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    Sextants
    From: Mal Misuraca
    Date: 1997 Dec 30, 9:01 AM

      In the classified ads in local sailing magazines (Latitude 38, in the
    San Francisco area, for example), there will invariably be ads that begin
    "Cruising gear for sale.  CQR 35 anchor and 80 feet chain . . ."  Buried
    in the ad there will be something like this:  "Sextant and box, $75" or
    "Sextant, good condition, $35."
    
      That's where the class-A used sextants will be sold, and they can be
    purchased with a high degree of confidence, if the buyer will only take
    time to look them over carefully.  Many will be new, hardly taken once
    from the box, purchased and put away along with a collection of other
    ephemera that the prospective cruiser intends someday to get to.  These
    will be Astra III-Bs in recent times, but before that probably Tamaya
    Venus or Freiburger, both excellent sextants.  A brief inspection will
    tell you whether this is a burnt out case, an old sextant which has been
    abused or simply used until its mirrors fogged and lenses, too.  Sextants
    tend to wear their pedigree on the surface.  Any good sextant book, e.g.,
    Bruce Bauer's, will tell you how to take the sextant through a few
    minutes of inspection, to see if the gearing works smootly, whether there
    are signs of binding in the arc, whether the optics are free of haze, and
    so on.
    
      The primary point is that the sextant is one of the first of the
    cruiser's never-to-be-used gear to go, cheaply, very cheaply.  There are
    very few places to wholesale out a sextant, so the average person does
    not know what to do but put a classified ad, and the sextant ends up in
    the midst of a collection of things to be sold, a clear invitation to
    low-ball offers.
    
      Are there alternative ways to buy a used sextant?  Yes.  Try Bruce
    White at Robt White Instrument Co. in Boston (800-992-3045).  White
    maintains a small stock of used and first-class sextants, usually Tamaya
    and Frei, but sometimes Cassens & Plath or C. Plath.  Do not buy a new
    sextant, especially a C Plath, unless you are desperate to spend $3,000
    when $1,000 or less will do.  Let someone else's dying dream span the gap
    between those two figures.
    
      You can also talk to Becker, Lyman in Louisiana (800-535-6956) or
    Infocenter in Maryland (800-852-0649), which like Bruce White sell
    instruments they will stand behind.  But it is entirely possible, as
    suggested here, to buy direct from the owner a nearly new, perfect
    sextant, at a firesale price.
    
      Mal Misuraca
      Passage East
      Sausalito
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