Choosing the right compass for your boat can be a difficult task with all the models that are available. This buying guide will simplify that process. Using a step by step process, you will be able to correctly select this important marine navigation instrument.
Follow these four selection steps in the order given and you will arrive at the compass type best suited for you.
1) Choose a Manufacturer
2) Choose a Mount Type
3) Choose a Dial Type
4) Choose a Size
Choosing a ManufacturerSafety on the water requires a compass from an established, reputable manufacturer. Physicist Edward Ritchie developed the first US manufactured compass over 150 years ago. The Ritchie company has constantly developed new engineering techniques to ensure that their compasses are the most accurate, dependable, and highest quality compass possible. The choice of manufacturer is easy. Get a Ritchie compass.
Choosing a Mount TypeThere are a variety of compass mounts. Choose the one that works best for your individual boat. The layout and space limitations of your piloting area will dictate which mount you will need.
- Bracket mount: Can be mounted on the dash or deck.
- Flush mount: Recessed into the dash. Saves space on a compact dash.
- Surface mount: Similar to the flush mount in location, but doesn't require a hole in the dash.
- Dash mount: Another space saver for smaller powerboats with a vertical dash mounting location.
- Bulkhead mount: Often used on sailboats to reduce interference with lines and save space.
- Binnacle mount: Has an outer case, often with a light shielding hood.
Choosing Your Dial Type
- Direct read dial: Allows you to read the heading and lubber line from directly in front. This is best when the compass will be closer to eye level. Lubber line is at the front of the compass.
- Flat card dial: Allows you to look down on the compass to read the heading and lubber line. Lubber line is at the rear of the compass.
- Combi dial: A combination of direct read and flat card. Can be read from in front, or above giving maximum readability from any angle.
Choosing Your Compass SizeCompass dials range in size from a 2 inch dial to a 6 inch dial. The general rule is, larger boats tend to travel greater distances. You'll spend much more time looking at your compass on a long journey so you don't want to skimp on size.
General guidelines for compass size:
- Powerboats up to 16 feet: 2 inch dial
- Powerboats up to 20 feet: 2 1/4 inch dial
- Powerboats and sailboats up to 24 feet: 2 3/4 inch dial
- Powerboats and sailboats up to 28 feet: 3 inch dial
- Powerboats and sailboats 25-35 feet: 3 3/4 inch dial
- Powerboats and sailboats 28-45 feet: 4 1/2 inch dial
- Powerboats and sailboats over 30 feet: 5 or 6 inch dial
Put It All TogetherUsing the steps outlined above you can narrow down the style of compass that will be best for your boat.
Maintenance and Protection
- Protect your compass from direct sunlight when not in use. Most compasses have an optional protective cover available.
- Preserve the magnetic environment near your compass. Do not place or install iron or steel items near your compass that could cause it to deviate.
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