Sextants

John Campbell
30th April 2009, 19:00
For many years it was a requirement for Nav Officers to purchase a Sextant and thereafter carry it with them to all the ships they were to serve. I bought my first and only sextant, which I still have, from Charles Frank in Glasgow which used to flog off Ex Admiralty Sextants at a fraction of those which were brand new. It is a Hezzanith.

Gradually it became the practice for Companies to supply sextants and I have heard that some ships navigating the oceans are no longer required to be equipt with such an instrument.

Can someone advise if this is so.?

James_C
30th April 2009, 19:24
As far as I'm aware all foreign going British ships are still required to carry a (singular) sextant onboard, together with a set of Nav Tables, it being unheard of now for Deck Officers to carry their own.
Can't comment on foreign flag though.

Nick Balls
30th April 2009, 19:27
Well John not to sure on this !
I did a trip last year from the UK to Brazil and had the joy of brushing up on the old skills by teaching a very keen English deck cadet the use of the sextant.
The ship had one sextant on board , a rather cheap chinese affair that did not match up to those I remember from the 70's . No one else on board was the slightest bit interested. The Croatian master kept well clear!!! (First time he had see such a thing I suppose!)
The only problem I encountered was that we had the latest ECDIS system on board and my pupil had little faith in his own calculations.
This proved interesting as our course passed close to the dangerous St Peter/Paul rocks and highlighted the lack of perception of modern navigators that you need to leave a reasonable margin for "Error"
The Cadet could not understand that in the "old days" we would have given ourselves the maximum benefit of the doubt and simply put a good few sea miles between us and such a hazard !
The other thing that was interesting is this modern fixation with "precision"
The old bit about Navigation being an Art not a science is still true. But near impossible to teach today. Im now finshed with the sea and while I think modern systems are fantastic , I will always know that it was a great skill to learn.

sidsal
30th April 2009, 21:14
Bought "utility" sextant during ww2 for £18 - a lot of dosh then. Flogged it when hard up after leaving the sea but bought a TAMAYA Japanese sextant when circumnavigating under sail in the 80's. Still got it (in case) !

K urgess
30th April 2009, 21:39
Here's an unusual thing.
A sparkie with a sextant.
Actually three.
Two WWII RAF Bubble sextants, one clockwork and one manual and a David White of Milwaukee US Navy. BU. NAV., Mark II (serial number 15295-1943) certified on 5th November 1944.
I wish they all could talk.

R798780
30th April 2009, 22:41
I still have my Hezanith, picture supplied, bought second hand from Lillie and Gillie of North Shields when I was about to embark on my first trip as third mate.

Brocks, or Cunard-Brocklebanks which followed, then supplied two sextants to each ship and they were not bad, better than my hezanith for stars because they had a bigger scope.

I used to put errors into my own sextant for the cadets to find and correct to avoid the quaking in the boots job when the examiner thrust a sextant into my hands. Whether or not that was appreciated.................don't know.

cboots
1st May 2009, 00:52
I still have my old sun gun, a Plath too, the Rolls Royce of the instruments. Companies started to supply sextants to ships when flying out and home started to become the norm as opposed to joining and leaving in a UK port.
CBoots

spongebob
1st May 2009, 01:14
My son has his grandfather's sextant which will probably never again be fired in anger but I recall being on a ship with Captain Andrew Keyworth when a new third mate joined and was asked
"Where is your sextant lad"
The reply was "I don't have one, I will use the ship's"

"No you wont, nip ashore and buy one, sparkie will give you a sub on your wages to pay for it" said the Skipper

Bob

Michael Taylor
1st May 2009, 16:12
I was given my Hezenith by a retired BP C/O prior to my first trip with Ellerman Hall on the City of Madras (1960). I remember well when trying hard and finally corecting it being told by the Captain that I shd dip it in a bucket of salt water and that I would never have to correct it again!

sidsal
1st May 2009, 16:22
Sextant:
When I did 2nd Mates in Nellists Nautical Academy in Newsastle on Tyne at the end of ww2 you were told that in the orals the examiner would hand you a sextant and take you to the window and tell you to take a horizontal sextant angle between a church spire and a large chimbley. Ypu were also told by the Nellists that the answer was 68Degrees 15 minutes ( or suchlike).
Nellists had the highest succes rate in the UK and neither of the Nellist brothers had ever been to sea. What they did was quiz all their students after their exams/orals and then, over time they could accurately forecast what questions would be asked. They also taught students not to waffle in the orals but to give accurate, rehearsed answers.

Bill Davies
1st May 2009, 16:33
As far as I'm aware all foreign going British ships are still required to carry a (singular) sextant onboard, together with a set of Nav Tables, it being unheard of now for Deck Officers to carry their own.
Can't comment on foreign flag though.

All the Foreign flag vessels I sailed on from 68 through mid/ late 80s carried one for each mate. From around this time on, I noted a couple on board but never just one.
My own sextant, bought for me by my mother on passing Second Mates in 61, has pride of place in my study. It was a Plath, and a excellent instrument.

Bill

James_C
1st May 2009, 17:22
Bill,
Most of the ships I've sailed on carried at least two (in addition to those carried by Mates), present home from home just the one no doubt down to expense as much as usage. Saying that, aside from myself I can't remember anyone else on my ship having 'had a go' with the exception of cadets and I've been on her two years. You get the same looks of awe, astonishment and fear when you're 'sun/star gazing' as you do when flashing up the Loran-C!
I too have a Plath, which was purchased through Lillie & Gillie and a fine instrument.

IanSpiden
1st May 2009, 17:45
As a sparks I wondered what the Mates did with the time signals I used to send through to the bridge so I got interested and out of the goodnes of his heart ( and probably a couple of beers) the 2nd mate taught me how to use a sextant and work out the intercept using tables , this was in the days long before sat navs etc going from Rotterdam to the Gulf and back , I used the ships sextant , I bought a Plath Sextant in India a few years ago , it probably came off some scrapped ship it sits in my living room reminding me of some pleasant mornings in the Sun taking Noon sights

jimthehat
1st May 2009, 23:11
have sighted the sextants on the bridge of the last three cruise ships(p&o) I have been on,but i was told by the oows that it was only the cadets who used them,so they must still be asked to show their competence in the orals.
Bye the way do canditates for master still have to do the deviscope?/,I always liked messing around wit it.

JIM

shipsurvey
2nd May 2009, 02:57
Sextants,along with slide rules,are candidates for nostalgia for old men. At some point,museums will be the only place to view them.

spongebob
2nd May 2009, 03:59
You are right shipsurvey, I retired about the time when computers were becoming the norm and when the dividing line on slide rule cursor started to fade away. It was signal to give up the entrenchment in the past and time to smell the roses.
Sextants are such hard lumpy things so the older navigator cannot take them to bed like a teddy bear and the mantle piece or the museum is about the right place for them.

Phil Williams
2nd May 2009, 06:24
I bought my first sextant in 1958 , a Hezzaninth, from Charles Frank & Co, Glasgow, halfway through my apprenticeship; it cost a month's pay 18 pounds. It served me well until as Second Mate the ship I was on did a trip into Hamburg where I treated myself to a Plath, another months pay, this time 70 pounds. I stayed at sea until 1993, and wouldn't have dreamed of joining a ship without Charlie Plath in his mahogany box accompanying me!

Phil

R651400
2nd May 2009, 07:38
On my last Greek ship as R/O I was also given the opportunity to do noon and evening sightings.
Think the 1st Mate owned his own sextant which I remember was Japanese "state of the art," sunlight filter two polarised lenses rotating against each other instead of the multi filter type that flipped over.
Happy memories of waiting and seeing the evening stars come out at their appropriate time.

R651400
2nd May 2009, 13:00
....as an adjoinder to above.
Crossing the Pacific, after the sightings, maths and conventional chart plotting it was even more rewarding to compare the results with Loran which I rate one of the best long distance radio-navs ever.

Topherjohn
2nd May 2009, 13:28
I was given my Hezenith by a retired BP C/O prior to my first trip with Ellerman Hall on the City of Madras (1960). I remember well when trying hard and finally corecting it being told by the Captain that I shd dip it in a bucket of salt water and that I would never have to correct it again!
G'day Mike
It must be you with the Uruguay flag! Bought my Hezzanith sextant from a 3rd mate in Prince Line. Still have it, keep it shiny but only used once since coming ashore 1970. That was when crewing 12 metre yacht in Carribean 1987. On board was a state of the art (for the year) Sat nav system, only time I ever used one. One satellite came over ever few hours. Judging by my sun and star sites it wasn't far out either (just kidding)!
That reminds me of the Master I sailed with who wouldn't believe the noon position if the 2nd Mates' and 3rd Mates' noon positions were within 10 miles of each other!
Hope you're keeping well. I gave Derek Sim you email address a couple of weeks ago. Have you heard from him yet?
PS WA new website now well advanced, will let you know when its published.

K urgess
4th May 2009, 23:46
On my last Greek ship as R/O I was also given the opportunity to do noon and evening sightings.
Think the 1st Mate owned his own sextant which I remember was Japanese "state of the art," sunlight filter two polarised lenses rotating against each other instead of the multi filter type that flipped over.
Happy memories of waiting and seeing the evening stars come out at their appropriate time.

Surprisingly my Liberty Ship sextant built in 1943 also has two polarising filters.

Michael Taylor
5th May 2009, 15:51
G'day Mike
It must be you with the Uruguay flag! Bought my Hezzanith sextant from a 3rd mate in Prince Line. Still have it, keep it shiny but only used once since coming ashore 1970. That was when crewing 12 metre yacht in Carribean 1987. On board was a state of the art (for the year) Sat nav system, only time I ever used one. One satellite came over ever few hours. Judging by my sun and star sites it wasn't far out either (just kidding)!
That reminds me of the Master I sailed with who wouldn't believe the noon position if the 2nd Mates' and 3rd Mates' noon positions were within 10 miles of each other!
Hope you're keeping well. I gave Derek Sim you email address a couple of weeks ago. Have you heard from him yet?
PS WA new website now well advanced, will let you know when its published.
Hello Chris from a beautiful but damp Uruguay
Nothing from Derek. I posted a couple of pics of the Capt.Miranda the Uruguayan sail training vessel a while back when taking a small cruise on her around Punta del Este here in Uruguay. Anyway did ask onboard if the trainees were instructed in the use of the sextant. The answer was yes, but only in books and none seemed to have ever used one.
Along with my sextant, arrived onboard a few trips later,with the American star reduction tables purchased for me by my American wife. What a diference they made to the 20 mins or so it took to calculate with Norries over the chart table.

Klaatu83
9th May 2009, 16:18
Every ship I was ever on, up until I swallowed the anchor in 2005, had a ship's sextant. I stopped bringing my own in the early 90s, a Freiberger which I purchased from Camper-Nicholson at Southampton in 1975. However, in 1994 a ship I was on lost it's GPS after it's antenna was struck by lightning in a thunderstorm. We had to fall back on the ship's sextant to navigate across the Atlantic, and I was glad I had kept in practice.

sidsal
9th May 2009, 17:13
Shipsurvey suggests sextants and slide rules will be museum pieces. Probably right BUT - the ability to do the trig and maths involed in navigation means there are a breed of men whose mental capacities are confined.
Great pity - same as it was a shame morse light signalling ended . It gave interest and satisfaction to chat with passing ships by this method. Mind you I suppose I am a Meldrew as in my time we would use semaphore too - particularly between ships at anchor and fairly close.
Bring back the gas lamp !!

surfaceblow
10th May 2009, 01:29
While doing a inventory of the deck equipment I found that the sextant box was empty. No one could remember the last time it was used. It was 4 years since the last time the sextant was checked for inventory control. The ship chandler brought a plastic sextant down to the ship for a loaner until a better one could be obtained.

forthbridge
20th May 2009, 21:07
"GPS satellite system 'close to breakdown' and could fail by 2010 "
Headline from today's daily mail. How will these ships which don't carry sextants or whose mates have never been trained in their use navigate then?

