From:                                         Bob Goethe

Sent:                                           November 9, 2017 11:11 AM

To:                                               'Bill and Carly

Subject:                                     NASA:  Required Items for Class



Good morning, friends.  It’s time to start gathering together the things you will need for class in January.


I presume you both have already acquired Budlong, Sky and Sextant, the Nautical Almanac (2018 Commercial Edition), and Pub. 249 vol. 3.  If you need help with how to purchase any of these, do get back to me.


·         Computer printer – I will be giving you the worksheets and plotting sheets you need as PDF files.  You will need to be able to print these out for yourselves.

·         Webcam & Microphone – your computer may already have these built in.  If not, you need to acquire them.  I got a Logitech C270 webcam for $40 that has a microphone built in.  I’m sure that would have been fine enough.  But in my case, I also got a pair of USB headphones/microphone, a Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000, for $30, since I don’t want to make you strain to hear me clearly.

A lot of online courses use just a digital whiteboard with no video of instructor or students.  But since we are using physical things like sextants and books, I think there is going to be some merit in being able to hold things up to the camera. 

We may still (if you have the equipment) scan and email worksheets to each other to look at, but there may be times when we can just hold something up to the camera for the others to look at.  I expect that will be more efficient. 

Plus, it will probably be more fun to see each other’s faces.  The number of celestial navigators is small enough as it is.  We need to make the most of our opportunities for community...and face to face is good.

·         LED headlamp with red light - you will be unable to perform sights at night if you have no light at all, or a white light (which ruins your night vision).  You must have a red light.  

If you do not have one of these, this one will do.

Now, I suppose you could do without a headlamp, and use some sort of red handheld light...but between notepad/pencil/sextant/timepiece, you may find you are running out of hands.  I really like a headlamp.

·         Find some sort of sturdy cord you can use to attach as a lanyard for your sextant.  You need to be able to let the sextant hang around your neck while you are writing data in your notebook.

·         Parallel ruler.  

If you do not have one, this will do.

·         Sharp pencil with eraser.  For plotting positions, I think there is nothing better than a mechanical pencil.  It has a very fine point on it.  

If you don't have one, you can get a box of a dozen mechanical pencils for 50¢ each here.

·         Yellow highlighter.

·         Drafting compass.  You will find that something like this works much better than this.  A compass that is center-wheel controlled, and so will not change its width on its own, is good.  

There is nothing more maddening than having your fix go wonky because your compass spread out a little while you weren't looking.

·         Math Set: Protractor/Ruler/Triangle. The cheapest one you can buy will work just great. You can get this and have everything in a box.

I bought my math set at a Safeway store. I threw out the included drafting compass, and the smaller of the two triangles. The box holds my good drafting compass (see requirement above); the protractor, the triangle with the longest hypotenuse, and the eraser that came with it, and a mechanical pencil. That gives me a little fix-plotting kit that fits in a pocket.

I bring it aboard a yacht charter in case the sailboat I get doesn't have a parallel ruler. Put it in your checked luggage. We must acknowledge, after all, the long, dark history of Caribbean pirates who have hijacked airliners using their drafting compasses and yellow highlighters to intimidate the flight-crew.

·         navigator's notebook.  You will each need to be able to write down sight data while outside in the dark that will fit in your hip pocket or shirt pocket.

I like this as a navigator's notebook, but it is pretty expensive.  To be honest, you can get a little spiral bound notebook for probably $1 or less at the Safeway store.

·         This brings up a related issue: when taking a sight, you will need to wear clothing that contains either a hip pocket on the pants or breast pocket on the shirt, to hold your notebook. 

Women, particularly, sometimes wear clothes that lack pockets completely. A navigator, however, needs pockets regardless of sartorial preferences.


An optional item that you may find helpful:

I will do my best to help you find stars like Procyon or Pollux, but it may still be a little difficult if you are unaccustomed to identifying stars.  

It will help you if you have a hand bearing compass.  That way, if I say, "Look for a star bearing 96° magnetic that is around 34° above the horizon" you will more likely be able to pick out the proper star.

If you don't have a hand bearing compass yet, but would like to purchase a quality item to use during sailing trips yet to come, coastal or offshore, I really like this one.  It's pricey, but you can read bearings to the nearest 1/2°.  And at night, you can flash it for a moment with the white light from your headlamp, and it will glow for several minutes...allowing you to read the bearing in the dark.

If you already have one of these, then you are set.  If you have been thinking it was about time to purchase a good compass, this could be the right time to take the plunge.

But if you have no real use for a hand bearing compass except for in this class, don't bother.  It is a pretty expensive item for a course where we will be taking just a handful of star and planet sights.  You can get by without it.





Bob Goethe


"The only noble thing a man can do with money is to build a schooner."
            Robert Louis Stevenson, 1889




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