Celestial Navigation: A Complete Home Study Course (Second Edition)
by David Burch
Starpath Publications March 11, 2015
294 pages e-book 19.99, print $39.00
David Burch, founder of Starpath Navigation School in Seattle, should be a well-known name in the community of celestial navigators. His contribution to the understanding of navigation and marine meteorology extends to classics like Emergency Navigation, Celestial Navigation with the 2102-D Star Finder, Modern Marine Weather, Hawaii by Sextant, and others that should be in the library of every sailor.
His latest volume, Celestial Navigation, published by Starpath Publications, is the second edition of a home study course that Burch has created that enables students to learn not just the theory, but the practice of sight reduction and plotting. It is true that there are other books of this type that are notable for their clarity. Francis Wright’s book Learn How to Navigate and, of course, the late Susan Howell’s Practical Celestial Navigation come to mind. It also must be said, though, that every author communicating information has their own style and some of these home study manuals are easier to understand than others — hence the reasoning behind yet another navigation instruction guide.
Burch is one of those really smart people who has a complete grasp of things celestial. He knows, as all good teachers know, how to communicate information in a manner that is not didactic, leading the student over the intellectual hurdles to confidence and, one hopes, understanding.
The progression of information leads the student from LAN sights, plotting and very clear instructions on the use of the sight reduction tables in the Nautical Almanac. Burch is not a Luddite and doesn’t believe that celestial navigation is more valuable than GPS. He posits, though, that the learning of celestial is a welcome exercise for the mind that could keep the mariner out of trouble should there be a snafu with the power supply aboard a vessel at sea.
What makes the study of celestial navigation so interesting is that it is a subject full of nuances and subtleties that appeal to a curious mind. The understanding of celestial navigation can be a portal to a greater appreciation of astronomy, the natural world and a deeper respect for the minds that created its constructs. Far from being a waste of time or a drawing room exercise, the study of celestial navigation can be both practical and enlightening. Certainly David Burch has contributed much to removing the mystery surrounding the subject.