Sun, stars, sextant, three tons of books

Needless to say that by the time the end of October appeared out of nowhere I hadn’t really scratched the surface of the online course and my understanding of this vast subject was very close to nil.

  So equipped with an old plastic sextant, that had been donated to me several years ago, a watch set to UT, three tons of books containing lots of numbers and very few pictures, plotting sheets, plotter, dividers, calculator, chart of the Atlantic and a this rather comfortable 47ft Fountaine Pajot catamaran I set out into the Atlantic for some enforced learning.

  Worry not if you have only understood the words watch, books, calculator, Atlantic and catamaran, in the world of celestial navigation I am currently at this stage.  I have paid a lot of money for these fascinating compositions, which contain more numbers and fewer words than the phone book, not only that, but to get them here I have had to pay for hold luggage on the two flights here, so already I am heavily invested in it.

  I start my navigation as I mean to go on, from a final fix off Gran Canaria, which took hours to disappear below the horizon, I am now dead reckoning and hoping that I can somehow learn it all as I go along.

  To begin with a Mr Paul Rodgers is my guide as I follow the instructions he sets out in his book “Sailing by the Stars”.  The book inspires me with confidence to just pick up the sextant and start taking sights.  Just point it here, adjust that, don’t forget to use the shades when aiming at the Sun.  There are three important numbers that we must write down, one corrects error in the sextant, the next one is the time (to the second) and finally the angle our sextant tells us we have just measured.  

  We have been sailing in a south to south westerly direction since departing Las Palmas, I am working by dead reckoning (using our speed and heading to estimate our position on the chart), I make it my first mission to learn how to find our latitude.