For a large part of the day, at my current rate of calculation!
I've been slowly working my way through a new book called "Hawaii by Sextant", by David Burch and Stephen Miller. David is the director of the Starpath School of Navigation, while Stephen is their lead instructor in celestial navigation. As the sub-title of the book says, it's "an in-depth exercise in Celestial Navigation using real sextant sights and logbook entries."
In a nutshell, you use the logbook data to plot your DR (dead reckoning) track, then use the Sun, Moon, planet, and star sights to calculate a fix, and thereby work your way across the Pacific. I personally find it a fascinating and very challenging way to practice CelNav and -- perhaps more important -- dead reckoning. I thought I was reasonably good at both. I'm glad I discovered just how bad I was before leaving for Plymouth!
Anyway, highly recommended if you have any interest in navigation beyond your chart plotter, but after spending a great deal of time this weekend finding out why my latest workbook problem so very wrong -- and learning quite a lot in the process -- I got the hankering to take some backyard sights of my own.
One problem: unless you have a sextant with an artificial horizon attachment (I don't) or are willing to set up a pool of motor oil (a method of creating an artificial horizon... nope, not for me), there's no way to take a sight in your backyard, unless your backyard happens to contain a beach.
Or is there?
This line of thought lead me to whip together a simple astrolabe in the shop last night.
The first step was to print out a suitably nautical looking compass, and glue it to a board. I used a spray-on adhesive and MDF, but anything will do.
|Compass glued to board|
After letting the glue dry, I cut out the compass. You can use your bandsaw if you have one, or a jigsaw, or a coping saw. I used a coping saw and got a little exercise as a bonus.
|Cut out compass|
I found a stick in my junk wood box, drilled a hole in one end, and mounted the compass to it using the aforementioned screw, a few washers, and a nut. I hand-tightened the nut so the compass turned smoothly.
|Compass mounted on stick|
The idea is to use gravity to align the astrolabe so 90 degrees is straight down. In effect, this creates your artificial horizon, automatically, even if your house is surrounded by trees, as mine is.
This morning I went outside to take my first morning sun sight. Lucky for me, it was a nice bright morning.
|First morning sun sight|
If you use your phone's camera to take the shot, you will not only record the angle, you will also record the time. In my case, 31.4 degrees (my estimate) at 8:37 watch time (EDT.)
This afternoon, weather gods permitting, I will take an afternoon sight and thus be able to work out a running 'fix' on my home's position.
Obviously, accuracy is going to be limited, but the calculations required are the same whether the sight is accurate or not, so the practice is the same.
Next time, I'll show the plotting and calculations required to work the sight.
Next Up: First Fix