Ian6
20th May 2009, 21:16
I've asked the question 'what if' before about GPS. The existing systems are all dependendant upon the USA and could be turned off at any time. The EU (much maligned, but actually quite useful at times) is establishing an alternative GPS, but will our car sat-navs let alone the remnants of an MN and RN recognise the new satellites ?

Personally I regret more or less giving away my 'Cooke's of Kingston' (Upon Humber) sextant so many years ago. On the other hand I travel by bus these days using my bus pass !
Ian

slick
21st May 2009, 05:26
All,
I to, when I was leaving the sea gave away my "Freiberger" to a Second Mate whom I thought was an aspiring Navigator.
I have since learned that it adorns the wall of his Dining room, I asked him why he had done that, his reply "It's a conversation piece!"
Yours aye,
Slick

Bill Davies
21st May 2009, 08:21
Post # 28.

Over time I too have given away this and that to individuals who, you hope, can give it a good home and perhaps make good use of the item. Its very disappointing when above happens.

Bill

Lanzabry
15th June 2009, 22:57
Was very fortunate to get my sextant in 1965/6 from the C/O-Billy Ross-who was leaving BP to be a Falmouth Pilot. It served me well and its now in the safe custody of my son. Its a real golden oldie---65 this year. Two years older than me.

M29
24th June 2009, 20:05
Shipsurvey suggests sextants and slide rules will be museum pieces. Probably right BUT - the ability to do the trig and maths involed in navigation means there are a breed of men whose mental capacities are confined.
Great pity - same as it was a shame morse light signalling ended . It gave interest and satisfaction to chat with passing ships by this method. Mind you I suppose I am a Meldrew as in my time we would use semaphore too - particularly between ships at anchor and fairly close.
Bring back the gas lamp !!

Hi Sidsal and all.
I was R/O on Dart Atlantic/America 1973/4. The writing was on the wall already for traditional methods. Those ships had fully enclosed bridges and sextants had to be stuck out the window (if the sun ever showed) The big navigation tool on these ships was Omega, which was very accurate. A plot was entered on the chart every half hour. Of course SATNAV came in shortly afterwards but when I left the sea were still fairly "chunky" pieces of kit.
We joined one trip and found we had a new 2/O. He was an ex RN 2.5 ringer who had been no1 on submarines. Consequently, he could hardly use a sextant because he had spent his career looking through a periscope! I suppose they had intertial navigation systems on them.
Of interest to the "tickets" theme, he claimed he had a "Masters" ticket and duly showed it to us. He had been awarded it because of his rank and watch keeping experience. It did however have some subtle differences in wording from an MN one but outwardly looked identical. He was a great character and brought a three dimensional "noughts and crosses" game with him. This was assembled in the radio room and at the beginning of each watch, you had to check if any of the peices had been moved. Games took several days! it took me a while to get used to it and then finally beat him.

Best Wishes

Alan

sidsal
25th June 2009, 21:26
Alan:
Very interesting. I never heard of such a Master's ticket. Mind you I think a lot of the supposed "tickets" these days are of doubtful credence.
Never came across Omega - Loran - yes.
Technology has raced ahead, hasn't it ?
Cheers
Sid

Peter Martin
25th June 2009, 21:39
Came across Omega in the mid 70's; a VLF radio system if I recall which was designed for submarines as, I'm led to believe, VLF is detectable many feet below the surface. I suppose INS made this redundant!
Omega was also used by aircraft and I came across it on a Canadair CL44 freighter which spent a deal of time in the 'Dark Continent' where VOR's & DME was scarce.

sparkie2182
25th June 2009, 21:52
For your interest Michael............

from the Capitan Miranda............

The plaque reads............Recuerdo Del ROU "Capitan Miranda" Vaije De Instruccion No. 5 Uruguay 1984

vasco
26th June 2009, 08:57
Hi Sidsal and all.
The big navigation tool on these ships was Omega, which was very accurate.
Alan

I was with Omega in the early 80's and our model certainly was not desiigned for ships!

It would beep alarms so much that eventually methods were found to permanently silence it.

Also, if you could have a perfect cross and be miles out (multiples of 8 if I recall correctly). I was quite happy when it was withdrawn.

Nova Scotian
26th June 2009, 13:53
I was with Omega in the early 80's and our model certainly was not desiigned for ships!

It would beep alarms so much that eventually methods were found to permanently silence it.

Also, if you could have a perfect cross and be miles out (multiples of 8 if I recall correctly). I was quite happy when it was withdrawn.

Omega was installed on the Atlantic Conveyor when I sailed on her 1972/3. Three stations ( West Indies, USA and Skandinavia) provided a good three P/L fix during passage across the North Atlantic. It was accurate enough that those vessels that had Omega were able to accurately identify the position of icebergs during the season. Up until then, reported positions of ice could be several miles in error.

We contiued to position fix with sextant, using Omega, like Loran C, as a check. I found it worked well if the three stations were all transmitting at the same time. However, if I remember correctly, one station went down permanently reducing the system to a single P/L. I left the Conveyor shortly after that and I believe the system was removed a little later.

smithax
28th July 2009, 14:27
Interesting that some think that sextants are not used anymore.

The Tanker company that I was with until about year ago, still had watchkeepers taking sights, the full monty as well - stars, morning sight, and noon. It was a questioned we were liable to be audited on.

The Filipino Officers took it very well, some were a tad rusty, and others hadn't used a sextant since college.

The general idea was the over reliance on one system (GPS) was not good, also the Officers took some pride in producing a decent cross at stars and using skills that are above that required to read a GPS.

Lancastrian
28th July 2009, 16:18
Alan:
Very interesting. I never heard of such a Master's ticket. Mind you I think a lot of the supposed "tickets" these days are of doubtful credence.

The MCA and its predecessors have long provided avenues for suitably experienced RN personnel to transfer to the MN. There is no reason to suppose their tickets were doubtful.
At one time submariners took sights through the periscope and perhaps they still can?

howardang
28th July 2009, 16:36
Omega was installed on the Atlantic Conveyor when I sailed on her 1972/3. Three stations ( West Indies, USA and Skandinavia) provided a good three P/L fix during passage across the North Atlantic. It was accurate enough that those vessels that had Omega were able to accurately identify the position of icebergs during the season. Up until then, reported positions of ice could be several miles in error.

We contiued to position fix with sextant, using Omega, like Loran C, as a check. I found it worked well if the three stations were all transmitting at the same time. However, if I remember correctly, one station went down permanently reducing the system to a single P/L. I left the Conveyor shortly after that and I believe the system was removed a little later.

I was on Atlantic Causeway from launch in 1969 until 1972 as Sen. 2/0 and we had Omega on initial trials around 1970. I found it excellent and it worked very well indeed giving constant accurate fixes across the Atlantic. We also suplemented the fixes with sights and with Loran and Decca when in range.

We had one blip with it, however, when it was initially fitted in Liverpool. We sailed around lunchtime on the day it was installed and were very pleased with the results until dusk when the wheelhouse lights were switched off at which time the Omega set also shut down. The technician had wired the set up to the light switch! Soon fixed by Frank Dunn the R/O

Atlantic Causeway also did trials of on board satellite communications in 1970/71 - long before the days of Inmarsat, using a steerable Yagi antenna on the monkey island and very crude tranceivers in the pilot cabin.

Howard

joebuckham
28th July 2009, 17:06
The MCA and its predecessors have long provided avenues for suitably experienced RN personnel to transfer to the MN. There is no reason to suppose their tickets were doubtful.
At one time submariners took sights through the periscope and perhaps they still can?

about 1970 i sailed on the sugar exporter with a second mate, a commander coulthard ex rn, who had a masters fg gained by virtue of a long service record and if memory serves me right a vigorous and longer than usual oral.

Bill Davies
28th July 2009, 17:37
Alan:
Very interesting. I never heard of such a Master's ticket. Mind you I think a lot of the supposed "tickets" these days are of doubtful credence.Never came across Omega - Loran - yes.
Technology has raced ahead, hasn't it ?
Cheers
Sid

Sid,

And they are not Liberian, Panamanian etc, which was the 'excuse' in the old days.

Bill

Cisco
29th July 2009, 02:52
The MCA and its predecessors have long provided avenues for suitably experienced RN personnel to transfer to the MN. There is no reason to suppose their tickets were doubtful.


Retiring RN, RAN etc could get a 'certificate of service' as opposed to 'competency' which was considered equivalent to Masters. They did away with them as I recall about 1980. I think the powers that be considered the average naval skill sets too much at variance with what was required in the MN.

Bill Davies
29th July 2009, 07:32
This whole thing is new to me and without reading too much into previous posts I have an inherent dislike of 'Certificates of Service'. Sailed with a few ex RN ratings (ABs) in the early 60s. Nothing special!

Cisco
29th July 2009, 07:43
Here you go Bill, http://books.google.com/books?id=IsMNAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=royal+navy+certificate+of+service+master&source=bl&ots=SB8uKPGcUH&sig=SLviSwEQ8-WYAgNUwCll-lswVh0&hl=en&ei=du5vStSXJ5KsswP4tbTlCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8

It starts at the bottom of page 204 but won't let me cut and paste.

greektoon
29th July 2009, 09:02
Many ships still carry a sextant. I was on a chinese ship recently and came across a beautiful Japanese instrument. When I took it out of the box, the young 2nd and 3rd mates started to chuckle, considering the thing as some kind of curiosity. I said "you might have to use this one day if someone turns off your GPS" which led to an interesting conversation on their training. They were taught the thoery of celestial nav but had never had any meaningful practice with a sextant. They were amazed when I told them that in the late 80's the sextant was all I had on winter N. Atlantic crossings on large bulkers when you may not see the sun for days (we didn't have sat nav).

We did have Omega but it was unreliable and Loran only seemed to work well near the US.

I am no Luddite but do think deck officers should be encouraged to take sights whenever possible. They have the time so why not.

Over reliance on GPS means that deck officers are not fully utilising all available aids to navigation, i.e., taking visual bearings / radar ranges and bearings. The advantage of using your radar and compass repeaters is that you are given spatial awarenes of where you are relative to the land, navigation marks and dangers, something that GPS does not.

Lancastrian
29th July 2009, 09:15
Well done Cisco. I was searching for that. Seems to be the 1973 regs. Here it is abridged -
2. Certificates of Service
Under the Merchant Slipping Act 1894 the Department has also been entitled to issue, without examination, a certificate of service as master of a foreign-going ship to any person who reached the rank of Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant, Navigating Lieutenant or Navigating Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Under the regulations such a person has had to be able to prove seven year’s sea service in sea-going vessels, of which not less than three years must have been performed whilst in possession of a full watch-keeping certificate, Royal Navy personnel must have also had an ocean navigating certificate covering their watchkeeping service since the certifiicate was introduced. It should be noted that the grant of this certificate does entitle the holder to act as master or mate of a home trade passenger ship,although certificates of service are to all intents and purposes the same as certificates of competency, except that they differ in form.
Suitable Royal Navy engineers have also been entitled to certificates of service as first or second class engineers. ……..The person concerned has been tested by examination and service designed to ensure that all ships in the British merchant navy are manned by competent officers in the interest of safety. This would also appear to be the rationale behind the regulation that a candidate for a certificate of competency as an engineer who has had service abroad and no opportunity to take the second class engineer's certificate may be able to sit for a first class certificate if he can prove satisfactory evidence as to his service, particularly that of his technical studies and workshop service, if it can be shown to have been of roughly equivalent to that required for a second class certificate.
There are also special regulations for the examination of members of the Royal Navy for certificates of competency. Officers who have certificates of service as master may be examined for the certificate of competency as master without any further requirements. Other ranks may be given remission from sea service requirements, and certain radar training certificates and courses may exempt a naval candidate from the requirement to produce a valid radar observer certificate.

Topherjohn
29th July 2009, 10:04
Interesting that some think that sextants are not used anymore.

The Tanker company that I was with until about year ago, still had watchkeepers taking sights, the full monty as well - stars, morning sight, and noon. It was a questioned we were liable to be audited on.

