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OCSC's

This course requires Navigation I

Even in the age of electronics and global communication, Celestial navigation remains one of the most fundamentally useful and respected skills a sailor can possess. This course is taught by Doug MacPherson who originally learned it as a deck officer in the United States Navy. This course is designed to teach members to find their position anywhere on the globe using only Polaris and the Sun.

On the first evening, students will work through determining their location using sights taken from Polaris. On the following day, after calculating Local Apparent Noon, the class will again determine their locations by taking ‘sights’ on the Sun.

Successful completion prepares you to:

  • Confidently use celestial navigation tools and publications.
  • Take sights of celestial bodies
  • Fix your location using the sun and the North Star

Doug MacPherson:
Instructor specializing in Celestial Navigation

Doug grew up in New England learning to sail there on the coast and local lakes. His first introduction to celestial navigation was as a deck officer in the United States Navy. That initial training has turned into a lifetime hobby and Doug loves to introduce others to the fascinating art of finding one’s way across the world’s oceans with the sun, moon, stars, and planets. He has two grown children and resides with his wife of 35 years in Sacramento CA. When he is not sailing with his wife and friends, Doug enjoys playing the violin.

Doug has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Mass. Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of California at Davis. He holds a USCG Master’s 100-ton sail and power license.


TOPICS COVERED
  • Using a sextant

    The main tool for celestial Navigation.
  • Understanding Celestial Coordinates

    Similar to latitude and longitude on the map.
  • Universal Time and Local Apparent Noon

    Time zones are cheating! Learn to predict the solar time.
  • Locating and Sighting the Sun and Polaris

    Learn to calculate the position of heavenly bodies.
  • Using Nautical Tables to determine Location

    Much of the footwork is already done for us! Learn where to look for help with calculations.
  • 2
    2 Sessions

    Friday evening from 7pm-10pm followed by Saturday from 9am-5pm. Both days will have a combination of classroom time and practice in the field.


  • OCSC will provide the following and/or loan out the materials.
    • Binder with course materials
    • Plastic protractor
    • Wooden Ruler
    • Hand Bearing Compass
    • Sextant, plastic or metal is fine
    • Current copy of the Nautical Almanac (commercial edition)
    •  We will provide photo-copied daily pages and older almanacs for use as an alternative

      Please Bring with you the following items:
    • Calculator (phone calculators are fine)

This Course Prepares You For