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Boat Compasses

For sailors the compass is an invaluable tool to figure out where they are going while out at sea. In one form or another, compasses have been around since ancient times because they will guide you toward your destination. Newer technology combined with older technologies offer an assortment of compass designs to choose from.

What are the various types of compass?
  • Magnetic compass: A widely used compass is the magnetic compass. It works by placing a tiny piece of magnetized steel or iron into a liquid to reduce friction, which in turn increases stability and accuracy. Since the piece of metal is magnetized, it will point to the North Pole showing you the direction you are currently facing.
  • Card compass: The card compass is commonly found on boats and has a fixed needle, which relies on a pivoting circular disk to make directional readings. The card is able to absorb the boats motion, providing an accurate reading.
  • Base plate compass: These compasses work in the same way as the magnetized compass but have a base plate in which the compass housing is encased. The base plate gives stability and will usually have navigational markings on it that can be lined up with maps.
  • Digital compass: GPS technology provides for an excellent digital compass that takes advantage of the many satellites orbiting Earth to triangulate not only a boats position but also its trajectory and speed.
What are some features of compasses?
  • Mounting brackets: These allow you to affix your compass to a wall, dashboard, or wherever else it might be convenient. Some models will have suction cups in place of mounting hardware for more portability.
  • Lights: On some compasses, a light will come installed either within the housing itself or mounted to the top of the compass to provide illumination for nighttime navigation.
  • Bezel: A rotating bezel marked from 0 to 360 degrees can help better navigate a precise course.
  • Magnifying lens: Compasses can come with a magnifying lens in the base plate to help read maps with small print.
Which direction does the compass needle point?

The needle on a compass will always point to magnetic North Pole of the Earth due to the hot, molten metal that is constantly moving around in the outer core of the Earth, which is what pulls the compass point in different directions and why it isn’t always pointed toward the geographic northern pole.