Instant position lines

When you’re piloting close inshore and everything is happening fast, trying to take and plot magnetic position lines is generally a bust. Here are a couple of ways to check a bearing without using the handbearing compass.

  • Object abeam – If the object that forms the bearing can be sighted more or less along the mainsheet traveller, across the companionway, etc, you’re home and dry. Read the steering compass, then add or subtract 90 degrees.
  • Object ahead /astern – Once again, the steering compass can be read almost without preparation or thinking. If the object is within thirty or so degrees of bow or stern, don’t hesitate to jink off course to bring it momentarily ahead or astern. It’s so much easier than using the hand-bearing compass.