Noon Ritual

My friend, Captain Barry Thompson from Auckland and I, have exchanged correspondence about an item that appeared in the editor’s ‘From the Lookout’ section of the August 2016 edition of Sea Breezes.

The item is entitled ‘The Noon Ritual At Sea. Starring a Sextant or Five’. The text is accompanied by a photograph of five smartly attired officers taking sights from the Port side of a ship’s bridge. Evidently, the practice aboard ships, such as the one in question, was to obtain the astronomical position at noon by crossing the latitude then obtained with the transferred longitude of that day’s AM star observations.

Such a procedure was, indeed, new to me and I respectfully submit that the fix so obtained would have been of questionable accuracy because of the unnecessary length in both time and distance of the run between sights in an uncertain current. Which, when all is said and done, is only an astronomical running fix, the accuracy of which is, as with a terrestrial running fix, is dependent on precise knowledge of the course and distance run during the intervening period. In high latitudes, during winter months and perhaps with Noon falling fairly early, the accuracy of the above could have been enhanced if the officer in charge of the 4/8 AM watch, usually the Mate, had taken his stars towards the end of his watch and if Noon had occurred early. In such conditions, the run between sights would have been considerably reduced.

The prevalent practice aboard ships in which I served was to ‘cross’ the Noon Latitude with a transferred sun Position Line (or Longitude) obtained earlier in the morning by the Master, 2nd Mate and 3rd Mate. The following may be of interest. Several times, when making the land around lunch time, it was possible to compare the position obtained by the sun with shore bearings and / or radar ranges. On one occasion, the two positions agreed to within a few cables, which I thought was reasonable.

CLIVE SPENCER
16 Stableford Drive, Pye’s Pa
Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand 3112
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