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Celestial Navigation – On-board training with superyacht ‘Kamalaya

Over Christmas & New Year 2014/2015 Alan Denham (RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Instructor) was invited aboard the 55 metre (180’) Amels Superyacht. The vessel was in transit across the North Atlantic from Lanzarote to St Marteens in the Caribbean. The plan was to help the Captain to improve his Astro-navigation skills and to train 3 of the deck officers/senior crew so they would be well on their way to achieve their RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate.

m/y Kamalaya

 m/y Kamalaya

Training commenced in the crew mess 4 days prior to departure with the aim that the students would be fully able to take sights once under way. By the time we left, they were all comfortable with Sun sight reductions and Meridian Passages. During the passage further instruction went on to consolidate all aspects of the RYA Ocean Syllabus.

 Studious Students

 Studious Students!

During the transit, we navigated the vessel wholly on Celestial Navigation. For legal reasons we maintained GPS fixing in the hourly log book, however, all operational navigation was plotted manually. Each student had their own North Atlantic Charts and were encouraged to take sights whenever possible and to plot a minimum of 1 fix a day. We easily achieved this as the weather was good and we managed ‘Sun-run-suns’ most days. In addition the students became proficient in taking and reducing the Moon, Planets, Stars and Polaris. Accuracy steadily improved and by the time we were halfway across all students were achieving an accuracy of 2-4 miles.

 Captain taking a noon sight

 Captain taking a noon sight

In addition it was decided to do daily compass checks when possible. We were able to get Amplitude checks for half the trip at sunset, and even managed an Azimuth check on Venus, that conveniently appeared low in the sky right on our track. The results were good, showing less than 1° error in the Gryo and a few degrees on the magnetic.

Checking the Gyro & Magnetic 

Checking the Gyro and Magnetic Compasses

The transit took 11 days (approximately 2400 nm). We made landfall at St Marteens bang on time and right on target. All involved felt very confident in their Astro-Navigation skills.

m/y Kamalaya

A fantastic result and brilliant way to learn traditional navigation skills by doing it for real.

My grateful thanks to Captain Fraser Gow of  m/y Kamalaya  for making this happen.

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