Compass Dilemma

Every boat has a compass. In the case of J29, it usually has two compasses on the bulkhead.

To be honest, I never looked at them.

Removing Compasses

The compasses were mounted on the bulkhead so the helmsperson can read them while sitting on the rail, but this made them more or less useless.

When you are driving, you need to constantly look up. You have to look at the masthead, the sails, and their telltales. The instruments at the mast aren’t too far off, but the bulkhead compasses are. This is especially true when going downwind. You’d have to be looking up and down constantly to look at the bulkhead compass. I had a digital compass on the mast as well, so I just never looked at the bulkhead compass.

The bulkhead compasses on BlackJack were not only old but were broken. Fluid leaked out from one and the other one was barely functional. I removed them and had the big bulkhead holes plugged when I had the deck repainted.

I must say I really like the clean surface of the J29 cabin bulkhead with nothing on it.

Heading Display on B&G Triton2

I have a digital compass built into the B&G instruments. The ZG-100 GPS receiver has a compass, and heading is displayed right on the mast instruments.

As you can see in the photo, I have the display set up to show Speed, Heading, TWA, and TWS. I don’t want fancy graphs or pictures, this setting gives me the right info without distracting me.

By the way, B&G Triton2 displays are wonderful. The numbers are very legible from the cockpit, even with polarizing sunglasses.

B&G Triton2 shows with Heading Display (2nd number from top)

You Still Have to Have A Compass

Ever since I started re-fitting BlackJack a couple of years ago, I tried to be conscious about simplifying things. This means you really have to think things through before adding things. Is it absolutely necessary? If so, how can it be done in the most simple and optimized way?

In the case of a magnetic compass, you have to have one whether your instrument has a heading display or not. This is because you must have a backup for electronic equipment. Electronics are not completely reliable. A battery can drain, or the instruments themselves fail.

So a magnetic compass is a necessity.

You can, of course, bring a handheld compass as a backup, and this is what I do for now. This is not a good permanent solution, because I don’t trust myself to remember everything. And the one time I forget will be the time I really needed it.

So I need a compass, and it has to be permanently mounted on the boat. To keep things simple, it must be mounted on the mast with the instruments.

Mounting Compass On the Mast

There is one problem with mounting things on the mast. Most brackets require you to drill holes in the mast. This is something I absolutely hate doing.

In fact, I dislike the idea of drilling any hole in the mast or the boom so much that I have yet to drill a single hole on the BlackJack spars after owning her for 20 years. Because of this reason, I mounted the Triton2 displays on the mast by building a DIY instrument pod that attaches to the mast with slugs.

I wanted to do the same with the compass, but surprisingly, there is no slug mount compass bracket on the market. APS used to carry one before they stopped selling sailing gears. I asked APS and found that a shop called Oyster Bay Marine made them.

An email to Oyster Bay Marine bounced, so I called them. A lady answered and said someone will call me back in 10mins.

That call never came.

At this point, I’m considering another DIY project to build a compass bracket myself. I believe the shape is simple enough that I can build it with fiberglass, or maybe even … carbon?!

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