The Filipino Officers took it very well, some were a tad rusty, and others hadn't used a sextant since college.

The general idea was the over reliance on one system (GPS) was not good, also the Officers took some pride in producing a decent cross at stars and using skills that are above that required to read a GPS.

This is commendable adherence to the tried and true tradition of navigation i.e. avoid over reliance on one system. Also I suspect navigating with methods I used at sea (including sun and star sights), leads to a much deeper understanding of navigation at sea than simply taking a series of GPS readings. Or not? What do those of you who have used both old and new methods think?

ROBERT HENDERSON
29th July 2009, 10:11
This whole thing is new to me and without reading too much into previous posts I have an inherent dislike of 'Certificates of service'

Of course Bill you are entitled to your opinion, but you have to look at each individual case as to the reason some sailed with a certificate of service. I met several very good men in the coasting trade who had come foul of the eyesight tests, myself included that sailed without certificates. When it became compulsory, some were awarded a certificate of service, others like myself in order to have something less than what we set out to aspire to sat for home trade certificates of competency, in my own case then sitting for master middle trade or to give its proper name master extended European. Does this mean in your view I was less capable than you to ably do the job I opted for.

Regards Robert

6283
29th July 2009, 10:42
This is commendable adherence to the tried and true tradition of navigation i.e. avoid over reliance on one system. Also I suspect navigating with methods I used at sea (including sun and star sights), leads to a much deeper understanding of navigation at sea than simply taking a series of GPS readings. Or not? What do those of you who have used both old and new methods think?

It is very commendable to maintain one's celestial navigation skills. Unfortunately, as improper as this may be, it seems that too much time on our bridge watches is now spent doing "non-navigational" duties, for example catching up on all the ISM, etc. paperwork that it seems we all required to do these days... Who has time to take stars?
Does any one else agree with this heresy?

Cisco
29th July 2009, 11:00
I've sailed with two and a half certificate of service men.
One was an ex RN diver who was sailing as master on a rig boat. The other was an ex RAN Lt-Commander who had command time on frigates. joined as 3/0... about 5 years later he was sailing as master... all he knew about cargo, stability etc was what he had picked up along the way...same as the rest of us I guess... :) That was in the late '70's
The half was also ex RAN - hydrographic branch- in the early '80's . They had changed the rules by then and he had to sit either 2nd mates or mates but I think they gave him credit for his sea time in the RAN at 2/3rds.

They may have changed the rules at the same time as they brought in tanker endorsements etc....

smithax
29th July 2009, 14:15
It is very commendable to maintain one's celestial navigation skills. Unfortunately, as improper as this may be, it seems that too much time on our bridge watches is now spent doing "non-navigational" duties, for example catching up on all the ISM, etc. paperwork that it seems we all required to do these days... Who has time to take stars?
Does any one else agree with this heresy?

I agree that there is too much paperwork. Deepsea after the intial rush of paperwork is over there is usually is enough time, and the full 7 stars probably wouldn't be always taken.
Don't forget I'm talking about voyages with perhaps 36 days between ports, not running around N Europe on a small boxboat

gas_chief
30th July 2009, 15:06
It is very commendable to maintain one's celestial navigation skills. Unfortunately, as improper as this may be, it seems that too much time on our bridge watches is now spent doing "non-navigational" duties, for example catching up on all the ISM, etc. paperwork that it seems we all required to do these days... Who has time to take stars?
Does any one else agree with this heresy?


Paperwork on the bridge is 2nd priority! The reason for being on the bridge is to Navigate the ship (taking sights comes along with that). I have been doing that and have been reinforcing it on my juniors too. Paperwork on the bridge is one of the main ingredients of the disaster pie and should be strongly discouraged.

Bill Davies
30th July 2009, 18:21
Paperwork on the bridge is 2nd priority! The reason for being on the bridge is to Navigate the ship (taking sights comes along with that). I have been doing that and have been reinforcing it on my juniors too. Paperwork on the bridge is one of the main ingredients of the disaster pie and should be strongly discouraged.

Good post. I had a similar philosophy!
What use to concern me was the actions of Pilots in certain ports in the Middle East. After boarding, the paperwork comes out and the Pilot when not conversing with the terminal is asking me for details. I have had many a near miss over the years.

Brgds

Bill

gas_chief
30th July 2009, 18:52
I had juniors who would not step out of the bridge. They took the compass errors using the center repeater inside the bridge. The Bridge doors were kept shut to preserve the AC, the iPod connected to a set of speakers (located on the chart table) and turned up on full blast.

The solution to the sights: - Standing orders. Include the line "One sight per week is to be taken by each navigating officer. If not done, your end of tour appraisal will reflect your inability to monitor the vessels track using all available means on the deep sea part of the passage plan."

iPod and Speakers: Off the bridge (with a remark in the officers appraisal if repeated). Sometimes you have to be a ba$#*^d or a p^#%*k, but if that's the only way it works then that way it should be.

greektoon
30th July 2009, 19:49
Bill and Gas chief - agreed

please see my previous post. ALL available aids to navigation should be utilised and practised and that comes first.

Bill Davies
30th July 2009, 21:08
Exactly!

jaydeeare
31st July 2009, 23:43
A very interesting Thread. I honestly thought that sun and star sights had gone put with the advent of GPS.

Thanks for enlightening me on this!

It's good to know that on some ships this craft is still being carried out.

johnb42
1st August 2009, 02:53
On the strength of this thread I ventured into the loft and opened-up my sextant box. Sad to say the silvering on the mirrors has broken down a bit and the instrument that kept several Bank boats safe in it's time looks a little sad. Did find in the box though, my Little Red Book issued to me by the Red Guard in China somewhere around 1968, still in good shape.
My eldest grandson who came to the loft with me said "can I look through your telescope grandad" when he saw the sextant. Just like Del Boy's Uncle Albert with his "juring the war", the opening was there for me. . . . . . .

lakercapt
1st August 2009, 03:27
Was once told that to be a master you had to be a bast**d.
A good one in preference to a bad one.
Can't be a friend to everyone!!!!

Terry Goddard
1st August 2009, 08:54
Still have trusted sextant in good working order but dusty.Bought 2nd hand from H Hughes & son , London for £80.

gas_chief
1st August 2009, 16:51
A very interesting Thread. I honestly thought that sun and star sights had gone put with the advent of GPS.

Thanks for enlightening me on this!

It's good to know that on some ships this craft is still being carried out.

It has become a mandatory company requirement for us now to take sights. Every navigating officer is required to take 1 sight as a minimum every week.

To make things easier, we have programs installed on the ship's computer wherein all you have to enter are the altitude, DR and time to get a printout of the PL and the plot. So these guys do not even use their brains now. Only the Old man and the mate like to use the almanac for the sights. The juniors use the computer program for everything.

Frankly, it is just the sheer laziness of having to go out on the bridge wings that is keeping the guys from taking the sights. Even the lookout is now inside the bridge about 75% of the time unless the master is a ba#^%$rd and enforces the law.

Tony Drury
2nd August 2009, 14:28
Remember my promotion from apprentice to Uncert 3/0 on the City of Montreal in London (1973). Shaw the Ellermans personnel/apprenstice training guy bowled upi while we where having a lunch time session in the bar, plonked a sextant down in front of me and asked if I wanted to be 3/0. It was one of those new fangled Zeiss. Was impressed at the time but now dissapointed that wsnt a shiny brass one (I am pretty shallow that way). I agreed and ended up paying for it for the next 6 months from my wages.

And it you think we were hard done by - think of the poor of chippies who used to join with their tool boxes!!!

peter3807
4th August 2009, 22:15
Looks like you had better dust them off, you could get a good price soon.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09670t.pdf

Peter

rcraig
19th August 2009, 09:58
Interesting debate on the use of the sextant.Back in history whilst with Elder Dempsters, 1956'ish, I was the only mate using the new fangled Admiralty tables for sights (forget what they were called) irritating the others by being both quicker and just as accurate. Habits were slow to change.
Bank Line whom I served my time with, did not supply a company sextant so that when I sailed out of the UK as acting 3M on a 7 month trip I had had neither the time nor the money to get one, my rate of pay as a third year apprentice being just over £2.00 a week.
I well remember the difficulty of seeking a loan of a sextant from the other watch keepers. Would have had more cooperation if I had been asking for the use of part of their anatomy!
Have given away two sextants over the years in what I thought were worthy causes. Still weep at the thought!
Would be useful for zimmer navigation purposes!

Bill Davies
19th August 2009, 10:30
Post #64 reminds me of the emotions attached to sextant ownership. I recall being 2nd Mate on a Tramp in 63 and although each of the Mates carried their own sextant the Third Mate was forever 'using' the Mates, who like me carried a Plath. The Mate went ballistic when he found out claiming that the instrument was a VERY personal thing and adjusted for him and only for him. The poor Third Mate never recovered from this 'difference' with the old Mate who went out of his way to make life difficult. My own sextant is in my study and a personal treasure. Bought by my mother on successfully passing Second Mates (FG) in 61 and never to leave family ownership.

sidsal
20th August 2009, 15:07
Gas-chief:
Differeent to Brocklebanks during ww2 and after. OOW had to be on the bridge wing. He must not lean on the dodger but stand unsupported. The master would tell you off otherwise. There was nothing like a chair or stool on the bridge.My sextant was a wartime "utility" version which I flogged when hard up after the war. I bought a new Yamaha in the 70's when taking up ocean passages on big yachts.
When I see the modern enclosed bridges I think the bridge people miss out on the fresh air and the wide ocean but i suppose there's so much electronic gadgetry that one has to be in the wheelhouse these days.
On my first ships there were no gyros and the compasses were magnetic and in the old notation - none of this 0 to 360 degree nonsense ! Checking before sailing involved only getting steam on the whistle, testing the engine room telegraph and the steering and that was that.
I think we were happier on the whole then !

NoR
20th August 2009, 16:39
Of interest to the "tickets" theme, he claimed he had a "Masters" ticket and duly showed it to us. He had been awarded it because of his rank and watch keeping experience. It did however have some subtle differences in wording from an MN

I think this was called a 'Certificate of Service' rather than a 'Certificate of Competancy'

My cousin who was in the RN has one. He'd never have passed the real thing in a month of Sundays.

ROBERT HENDERSON
20th August 2009, 17:00
I think this was called a 'Certificate of Service' rather than a 'Certificate of Competancy'

My cousin who was in the RN has one. He'd never have passed the real thing in a month of Sundays.

I had an ex Lieut.Commander as mate on a coaster, he had a Masters Foreign going certificate of service based on his Naval Rank.

Regards Robert

Bill Davies
20th August 2009, 17:50
Robert,
I have to agree with NOR on this. My own experience of RN in the MN was not good, there might have been exceptions but I never met them. Saying that, to award someone a Masters (FG), I assume you are talking the real thing pre 78, that is absolutely appalling. Most on this site worked hard for that very prestigious qualification and the above is demeaning to the certificate and those that hold it.

Bill

Bill

norman.r
20th August 2009, 18:12
Interesting debate on the use of the sextant.Back in history whilst with Elder Dempsters, 1956'ish, I was the only mate using the new fangled Admiralty tables for sights (forget what they were called) irritating the others by being both quicker and just as accurate. Habits were slow to change.
Bank Line whom I served my time with, did not supply a company sextant so that when I sailed out of the UK as acting 3M on a 7 month trip I had had neither the time nor the money to get one, my rate of pay as a third year apprentice being just over £2.00 a week.
I well remember the difficulty of seeking a loan of a sextant from the other watch keepers. Would have had more cooperation if I had been asking for the use of part of their anatomy!
Have given away two sextants over the years in what I thought were worthy causes. Still weep at the thought!
Would be useful for zimmer navigation purposes!

I was with Elder Dempster at about the same time and knew how to use the Admiralty Tables but none of the ships that I had served on carried them except for a former Liberty Ship Zungon. I used the tables for the four month voyage I was with her. How they came to be on the ship I do not know.
Norman

Lancastrian
20th August 2009, 18:30
I was the only mate using the new fangled Admiralty tables for sights (forget what they were called) irritating the others by being both quicker and just as accurate.

