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    Re: Role of CN at sea, was Re: Averaging sights ...
    From: Ken Gebhart
    Date: 2004 Oct 13, 22:53 -0500

    on 10/12/04 1:33 PM, CarlZog at CarlZog{at}REEDSALMANAC.COM wrote:
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Jim Thompson" 
    >> In the last 5 years I have never met anyone in person who has actually
    >> navigated by relying on CN. although I have talked with acquaintenances
    >> who
    >> tried a few sights on ocean passages in recreational boats.  They found it
    >> difficult to set up for sight-taking when other chores or rest times took
    >> priority.  A Coast Guard cadet at the College in Sydney learned CN from
    >> Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons before joining the Coast Guard, but says
    >> he
    >> is pretty rusty now. Most recreational boaters simply do not have the time
    >> it takes to learn CN, even if they are strongly motivated to do so.
    > Jim:
    > I spent the last week at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, USA.
    > I spoke with hundreds of recreational sailors, ranging from beginning
    > cruisers to offshore veterans. A few people exressed dismay at the decline
    > of celestial navigation, but they too admitted that they had not relied on
    > celestial as a means of navigation in decades, if ever.
    > As the editor of Reed's Nautical Almanacs for North America and the
    > Caribbean, I was forced this year to make the decision to stop publishing
    > celestial data. In 2000, we eliminated the tables from our books, but
    > continued to offer them as a free separate volume to any Reed's reader who
    > asked for one. Of the tens of thousands of books we sell from Alaska to
    > Trinidad to Nova Scotia, our request for ephemerides slipped to about 150
    > this year. How many of those folks were actually using them is a figure I
    > could only guess at.
    > While our publications primarily serve recreational sailors and smaller
    > commercial workboat operators, I would estimate that the practice of
    > celestial nav among the world's ocean-going merchant fleets is now also
    > zero.
    > As you've indicated, the only people using a sextant these days are doing so
    > as a hobby, and it would seem that many of those hobbyists are shooting from
    > locations ashore -- an activity whose entertainment value escapes me.
    > I expect that the practice of celestial navigation at sea will increasingly
    > be constrained to sail training vessels. Like learning square-rig
    > seamanship, celestial's math requirements and the discipline of the day's
    > work will continue to offer young people valuable lessons that go beyond
    > practical results.
    > Carl Herzog
    > Providence, Rhode Island
    I too just returned from the Annapolis Show where I manned our booth there.
    I was amazed at the high level of interest expressed by the attendees who
    cam by for a chat.  So, I categorically refute that celestial is on the
    wane.  Sextant sales in the US, Europe, and Australia are all higher than
    they have been in the last ten years, and almost up to the level of pre-GPS.
    I don't have data for other continents.
    We have scratched our heads over this phenomonon for several years, and have
    come up with a few ideas:
    1.  Making a sailing passage is a challenge, and a rewarding experience.
    Doing it with sun, moon, and stars is more so.
    2.  Celestial used to be required, and thus work.  Now it is not required,
    and so it is fun.
    3.  There is a back-lash against technology which entices one to wish for a
    hand-on form of navigation.
    4.  People want to KNOW how to do it in order to remove the mystery, and
    make it available to them as a back-up.  Once learned, they do not generally
    use it for routine sailing.
    Ken Gebhart

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