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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

November 30, 2016

Turning West with New Challenges Ahead and the Stars Above

Arthur Davis, C Watch, Sailing Intern, SEA Alumni, S-258

Oceans & Climate

Anna navigates by the stars! We have celestially navigated thus far using sextants and highly accurate clocks. Next up, we will forego these luxuries during our non-instrument run!

Ship's Log

Current Position
15° 26.0’ N x 40° 28.0’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
285° True at 6 knots

Sail Plan
Motorsailing under the stays’ls

Wind NE Force 2, Seas NNE 2ft

Souls on Board

We have turned to the west! Since leaving the Canaries, we have been working our way generally to the south and west, plowing our way through the Canary Current that flows down the northwest coast of Africa, crossing through the corner of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre that lies in the center of North Atlantic, and now we find ourselves in a new “general locale” (as we call it in lab!): the North Equatorial Current. This current, along with the easterly to northeasterly trade winds will (knock on wood) take us across the 15th parallel of northern latitude on our way to the Caribbean. With this new course will come new challenges for the ship’s company.

One of these challenges that I am most excited about is our non-instrument run coming up soon, where we will (for a few days) hide our compass, our sextants, and our GPS (although we haven’t been using the GPS for navigation for quite a while already). What will we use?! Doesn’t the ocean look the same in all directions, just an unending vast horizon of sea and sky?! Well, at a glance this may seem near impossible, and it’s true that it will a difficult task, but for weeks during our afternoon class times we have been researching and teaching methods of non-instrument navigation to the entire ship’s company! 

One tool that will be of utmost importance during this process will be the stars, for although they are not stationary, they indeed move in a predictable pattern through the sky and can give us invaluable navigational information. Polaris, the stoic star that always points north, will be one of these useful tools. Since Polaris sits right atop the North Pole, the angle of Polaris above the horizon gives us our latitude. We will be sailing right along the 15th parallel of northerly latitude so we’ll keep Polaris right at 15° above the horizon.  But wait --- I thought we weren’t going to use sextants! That’s right, one of our sailing interns, Sabrina has made us a stick that when held at arm’s length will show the correct height of Polaris above the horizon!! This is a traditional technique used by navigators in the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific for centuries before Europeans arrived! 

We have learned about certain stars, like Mintaka, the leading star in Orion’s Belt, which always rises due east and sets due west. There will be certain stars that pass directly overhead at 15° north latitude because that
is their declination.  Lastly, we have started practicing steering purely by the wind and the waves, with the goal of being even more in tune with our environment and Mama Cramer as she guides us through the great meeting of the water and sky known as the sea!

- Arthur

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Oceans & Climate, • Topics: c270  celestial navigation  life at sea • (1) Comments
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Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Jim Bowen on December 02, 2016

What a GREAT update on your navigational endeavors!  Thanks so much for sharing!



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