With the quest for noon latitude only allowing for one attempt per day I had been filling the hours taking morning and afternoon sun sights and observations on other celestial bodies, the Moon, Venus, Polaris and a whole host of stars, but I had very little idea what I was to do with all this data.
It is our third night at sea and I have the 0000 to 0400 watch. I go out on deck to a brilliant 99% full Moon. It is so light out here it could be noon on a mid winter day at home, you could almost read a book out here. The moonlight makes the horizon is clearly visible, so, (unusually I will soon learn) in the middle of the night I have a go at trying to get some star sights with the sextant.
I’m using a plastic cheapy sextant which is ok, but the telescope is not good enough to pick out the stars. However, since I can see them with the naked eye I try taking the telescope off the sextant and just looking through the space left by the telescope. To make this work I have to set the sextant to 0 and point the whole thing at the star until I have the star in the mirror, then I slowly work everything down to the horizon keeping the star in the mirror all the time. It is tricky and my approach is the reverse of the recommended method described in the books, but it is the best I can do and it is working. I have also been fortunate to grow up on an Island with “Dark Skies” status so I have already spent years learning my way round the constellations and stars, this is also helpful now I have resorted to this backwards approach.
“Star men do it with their eyes open” the book says and sure enough, no telescope, plenty of moonlight, a clear horizon and I am bring stars down to the horizon and getting readings! Now I have so much information I’m struggling to sit down and face making sense of it all. In the end I call this a sextant learning exercise and leave the maths for later. The Sun is occupying all of my mental processing ability, there isn’t room for any more numbers right now.
The sextant and the celestial bodies are fast becoming an obsession and for days I took sights on everything and anything that I recognised. Writing down endless numbers I pondered in awe about it all, a slow moving pattern is emerging.