Compensating the Compass at Home


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No one is perfect and that applies to compass readings as well as to the people who take them. Often, compass error is not so much the fault of the instrument as it is the “company” it keeps—tachometer, radio, and depth sounder, to say nothing of a screwdriver, pliers, and other ferrous metal objects carelessly placed nearby. These and other things can cause deviation errors because they cause the compass to stray from a true magnetic reading. A classic example of this type of error, or deviation, is the deer hunter who checked his hand compass without laying his rifle aside. At the end of the day, he discovered he had been traveling in a circle. Electrical wiring near a compass also can create problems, especially if it is a single wire with direct current flowing through it. Twisting single wire circuits around one another will cancel out these interfering magnetic fields and help avoid this type of compass error. Everyone knows that north is at the North Pole, geographically speaking. Navigators refer to this direction as true north. But there also is the magnetic North Pole. A compass in good working condition will indicate the magnetic North Pole, unless there are shipboard magnetic disturbances to cause it to deviate. Before you install the compass on your boat, you can check its operation indoors.

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