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Compass Directions


A compass is a device for determining directions. A free floating magnetized needle points toward the magnetic North Pole. As the compass shows the direction north we can determine other directions and use this to move from one place to another.
Compass Rose.
For navigating a ship, the compass is divided into 32 directions or compass points. Reciting the list of directions is known as "boxing the compass". It was considered to be a basic skill of an apprentice sailor. The 32 compass points are sufficient for moving a vessel from one point to another.
For determining directions and locations on maps a more precise measurement is used. The face of the compass is measured in degrees with 360 forming the full circle. North is 0, east is 90, and south is 180 and so on.
32 Points of the Compass
Direction Degrees Direction Degrees
north 0.00 south 180.00
north by east 11.25 south by west 191.25
north northeast 22.50 south southwest 202.50
northeast by north 33.75 southwest by south 213.75
northeast 45.00 southwest 225.00
northeast by east 56.25 southwest by west 236.25
east northeast 67.50 west southwest 247.50
east by north 78.75 west by south 258.75
east 90.00 west 270.00
east by south 101.25 west by north 281.25
east southeast 112.50 west northwest 292.50
southeast by east 123.75 northwest by west 303.75
southeast 135.00 northwest 315.00
southeast by south 146.25 northwest by north 326.25
south southeast 157.50 north northwest 337.50
south by east 168.75 north by west 348.75
Finer points of navigation are provided by dividing each of the 32 compass points into quarters. As example southeast 1/4 east; from the compass point southeast move toward east 1/4 point; that is 135.00 minus 2.8125 resulting in 132.1875.
Shipboard navigation is based on the magnetic North Pole. Map navigation instead uses the North Pole as north, when this is the case the direction is said to be "true", meaning based on true north.
At sea distances are measured in nautical miles. A nautical mile is 6,076.10 feet or about 15% longer than a land mile (statute mile).

Last Revision: March 4, 2007.
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