Where would modern sailors be without GPS? It’s actually possible to find out. Paul Kamen, who has navigated 23 Hawaii races and is one of the few people who has won navigation awards for both Pac Cup (2000) and Transpac (Mark Rudiger trophy, 2019), recently visited the Corinthian Yacht Club to remind everyone they can still find out where they are, even if the entire GPS system is hacked. The only rub is you need to have a sextant and know celestial navigation. His efficient course trims the learning of the basics of celestial navigation down to just one hour and then, as with everything else in life, all you have to do is practice.
Not too long ago, traditional celestial navigation required large books with sight reduction tables and some very careful, tedious calculations. Kamen’s one-hour fast track to knowing celestial navigation class got everyone up to speed quickly.
Speaker organizer Shelly Willard said, “Precisely at 18:26:33 PDT on April 7, the moon crossed the meridian of 122º 27.33’ west, a perfect setup for a ‘noon sight’ of the moon from the deck of the Corinthian YC.” There were about 35 eager celestial navigation “students” on hand for the hands-on demonstration and practice session.
Folks found their dusty old sextants or borrowed a (dusty old) sextant, fiddled with the mirrors and dials, and took sights and compared calculations. The weather cooperated, the moon rose over Angel Island, and some old sailor dogs learned something new.
Computers help with the calculations, but even with the whole GPS system down, you can take sights with one of the original handheld navigation devices, the sextant, to determine your location.