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All that teaching pays off

Jul 2, 2015
Andy Howe nailing a low altitude sun sight

Andy Howe nailing a low altitude sun sight

What does it take to be the navigator on board the winning boat in the Marion Bermuda Race? And even better than that, to navigate the race using only celestial navigation? Andy Howe had that experience aboard Ti, the winning Alden Mistral 36 owned by Gregg Marston. While some navigators in the race might have felt the urge to re-familiarize themselves with the theory and practice of celestial nav before the start, Andy had no such need: He is a former longtime navigation instruction for the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship. He's taught celestial navigation to hundreds (thousands?) of sailors. The regular repetition of a body of knowledge imprints it into a teacher's brain and Andy probably couldn't forget celestial nav if he tried!

Given his semi-pro background, did Andy take sights throughout the day and at both twilight periods? Did he leave a trail of pinwheel star fixes and right-angle sun running fixes behind him?

Actually, while Andy had every intention of putting his sextant through its paces, the reality of offshore wind and wave conditions intervened as it sometimes does.     

"Not much chance for star sights, although I tried," Andy wrote in an email. "Rough sea state, marginal horizons, and aging eyes was frustrating."

But his celestial efforts did reap a reward: "Managed to grab the moon, Venus and Jupiter (all on same bearing) most evenings."

He was also able to get plenty of sun shots. "Pretty much all sun lines on a variety of bearings to get down- and cross-course LOPs. I kept a scrupulous DR plot, plugging in other data for EPs. Turns out we nailed a bunch of the DRs, and hit all of our waypoints close enough to leverage wind and current to the boat’s advantage." 

As for sight reduction method, Andy used his Celesticomp handheld computer for his sight reduction work. For a sextant he relied on his trusty Tamaya model, which he's owned and used for 35 years.

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