They were actually published by the Air Ministry, AP 3270.
The best thing since sliced bread.

Lancastrian
20th August 2009, 18:35
Robert,
I have to agree with NOR on this. My own experience of RN in the MN was not good, there might have been exceptions but I never met them. Saying that, to award someone a Masters (FG), I assume you are talking the real thing pre 78, that is absolutely appalling. Most on this site worked hard for that very prestigious qualification and the above is demeaning to the certificate and those that hold it.

Bill

Bill

Typical anti - RN bias from you, no doubt based on ignorance of any other organisation. See #46 (http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showpost.php?p=344827&postcount=46) 29th July 2009, 09:15
The average RN dagger N (specialist navigator) could knock spots off any MN Officer though he might have needed to brush up on cargo work.

ROBERT HENDERSON
20th August 2009, 19:04
Lancastrian
You may or may not be correct regarding a RN officer with a Certificate of Service regarding their proficiency in navigation. In a ship in the Home Trade which meant going into the Baltic and across the Bay of Biscay, I wanted a Mate that was conversant in all aspects of the job. One time I ordered three hundred bags of grain to make a false bulkhead, his retort was that the weather forecast was good, he had clearly not read the grain regulations, yet theoretically he held a superior qualification to mine.

Regards Robert

ray bloomfield
20th August 2009, 19:24
Nor been on a ship after the cargo had shifted Robert then he would ask for 600 bags to be sure.

Lancastrian
20th August 2009, 19:48
Lancastrian
You may or may not be correct regarding a RN officer with a Certificate of Service regarding their proficiency in navigation. In a ship in the Home Trade which meant going into the Baltic and across the Bay of Biscay, I wanted a Mate that was conversant in all aspects of the job. One time I ordered three hundred bags of grain to make a false bulkhead, his retort was that the weather forecast was good, he had clearly not read the grain regulations, yet theoretically he held a superior qualification to mine.

Regards Robert

Then you were in a position to enlighten him! Cargo stowage is not rocket science and if the BOT saw fit to issue certificates of service there is no reason why the holders of such should not have been welcomed into the MN, and helped on their way. In the case of your Mate, he would have been at no more disadvantage than someone who had spent his previous time in tankers.
Having passed Mates cargo work, I no doubt had to read the grain regs but I wouldnt describe myself as being proficient in the subject of bulk cargoes, other than oil. All I had to do was swot up from my Kemp & Young and get lucky on the day. You place too much faith in exams.

Bill Davies
20th August 2009, 20:03
Lancastrian
You may or may not be correct regarding a RN officer with a Certificate of Service regarding their proficiency in navigation. In a ship in the Home Trade which meant going into the Baltic and across the Bay of Biscay, I wanted a Mate that was conversant in all aspects of the job. One time I ordered three hundred bags of grain to make a false bulkhead, his retort was that the weather forecast was good, he had clearly not read the grain regulations, yet theoretically he held a superior qualification to mine.

Regards Robert

Sounds about right Robert!

ROBERT HENDERSON
20th August 2009, 20:38
Sounds about right Robert!

Thanks Bill. The other point regarding the person I mentioned, legally he would be entitled to command one of the VLCCs or OBOs that you were Master of, this just does not make much sense to me.

Regards Robert

NoR
20th August 2009, 20:39
I was given a sextant by my company at the end of my apprenticeship for being the best cadet. Believe me, if I was the best, the others must have been truly awful.

It was (is) an aluminum Hezzanith with large mirrors, very good to use but with little aesthetic appeal.

BTW does anybody know where I can get the mirrors re silvered.

NoR
20th August 2009, 20:58
Lancastrian. I doubt very much whether your RN dagger N could knock spots of an experienced MN navigator.

But we don't want to start the old military v civilian argument do we?

Bill Davies
20th August 2009, 21:28
Typical anti - RN bias from you, no doubt based on ignorance of any other organisation. See #46 (http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showpost.php?p=344827&postcount=46) 29th July 2009, 09:15
The average RN dagger N (specialist navigator) could knock spots off any MN Officer though he might have needed to brush up on cargo work.

So we are getting personal? Are not those from the RFA biased towards the RN? I have always considered those in the RFA as being RN wannabees.
As for Dagger N (specialist Navigators) well, what can I say. Who dares wins? Get real and stop acting childish!
There is no one in the RN that has anything better than a pre 78 British Master Mariner (FG). They do not come any better.

Lancastrian
20th August 2009, 21:57
So we are getting personal? Are not those from the RFA biased towards the RN? I have always considered those in the RFA as being RN wannabees.
As for Dagger N (specialist Navigators) well, what can I say. Who dares wins? Get real and stop acting childish!
There is no one in the RN that has anything better than a pre 78 British Master Mariner (FG). They do not come any better.

Having been in a position to observe both organisations from close quarters, I can confidently state that neither was perfect or as good as some cracked them up to be. Both could learn much from each other and it is a pity that rarely happened, often due to blind ignorance and prejudice, as displayed by some regulars in these columns. And no we are not wannabees, just those who made a fortunate choice and survived the demise of the MN.
I have known several holders of pre 1978 Masters (FG) whom I wouldn't trust with a whelk stall.

slick
21st August 2009, 05:27
All,
Thank you Lancastrian - it needed saying.

Aye,
Slick

Bill Davies
21st August 2009, 08:21
All,
Thank you Lancastrian - it needed saying.

Aye,
Slick

What exactly, needed saying?

rcraig
21st August 2009, 17:10
Interesting, albeit slightly heated debate re RN and MN. Let me throw in a third dimension to confuse us all.
I served with an ex-RN type Master very many years ago and there was nothing to differentiate him from any of the others.
I served as commander for some years of a 1000 ton Army crewed LCT, of which there were 11, which sailed round the UK, Europe and the Far East. We had a crew of 36. There were two commissioned navigating officers.
These non-decked shoe boxes were driven by twin screws and with a forward draft of 1m. and after draft of 2m. were a fascinating handling exercise with a cross wind and tide or even just one of either. Their minimum steering speed was c.5.2 knots, not a speed which did the ship much good if you failed to crash into full astern in time before touching on a concrete hard. They were great fun and very challenging. We came out of mothballs primarily to service St Kilda off the Western Isles. It was a demanding environment.
Bar two officers, of whom I was one, all were commanded by army officers who had no sea going experience and whose training consisted of a 6 month principally boat handling seamanship and navigation course. (It may have been less or more). They were by both MN and RN standards grossly under trained. And yet they did a remarkably good job overall in often very difficult conditions doing work which in the main the RN would never have contemplated because of the risks involved to the ships.
There was one RN LCT which was manned with a crew of over 50, with I think 5 officers. We very rarely worked together.
On one occasion, however, we shared a joint naval staff mainly paper exercise with my vessel and the RN LCT "representing" a fleet of amphibious vessels landing troops and equipment at Gold/Omaha beach. A naval guard ship acted as the covering "navy". We sailed under naval orders. These orders included sailing dangerously close to a wreck marked by a buoy. It had to be pointed out and changed. They were too embarrassed to acknowledge it.
At the last moment, as we approached the beach, the RN LCT placed us in charge of the final approach to the beach, probably to duck out of blame for any mistiming. They had superior communications, navigational equipment and appropriate manning to cope with the substantially increased navigational and communication work load. I was not impressed.
We were based at Portsmouth and saw the RN at close quarters very frequently. I saw good ship handling, average ship handling and............yes.
That also included some of the army ships.
The technical navigational training, damage control and simulated emergency training within the RN is and was I believe very good.
I do not think it is possible to say that one is or was superior to the other in navigational skills. After all, it takes a special kind of skill to find the bottom in charted waters on the West coast using a survey vessel of all vessels for that purpose, does it not? Or to find a charted rock somewhere of the Antipodes on a vessel awash with officers and sophisticated navigational equipment.
I am slightly concerned at the suggestion that the mate may require training from the master on matters relating to stowage which may affect stability/safety eg. What happens if the master becomes incapacitated before the learning process begins?
On offshore installations there must be a designated manager on board at all times. There is always a competent deputy manager trained and designated as his replacement in the event the manager is unavailable. I see no reason why that principle shoud not be taken as guidance on merchant ships. Who else but the mate should take over?
I enjoyed working with the RN and its personnel. My anectodal evidence is not meant to reflect on their overall competency. I did resent that they were getting duty free and we were not, even when sailing foreign (except for the typical tourist level)!
But we were still issuing rum years after they had stopped using of course the defined standard insisted on, namely, inclement weather. Like Force 2?
It was not aping the RN, but based on field conditions in the trenches.
I rather take the line of #81 above
What ever happened to sextants?

NoR
21st August 2009, 17:29
These orders included sailing dangerously close to a wreck marked by a buoy. It had to be pointed out and changed. They were too embarrassed to acknowledge it.
At the last moment, as we approached the beach, the RN LCT placed us in charge of the final approach to the beach, probably to duck out of blame for any mistiming. They had superior communications, navigational equipment and appropriate manning to cope with the substantially increased navigational and communication work load. I was not impressed.

Doesn't quite tie up with post 81.

My own experience of working with the ex military is that they are very adept at 'office politics, a skill not shared by most of their civilian counterparts.

rcraig
21st August 2009, 17:50
I agree with you (NoR) on the quotation and a couple of other bits.

Never got into the position of an ex-army type of the type you describe. I was of course talking about those at the front and just like anyone at sea exasperated by HQ's working normal days whilst the rest of us worked 24/7.

Shoe box illustration perhaps attached

rcraig
21st August 2009, 17:55
Try again

rcraig
21st August 2009, 18:00
But not again!

makko
21st August 2009, 18:08
rcraig,
Thank you for your comments and insight into the operation of these very special vessels! Out of pure idle interest, how were the bow doors sealed and what engines/auxy systems did the vessel have? From your description, I would imagine that they were "mini" ocean going vessels.
Regards,
Dave

rcraig
21st August 2009, 20:15
Alas, my recollection of the auxy systems is very limited. They were twin screwed vessels with the screws recessed above the ships bottom for obvious beaching reasons. This meant that they would not steer without the screws running.
The main propulsion unit was of 4 Paxman-Ricardo (converted generator) engines linked to the two screws. If I remember rightly there was a separate genny. They were generally very reliable engines
Max speed was 10 knots but not in a head sea. Minimum steering speed was 5.2 on one engine and one shaft. Not particularly handy!
Engine control was in the old telegraph way. Call down the tube at sea, to the helmsman, who would operate the telegraphs and almost instantaneous response would be obtained from the excellent engine room staff. I used to (very rarely, because of the disturbance) demonstrate at any time of the day or night the speed of response to say, a sudden full astern call and it would be responded to within a few seconds always.
They were built for the Far Easterm campaign but the war ended and they were mothballed until 1957 with the opening up of the Benbecula range. They died in the late 70's I think and were replaced by two modern ship and they then went.
The bow doors were secured only by turnbuckles and not too many. They were not W/T.
On one occasion we were caught out in a storm...a genuine one...off the Longships with the doors banging in the head sea and the turnbuckles slacking back. We had to turn for the shore in a very heavy sea to re-secure them which was done with great difficulty, as the sea was free within the space between the ramp and the doors. We turned headed out and it started again in the pitch darkness. We turned again and repeated the performance coming bloody close to not getting away with it. We had started with 6 miles sea room and it was just as well.
The ramp itself consisted simply of a rubber seal with the ramp held back against that by its lifting wires and some turnbuckles. There was no top or any other deck, just the DB tops/cargo deck. She never took a green sea but if you had then it meant that you were in very serious trouble. Fascinating vessels to work with, really good crews and as the army on shore never understood what it was about they rarely bothered us.
Almost everything could be operated by hand and sometimes it was as well. Hence the crew of c. 36. I think they got in the early sixties the equivalent of 1/6 p.d hardship money.
They were extremely uncomfortable noisy vessels in a head sea and of light scantlings so that you could see the tank deck whip and the accommodation aft could whip in turn like the end of a rope and send plates in their fidleys vertically up in the air to smash on the deck.
It was not unknown to have as much as 30-40 degrees off the line ahead if a strong cross tide/wind going on to a hard before suddenly straightening out.
The handling skills acquired stood me in very good stead for working with anchor handling supply vessels once I grasped the knack of dropping an anchor in 450 ft of water, treating the cable as an iron bar and backing up to tie up to the rigs.
Ah, the good old days!
Sorry, bit long winded. Again.

