A magnetic compass is the most important piece of direction finding equipment a master can have, particularly in bad visibility or out of sight of land.

Keep magnetic compasses away from large metal objects – such as engines or anchors – to avoid inaccurate measurements.

Electronic equipment such as a GPS and battery-operated hand-held devices are useful supplements, but can fail when electrical power runs low.

Under the Marine Safety Act most classes of recreational vessels – including power boats, sailing boats and paddle craft – must be fitted with a compass, when operating on coastal waters more than 2 nautical miles from the coast.

Compass on deck of boat with sea behind

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