March/April Issue 232: A working sailor learns celestial


After a year of college, Liz Gillooly figured there were better ways to learn about the world than in a classroom. Liz’s adventuresome spirit had been cultivated by her parents, so they were probably not surprised when in 2010, the 21-year-old departed Greenport, N.Y., aboard the 80-foot Maxi boat Kialoa V bound for the Caribbean.

At that time Kialoa V was owned by Freddy Mills, a young but seasoned skipper priding himself in making boats go fast. Kialoa V is a racing machine, often recording speeds of more than 15 knots for long periods, and this was Liz’s first offshore experience. Whereas some might have been intimidated, Liz took to it. “It wasn’t scary. It was fun. I was pretty much hooked. Living on the boat, working on a crew, the whole culture of the sailing experience was what I loved.” 

She docked in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands and fell in love with the island and the lifestyle. She settled in and ended up staying for four years, earning her way crewing aboard day charter boats and gathering time to qualify for a 50-ton ticket. But then the urge for travel pushed her, so she found a sailing job using the “Find a Crew” sailing website and signed on as a deck hand on the 110-foot S&S-designed sailboat Tristan for a trans-Atlantic passage from St. Thomas to Spain.

It was a 25-day passage with five crew aboard. Liz sailed as a deck hand but within two weeks was made mate in charge of the watch schedule. It was on this passage that she got introduced to celestial navigation. The English captain was “old school” and required that she learn to take three daily sun sights and the plot positions. Although she knew very little about celestial navigation before the trip, she began to understand the logic and joy of it and looked forward to taking sights. 

After arriving in Spain the boat went to the shipyard, and after three months Liz left for Hawaii. She found a job with a company doing whale-watching excursions aboard 50- and 65-foot catamarans around Maui. Once again, she started at the bottom as a deck hand and worked her way up to mate. She left when the whale-watching season ended and headed off to Southeast Asia. Like many of her generation, she began a blog, titled, “Moxie & Epoxy,” in which she entertains readers with her sailing adventures and far-flung travels. The blog celebrates the sailing lifestyle and she hopes to inspire people to get excited about sailing in a less stuffy way. “You don’t have to be an expert sailor before stepping on a boat. You can’t learn to sail unless you get on a boat.” 

Let’s join Liz practicing the art of navigation aboard Tristan. The date is July 20, 2015 (use the 2015 NA). The DR position is 30° 25’ N by 22° 30’ W. She’s on her way from St. Thomas to Spain. The height of eye is 10 feet and she’s doing a morning sun line, a lower limb. The shot time in GMT is 0838:17. The sextant altitude (Hs) is 22° 51.3’.

A. What is the Ho? 
B. What is the intercept? 
C. What is the estimated position? 

A. Ho is 23° 01.9’ (round off to 23°02’).
B. Intercept is 19 nm toward.
C. Estimated position is 30° 25’ N by 22° 36’ W.

By Ocean Navigator