Once he’d got over his shock at my news, Peter Crook, a sailing friend and modern-day practitioner of the old art, kindly leant me not one but two sextants to practice with, leaving one for himself: the first being a delightful old metal & brass Astra III Professional and the second, a lighter plastic Davies. He gave me a quick lesson in the basics such as which way up to hold the sextant and I tried to pick up the rest in books; it was a mind-blowing mistake! I quickly realised that I’m the kind of person who needs one-to-one tuition to get to grips with new and now old technology, enter Alan Denham of Falmouth.
Alan is passionate about celestial navigation, having taught it for years he has an excellent way of teaching that even I could grasp. He explains the art beautifully and possesses a whole range of wonderful sextants. After spending two intense days at Alan’s kitchen table, practicing many exercises he set for me, I was ready for my first sun-sight at nearby Praa Sands. Returning to check my understanding of using the sextant, I was amazed that my calculations positioned me to within two miles of my actual position, “not bad for a first attempt” I was reliably informed, but not great in an island chain I thought…!
Feeling on top of the world with my progress and keen to practice more, I left Alans’s house loaded with used and blank forms to work out exactly where I was on the planet. I had books to order and ideas of which local beaches to practice from along with mixed advice on which sextant I should buy. Confused.com I certainly was, but I was filled with confidence, I can do this and I will do this!
I waved Alan goodbye out of the car window, he shouted “Let me know when you’re ready for the moon and stars” – that brought me back down to earth with a thump!