Bill Davies
21st August 2009, 20:23
I haven't noticed any reference made to Japanese sextants. Strong competitors of Plath in looks and precision. Weight was an issue.Any other thoughts?

onestar
21st August 2009, 22:14
Getting back to the subject of sextants - mine was made by Henry Hughes and Son Ltd, commonly known as a HUSUN, serial # 37478. The original correction certificate was dated 22 November 1943. I was fortunate enough to win it as a prize at my nautical college, it had been sitting in Admiralty stores, unused up to that time.
Before joining my first ship I had done hundreds of worked example of sights, but what a thrill it was to do my first sun - run mer alt! And it was accurate!
I enjoyed combining Sun position lines with Venus or the Moon by day, when available. Although it is not recommended (false horizons etc), I always got good results taking stars by moonlight.
Even when in command I kept my hand in. On one occasion my Sun line came in very handy making a landfall in subsequent fog, when radar was not available. Not dangerous, soundings gave a good indication as well!
At the time of the transit of Venus in June 2004, even my wife was able to observe this using my sextant. She was most impressed!
On the subject of the RN dagger N course - that was the exception, very few did that course which was more orientated to strategy. In the early sixties the RN were producing about 10 to 15 long N course graduates each year. Navigation has changed a lot since those days, but the long N course was the cutting edge of the profession. From precision navigation, ship handling in close quarters, fleet handling, compass adjusting , tidal calculations - it was all there. Plus of course all of the tactical operations room and NATO stuff!

gas_chief
31st August 2009, 13:15
Gas-chief:
Differeent to Brocklebanks during ww2 and after. OOW had to be on the bridge wing. He must not lean on the dodger but stand unsupported. The master would tell you off otherwise. There was nothing like a chair or stool on the bridge.My sextant was a wartime "utility" version which I flogged when hard up after the war. I bought a new Yamaha in the 70's when taking up ocean passages on big yachts.
When I see the modern enclosed bridges I think the bridge people miss out on the fresh air and the wide ocean but i suppose there's so much electronic gadgetry that one has to be in the wheelhouse these days.
On my first ships there were no gyros and the compasses were magnetic and in the old notation - none of this 0 to 360 degree nonsense ! Checking before sailing involved only getting steam on the whistle, testing the engine room telegraph and the steering and that was that.
I think we were happier on the whole then !

You are right. Those were the good days. Unfortunately with the ammount of new gear being installed (retrofitted) each one has an alarm of its own. On newer ships alarms could be acknowledged at different locations on the bridge, but on the older ladies with all the new gadgetry, the first week on board is a nightmare decoding all the alarms on the bridge. So for the OOW to go out on the wings for more than 5 mins is tough.

Also with the ammount of paperwork now thrust on staff, even if one does not do it on the bridge the mind is always on overdrive. I have kept watches on the bridge when I just wanted to finish and get back to my office and get my paperwork done. I have seen a few of my friends burning out within the first few weeks on board. No wonder a lot of us want to get out and go ashore fast after getting our own command. Then talk about the shortage of qualified staff..... Well companies have got to find ways to retain existing staff first. Its like pouring water into a bucket with holes in the bottom. Unless you plug the holes you will never be able to fill the bucket!
(Cloud)

jeraylin
31st August 2009, 15:57
Can I add a modern perspective?
Just about to deliver a ship from the yard. Two sextants on board. One supplied by yard is a Japanese heavy frame job with excellent magnification and a light to illuminate the scale - perfect for stars. It comes in a nice wooden box with certificate, correction table, and spare parts/cleaning equipment etc.
The other is supplied by company, very light (probably aluminium) and in a horrible plastic box. It has a low magnifying scope and no light on the scale but I'm guessing it will be perfectly OK for sun and the odd planet plus a bit of latitutde at noon.

Next week british cadets will join and (if they have not already been taught on other ships in the company) they will have to learn all the possible errors
and their adjustments, how to "hand over" correctly to another person, and so on. I find that most cadets are fascinated with using such an instrument.
Once I teach them about the inherent errors in GPS and such like and they become proficient at using the sextant then we move on to exploding other myths like CPA and TCPA on a modern ARPA - or worse - using AIS information for collison avoidance (there has already been an AIS assisted collision - look on the Hong Kong Marine dept's website for the investigation into a collision off HKG in which one of the vessels was using the AIS message send function to tell the other ship what to do to avoid a close quarters situation).

Speed is fine but accuracy is final.

Bill Davies
31st August 2009, 22:36
Two sextants on board. One supplied by yard is a Japanese heavy frame job with excellent magnification and a light to illuminate the scale - perfect for stars. It comes in a nice wooden box with certificate, correction table, and spare parts/cleaning equipment etc.
The other is supplied by company, very light (probably aluminium) and in a horrible plastic box. It has a low magnifying scope and no light on the scale but I'm guessing it will be perfectly OK for sun and the odd planet plus a bit of latitutde at noon.

.

The Japanese sextants were renowned for their weight but the magnification more than made up for this downside and was superior to all other and particularly its European rival, Plath. Although the large telescopes made these instrument 'ungainly looking' they were a pleasure to use.

slick
1st September 2009, 20:20
All,
I owned and used a Freiburg for 28 years, superb.
Aye,

Slick

gadgee
1st September 2009, 21:36
Can anyone identify this sextant I am holding in 1977 on Chevron Burnaby. It was the ships property. I think Japanese and maybe Tamiya??

Klaatu83
2nd September 2009, 23:06
"BTW does anybody know where I can get the mirrors re silvered."

You might try Camper & Nicholsons of Southampton. They deal in everything nautical from a Merchant Navy tie to a Vosper-Thornycroft frigate. Even if they might not re-silver sextant mirrors themselves, they could probably put you in touch with somebody who could.

howardang
2nd September 2009, 23:13
"BTW does anybody know where I can get the mirrors re silvered."

You might try Camper & Nicholsons of Southampton. They deal in everything nautical from a Merchant Navy tie to a Vosper-Thornycroft frigate. Even if they might not re-silver sextant mirrors themselves, they could probably put you in touch with somebody who could.

I am pretty sure that Cookes of Hull will re silver the mirrors. Web site is

http://www.bcookeandson.co.uk/index.htm

HTH

Howard

red_drawers
27th September 2009, 12:53
It's not a regulation for a british registered vessel to carry a sextant anymore. i have sailed on a few without a sextant. Its still a requirement for passing the OOW orals examination though.

Ghost
14th January 2010, 01:54
I took an American tanker to scrap a few years ago. On board was a plastic sextant with a sticky advising .2 deg error. Davis Instument Corp. Great for posing on for the grand union canal.

Mikeirwin
15th January 2010, 21:58
They were actually published by the Air Ministry, AP 3270.
The best thing since sliced bread.
They were actually called "sight Reduction Tables".

Ulf Harrison
12th February 2010, 07:43
Have not read trough all comments, but to answer John’s question, YES there still ship around that not have a sextant onboard. To add to this there are ship’s around that not even carrying paper charts. There were a few charts around. Not corrected and clearly marked “For reference only Not for navigational use”. They have Electronic charts approver by the Class. One such ship is the Rem Etive, a DP2 ROV and dive support ship.

Billieboy
12th February 2010, 09:08
Have not read trough all comments, but to answer John’s question, YES there still ship around that not have a sextant onboard. To add to this there are ship’s around that not even carrying paper charts. There were a few charts around. Not corrected and clearly marked “For reference only Not for navigational use”. They have Electronic charts approver by the Class. One such ship is the Rem Etive, a DP2 ROV and dive support ship.

I wonder what the engineers will uses for a thin joint on some of the Weir's brine and freshwater pumps, if there are only electronic charts on board?

waiwera
12th February 2010, 09:22
If no sextants - no stars or any astro navigation - so no maths knowledge needed. Looking at this thread no paper charts- so no chart corrections to do. Likewise take it all stability and loading calculations are done shoreside - so nothing to do here either. No need for cargo plans or stowage knowledge - so loss of job satisfaction and involvement too. No masts or cargo running rigging for seamanship knowledge. Just makes you wonder what you do need to know today serving on a modern box boat. Other than keeping a good lookout, knowledge of rule of the road, fire and health and safety of course and the filling in of numerous check lists and "out from under" sign offs.
So what is left in the syllabus? My Masters Ticket (taken 1974) qualified as a first degree for entry on a postgraduate university course. Not sure that this would still be true today? Suppose these days most cadets are on a graduate course anyway so more academic studies of business management and other related subjects.
With the exception of the RFA and other technical support/specialist vessels it would seem a lot of the onboard skills have been lost?

Nick Balls
12th February 2010, 10:00
Yes all true. I last taught the use of the sextant to British cadets in 2008.
Sadly it was purely academic ......... Looking at the compass record book for the last couple of years clearly indicated the continuing total loss of such skills.
Some nationalities are still well trained . I saw some good navigational skills by some of the polish crews for example. As to others they would be lost without technology !
What makes me angry is the fact that some other nationalities are just blatantly issuing tickets to people who are totally incompetent !
Over here I fear an old Masters ticket is 'worthless' in the eyes of society who would have no idea what was involved. I recently applied for a job which required the driving of a very small trip boat around an inland lake and was told I would need an RYA ticket !!!!!!!!! AND they would not accept my GMDSS ticket for radio use! saying I needed have to attend a one day course in how to use VHF !!!! You can imagine what I said!

borderreiver
12th February 2010, 11:09
What should I do with my Dentons book on seamenship
I have had to lift anchors useing aft winches, make rigs for lifting machinery at sea. leavers for getting plates backe on pumps as engine room floods etc again master cert 73
also sailing along a pl that is clear of all dangers.
four point bers etc.

Ulf Harrison
12th February 2010, 23:36
Unfortunate it is a fact that all old skills diapering. No sextant, chronometer error book, compass error and so on is things of the past. A chronometer error book may still in use even if there are no chronometer onboard. Correct time can be obtained from the GPS. Any cheap quarts wrist watch is usually good enough and even better than the old mechanical chronometers. Compass and gyro error is required to be taken but for what use? Just follow the track from the GPS and just follow the track in the chart.
Today the most important is the ISM code and to have all paperwork up to date. Loads of meaningless forms and check lists for everything, but they must be there and correct filled out when the auditors comes onboard and check it.
Other things of the day are Work permits! Loads of them too. Hot work, cold work working aloft, isolations, de-isolations, operate the ships stores crane is just a few examples. A job that may take a minute or two to do without permits now can take several hours to do before safety equipment and work place inspection is done and all paperwork signed by numerous people that is involved in the job.
And this situation becomes worse for every day.

Mike S
13th February 2010, 01:36
Heavens above........
What will happen when or if the GPS system shuts down!!! (EEK)
:eek: Or even worse the gyro goes belly up and all the navigators have to drive the ship on a magnetic compass that is required by law despite the fact that no one can steer by it or correct it or even take an error.
I know that us ancient mariners always say that the older we get the better we were however this is getting ridiculous. (Cloud)

Ulf Harrison
13th February 2010, 03:52
If the GPS system shuts down it be disaster. The word stop. However it is not unusual to have three or four GPS receivers around the navigation area. If then DP there are even more accurate system involved. Those system are not free to use. Regarding gyros, a DP 2 ship usually have three gyros on line and there may be another one or two just for the navigation. If now one of the modern ship with azimuth propellers, would be a three man operation just to even attempt to steer the ship.

