Night Watch – Steering by the Stars

All this starlore stuff is running around her captains head and he reckons he might try steering our little ship by the stars on his watch. He selects a group of stars close to her masthead, and that he can recognise easily. Studying his star chart, it turns out to be the planet Jupiter, with some other stars in the background, forming a pattern that he can identify instantly. The warm night breeze is well round on her port quarter, and she is gambolling along at an easy eight plus knots. All lights are doused, including the white masthead light, so there is just the soft red glow of the Autohelm station and the faint glimmer of the compass light. She is taken off autopilot and, after steering for a few minutes on her present heading to familiarise himself with her motion - the way she comes off the waves, her pitch and yaw, and how far the dim masthead is swaying through its arc – he covers the compass with its plastic hood and lifts his eyes to his chosen star pattern. She is holding exactly on the starmark and behaving exactly as before. After a minute or two, the temptation to have a peek at the compass becomes overpowering.