New England Sailing Center (NESC)

New England Sailing Center

Modern Celestial Navigation

Modern Celestial Navigation-260x221
  • Description:

This is not your grandparents’ celestial navigation! A fast-paced introduction to celestial navigation from a 21st century perspective. In this hands-on workshop, participants will learn how to adjust and use sextants available on the market today. We’ll learn streamlined calculations using a common handheld solar-powered calculator. This workshop is designed especially for yachtsmen and recreational boaters. If you’re dreaming about a trans-oceanic voyage or a circum-navigation, in this workshop you’ll learn all the techniques to determine latitude and longitude anywhere on Earth using the Sun and the brighter stars. We’ll also discuss celestial navigation options for upcoming ocean races with celestial classifications including Annapolis-Bermuda, Marion-Bermuda, and others.

Celestial navigation stands as the only autonomous backup to GPS and electronic navigation, and it is a tradition that connects us with maritime history. Weather permitting, class participants will have opportunities to experiment with sextant observations. We’ll also learn how to use the Sun and stars as a highly accurate compass, a technique valuable in near-shore waters as well as blue-water sailing. This is real navigation, celestial navigation for the 21st century, not just a class about navigation.
Taught by Frank Reed, a gifted teacher and a recent guest “expert in celestial navigation” on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk science talk show on The National Geographic Channel.


Basic addition and subtraction, good familiarity with latitude and longitude. Some familiarity with basic algebra, especially positive and negative numbers.

Recommended for ages 18 and up, students as young as age 13 welcome.

Recommended scientific calculator for the class: the “Casio fx-260 Solar” (original or newer “II” model). These are widely available for less than $10 at Walmart, Staples, and other stores. A few will also be available for purchase on the first day of class for $10.

Sextant not required, but if you have one bring it along and we’ll get it perfectly adjusted.

Please visit our course and certification information page for more information on pricing. Contact us to check course availability and to schedule your course.

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  • Prerequisites: None
  • Certification: Celestial Certificate
  • Duration: 2 day classroom based course 10-4