Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Got a Sextant

We are still in beautiful, snowy New Mexico - otherwise known as The Land Of Enchantment or, as I like to call it, The Land Without Wireless Internet. And for Christmas Vlad's aunt and uncle got us this fabulous sextant as a backup in case our GPS fails and to keep Vlad entertained on long ocean voyages. Gotta love a dual purpose item.

It's amazing to me that someone figured out that you could determine your exact (well, pretty darn close) position by the simple measure of angles and time. And as I've started digging into the history of navigation, I'm even more amazed. The Polynesians, for instance, used a piece of bamboo to measure latitude, and the Arabs revolutionized navigation with the introduction of the astrolabe a thousand years ago while Europeans were still diddling around in the Dark Ages. If a guy two thousand years ago with a stick can sail to Tahiti, it kind of makes the latest chartplotter seem less impressive.  

Vlad took our sextant out for a test run one frigid night and figured our position within a hundred miles, which is pretty good considering all the mountains made finding the horizon, let's say, challenging. The ocean doesn't typically have that problem, and we're assuming we'll get a more accurate reading when we get back to the flat-as-a-pancake Galveston Bay Area. But whatever the case, at least it will be warmer!


  1. That's pretty cool looking. Now you need to learn a few sailing songs to complete the ambiance. I've considered buying one for Mike but they do look fairly daunting to use. (Also, probably not very useful in Puget Sound due to the amount of land everywhere.)

    Also, not necessarily related to this post, I notice that on the Gulf Coast you have more than twice the number of center cockpit sailboats for sale than we do up here. I wonder what gives with that.

  2. It's super salty! Maybe next year we'll get a chronometer. One can dream.

    I'm not sure why there are so many center cockpits, but it might have to do with traditions in both areas. Sometimes I wish that we had a center cockpit (more liveable layout below), but, of course, we bought a West Coast boat!