Subject: do you need a sense of direction? well, here's some expert compass advice
Sent: Monday, December 30, 2013 12:33 PM
Subject: Wayfarer Compass

Dear Uncle Al,

I hope all goes well and that you are having a great  Christmas holiday with the family.

We still sail from the Lac Deschênes club. I was a little more active last season than previous years.

We need a new compass for the Wayfarer and need to know what brand and model works best for cruising and racing. I have been looking at a mast mounted model but thought I should contact you to see what has worked best. Any advice is much appreciated.

All the best for the New Year and fair winds.


W 398

Cc: Gary Hirsch W4573 ; Poul Ammentorp W239 ; Marc Bennnett W10861 ; Kit Wallace W994 ; Dick Harrington W887 ; Ton Jaspers W10445 ; Jesper Friis W9355
Sent: Monday, December 30, 2013 1:37 PM

Hi, Mike:
Great to hear from you and to hear that the W lives at LDSC. Hope all is well with you and family as we head into 2014.
My compass advice is fairly useless. I have a Suunto K-16 mounted in mid-thwart (below) but that is not available any more:
Nowadays, I tend to use hand-held GPS and way points while cruising.
Am copying assorted people who might offer useful compass advice - and will put you into today's Weekly Whiffle to ask our public for suggestions.
You might also enjoy ch. 8 of Dinghy Cruising with Phillips, an oldie but goodie.
Best regards,
Uncle Al (W3854)

From: Wayfarer  W10445 (Ton Jaspers)
Sent: Monday, December 30, 2013 6:51 PM
Subject: Re: Wayfarer Compass

Ohw, Ai! That is a tough one to answer.

Ohw, Ai! That is a tough one to answer.

I am not going to give an answer as there are as many solutions as there are Wayfarer sailors. Some prefer Silva others swear by another brand.  I shall limit myself to describing solutions that I know and give my opinion, for what its worth.

On Swiebertje I have a mast mounted Silva 103 PE racing compass. This compass is a little bigger then the 85 I'll discus below. Having a large compass is good if your eyes arms become to short for reading. The 103PE is the same as the Silva 100P but has a dual scale, one for each lubber line  whereas with the 100P you have to add or subtract the numbers yourself when using the offset lubber lines. The 100P has a lighting option that the 103PE lacks. Lighting may be useful for Ocean crossing cruisers. When mast mounted there is a problem with the CB when the mast is lowered. I have used wing-nuts to mount the compass to its bracket but in real life it is just to complicated to remove the compass every time. Instead I use the boom crutch on the mast which keeps the compass just millimetres above the CB. Doing it this way, you need a tall crew to lift the mast from the boat. My compass is scratched at the front (back?) but not where the offset lubber lines are. But after eight years it is still very usable.

On Knøn I had a Silva 85 which fits neatly in the triangle in front of the mast behind the breakwater. The 85 does not need a deck cut-out. Due to its shape, it guides the Genoa sheets nicely over it. The offset lubber lines are perfect for reading the compass from the gunwale position or when hiked out.  The 85 has a memory ring for Alzheimer patients who can't remember where they should be going.

Silva 85

A friend of mine has a Silva 70UN mounted, handle down, against the forward bulkhead. I think it is not easy to read in that location. The 70UN has the advantage (?) that it is detachable and can also be used as a hand-bearing compass. I prefer to use a small necklace-style bearing compass. That way I cannot lose my main compass, it stays fixed to the boat at all times.  I have it also seen this compass mounted on top of the thwart but I think that any compass in that position brings large parallax errors, too big for proper navigation IMHO.

Here is a neat solution by Poul Ammentorp on his Woody, also in the triangle in front of the mast:

The TackTick electronic compasses are popular amongst racers (start timer, header alert beeper, etc.)  but I believe they are not good for cruising because they are electronic. On any sea-going vesel, or aeroplane for that matter,  the magnetic compass is still one of the few primary instruments. A magnetic compass will get you home when the power fails or seawater penetrates the electronics. Electronic gadgets are OK but still not a  replacement for your primary instruments.

A side note: An iPad is not a replacement for a waterproof paper chart and a SatNav is not a replacement for common sense. I sound like a big Silva fan but there are many other brands that are just as good. (On Juffrouw Saartje I have a Plastimo 101). A few points to keep in mind are:
  • Big characters allow for quick reading.
  • Reading a 3 or 30 instead of 300 degrees is something you will get used to pretty quick, it allows faster reading. Just a quick glance is enough to know where you are going.
  • Dual scales seem nice but the characters will be smaller on each scale.
  • Get a compass with offset lubber lines so you can read the compass from the gunwale without parallax errors. Then mount it where it minimizes the parallax error when sitting on  the gunwale or hiking out.  
  • If you plan to sail after dusk, get a compass with a lighting option.
  • Bigger is better, specially if your eyesight isn't what it used to be.
  • Use an electronic compass only for racing, or back it up with a magnetic one.

Hope this helps, best wishes for 2014

Ton Jaspers (Swiebertje - W10445)

From: Jesper Achton Friis  W9355
Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 6:49 AM

Dear Al,
We have invested in a small very easy to use compass in my boat, and we like it very much.
The Tacktick - Raymarine T060 Micro Compass  includes time count down, compass and tactical compass functions.
It is easy to install and to use. The price in Denmark is around 2.500,- kr.
Med venlig hilsen
Jesper Achton Friis

Sent: Wednesday, January 01, 2014 1:49 PM



I have an outdated Plastimo, which is very similar to Al's in the photo.  I like the style because it is easy to read from the side or when sitting on the floor and allows sighting rough bearings for navigation.  Mine is mounted in a box that attaches to the thwart with a bungy and can be removed when rowing.  Al's would be a little hard on my old butt and other things.

From: Mike W398
Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:33 AM
Subject: Wayfarer Compass

I like the idea of the  compass box.
Have been looking at mast mounted too.

Mike W 398