm leaning towards purchashing a new instrument, since it would not have been abused (I would hope) and ought to be accurate right out of the box (i.e., instrument errors would be known and consistent). I know that an inexpensive plastic sextant would suffice for practising technique, but I would rather have something more like what I used to use. I am considering the Astra IIIB, in part because choice here in Canada seems to be limited, and I would rather avoid th complications of currency exchange, customs duties, etc. I would appreciate the thoughts and suggestions of the members of the group.