Getting lost at sea is different from getting lost on land.
In this article, we guide you through some vital information about navigational compasses, so you know your way around the nautical realm.
WHAT IS A MARINE COMPASS?
A marine compass is normally composed of a small card at the center with line marks on the sides that point to a specific direction the moment you move or steer your boat. It’s drawn to Earth’s magnetic pull which makes it always point to the northern direction for reference.
WHY IS A MARINE COMPASS IMPORTANT?
A marine compass is a handy device that boaters and sea travelers use to help them determine where they need to go regardless of the changes in weather conditions. This is why it’s also an indispensable tool in driving a boat. It leads you to the right path, especially when:
- The sky is dark and stars are invisible.
- Landmarks are nowhere to be found.
- Surroundings are foggy.
- Collisions from other boats could happen.
HOW DO YOU USE A MARINE COMPASS?
In using a marine compass, you need the compass itself and maritime chart or map to plot your destination.
- Know a few marine compass facts – a compass for boat has 3 main parts; the compass card, bezel, and lubber line. The first is found in the middle with directional marks and rotates with the second, which has degree measurements, while the last is a pin that points to where you’re headed.
- Choose a destination on your maritime chart – going just about anywhere you like fosters inaccuracy. Use your maritime chart to go to a valid spot, one that exists on a map.
- Find your marina – trace a line from where you are (preferably a marina where your boat is moored because it appears on your maritime chart) to where you’ll be going.
- Take note of the marine compass reading – the line drawn from your point of reference to your destination creates an angle (measured in degrees). If you happen to be confused on how to get back, just remember the direction opposite your destination (if you’re currently on the west, you need to turn 180 degrees to get back to the east).
In case, you’ll be navigating at several long distances to reach your point of destination and you believe there’s something wrong with your compass, it’s mandatory to have your marine compass calibrated first.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NAUTICAL COMPASS AND A REGULAR COMPASS?
Don’t mistake a nautical compass for a regular compass. Both may tell you which directions or ways to take but they have certain distinctions in terms of features and can be used in different situations.
• Used when traveling over bodies of water.
• Attached to the boat.
• Moves or operates in sync with boat’s movement.
• Costs around $50 – $100.
• Used when traveling on land.
• Can be handheld.
• May operate in conjunction with power sources.
• Costs around $10 – $30.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF COMPASSES IN MARITIME?
There are 2 popular types of compasses used when traveling by sea or water surface. They are:
- Marine compass – also known as card compass, uses the boat’s movement to turn the needle on a rotating card to a desired direction.
- Gyro compass – absorbs earth’s gravitational force through a moving wheel so its fixed point is always on the northern direction.
WHAT CAN A COMPASS DO THAT A GPS CAN’T?
If there’s one main advantage of using a compass against a GPS is that the former doesn’t solely rely on signals from satellites to tell you which way to go.
While a GPS is great for your daily go-to activities like driving because it gives you a clear outline of where you are, where you should be going, and some alternative routes to check for faster travel, there’s no denying that a GPS without power is purely useless.
Using a navigational compass is a step up from your tried-and-tested GPS. But learning a thing or two on how to use it and what you should remember about it, are important points to avoid getting lost in an otherwise signal-deprived location.