December 2015’s Sea Breezes’ excellent article; ‘Yesteryear’s Navigation’ by Clive Spencer, brought to mind happy memories of navigating the world’s oceans by means of sextant, time, Almanac and tables and of how accurate we were too.

It also brought to mind the story where the Master of a ship always took noon sights, but was always several minutes different to the Second and Third Mates and always insisted on using his readings and never averaging them. The 2nd Mate acquired an old sextant cheaply in the next port and used the 3rd Mates readings for comparison with the Captain’s when back at sea, but on the third day, when the master said; “We’ll use so many degrees/minutes”, the 2nd Mate pointedly threw the old sextant over the side, much to the Captain’s astonishment. On enquiring why, he was told that there was no point in having one if his readings were always ignored. It is said that the readings were averaged after that!

Clive also wrote that the last voyage of the sailing ship William Mitchell was through the Panama Canal loaded with phosphates in 1927, presumably with very low shipping rates, so no doubt that it would have to have been towed all the way through, how on earth could this voyage have been made profitably?

My sextant, bought for ten pounds in 1961, is similar to the one pictured on page 11. It is 100 years old, (made in 1916) and was one of the last of this kind as all sextants became endless tangent screws soon after, but is as useful as the most expensive modern one and also worth 20 times what I paid for it.

I would also like to ask this question; Now that there are female Cruise ship Captains, what would happen to “Women and Children First” if (heaven forbid) disaster was to occur? Would it be as in Titanic or as in Costa Concordia?

A KING-WILSON
16 Fairway Crescent, Royton, Oldham, OL2 6TT

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