Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
Modern Celestial TWO: Position Fixes & Star Sights
Nov 21,22 Atlantic sessions OR Nov 23,24,25 Pacific sessions,
Online Workshop, Broadcast from Conanicut Island USA
This is not your grandparents' celestial navigation! We focus on celestial for the 21st century, applying traditional sextant sights to modern ocean sailing. In Modern Celestial TWO we continue directly on the modern sight analysis from Modern Celestial ONE using streamlined, modern algorithms, and we learn how to find general position fixes from the Sun and also star sights under all conditions. We cross lines of position to get a fix in latitude and longitude during the day with the Sun, during twilight with stars, and even in the middle of the night under the right conditions. And we learn how to manage errors and assess the reliability of a celestial fix.
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 key navigational stars. We'll also discuss celestial navigation options for upcoming ocean races with celestial opportunities including Newport-Bermuda, the Golden Globe Race, and others.
We learn how to adjust celestial lines of position for vessel motion and synchronize Sun and star sights taken at different times for a running fix. We'll also discuss practical tricks for simplifying the navigation process including sights at sunrise and sunset properly adjusted for refraction and other issues.
And we learn the stars. Many navigators give up on the stars and never learn to identify even the brightest stars like Vega, or Arcturus, or Canopus, let alone Rasalhague or Zubengenubi! By the end of this course, you'll know reliable methods and tricks for identifying more than two dozen of the key stars of celestial navigation, enough to sail the globe safely for decades. Valuable as much in coastal navigation as in mid-ocean, a navigator who knows the stars follows a perfect compass all night long.
Pre-requisite: Modern Celestial ONE is strongly recommended.
$149 per person, per workshop
Online sessions: Nine hours of class time in two or three online meetings (depending on session). Weekend and weekday sessions available. Weekend Atlantic sessions start at 12 noon (Eastern US time, 1600 UT). Weekday Pacific sessions start at 6pm (Eastern US time, 2200 UT). All sessions live and carefully authored and created by me.
Each workshop has two schedule options. Attend either one (at your convenience): ATLANTIC session or PACIFIC session (so named because the Atlantic sessions are more conveniently timed for those on both sides of the Atlantic and similar for the Pacific sessions). Atlantic sessions this fall will meet Saturday and Sunday from 12:00noon-5:00pm Eastern US time (start time 1600 UT) with breaks, totalling 4 hours 30 minutes of class time each day or nine hours net. Pacific sessions meet on Mon., Tues., Wed. running from 6:00pm-9:15pm each day (start time 2200 UT) with breaks, amounting to 3 hours of class time each day, also nine hours net. You must select ATL or PAC session when you register, however you can change at no charge, and you may attend both if you request by email.
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.
- Nine hours in 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
- Office Hours: Online,
- Celestial Age of Sail:
Oct 24,25: Atlantic session OR
Oct 26,27,28: Pacific session
Oct 31,Nov 1: Atlantic session
(no Pacific session)
- Modern Celestial ONE:
Nov 14,15: Atlantic session OR
Nov 16,17,18: Pacific session
- Modern Celestial TWO:
Nov 21,22: Atlantic session OR
Nov 23,24,25: Pacific session
© Copyright 2020, Frank Reed, Clockwork Mapping, Conanicut Island USA.