November 29, 2014

Ten Reasons for Having a Compass

By Doug
I was recently offered a ride on a Snipe with my friend Cam and jumped at the chance because it's always fun trying something new.

We were sailing on a small Dallas lake that I know well, but felt lost because Cam's compass was not working.

I suggested that he consider getting one but he prefers using a shore reference to see when the wind shifts. I did a really lousy job explaining why there's a better way because it's not just one thing but rather a bunch of little things.

Here are ten:

  1. Using a shore reference is not very accurate unless you're in the middle of the boat. Which means hardly ever.
  2. Your shore reference changes each time you tack.
  3. The wind can change as you're tacking, especially on a lake.
  4. A shore reference like 'those trees that all look the same' may not tell you much.
  5. If you sail in a different location, your favorite shore references are gone.
  6. Looking at your shore references encourage looking forward, not around you.
  7. Tactical compasses are easy to read - there's no math involved.
  8. Compasses are good for getting a game plan before the race and then knowing if it's working during the race.
  9. You can switch between your shore reference and compass reading.
  10. You may not want to tack when you're headed. This is so important that I wrote an entire post on when not to tack.
If you add up all of these subtle points, you get one big point: learning how to use a compass will make you a better sailor.

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