A celestial navigation renaissance may be under way …

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.29.12Yesterday I was really pleased to get a message from Ron Wisner, who had just read and really enjoyed ‘Sextant’.  He tells me that there is a ‘small renaissance’ in celestial navigation taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.  Ron drew my attention in particular to the Marion-Bermuda Race – http://www.marionbermuda.com/- which includes a class specifically for yachts relying on celestial navigation:


This is what Ron says:

Mastering celestial navigation is not merely an antiquated backup to your electronics. The knowledge of history, the awareness of the heavens, the simple recognition of the planets as the brightest most prominent “stars” are all part of a greater heritage that comes with the ability to navigate by the celestial sphere. As sailors we owe it to ourselves – and to those who handed this skill down to us – to learn and pay it forward to the next generation of sailors. After all, isn’t it our responsibility as sailors to pass on our experience?…to hand down our traditional skills? Are we not are sailors? If you are one who has this itch, read on to learn more about why, how and where to scratch it. Imagine making that turn into the coral channel off St. David’s Head, triumphant in the knowledge that you crossed over 600 miles of open ocean with just your sextant and a compass to guide you…

Navigation is perhaps the most important skill we have on the water. And who does not believe in their soul that they have not truly joined their sailing brethren of the previous two thousand years until they have sailed by the sun and stars? A “star to steer by” is not just a line from a poem but an iconic and intrinsic part of the meaning of sailing. It may be a romantic notion but more and more, today’s sailors are failing to be smitten. How to find oneself on a featureless sea is a question whose answer took those two thousand years to develop. Lest we forget, this answer has been handed to us in the last generation – intact, elegant, and codified with tables for stars, navigational planets, the sun, and the moon. It’s all there like a giant celestial clock…no batteries required.

If I have succeeded in convincing you that celestial navigation is a skill worth learning, then let me tell you that the Marion to Bermuda race is probably the best opportunity for you to learn it and to put it into practice.

What a great idea!  I hope other clubs will follow this wonderful example.