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Magnetic Compass Adjustment

For whatever reason, if a compass adjustment is required, then there are several steps you
can take before calling in the compass adjuster. These can be done alongside and are
detailed below.

Adjustments and checks while alongside.

1. Do a detailed check of the binnacle and the compass bowl
a. Remove bubbles from the bowl you can refill the bowl using the correct
type of fluid through the filling plug. Check sealing gaskets and plug for
any leaks which would account for loss of fluid.
b. Remove the bowl and take it somewhere free of induced magnetic effects.
Check the time it takes for the needle to return to a proper heading after it
has bee turned this will indicate whether the bowl and needle are in good
working order (especially the pivot pin)
c. Remove slack in the gimbal arrangement.
d. Check for magnetism in the speres and flinders bar check the speres by
moving them in as close to the compass as possible, and rotating them;
any appreciable deflections noted, will indicate a residual magnetism in
them. Check the flinders bar by taking it out and inverting it again any
deflections will indicate residual magnetism. Bowditch says that to
remove this residual magnetism, spheres and bars must be annealed
(heated to red and then allowed to cool) but anecdotal evidence says that
rolling them around on the deck can sometimes demagnetise them also.
e. Correct alignment of the binnacle (and gyro repeaters) is very important,
as any incorrect alignment can result in a constant observed error.
f. Alignment of magnets in binnacle.
g. Alignment of heeling magnet tube under the pivot point of the compass.
h. Check that spare correcting magnets are available for use.
2. Physical Checks of the gyro, azimuth circle and peloruses.
a. Alignment with the fore and aft line of the vessel
b. Syncronise gyro repeaters with the Master.
c. Ensure that all azimuth rings etc are in good order.
3. Necessary data
a. Past history or log data which may establish length required for the
flinders bar.
b. Azimuths for date and observers position (if using celestial observations)
c. Ranges and distant objects in vicinity (if using terrestrial observations)
d. Correct Variation
4. Precautions
a. Determine if there are any transient deviations being induced from things
such as doors, magnetic cargoes, electrical devises etc.
b. Secure all gear in normal seagoing positions.
c. Correctors should be placed symmetrically in relation to the compass.
5. Adjustments
a. Adjust the flinders bar first. The flinders bar should be placed so that the
longest section is at the top and wooden spacers at the bottom.
b. Ensure the speres are set correctly to the measurements on the deviation
card or if this is not indicated, at a mid-point.
c. Adjust the heeling magnet.

By carrying out these checks and adjustments it will minimise the time that is
required for adjustment when the vessel is at sea.

Adjustments when at sea.

When making adjustments at sea, remember that course alterations should be slow
and steady, and the gyro error should be checked on each heading to ensure greater
accuracy. The gyro should be set up for the correct speed and latitude and the signal
flags Oscar Quebec should be displayed.
1. Adjust the heeling magnet while on a N/S heading until an average minimum
is achieved.
2. On a cardinal heading (say E), remove all deviation using the fore-and-aft B
3. Come to a south heading, adjust the athwartships C magnets to remove all
4. Come to a westerly heading and remove half the deviation with the B (fore
and aft) magnets
5. Come to a northerly heading and remove half the deviation using the
athwartships C magnets.
6. Come to an intercardinal heading (say NE), and correct all deviation by
moving the spheres in or out.
7. Come to the next intercardinal heading (say SE) and remove half the
observed deviation using the spheres. A more accurate result can be achieved
by making these adjustments on all four intercardinal headings.
8. Secure all correctors before swinging the ship to determine residual deviations.
Do this on as many headings as desired. Bowditch states that the eight
cardinal and intercardinal headings would be sufficient.
9. If there are any huge deviations still in the compass, then the adjustments
should be made again.
10. Record the deviations and the position of the correctors and post them on the
deviation card.

Some further notes.

1. The above procedure is a good guide for someone wishing to make adjustments
on the run, but personally I would not touch the bloody thing except to ensure that
all is good with it and that the correctors positions are correct according to the
deviation card. A licensed adjuster of compasses should always be used to make
any adjustments for the magnetic compass.
2. Gaussin Error is caused by magnetic eddies resulting from changes to the ships
heading. For this reason, the ships head should be changed slowly and then let to
settle for a couple of minutes before any observations are taken.
3. most adjustments can be made on a trial and error basis, although there is an
analytical method which can be employed.