Long Beach – Katayama’s Lucky Sextant

On-board all of our equipment is state of the art. MotionX-GPS will pin-point our position accurately and reliably from the Start to the finish at Diamond Head.

Yet one of the most important pieces of equipment on-board is my trusted 1979 Tamaya Sextant. For tradition’s sake (a good thing), the Transpac race organizers wants each boat to submit four completely reduced sight at the finish line. In other words, at least 4 times during the race you have determine your position on the ocean solely by reference to the Stars, Planets,  Moon and Sun. An endangered art. A beautiful skill to have. However one that takes time a lot of practice to learn. Because there are only two of us on board, that’s my job.

Mark Rudiger taught me the basics of celestial navigation during the many passages that he and I sailed together. Navigation is a skill passed on, navigator to navigator. Especially celestial navigation. Mark and I sailed and won two Transpacs together in 2001 and 2003. Mark, this record attempt is for you.

The principles of celestial navigation are pretty simple: Given three distinct celestial objects in the sky, at any given time if you measure their elevation over the horizon, there is only once place on the planet where you could be. For example at 10 PM tonight as you watched fireworks, if you saw Saturn 19° 32′, Arcturus 62° 55 and Vega 57° 54′ above the horizon, you would be close to Long Beach, exactly at latitude 33°2′ North and longitude 118°26′ West. All you need is an instrument to make those very accurate measurements together with the tools to “reduce those measurements” to your exact estimated position.

I have a “lucky Sextant”. She was made in Tokyo in 1979 and I got her from Captain, Katayama, a retiring successful Japanese merchant Captain.  Katayama’s last command was the mighty Takara  hailing from Yokohama. Katayama told me of many “lucky” voyages across the Pacific, mostly between Yokohama and San Francisco, taking Japanese cars and electronics to America and returning with American farm products together with Harley Davidson motorcycles (his favorite) and American Pop culture icons. When Captain Katayama retired, he wanted to make sure that his “lucky sextant” would be in good hands and shown proper respect. (All sailors are superstitious. I am). So Katayama placed an advert on eBay. I answered and we connected. I have several sextants. This is the one that I want to take with me across the Pacific Ocean: Katayama’s 1979 lucky sextant.