Classes in celestial navigation and related topics
Classes at Mystic Seaport
Many of ReedNavigation's celestial navigation classes are hosted in partnership with the Treworgy Planetarium at Mystic Seaport, where I have a long history. The planetarium also offers other classes in coastal navigation, tidal phenomena, and marine weather. Be sure to visit their web site for more details.
Mystic Seaport is one of the world's premiere maritime museums. Its collection includes hundreds of historic vessels of all sizes. The centerpiece of the collection is the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, built in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1841. The Morgan and other American whaling vessels dominated the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the 19th century, thanks in large part to the science of celestial navigation including Time Sights and Noon Sun sights and also the more exotic method of lunars.
Mystic Seaport Museum is conveniently located one mile south of Exit 90 off I-95. The small Mystic Amtrak station is an easy 20-minute walk from the museum's main gate. T.F. Green Airport, one of the most convenient and efficient airports in the US with numerous inexpensive flights to major cities, is a 45-minute drive away, just outside Providence, Rhode Island.
The Seaport Planetarium was re-named the Treworgy Planetarium in honor of the decades-long service of Donald L. Treworgy, who passed away in 2009. By the way, his family name, "Treworgy," is pronounced like "TRU-er gee"
The museum and the town:
Mystic Seaport is the name of the museum. Mystic is the name of the historic village (which straddles the Mystic River estuary on the border between Groton and Stonington, Connecticut). Although many sources get it wrong, there is no such thing as "Mystic Seaport, CT".
Celestial navigation classes have been taught at Mystic Seaport since 1960, when celestial was at its peak. Classes were taught for decades by expert instructor Donald L. Treworgy. Most classes meet in the Susan P. Howell classroom in the lower level of the planetarium building. Susan Howell taught celestial navigation classes at Mystic Seaport in the 1970s and wrote an excellent introduction to the subject, "Practical Celestial Navigation", which was published just a few years before she was lost at sea in the sinking of the sail-training vessel Marques in 1984.
Lieutenant, USN sep.
Frank taught an incredible class on celestial navigation that brought me from novice to some solid understanding of sextants, their history and most importantly their use as a aid to seeing the sea...and knowing where you are on this planet!
Hands on, wealth of knowledge, great resources at Mystic Seaport, he really covered a lot of ground! There was a lot of math but unlike in my youth, I was on the edge of my seat to soak up knowledge!! Frank made it relatable and real. The sextant which is such an iconic tool of the sea, was demystified. By the end of class i felt comfortable with it. I had mastered how it worked, how to read it and how to adjust it to insure its accuracy.
I came away with all of the cheat sheets and understandings of equations and concepts that breathe the life into what you capture through your sextant sightings.
I would highly recommend Frank and believe the Mystic Seaport with its planetarium, an ideal setting for my class with him discovering this timeless tool of the sea.
Frank did a great job keeping the class interesting with visual aids, both on screen and out on the seaport grounds. Frank had also noticed i was interested in the Draken. This is the Viking ship which had made its voyage across the Atlantic and up and down the east coast, resting for winter in Mystic as the troops regroup, gathering resources for another ocean voyage. He took extra time to talk about and show with polarized film the concept of the "Viking Sun Stone" which is a suspected navigational aide the Vikings may have used to traverse the globe as they had.
All in all i would highly recommend this class to any and all folks interested in learning about navigation and sextants. Informative and digestible, but most of all useful to the point where i am comfortable with the instrument and have the formulas needed to continuing to set my sights on the horizon!!
I look forward to more classes to learn more from Frank and strengthen my understandings of celestial navigation!
Several things stand out. The course material is presented in a balanced way, with a well thought mixture of detailed calculation, broken up by historical, factual, and hands-on aspects. This type of teaching is well suited to most, as it provides periods of more intense reasoning with relaxation and humor. Anyone can walk away with new-found knowledge. I also feel that the approach of understanding historical context and a simple practical approach is unique. It has gone a great way toward clearing up a lot of my preconceived ideas and confusions resulting from the many contradictory or esoteric approaches found in various volumes or on the internet.
Very simply, I learned a lot and it went a long way toward clearing up a mess. I was fascinated the whole time. The courses and NavList provide the tools to keep learning even after the course is over. I left able to measure what I see with a more calibrated eye for real world application, and a greater appreciation of human history. I can strongly recommend these classes for the curious, the fascinated, the historian, the hardcore navigator, or the armchair one. There is something in them for all.
I also found the NavList community to be helpful and encouraging as my journey continues. I hope I can undertake even more material in additional courses in the future.
"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats" (Kenneth Grahame, from the "Wind in the Willows")
The class was also a great resource for my teaching and my own research interests such as the visibility of celestial objects in the daytime (Jupiter and Venus) and the effects of astronomical refraction near the horizon. I hope to take more workshops with Frank.
Dr. Russell D. Sampson
Eastern Connecticut State University
Philip M. Sadler, Ed.D.
F.W. Wright Senior Lecturer in Celestial Navigation
Harvard University Astronomy Department
© Copyright 2020, Frank Reed, Clockwork Mapping, Conanicut Island USA.