Nick Balls
13th February 2010, 11:00
DP is not 'Navigation' in the sense we are talking . Having huge amounts of equipment won't make it any safer! I seem to recall a cruise liner going aground because the 'operator' failed to understand his GPS Display. Only a couple of years ago we had a supply vessel go aground with a fully functioning GPS ....... Again the person on watch had failed to comprehend his situation (Fast cross tide) Having worked on DP 2 Vessels I know only two well how you can end up having tunnel vision!

No Navigation is an "Art' not a science . I saw so many instances of bad practice in recent years where people fail to understand this.
By the by the last Azimuth vessel I worked on was a simple thing to drive ! best thing ever! A one man operation

Mike S
13th February 2010, 11:32
Likewise.........by far the best handling and versatile harbour tug I ever worked was a Z-Peller ASD.
There is no substitute for good old fashioned seamanship and training. I don't care whether you are operating an old fashioned vessel with paper charts and a magnetic compass the old fashioned way or the latest wizz bang vessel with multiple redundancy on every thing it is only seamanship and experience that will decide in the end when the chips are down.
This tendency towards the cheaper and less trained is a serious mistake.
However what would I know.......where has the old expression "Aids to navigation" gone?
Navigation is more about experience backed up by the best assistance available than the best of technology over taking the native skills of the human being and the Mark 1 eye ball.

Nick Balls
14th February 2010, 14:25
Precise and clear Mike S ! Exactly how I feel about things . Good point about the "Aids to Navigation" Like that one a lot!

Andrew Craig-Bennett
26th February 2010, 11:03
Cisco knows this story already. Our ships carry two sextants - very nice modern jobs with full width optics and really big mirrors. They even carry quite a respectable station pointer! This kit, along with the lead line, etc., lives a very sheltered life in drawers in the chart table. I used to make junior officers' live miserable during management inspections (I am a shore wallah) by pulling out the hambone and asking a 2/0 or 3/0 to demonstrate how to check for the errors. I gave up because it was sheer cruelty to the afflicted.

I run a regular campaign on "gyro error", though, because people are incredibly reluctant to take an azimuth.

PS - does anyone know where to get the switch on my Plath replaced?

slick
27th February 2010, 07:44
Andrew,
You carry on doing just that for the rest of us, I personally would present them with the sextant and ask them the Principles of the said machine as an Examiner did of me.
I once was told that the Apollo Mission Capsules had a Sextant fitted which was used, that was good enough for me to cling on to the belief in their continued use.


Yours aye,


slick

Tony Breach
27th February 2010, 19:26
I have a Plath sextant, parallel rules, brass dividers, Nicholls Concise Guide, The Bosun's Manual a wonderful Nathaniel Bowditch & all the other books. I make sundials & ships in bottles, the latter very badly. I live in an area with not too much light pollution so I can see all my old twinkling friends who shared my lonely night watches & helped me find my way at dusk & dawn.

I write a bit of dodgy doggerel & this is dedicated to all those who passed their tickets prior to '78.

FAILURE

Sir,
It is with a deep despondence
That we close this correspondence
To be signed, sealed, delivered of this date
Re: Your last examination
In the art of Navigation
At the grade of foreign-going second mate.
If our questions had been solved
You would have only been involved
In safe passage through the Minch off Hebrides
But it seems you got it wrong
Your computed Lat and Long
Put you firmly in the central Pyrenees.
Your amplitude was dismal
And your azimuth abysmal
Even though you used the tables ABC
While your courses on the chart
Were like impressionistic art
And we doubted that you'd ever make the sea.
Then we noted further failing
In the question of plane sailing
So it seems you never knew where you were at
And had never learned in school
Navigation's golden rule
That departure equals d'long cosine lat.
But did you ever go to college?
For it seems your lack of knowledge
Caused your failure to compute the PZX
Which led us all to thinking
Why so many ships are sinking
And why coastlines of the world are strewn with wrecks.
But with Venus in transition
You obtained a fine position
Your prime vertical was accurate and true
And your zenith worked out fine
For you used the haversine
Although otherwise you didn't have a clue.
We must refute your observation
That magnetic deviation
Is a jailable offence in British ships
Though your lack of its correction
Has affected your direction
And result with which you'll have to come to grips.
While this attempt was not your first
It was most certainly your worst
And the following decisions have been taken
No more sea-time will be given
Further re-sits are forbidden
For our confidence in you is badly shaken.

And there can be no appeal againts decisions that are made
Signed: Principal Examiner, Head Office, Board of Trade.

P.S.
(But I add this brief post scriptum
Should you wish to beat the system
There are two directions you could choose to go
So if you're fond of grog and gravy
You could try the Royal Navy
And if that don't work there's always P and O.)

My deep apologies to those with a penchant for plain black, buff or gray funnels - it was the only way to make it rhyme!

ian283
4th March 2010, 21:14
when I was an apprentice on the Clan Urquhart in the late fifty,s.I bought my vernier sextant from the 3/0 for £3.00. Still got it. The good days of Burton,s tables have long gone, the same with Nicholls concise guide.Which I still have. The 3/0 was called Mr Burton in case he is still around.

Naytikos
10th March 2010, 05:15
Brilliantly put together, Tony.
That ranks right alongside the well-known 'Shipowners Lament'
(same meter too!)

slick
10th March 2010, 06:28
Tony,
I have just read your evocative verses, may I suggest that when some of us get a little bit too intense a poem would lighten the atmosphere, once again thank you.

Yours aye,

slick

CAPTAIN JEREMY
10th March 2010, 20:32
I still have the Freiburger sextant that my parents bought me after I passed my 2nd mates in 1977. I carried it with me until I stopped watchkeeping in 1989. Sextants are still carried onboard my ship, and on ocean passages the jumior officers and cadets practice their celestial navigation. However the mentality is very different these days. To get a license in most countries takes 3 years at university and only 12 months sea time. Most of this time seems to be spent on the bridge, as there is little opportunity for practical seamanship. The important things seem to be air conditioning, a computer & GPS. I have always considered seafaring to be a practical occupation, and common sense is an important part of the equation.

I can remember a few years ago on one cruise ship, approaching Fredericksburk in St Maarten with my hot shot Bulgarian navigator still driving. In the driving seat, he had a brand new Atlas radar display in front of him, C Map chart display offset at 45 degrees and huge windows in front. He was unable to recognise that the radar display and the view did not correspond with the C-Map display, but he was still completely reliant on the C-Map. The GPS had dropped out of navigation mode into DR mode. Even after pointing out the discrepancies and the indication on the C=Map display that it was running on DR, he was still unable to comprehend what was happening.

When I went to sea, it was a career or even a way of life, but nowadays it just seems to be just a job. There seems to be little commitment. Having pointed this out to my Managing Director, he explained to me that was why they are prepared to give me a very competative salary package. If I am not confident about the abilities of my watchkeepers, with 1000 lives on board, the officers do not stay!

However, with the change in conditions over the years, I am not sure whether I would consider a career at sea if I was 18 again!!

Ian Brown
12th March 2010, 10:49
I am fortunate to work in a company where my Navigating Officers have been trained in the use of sextants and like Capt. Jeremy above I get them to take sights on ocean passages. But worryingly we only have 1 sextant on the bridge and of course there is a world of difference taking the occasional observation using a nice accurate GPS DR position and having the experience/confidence to use a quick snatched glimpse of the sun after several days running only on DR.
Making a landfall (at the right time and place!) using only sextant for navigation gave a sense of satisfaction that just does not exist for present navigators on commercial ships.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
12th March 2010, 11:09
That leads me onto another point.

Many companies use standard tracks, hallowed by long, long experience, and very often these are framed in such a way as to enable the taking of a fresh departure from time to time with limited grounding risk.

That makes abundant sense when navigation is done conventionally, but when the primary instrument is the GPS it actually adds an element of danger should the look out be "below par", because the look out is not actually being kept to take a fresh departure.

I speak from experience.(EEK)

Oh, and another story, not mine this time - some years ago I had lunch with an old friend, the London Marine Super of a large Greek company. who had just had to supervise a refloating after grounding of a large ore oiler.

He was absolutely "rope-able". To summarise a long tirade, "In my young day we took Liberties down the Channel in a fog with almost nothing, yet this lot, on a ship with every possible navaid, relied on a single radar bearing and distance. Only problem was, it wasn't the lightship; it was a fishing boat!"

Billieboy
12th March 2010, 14:21
Racon buoys, another marvelous aid to catastrophe!

borderreiver
12th March 2010, 18:51
Just read that a large old English shipping now have a bridge manger.
on there large passager ships. Do not know what she does

CAPTAIN JEREMY
13th March 2010, 09:38
Just read that a large old English shipping now have a bridge manger.
on there large passager ships. Do not know what she does

Knowing what British market cruise ships are like ....... teaches card games??

CAPTAIN JEREMY
13th March 2010, 09:42
Just read that a large old English shipping now have a bridge manger.
on there large passager ships. Do not know what she does

Funnily enough, my employers have now decided that I am not only the Master, but also the "General Manager". It is rather neat, apart from the rather nice increase in salary that the additional responsibility has brought, having much more control over the whole operation of the ship and decision making.

Billieboy
13th March 2010, 10:06
Bean counter bullsh1t...... They couldn't organize a party in a brewery! It's the Butlins floating leisure center.

Anchorman
13th March 2010, 16:15
This site may be of interest if you want to dust down the Sextant this weekend.
http://www.coastalboating.net/Resources/Navigation/index.html

Neil

seashore
14th March 2010, 20:38
sextants are a magical istrument,as in the past if used correctly good results were obtained.in addition,the need to have a good knowledge of maths and science was also essential.however,the use of satellite navigation has proved well worth while and it is time saving in obtaining the vessels position...seashore

Cutsplice
16th March 2010, 21:27
I bought my sextant after doing my 2nd mates exam, whilst awaiting the result of the exam I took a temporary job as 2nd mate on the buses in Liverpool. One day two young guys boarded my bus carrying a wooden but highly polished box, when after a few stops and I went to collect the fare, they asked me to give them a shout when they reached Miltons pawnshop.
Much to their surprise I said whats in the box a sextant, eventually they did reply in the affirmative. I told them that the pawnshop would not offer much for it and the said if they got £15 they would be happy, so I purchased it had to dip into the fare bag to make up the £15 but came up short by £2 so I got it for £13.
After using the cash from my fare bag I had very little small change so after been tendered a couple of 2 shillings pieces I had no change left and everyone seemed to be tendering half crowns etc I couldnt give any tickets out. After a few more stops a ticket inspector boarded and booked me for uncollected fares.
Then the two guys decided to alight as they stood on the platform I asked what company are you guys apprentices with and they said Frank Stricks but would not say who owned the sextant. I thought then that the mate had given them a hard time and it was his, I still think I may still be correct in that assumption. I better not disclose the sextants makers name in case it was yours and in the legal sense it still is. Will give a clue it was in the summer of 1968 so search your brain if your sextant went for walkies about then in Liverpool. I better add this the two guys were not local they were from the SE somewhere. If you think it was and still is send me a pm with the makers name and seriel number, if all tallies I will consider returning it post free.

rcraig
16th March 2010, 22:12
sextants are a magical istrument,as in the past if used correctly good results were obtained.in addition,the need to have a good knowledge of maths and science was also essential.however,the use of satellite navigation has proved well worth while and it is time saving in obtaining the vessels position...seashore

In the middle of the ocean, what is the value of the time you are saving?

John Campbell
18th March 2010, 20:02
16 Mar 2010 - Safety at Sea reports today:

MARINERS are grappling with too many different chart and information manufacturers and too many onboard pieces of kit, an industry specialist said today.

Another problem with high-tech devices like ECDIS is a lack of training, said Captain Richard Coates, president of the Nautical Institute, at a London book launch.

"There is little information written for the mariner concerning the proper use of these technologies. Many are grappling with the problems of using electronic charts and ECDIS," said Coates.

Poor training means there is too much reliance on GPS for positioning information, he added.

