Using a sextant to get accurate angle measurements is tough on moving vessel. It's even harder when the waters are rough. Is there a technique that is most useful in stabilizing the device and/or the body holding it to keep the sextant focused on its target?

  • 2
    Not enough for an answer, but the traditional technique is to use your body to stabilise the sextant - use your natural balance.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 9:48
  • 1
    I agree your FIRST priority is safety. Yes, keep the vessel upright. However there are plenty of waters that are consistently rough, i.e. the mouth of the Hudson or Long Island Sound. These are great places to practice a running fix with a sextant, but hard because of the waves.
    – TomSchober
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 17:01
  • 2
    Graphene - while that is a useful point, it doesn't answer the question, and quite often you have to know your position despite the rough waters.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented May 27, 2016 at 20:20
  • 1
    Yes @vascowhite that's what I'm trying to gleen from the other nautical-types here. ;) So in your experience, objectively analyze how you hold the sextant in a rough situation.
    – TomSchober
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 14:30
  • 1
    Heaving-to might help.
    – A E
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Here is what I have found for taking sights in rough seas.

  • Practice
  • Get a feel for how the vessel is rolling so that sights can be timed to when the vessel is at its most stable which will most often be at the top of a wave.
  • Heaving-to can reduce the motion.
  • Take multiple good sightings and average the results.
  • Knowing which sightings are good comes with practice.

The information I found was from Reed's Sextant Simplified by Dag Pike on pages 29,42,and 50

  • 1
    Excellent references Charlie!
    – TomSchober
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 16:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.