A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Bob Goethe
Date: 2015 Mar 6, 13:13 -0800
I am appreciating the discussion that has arisen from my question. My take away from this is:
- Nobody we know of in the Navy or USCG is currently *requiring* daily sights to maintain core compentence in this skill.
- Nobody we know of in the merchant marine is requiring daily sights of their officers either.
- Celestial nav remains important to the prudent blue-water sailor, who likes to have a backup in place for every boat system, including navigation...who knows that a bad batch of diesel fuel, or a drain plug that failed and allowed all the engine oil to drain down into the bilges (I speak from experience here!!), could mean that his on board electrical system will be dead in three days as his batteries go flat...and that the three handheld GPS units he has stashed in cupboards may all have corroded batteries just when he needs them most.
- Celestial nav is, however, MOST important to those who have discovered the esthetic delights of knowing where they are, non-electronically. These are the people who feel like kinfolk to Joshua Slocum and Captain Cook, and maybe distant cousins of Nathaniel Bowditch. They find an intense intellectual pleasure in celestial nav.
I don't mean in any way to close off discussion on this topic, but I have been watching with interest the discussion...and wanted to test my perceptions.
I am teaching a celestial course to land-locked Alberta sailors come August, at the western extreme of a lake large enough that we get a "true horizon" to work with for our sun/star/planet sights (the moon is uncooperative this year). I was hoping to be able to tell them that "even the Navy, with all its on-board computers, still uses celestial." But alas, that seems not to be so.
I will instead tell them that they may use a sextant for the same reason that I do...primarily because it delights us, and also because we promise our wives we will not get lost in the middle of an ocean if they give us their blessing to take that bucket-list, long trip. Celestial helps us make good on our promise to come home.
Oddly enough, there are as many ocean-cruising sailors from the Canadian prairies as there are from coastal regions. Prior to retirement, NObody can afford to sail for more than a week or two per year...and at that rate, an Alberta sailor will spend as much time on salt water as one who lives in British Columbia. The last celestial instructor in Vancouver retired from instruction at the end of 2014. In contrast, Alberta is a hotbed of interest in sextant navigation...all of us using our artificial horizons, and hoping to sail out of the sight of land come summer.