Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
"A great opportunity to learn celestial navigation in an immersive environment under the guidance of a fantastic teacher, cartographer, and master navigator. Frank Reed's style integrates history, mechanics, and observation together to produce ... the best two-day course available, anywhere."
—Philip Sadler, Lecturer in Astronomy, Director Science Education, Harvard University.
Celestial Navigation Classes — October 2023:
Standard rate for each workshop is $199 per person. All workshops are also available as private tutorials, either online or at your location (travel costs apply). Contact us for private tutorial pricing.
Modern Celestial ONE: Sextants & Sun Sights.
Let the Sun guide you over the seas... This two-day workshop is a fast-paced introduction to celestial navigation from a 21st century perspective employing streamlined, practical, modern methods. We learn how to select and adjust sextants and how to take high-precision Sun sights for latitude and longitude. We'll also learn to use the sky as a perfect compass under the dome of Mystic Seaport's Treworgy Planetarium. With the techniques and tools supplied in this workshop, you'll have enough "celestial" knowledge to cross an ocean the very next day (sextant not included). more...
- Register October 14, 15: on-site weekend session, 10:00am - 4:00pm each day, at Mystic Seaport Museum.
Modern Celestial TWO: Position Fixes & Star Sights.
Sail by the stars... Extending the methods of Sun sights from Modern Celestial ONE, 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 and during twilight with bright stars. We'll learn key constellations and star-finding techniques under the dome of Mystic Seaport's Treworgy Planetarium. Practical sextant techniques and fascinating math and history, too, you can cross any ocean with the tools and tables you'll receive in this workshop (sextant and watch not included!). Anyone with basic math skills can learn to navigate and sail by the stars.more...
- Register October 28, 29: on-site weekend session, 10:00am - 4:00pm each day, at Mystic Seaport Museum.
Advanced Modern Celestial
A workshop in advanced and exotic methods of celestial navigation from spherical trigonometry fundamentals ... more...
Celestial Navigation in the Age of Sail.
Directly based on the navigation of the famous whaleship Charles W. Morgan! Real celestial navigation from the historical perspective of the Age of Sail. Details on sextant observations with historical instruments and historical pencil and paper calculations, just as it was done aboard American sailing vessels in the 19th century. more...
Lunars: Finding Longitude by Lunar Distances.
Learn to shoot and clear "lunars", long considered the ultimate test of a celestial navigator. Challenging and intricate, lunars are also a window into the fascinating early history of navigation. more...
Workshops below are not currently scheduled. All are available as private tutorials.
Traditional Celestial Navigation
A workshop covering the time-honored "Intercept Method" using standard, traditional sight reduction tables. Pure paper and pencil celestial navigation as practiced at the end of the 20th century and still required by USCG licensing exams and maritime schools today. more...
Note: We offer excellent institutional referral arrangements. Send students to our online workshops and get paid for it. If you represent an institution —a school, a museum, a planetarium, a sailing club— and you would like to provde access to any of our celestial navigation workshops, then let's talk. There are always options. Any of our workshops and classes can also run as private tutorials.
I must admit I dreaded two, back-to-back, 5-hour days, but the time sailed by. (Sorry can't resist.) Thank you.
He also included some 17th century data that I needed. I'm neither a mathematician nor a sailer, but a journalist and author.
Fascinating classes taught by a fascinating and capable instructor.
Lunars class is challenging and fun. Frank presents several different recipes for accomplishing lunars, one of which seems almost easy (kind of). Highly recommended for anyone interested in celestial navigation or nautical navigation history.
FAA Designated Pilot Examiner
Retired Merchant Mariner
SUNY Maritime class of 80
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
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