The book 'ECDIS and Positioning' by Andy Norris, a leading UK navigation consultant, is the second in a series from the institute on integrated bridge systems. It's a "jargon-buster" and a timely introduction to ECDIS, which is compulsory for some vessels from mid-2012, Coates said.

Ron Stringer
18th March 2010, 20:51
Another problem with high-tech devices like ECDIS is a lack of training, said Captain Richard Coates, president of the Nautical Institute, at a London book launch.

ECDIS has been in use for about 20 years now and, although not yet mandatory on all vessels, its phased introduction has been been planned and publicised by IMO during that time. As a consequence the equipment has been gradually introduced to the world's merchant ships. It seems a sad state of affairs if those at sea have taken no notice of its adoption as a significant navigational aid and failed to learn what it is about and how to use it.

In the 1950s and '60s, many deck officers refused to take instruction (or even read textbooks) on the use of radar unless their employers funded their training and forced them to go on a course. Some held out until the Radar Observer's certificate became a requirement for a watchkeeping mate some time late in the 1960s (or was it the 1970s?).

We don't seem to have moved on much since then.

Alex Nicolson
12th April 2010, 21:33
Here's an unusual thing.
A sparkie with a sextant.
Actually three.
Two WWII RAF Bubble sextants, one clockwork and one manual and a David White of Milwaukee US Navy. BU. NAV., Mark II (serial number 15295-1943) certified on 5th November 1944.
I wish they all could talk.


And one more Sparks... I have a Link A-12 -my second one. Corrosion in the battery compartment having done the first in. And a USAAF Fairchild made A-10A. I prefer the Link.

Had a couple of ex-RAF Hughes but didn't like them. Intended for hanging on an Astrodome hook and really too heavy for hand use. Beside that, I dislike mechanical averagers. The human brain is faster and just as accurate IMHO - admittedly mine seems to have been dropped a few years back.

Alex

jeraylin
11th July 2012, 03:14
Last month I had my deck cadet observe the transit of Venus across the sun with one of two sextants on board. Last done in anger by Capt. Cook I believe.

TOM ALEXANDER
11th July 2012, 07:26
[QUOTE=Ron Stringer;411247]
In the 1950s and '60s, many deck officers refused to take instruction (or even read textbooks) on the use of radar unless their employers funded their training and forced them to go on a course. Some held out until the Radar Observer's certificate became a requirement for a watchkeeping mate some time late in the 1960s (or was it the 1970s?).

Had to have a Radar endorsment for my 2nd. mate's ticket late in 1959. 2 week course on "Sir John Cass" I think it was - converted MTB instruction for the purpose of.

Varley
11th July 2012, 11:20
Last month I had my deck cadet observe the transit of Venus across the sun with one of two sextants on board. Last done in anger by Capt. Cook I believe.

Or was that the Rev. Maskelyne? (who got rather a bad recent press over "the Longitude" despite his "lunar distance" method being widely adopted).

Sailtie
11th July 2012, 15:01
[QUOTE=Ron Stringer;411247]
In the 1950s and '60s, many deck officers refused to take instruction (or even read textbooks) on the use of radar unless their employers funded their training and forced them to go on a course. Some held out until the Radar Observer's certificate became a requirement for a watchkeeping mate some time late in the 1960s (or was it the 1970s?).

Had to have a Radar endorsment for my 2nd. mate's ticket late in 1959. 2 week course on "Sir John Cass" I think it was - converted MTB instruction for the purpose of.
Me too although I actually did the Radar Obs Certificate at The Woolwich Arsenal!That was in 1964 after 2nd Mates.
Back to sextants. My Dad bought me mine, an 1883 vernier job from Captain Watts in Piccadilly before I went on my first trip. It cost Eight quid. It was a requirement for Royal Mail Cadets. Bought a new Sestrel when I got
1st Mates. I still have it and carry it on my boat. I take at least a couple of Mer Alts a year but have yet to pluck up the courage to do stars.

Marcus C. Smith
12th July 2012, 11:20
I have known several holders of pre 1978 Masters (FG) whom I wouldn't trust with a whelk stall.

Are you suggesting that post 1978 Masters (FG) are inferior to earlier issues?
Mine was issued in March 1979 and I am not aware of any reduction in standards of examination.
Explain please.

vasco
12th July 2012, 12:05
Are you suggesting that post 1978 Masters (FG) are inferior to earlier issues?
Mine was issued in March 1979 and I am not aware of any reduction in standards of examination.
Explain please.

mine was issued 1974 and I had the cadet taking venus and sun sights as well as mer pass. This is on the coast.

It's a funny thing, I have noticed that with cadets, probably me as well, usually the very last things they want to learn is sextant and rule of the road, the 2 most basic things required. This is an observation over 40 yrs and not just a remark about modern training methods.

Split
12th July 2012, 17:41
I bet you all had the new fangled micrometer screw on your sextants, didn't you? Well, so did I , but I had to learn how to use the vernier because the Dock Street examner had one for his orals. Guess what happened to me!

When I was up for 2nd mate and told to take a readiing, I turned and turned the screw and, to my horror, the whole bloody lot unscrewed and fell onto the floor.

Wallace's eyes bulged and he said, nastily, "Well, don't just stand there, can you put it together, or not?" I knew that I had to, if I wanted my ticket, so I did.

Actually, it looked more difficult than it was.

smithax
13th July 2012, 11:25
I have a 1923 vernier sextant, there are three telescopes, one for "normal" sights, one turns the image upside down, for the moon I would think. The third has me baffled - two sets of parallel lines which cross at right angles in the the centre, so as to form a square in the middle of the 'scope. I thought it might be something to do with finding the side error or index error, but the lines are too far apart.

Any suggestions from the team of experts would be appreciated

xieriftips
13th July 2012, 12:25
For many years it was a requirement for Nav Officers to purchase a Sextant and thereafter carry it with them to all the ships they were to serve. I bought my first and only sextant, which I still have, from Charles Frank in Glasgow which used to flog off Ex Admiralty Sextants at a fraction of those which were brand new. It is a Hezzanith.

Gradually it became the practice for Companies to supply sextants and I have heard that some ships navigating the oceans are no longer required to be equipt with such an instrument.

Can someone advise if this is so.?

I sailed on Liberian flag ships for 17 years, and all carried company supplied sextants. I never checked if it was part of Liberian Maritime regulations (which are actually U.S. regulations, reprinted and re-bound) but woe betide you if you underwent a customer vetting and you weren't able to present one, properly corrected, in short order (that, they used as evidence that it was in regular use.). They also want to see a magnetic compass free of bubbles, with a deviation card under 12 months old & a regularly completed compass error book. These vettings happen at least twice a year, more often if a new customer wants to take a look at you.

Klaatu83
13th July 2012, 12:47
While doing a inventory of the deck equipment I found that the sextant box was empty. No one could remember the last time it was used. It was 4 years since the last time the sextant was checked for inventory control. The ship chandler brought a plastic sextant down to the ship for a loaner until a better one could be obtained.

I was once on a Military Sealift Command ship during the 1970s that had been equipped with a very expensive C. Plath sextant. As Second Mate, upon joining the ship I was required to do an inventory of all the navigation equipment, and then sign it (yes, they really do that sort of thing at MSC!). I couldn't find the sextant, so I refused to sign for it. Months later one of the office personnel told me that the captain, who had never mentioned the matter to me, told the office that I had stolen the ship's sextant!

Joe w
13th July 2012, 14:30
Are still required but for how long is anyones guess. Last year Norway tried unsucessfully to get stexants along with nautical publication's withdrawn for the list of statutory instruments carried on Merchant vessel's.
I do know what a lot of you guys are saying and the art of sight taking is slowly being lost (Quickly in the last ten years might I add due to the electronic age)
I have sailed with Cadets in the last few years who tell me they spend around two to three hours in class going over this OLD SYSTEM of taking sights plus the calculations.
A lot of people forget that some of this equipment is only are good as the person who inputs the data and forget that these systems are designed to fall back on good old DR positioning when it loses the satilites.
I have proved to cadets that the old way may be not as precise as getting you with 10 mts on WG 84 but as I explained to them after crossing an Ocean and finding I am 7 miles from my calculated position I am more than happy.
Problem is if by so strange chance we do get an electo-magnetic paulse and all electronic systems go down were will our degree carrying officers be then.
I know my way of thinking is old hat but I firmly believe that this form of navigation is still very important in the real world and the people who are trying to take it away are persons in an office who have come up during the electronic age and want to save a few bob and time on surveys , having to find the sexant firstly, below all the paperwork that has come in that needs to be filled in before you are allowed to do your job!! (ISM Thats another story!!!!)

NoR
13th July 2012, 15:14
"..............were will our degree carrying officers be then.


Up the Swanee without a paddle.

Waighty
13th July 2012, 16:30
Lancastrian. I doubt very much whether your RN dagger N could knock spots of an experienced MN navigator.

But we don't want to start the old military v civilian argument do we?

When on a tour of HMS Illustrious some years ago whilst attending a blind pilotage course (or parallel indexing as we used to call it in the MN) at HMS Mercury (shore establishment), our guide, a Dagger N Two and a Half told us that being a Dagger N was worth absolutely nothing outside of the RN and whilst he was proud to be one he had no illusions about its usefulness on a CV for any other job!

On sextants - I've still got my Carl Zeiss Jena Drum Sextant, made by VEB Freiberger Prazionsmechanik of Freiberg, East Germany, the old DDR, sitting in its box. I bought it at J D Potter Ltd of the Minories, London through Bank Line's ship's stores account, to avoid purchase tax and get shipping company discount, in 1973; it cost me £84.15.

According to the booklet supplied by VEB the sextant carries the quality label of the German Democratic Republic and has been awarded the Gold Medal at the Leipzig Spring Fair 1965 - so there!

Once in a while I take it out of the box and wonder about all the times it was used 'in anger'. I even used it once for horizontal sextant angles when laying a marker buoy for the centre of a heavy ship mooring system. These days GPS would do that easily.

Prior to the drum sextant I had a very old (so old I can't recall its manufacturer's name, or more likely it's because I'm old and just can't remember) sextant which when various bits started falling off mid-Pacific, I sold in Brisbane to a yacht chandler for considerably more than I paid for it. He probably sold it on for even more!

Does anyone know what sextants are worth in these throw-away high tech days? Vintage ones probably a lot but anything 50 years old or younger?

vasco
13th July 2012, 16:41
Problem is if by so strange chance we do get an electo-magnetic paulse and all electronic systems go down were will our degree carrying officers be then.
!),

Be heading for a latitude and turning left or right because no doubt the Chronny will be electric as well.

But I will say again, and again, no matter what the qualification they achieve it is up to those on board during their training to encourage the use of these old fashioned methods.

Joe w
14th July 2012, 15:06
,

Be heading for a latitude and turning left or right because no doubt the Chronny will be electric as well.

But I will say again, and again, no matter what the qualification they achieve it is up to those on board during their training to encourage the use of these old fashioned methods.

I couldn't agree more in what has being quoted above but the problem is nowadays with the tonnage tax on British vessels is that they is no one to show these poor guys starting up, they are lucky to get a British officer on board nowadays with so many CoE issued by the MCA.(Old farts who know that is)
I am a great believer in helping these cadets with their studies and passing my knowledge on but I have sailed with so many cadets who tell me horror stories of their seatime on board these so called British flag vessel's, The ones I got were the ones who said enough is enough feel sorry for the ones who don't say anything and carry on they sea time under these conditions.
This is one of the reasons I believe its a dying trade and for an island nation not good at all to lose so much skill and employment for young people.shame!!!

John Dryden
14th July 2012, 15:30
Times have indeed changed Joe.Did you know that neither navigation or seamanship are taught at our old school now?(Hull Trinity House)
Worlds gone mad!!

xieriftips
14th July 2012, 16:54
,

Be heading for a latitude and turning left or right because no doubt the Chronny will be electric as well.

But I will say again, and again, no matter what the qualification they achieve it is up to those on board during their training to encourage the use of these old fashioned methods.

