An effective celestial navigator is only as good as the books helugs around. Volumes 229 and 249 of the Sight Reduction Tables are among the heaviest that serve as ballast on any celestially-guided boat. Until recently, the annoyance at the extreme weight of the books was offset by the fact that they were fairly inexpensive to purchase and were therefore considered somewhat disposable: a delivery captain who lost his set in the baggage claim of an inbound flight could pick up another set for under $50 at a marine supply store.
Those halcyon days are gone. The Government Printing Office announced that in January 2001 prices for these volumes would nearly triple, from $13.50 to $39 and $47 for H.O. 249 and 229, respectively. But there is relief in sight, since Celestaire (www.celestaire.com) has responded quickly by publishing both 249 (Vols. 1, 2 and 3) and 229, all available now for $19.95 each.
As those who still practice the fine art of celestial know, H.O. 249, originally intended for air navigation, has become popular with voyagers for its ease of use over the more laborious 229, which requires several extra steps - to derive tenths of minutes of declination, for example. H.O. 249 offers the handy Table 5 in the back, which allows a navigator to reduce “little d” into minutes of declination in one easy step. (One way around this for those who prefer H.O. 229 - taught at our celestial seminars - is to paste a photocopy of this table into the back of H.O. 229.)
There are several other distinctions between the books that nautical nerds will appreciate: H.O. 249 is published in volumes that are separated by declination, which means that you might need more than one book for any given round of star sights. H.O. 229 is separated by latitude in increments of 15°, which means that only one book is necessary at any given time, maybe for an entire voyage, for all celestial bodies.
H.O. 249 uses latitude as page headers; H.O. 229 uses degrees of LHA. H.O. 249, Vol. 1, Selected Stars, offers the navigator a quicker approach to star sights by presenting a sample star list for a choice fix.
Whatever your preference, the books are still available. Now there is just a bit more choice in price. For those of you who already have these volumes - Vols. 2 and 3 of H.O. 249 and all volumes of H.O. 229 are permanent and do not require updating - be sure to place them, along with the sextant, in your carry-on luggage next time you’re heading out.