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Navigate Across the Sea With the Best Boat Compass
Last updated: 17 Jan 2023
Sailing into open waters can be an exhilarating experience, but it can quickly turn into a real-life nightmare if you get lost. Whether you are a newbie who is just learning to ride a boat or an experienced sailor who loves taking in the salty air and waves, a boat compass can be your savior.
Not sure which compasses work? Rest assured, we have you covered with all the information you need to get your hands on the perfect compass for your beloved boat. Read until the end and you’ll not only find out about the premier boat compasses, but will also learn what you should look out for when making the purchase, how to use the compass accurately, and some commonly asked questions. Here are the highest-rated boat compasses of 2023!
The TurnOnSport boat compass is a 12V magnetic compass that can be used for ships, cars, or vehicles. The best thing about this compass is that even a novice can read it with ease. Whether it is day or night, this compass provides clear vision as it lights up in the dark. It is the perfect design for ships and other watercraft — so long as you have a flat surface, the compass can be stuck or screwed on.
This magnetic compass is waterproof, resistant to corrosion, and also comes with a shade that can be used to shield it from sunlight. Because it’s so easily readable and boasts unparalleled accuracy, this compass is easily the best on our list.
The product by Ritchie is a professional compass that can be used with ease and has superb accuracy. It comes with built-in compensators that are non-interactive and correct to true north when there are any deviations. Also featured is a hardened steel pivot that is scientifically designed to show you accurate routes — it doesn’t have plastic that can break down or show inaccurate directions. And, for convenience of use, this boat compass has a 2 ¾-inch dial that is very easy to read and comes with internal green night illumination. What’s best about Ritchie compasses is that they can be 100% repaired and come with five-year exclusive assurance. This means that, even if your compass gets damaged, you can get it fixed by the manufacturers.
Made from high-quality engineering metal, the Costin multifunctional compass will ensure that you never get lost, whether you are on land or in water. The luminous arrow helps get accurate directions during the darkest of nights and its dial also lights up for better readings. It comes in a compact metal case that has a foldable metal lid and a floating compass dial, along with a pouch that makes carrying the compass very easy. This boat compass’s design is shockproof and waterproof, so despite the kind of weather you might be traveling in, there is little chance of the compass getting damaged.
If you are looking for a compass that works both in your boat and your car, then this pick from Odowalker is just what you need. Made with high-quality ABS material, the compass has an adjustable magnetic declination sheet and features an incandescent light that helps you read at even the darkest of hours. For ease of use, you can adjust the compass in a clear position for your vision. Also present are two power cords that can be attached to the power supply light or dashboard of a car or ship to create a backlight.
The DETUCK boat compass is one of the most user-friendly compasses available online. It comes with magnetic declination adjustment, which means the accuracy of your compass is increased and can easily be mounted on your boat’s dashboard with the help of its included double-sided tape. Also present are night lighting options that ensure you can see whether it is day or night — however, to make use of them you will have to connect the 12V power supply. The manufacturer will either replace or refund this compass if you are not 100% satisfied, meaning that you will not be disappointed.
According to experts, as a rule, always choose a compass that has a large diameter. It should conform with your dashboard or helm to fit properly while also increasing readability. This feature can be a lifesaver when there is a lot of turbulence or when a storm is making the boat too rocky. If your compass does not come with illumination, a bigger dial will make it easy to read in the moonlight or under a flashlight.
You also have a choice when it comes to the placement of your compass. Pick out the type that you feel will best suit your needs.
This is a model that can be installed on the dashboard of a ship or a vehicle and are mostly direct read dials that have to be kept in a vertical position to work properly. You will need to cut out some parts of the dash panel to properly install this boat compass.
These compasses can either simply be placed on a flat surface or installed horizontally. They are ideal for when you don’t want to cut out the dash or when you have a compact helm and come in all types of dials like direct-read, flat, or hybrid.
Most experts prefer compasses that come with brackets, as they allow tilting of the compass for better readings, but they are primarily suited for vertical surfaces. These come in all types of dial options.
This is another mounting option that requires you to make a hole on the surface of the dash. It gets installed into the hole so that only the surface of the compass is visible. These kinds of compasses are available in direct reads or hybrid dials.
Another type of surface mount compass is the binnacle mount model. These have longer bodies, as the compasses are large, and all come in flat card dials.
Almost all marine compasses come with LED lighting that needs to be connected to the power supply. This is because illumination makes reading the directions easy on a compass, whether you are traveling during the day or on dark, stormy nights. Certain compasses come with their own illumination that is either red or green-hued.
Some compasses come with adjustable shields that help protect the compass from sunlight to not cause glare. This helps increase readability even when the light is too bright, or the boat moves too much.
When it comes to boat compass dials, there are quite a few options. Here is all you need to know.
Direct dials are for upright views where the lubber line is at the aft portion. These conical-shaped dials are perfect for helms where the boat compass is close to eye level. Generally, this type of dial is for expert sailors, as they know just the right way to read it.
A flat card dial comes with a horizontal face, so you need to be standing up when checking the compass. The lubber line is at a forward position, which is well suited to helms because you are mostly standing straight while piloting the boat. If you have a luxury boat with high seating, a flat card compass would also work well for you.
Hybrid dials are a mixture of direct read and flat card compasses. Also known as the combi-dial, the hybrid is widely available among boat compasses from Ritchie Navigations. What is so interesting about hybrid dials is that they can be read from above as well as from the front. This makes for an excellent and easy read because taking notes of the directions will not be an issue whether you are sitting or standing.
This is another important thing you need to consider when purchasing a boat compass. If you are a seasoned sailor, you will be able to read all kinds of dials and compasses. However, if you’re new to sailing and haven’t had much experience taking readings from compasses, you will need to get one that has clear, precise markers and a simplified read. This way, there will be no chance of getting confused about which direction you want to go.
People Also Asked
Q: Is a boat compass even necessary?
A: Whether you are a professional sailor or a beginner, a compass is essential. If you don’t have a compass, the chances of getting lost are high, it can cause great distress, and might also lead to some kind of accident. So be sure to always sail or go out on the sea with an accurate compass.
Q: How do I calibrate a boat compass?
A: Calibrating a compass isn’t too difficult. You start by putting the compass to zero and then turning it 180 degrees. Then adjust the athwartship compensator in such a way that one half is over or undershoot. Repeat at 90 degrees, all the while adjusting the fore/aft compensator.
Q: Can the compass be damaged?
A: Very much so. The compass can break, its glass can crack, the plastic can melt, or the housing could leak. After some time, the fluid in the housing can change colors, although this only happens after a long time of use. Most compasses from good companies last a long time without getting any kind of damage. Generally, it’s a good idea to check out reviews before investing in one.
Q: Do boat compasses have brackets?
A: This depends on what manufacturer you buy from. Some companies give a bracket mount so that installation is easy, while others only come with double-ended tape or with a stand of their own that can be placed on a plain flat surface. If you have specific needs, be sure to ask the seller whether or not a bracket comes with the compass.
SAIL Magazine Review Team reports on best-selling products in sailing and boating. The SAIL Magazine editorial staff is not involved in the creation of this content. SAIL Magazine is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.