CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS was already a master navigator when, on May 30, 1498, he embarked on his third voyage of discovery. This expedition, however, which ultimately carried his six-strong fleet to Venezuela’s Paria Peninsula, provided lessons in magnetic declination and governing practices. As he sailed west, Columbus noticed that the angle between north, as registered on his magnetic compass, and north, as measured by his lodestar, was changing. Columbus likely understood that this angle fluctuated over time and with his latitude and longitude, and he definitely understood that navigational ambiguitycapability eliminates the need to use a fish finder’s bottom-lock display mode, which can mask details and distort target returns. ¶ With networked radars, accurate heading and stabilized vessel-movement data enable advanced-level capabilities. For example, Kunz says, higher-end Furuno radars have True Trails functionality, which delivers stabilized echo trails of all acquired targets. “With stabilized trails, you can see exactly where these boats have come from … and you can extend [their] heading in front of [their] True Trails,” Kunz says. ¶ Cost is another benefit: First-generation satellite compasses fetched $15,000, while the SC33 weighs in at a comparatively modest $2,595. ¶ As with all marine electronics, satellite compasses have their inherent downsides, and the SC33 is no exception. For example, much like satellite-communications or television antennas, satellite compasses can suffer from signal blockage or error-inducing “multipath” (read: ricocheting) reception if they are installed near superstructure or other antennas. However, according to Kunz, multipath issues can be much better filtered with the SC33 than with the legacy SC30. ¶ “This antenna is more liberal with where you can put it,” he says. ¶ So, if you want to unlock advanced instrumentation features and enjoy better autopilot performance, Furuno’s SC33 could be a solid choice. ¶ As for Columbus, while there’s no question that a better heading sensor would have quelled his crew’s off shore anxieties, it’s unclear if it would have spared him the ignominy of being deposed as Hispaniola’s governor and returning to Spain in manacles — even if it would have again proved useful during his fourth and final voyage.

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