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Nautical ProtractorSmall Craft Navigation Tool
Supplemental information for Kayak Navigation by Tom Holtey
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Make Your Own Small Craft Navigation Tool

You can make your own handy navigation tool or "course plotter" using a nautical protractor and piece if fine string, like fishing line or a length of waxed cotton thread. The full circular protractor is best but you can also use a semicircular one too. It should be made out of a clear plastic, easy to see through.

usgsDrill, or poke a hole in the center, knot the line, slip it through the hole and knot it again on the other side. A loop on the far end of the line will make it easy to handle.

To use it on shore, or on the water in the seat of your kayak, simply place it on the chart with the center directly on top of the staring place of your course line.

Charts, and topo maps often have lines in a grid pattern running true north and south, or true east and west. They will not be oriented to magnetic north. Align the protractor's N-S, 0-180 axis parallel the N-S lines or to the side border of the map. (Charts are almost always oriented with north on the top. Double-check it.) You can also align the E-W 90-270 axis to the E-W lines on the map or the top/bottom borders. Chances are you will not be exact, but "eye-ball" it as close as you can.

course plotterTake the string and pull it strait in the direction of the end point, your destination, on your course line. Read the number on the protractor as your bearing. Adjust for the local magnetic variation (printed on your chart) so you can use your compass, by adding or subtracting the variation depending where you are. Now you will have a magnetic heading to follow, make a note of it and go! To the right is "Course Plotter" example you can make but is no longer available for sale.

See our related articles:

Suggested reading:

kayak navigation book FUNDAMENTALS OF KAYAK NAVAGATION by David Burch

A technical treatise on navigation, navigational tools and how to get where you are going without getting lost. If you are planning expedition and touring trips this is a must.

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