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Stars to Steer By On our last page story this month (page 78), we have an article about celestial navigation. Of course, the big question is: Why? With GPS, who needs celestial? Back in the summer of 1979, when I cruised the Bahamas in my 26-foot Folkboat, I brought with me a Davis Instruments plastic sextant that I had purchased new at the time for $125 (Davis’ modern version goes for $200). I bought some used, barely out-of-date site-reduction tables from the used marine goods store, Sailorman (when they were at their old location in a very small store on Federal Highway), in Fort Lauderdale. I also had some instruction book on celestial navigation—simplified, of course. I didn’t need to steer by the stars while cruising around the Bahamas, but I knew I would have lots of time staring at the water and figured that it would be fun and interesting to learn how celestial navigation worked. The reduction tables need to be up to date, but that’s only to be absolutely accurate, and mine were good enough to practice with and see approximately where I was anchored—or at least to verify where it showed I was anchored on the charts. I did get a good grasp of how celestial navigation works, but if anyone wants some good reasons for studying this ancient art, I learned why back then. Also on board that summer was a book called We, The Navigators by David Lewis about the Polynesians who learned to sail by the stars through acquiring ancient knowledge that was handed down by word-of-mouth and tradition. Many surmised that the Polynesians populated and sailed much of the South Pacific and Hawaii using these methods. All of this seemed terribly intriguing to me, and during that summer in the Bahamas, I gained a great appreciation for what was going on in the stars. It’s not just celestial navigation that I learned (barely) that summer, but an appreciation for looking up at the night sky. I also had Bowditch’s book on navigation, and it had some pages showing the night sky in different seasons, and while I was in the Bahamas—with no TV and no streetlights—my girlfriend and I spent many nights observing CORRECTION ON INTERCLUB BOAT FOR THE GULF YACHTING ASSOCIATION In March, we received the following email about a mistake that was printed in the magazine. SOUTHWINDS apologizes for this error and will strive to be more accurate in the future. Steve Morrell Editor In the March 2012 Issue of SOUTHWINDS, there is a grossly inaccurate article written by Kim Kaminski that needs to be corrected. In the article, Ms. Kaminski indicates that the Gulf Yachting Association has made a decision to replace the Flying Scot as the association’s boat for interclub competition with the VX boat. As the immediate past commodore of the Gulf Yachting Association, and as commodore, I presided over the discussion and vote on this issue. Nothing could be farther from the truth or the position of the Board of Directors (BOD) of the Gulf Yachting Association. In 2011, the BOD accepted a recommendation from the Capdevielle Committee to target a date about six 10

April 2012




how different constellations were on the horizon as darkness fell—and progressively changed over the course of a few months. With a flashlight and book in hand, we learned how to recognize many of the main stars and constellations and saw how the constellations of the Zodiac crossed the sky. I kept this with me till this day, and when I lived in rural Colorado many years later, I often went out in the evening to see the stars. I learned what “entering the Age of Aquarius” really means, and how the ancients have known about precession of the earth (its “wobble”) for thousands of years, yet Western science really only confirmed its existence in the late 1800s. When I was out on the water one evening looking at the stars, I realized that mankind has been staring at the stars for many thousands of years, because there were no electric lights before a little more than a hundred years ago, but just fire and torches to light the night—which is really nothing compared to city lights—and that the stars were staring them all in the face and a main attraction every single night. Mankind really lived in darkness for tens of thousands of years. For those on the water, the stars were even more magnificent and important, and it is no wonder they learned to steer by them. So, from my point of view, learning celestial navigation opened up so many doors about the night sky that the navigation part seemed small, but well worth it. And in summation, I would say the best reason to study celestial navigation is because it is really cool, and more so, for what it leads to, than for the sake of navigation itself. And I want to thank Don Bentley, writer of the article on page 78 for bringing all this back to me. One more thing: I held on to my Davis sextant for many years and eventually took it back to Sailorman, who had by then moved to their current location—a giant store with tons of used marine goods—and sold it back to them for $25. I still had the plastic case it came in, but it was a little sticky and the foam padding was rotted away. Someone out there, though, probably has it, and I hope they are learning as much as I did with it—and because of it. Keep it out of the sun and plastic lasts forever. years out so that a study could be conducted to address the possible replacement of the Flying Scot. At the Winter Meeting in January 2012, over which I presided as the commodore of the GYA, the BOD adopted the requirement to have the executive committee appoint a committee to develop the specifications and requirements for a possible replacement boat. Be advised that no particular boat was even discussed or considered. The BOD asked the executive committee to submit their findings at the next board of director’s meeting for consideration for follow-on action. No boat has been selected nor even considered as a replacement for the Flying Scot. The board of directors will not make any decision about a replacement boat until all due diligence regarding potential replacement boats has been reviewed and studied by each and every committee in the GYA that has any input and/or interest in identifying and recommending a replacement boat. John H. Matthews Immediate Past Commodore Gulf Yachting Association