Dead right, Vasco. Once again, blethering on about customer vettings, SIRE inspections do ask if the Deck Officers maintain their skills with the sextant, and my company did encourage it. So I was pleased to be one of those pains in the fundus who insisted that each of them did at least one sight per day (NOT a meridian passage). And, when I reviewed them, it would be with great weepings and wailings and gnashings of teeth that they'd deny they'd flogged the figures, when it was manifest to even a moderately experienced navigating Officer.

Oh, and the chronny has been electric since at least 1975!!!

On another note, in 1975, while I was in the RFA, an RN Navigating Officer was seconded to us for a couple of days. Naturally we compared notes as to our similarities and differences (Got to admit he taught me a thing or two too.) and he was gobsmacked to hear me recite the haversine formula verbatim. He told me that on their "Long 'N' course" they used it for a single afternoon, to validate the tabulation of the short method tables, and immediately thereafter filed and forgot it in favour of said tables.

waldziu
14th July 2012, 17:25
I remember in the RN during the late 60's all midshipmen being on the upper scupper with a sextant at noon. during the 70's and 80's I never saw it happen.

as an aside, when people ask me if i have a sat nav I reply chart and sextant man is I. As an ex clanky I only know what one looks like.

Joe w
15th July 2012, 14:12
Times have indeed changed Joe.Did you know that neither navigation or seamanship are taught at our old school now?(Hull Trinity House)
Worlds gone mad!!

Hi John
Yes I knew as my boy wanted to go and have a visit one open night before he took the exam and still didn't get in because its now a postcode lottery, not allowed to just take the person' who score the best and no medicals or eyesight tests now,dropped teh navigation out of the name.
Believe me John its in name only not one nautical person left.
For the oldest navigation school in the world to finish up like this.
I have had a couple of lads who went there over the years but not for a long time.
Heard they are now moving into the old nautical college on George Street. Don't supose being there will rub off on them.
Bring back Bomber, Hodson and Jack Haylet and the like the kids wouldn't know what hit them.
Bet the sexants have all being assisgned to the back of the locker there.
On another note did you get my E-mail about UTC Reunion on the 24 th Aug. in Green Bricks evening should be a good night will be home for that.
Take care Joe

Split
17th July 2012, 16:22
I suspect that my old school, London Nautical, is the same. I, occasionally, look at the website.

Reef Knot
17th July 2012, 17:27
Guys, as a matter of interest, would any of you be able to identify or give advise on an instrument if I provided the details?

I've just seen a few advertised on Gumtree and I'm interested in aquiring one for my son as a gift. He is a master with an unlimited ticket so he's a super pain in the r's when it comes to these things. He'll probably have no use for such a thing but it might be an interesting keepsake.

(I have asked 2 advertisers for details of their offerings.)

Take care!

Ken.

Farmer John
17th July 2012, 17:39
I think that loads of people would want to understand the ins and outs of navigation by sextant, but if there ain't one around what are you going to do?

Joshua Slocum navigated his way round the world with an alarm clock with only the hour hand still present as his timepiece, but he was a bit of a one off, and he did ultimately disappear.

NoR
17th July 2012, 18:35
I think that loads of people would want to understand the ins and outs of navigation by sextant, but if there ain't one around what are you going to do?

Joshua Slocum navigated his way round the world with an alarm clock with only the hour hand still present as his timepiece, but he was a bit of a one off, and he did ultimately disappear.

The alarm clock thing is a slight red herring. Slocum took lunars.

Hugh Ferguson
18th July 2012, 03:38
My daughter using a sextant aboard a Folkboat mid Pacific c.1980.

Reef Knot
18th July 2012, 17:31
I've had 2 responses to my search for a sextant. The first is offering a Hezzanith circa 1940 and the second speaks of a Cooke Hull. Any thoughts?

I know less than nothing about these instruments so I'm hoping a little common sense will see me through! If I'm being stupid, please don't hesitate to take a pot shot at me!! (A little advice - aim for the head. I'm told I'm a little soft in that area!) (Thumb)

Farmer John
18th July 2012, 17:42
The alarm clock thing is a slight red herring. Slocum took lunars.

I think the myth takes over from practical thought.

Reef Knot
18th July 2012, 20:27
This is the Cooke sextant I'm considering purchasing. Does anyone know what vintage it may be or any other details of interest? Any comment on general appearance?

John Dryden
18th July 2012, 20:40
I found this one,looks very similar.B Cookes of Hull are still on the go.

http://www.antiques-atlas.com/periodanddecorative/browse.php?code=as099a039

TOM ALEXANDER
19th July 2012, 06:21
Not too sure of the vintage of this instrument, but I would think later than the mid 1950's. The micrometer type, which you show here was ordered by the Royal Navy, I believe in the early 50's but they had been using the vernier type until then. When I went to sea in '56 there seemed to be a mix available.

Anchorman
19th July 2012, 08:03
This is the Cooke sextant I'm considering purchasing. Does anyone know what vintage it may be or any other details of interest? Any comment on general appearance?

Hi Reef Knot. The staff in Cookes at Hull are very obliging. I am sure they would help you with a date of manufacture. Just email them on bcs@cooke.karoo.co.uk with the serial number. If you have no luck drop me a PM and next time in Hull I will call in the shop and ask.
Neil

lakercapt
19th July 2012, 12:45
My sextant still with the original box was a war surplus and is the vernier type made by Heath and Company New Eltham London S.E.9 No.KK22 of 30th August 1943..It is free from errors up to105 degrees.
Never did polish the silver bar so its still very readable. Harder now than when I used it to get my sights.!!!
I bring it out as a conversation piece now and again and tell friends how I navigated round the world with it and I get those looks!!!

Reef Knot
19th July 2012, 17:37
Interesting stuff - thanks, guys!

John, I found that one too while scratching about. Looks identical to the one I'm being offered.

Interesting bit of history there, Tom. Thank you. I'd heard about the vernier type and wondered what its predecessor was. Oh hell! My ignorance is showing! (?HUH)

Neil, I haven't actually seen the instrument in the flesh, so to speak. I have been in touch with the seller and I'm hoping to see it in the next few days. I'm obviously nervous about it since I know so little about these things. I really don't want to buy a cheap Mongolian replica at a hefty price! Thanks for the email address - I'll more than likely use it!

Lakercapt, Sir, if I told a story like that I'd get "looks" too but they're likely to be a bit different from the ones YOU got!! (*))

Once again, thanks guys! (Thumb)

Rogerfrench
20th July 2012, 23:05
That Cooke's sextant looks just like the one I bought when I got my Second Mate's ticket in January 1963.

Reef Knot
27th July 2012, 20:26
Well, this is what I bought - got it for a good price too. The condition is not quite as good as the Cooke instrument but the Cooke didn't have a box nor certificate. I just thought this one was very authentic. Love it!! (*))

xieriftips
29th July 2012, 19:59
Well, this is what I bought - got it for a good price too. The condition is not quite as good as the Cooke instrument but the Cooke didn't have a box nor certificate. I just thought this one was very authentic. Love it!! (*))

Perfectly sound purchase; mine also is a K-H 'three circle' sextant, although a slightly different model. But nobody's getting that, not ever, as long as I draw breath!

Reef Knot
29th July 2012, 20:13
Thank you. I, too, thought it a very sound purchase as the price was a little less than 100 pounds Sterling. A gift as far as I'm concerned!

Uricanejack
5th August 2012, 05:37
Hi I made the mistake of bying a sextent on ebay. a Tayama suposedly in excellent condition. picturse looked ok. Turned out it is a genuine Tamaya with broken casting been droped and stuck back together covered with black masking tape horizon shades were all broken of. Worm grear for micrometer worn and slack allmost 30 minutes of play in it. perpendicularity not to bad. side error ok. index error lots. all adjustments screws frozen and spring allmost gone from clips mirrors only a bit discolered. the seller offered to give me my monney back if I shipped it back so I did which cost me another 75 dollars. But the address he gave never had anyone to recive after several attempts to deliver the royal mail returned it to me with another bill via canada post for 75 more dollars. Turns out I am a nostagick old fool. Should have acepted the offer of a sextent from my dad when I got my 2nd mates cert. I turned him down we were activly discouraged due to risk of damage by air travel. All the ships in my day carried at least two good ones on the bridge. My personal favourite was a Ziess but I had good results with Tayama, Cook and Plath. Allways took an observed position every day. Noon or Stars when it worked out for my watch. I here tales this is out of date now. One nice young lady i work with spent some time with a large UK Cruise ship company. I was surprised and saddened to hear her say she had only used one once. They had to ask the Master to get it out from his safe. She found her position was way out and became discouraged. I told her my first atempt put the ship in the midle of Saudi Arabia. She was genuinly surprised I had at one time relied totaly upon celestial observation. people look at me funny when I use a visual bearing with my radar range. I havent been out of sight of land in over 20 years now. but some of the youngster I work with go off shore for seatime and get the higher level of certification and take pride in learning how. All it requires is some old foggy with the interest to encourage.

trotterdotpom
5th August 2012, 06:18
Sorry you got take for a ride, Uricanejack, but thanks for wising me up to ebay! I was just considering giving it a go for the first time, but think I'll give it a miss.

John T

NoR
5th August 2012, 09:04
Not so easy to take sight now that bridges are all enclosed. I remember counting down as I hurried back to the chronometer, that was until I got a stopwatch.

Cisco
5th August 2012, 09:27
Decided to buy a sextant for the yacht about 10 years back.... bought a Plath on ebay..... bad move.... one shade missing, errors like you wouldn't believe, plastic case that looked as if it had been used as a football.
I buy a fair bit of stuff on ebay but one thing you don't buy is sextants sight unseen... grrr
Later found a Tamaya Yacht sextant.... v nice.... as it was local I was able to inspect before shelling out $$$$$

Buyer beware etc etc

vic pitcher
6th August 2012, 12:55
I bought my first sextant, a Kelvin Hughes "Mate" in March 1960 from the 2nd Mate of Smith's HOMER CITY, who is no less than SN Member CAPILANO.
We had just arrived in Emden and I had just finished my time. CAPILANO had decided to treat himself to a new PLATH and sold the MATE to me for, I recall, £25.
It has been a prized posession for 52 years and now occupies a space in my conservatory.
I was asked last week to assist a neighbour to navigate his boat NIPPY SWEETY
from Kirkcudbright marina to his new berth in Stranraer and as he has no Satnav, it was back to basics, so I thought Horizontal Sextant Angles would be a good excercise. I trawled the net and found a German instructional sextant made in cardboard with stainless steel mirrors. You cut the limb, index bar etc from a pre-stamped template and glued the lot together. It proved completely US for navigational purposes and as I didn't want to damage my KH instrument, I reverted to using a hand-bearing compass which proved entirely satisfactory.
I am having a little difficulty with attachments so i will post the pictures in the gallery.

woodend
6th August 2012, 14:14
I bought an old ex-Admiralty pre- first world war sextant when I got my second mates in 1959. Always accused of taking the pressure of the boilers when I used it although it was a very accurate Vernier. When I had accumulated some cash I bought a Kelvin Hughes micrometer sextant which I treasured until I emigrated and sold it in 1966. Then in 1984 - 85 I was the pilot and safety officer aboard a V.L.C.C. tanker that had been a salvage job off the Cape coast and towed into Saldanha for a ship to ship transfer. It took us over 4 weeks to get the cargo out and as she was sailing under tow to the scrap yards and we were all getting off on the helicopter at the port limits the Captain turned to me and handed me the ships' sextant and said 'i would like you to have this Pilot as she will never need it again'. It is a Plath micrometer and this now has a special place in my study and in my memory.

vic pitcher
6th August 2012, 16:00
Now solved the thumbnail attachment problem, so attached are the Amazing Cardboard Sextant and CAPILANO's KH MATE

andysk
13th August 2012, 14:05
Now solved the thumbnail attachment problem, so attached are the Amazing Cardboard Sextant and CAPILANO's KH MATE

Nice table !