Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
Modern Celestial Navigation
- Register June 29,30, July 1, Online Workshop, Broadcast from Conanicut Island USA
This is not your grandparents' celestial navigation! A fast-paced introduction to celestial navigation from a 21st century perspective. In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to adjust and use sextants available on the market today. We'll learn streamlined calculations using a common handheld solar-powered calculator. This workshop is designed especially for yachtsmen and recreational boaters. If you're dreaming about a trans-oceanic voyage or a circum-navigation, in this workshop you'll learn all the techniques to determine latitude and longitude anywhere on Earth using the Sun and the brighter stars. We'll also discuss celestial navigation options for upcoming ocean races with celestial classifications including Annapolis-Bermuda, Marion-Bermuda, and others.
Celestial navigation stands as the only autonomous backup to GPS and electronic navigation, and it is a tradition that connects us with maritime history. Weather permitting, class participants will have opportunities to experiment with sextant observations. We'll also learn how to use the Sun and stars as a highly accurate compass, a technique valuable in near-shore waters as well as blue-water sailing. This is real navigation, celestial navigation for the 21st century, not just a class about navigation.
Note for online sessions: Classes consist of three-hour sessions each day, with breaks. Two identical sessions will occur each day, both live. The "Atlantic" session starts at 12:00 noon Eastern US time (EDT). The "Pacific" session starts at 6:00 pm Eastern US time. If you're joining from western Europe or eastern North/South America, you'll probably prefer the first session. If you're joining from Hawaii or New Zealand or East Asia, you'll probably prefer the second daily session. If you're in the continental USA, take your pick. And wherever you're located, you're welcome to attend any or both sessions on any day if you're registered, as your schedule permits.
Anyone registered for an online workshop will be invited to attend hour-long sextant practical sessions in Rhode Island and Connecticut scheduled as weather and social distancing permit. These live, in-person sessions are included in your registration for online classes.
- Three 3-hour online sessions.
- Requirements: Basic addition and subtraction, good familiarity with latitude and longitude. Some familiarity with basic algebra, especially positive and negative numbers.
- Recommended for ages 18 and up, students as young as age 13 welcome.
- You'll need to purchase the recommended scientific calculator for the class: the "Casio fx-260 Solar" (original or newer "II" model). These are widely available for less than $10 at Walmart, Staples, and other stores. Android users can try my functionally near-identical app: download sc-beta.apk.
Lieutenant, USN sep.
Frank taught an incredible class on celestial navigation that brought me from novice to some solid understanding of sextants, their history and most importantly their use as a aid to seeing the sea...and knowing where you are on this planet!
Hands on, wealth of knowledge, great resources at Mystic Seaport, he really covered a lot of ground! There was a lot of math but unlike in my youth, I was on the edge of my seat to soak up knowledge!! Frank made it relatable and real. The sextant which is such an iconic tool of the sea, was demystified. By the end of class i felt comfortable with it. I had mastered how it worked, how to read it and how to adjust it to insure its accuracy.
I came away with all of the cheat sheets and understandings of equations and concepts that breathe the life into what you capture through your sextant sightings.
I would highly recommend Frank and believe the Mystic Seaport with its planetarium, an ideal setting for my class with him discovering this timeless tool of the sea.
Frank did a great job keeping the class interesting with visual aids, both on screen and out on the seaport grounds. Frank had also noticed i was interested in the Draken. This is the Viking ship which had made its voyage across the Atlantic and up and down the east coast, resting for winter in Mystic as the troops regroup, gathering resources for another ocean voyage. He took extra time to talk about and show with polarized film the concept of the "Viking Sun Stone" which is a suspected navigational aide the Vikings may have used to traverse the globe as they had.
All in all i would highly recommend this class to any and all folks interested in learning about navigation and sextants. Informative and digestible, but most of all useful to the point where i am comfortable with the instrument and have the formulas needed to continuing to set my sights on the horizon!!
I look forward to more classes to learn more from Frank and strengthen my understandings of celestial navigation!
Several things stand out. The course material is presented in a balanced way, with a well thought mixture of detailed calculation, broken up by historical, factual, and hands-on aspects. This type of teaching is well suited to most, as it provides periods of more intense reasoning with relaxation and humor. Anyone can walk away with new-found knowledge. I also feel that the approach of understanding historical context and a simple practical approach is unique. It has gone a great way toward clearing up a lot of my preconceived ideas and confusions resulting from the many contradictory or esoteric approaches found in various volumes or on the internet.
Very simply, I learned a lot and it went a long way toward clearing up a mess. I was fascinated the whole time. The courses and NavList provide the tools to keep learning even after the course is over. I left able to measure what I see with a more calibrated eye for real world application, and a greater appreciation of human history. I can strongly recommend these classes for the curious, the fascinated, the historian, the hardcore navigator, or the armchair one. There is something in them for all.
I also found the NavList community to be helpful and encouraging as my journey continues. I hope I can undertake even more material in additional courses in the future.
"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats" (Kenneth Grahame, from the "Wind in the Willows")
The class was also a great resource for my teaching and my own research interests such as the visibility of celestial objects in the daytime (Jupiter and Venus) and the effects of astronomical refraction near the horizon. I hope to take more workshops with Frank.
Dr. Russell D. Sampson
Eastern Connecticut State University
Philip M. Sadler, Ed.D.
F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Celestial Navigation
Harvard University Astronomy Department
© Copyright 2020, Frank Reed, Clockwork Mapping, Conanicut Island USA.