Notable New Books: The Barefoot Navigator

The Barefoot Navigator is a cleverly written little book that combines the history of the ancient art of navigation with the practical application of those techniques today.

Author Jack Lagan explores the achievements of the ancients – the Polynesians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Vikings and Chinese. He discusses methods they employed before even the most rudimentary technology was available. Lagan demonstrates how ancient navigators used wind, swell, sun and stars, along with birds and even marine mammals to estimate their position and hold course until they made safe landfall.

The book is filled with entertaining quotes and historical snippets. In addition, it provides a comprehensive reference section. There are many useful tables and charts, which may also be downloaded from the author’s Web site ( along with “do-it-yourself” instructions for constructing low-tech navigation tools, such as an improvised quadrant using a protractor, a needle compass and even a plywood ship’s log.

Lagan does not propose these ancient methods as substitutes for charts and modern day electronics, rather, he suggests that these age-old skills and techniques can help 21st century navigators develop a sixth sense for where they are and may come in very handy should the need for survival navigation arise.

Sheridan House Inc.; Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.; 160 pages; $17.95.

By Ocean Navigator