Navigating the Seas

For centuries, sailors would look to the stars to find their position and navigate the Seven Seas. While our Navy has evolved to use advanced GPS, electronic charts and radar technology, sailors are still taught traditional navigational techniques, so they can still navigate our ships in the unlikely event technology should fail

Finding the North Star

Here’s a tip that you can even use on land. The North Star (Polaris), located at the end of the Little Dipper constellation, always points north. To locate Polaris, use the Big Dipper. The two outermost stars of the Big Dipper forms a line that points to Polaris.

Using a Sextant

A sextant allows you to measure the angle between two celestial objects or between one object and the horizon, allowing you to find your position out in the open sea.

Paper Charting

Paper charting is a fundamental navigational skill that has existed in the nautical domain for centuries. This involves the use of traditional nautical charts and navigational tools such as compasses, dividers and rulers to plot courses.



The bearing is the direction of an object from one’s own vessel, expressed in degrees.

1 Knot

Approximately 1.852 kilometres per hour.

Port and Starboard

Port and starboard refer to the left and right side of the ship respectively. Back in the day, cargo was loaded from the left (or ‘port’ side) when in port, and the steering rudder was fixed to the right (or ‘starboard’ side, which literally means the side which the ship was steered).

Sea State

Sea state refers to the condition of the sea. Sea state ranges from 0, which is calm (glassy), to 9, which is phenomenally rough with high waves.

WMO Sea State Code Wave Height Characteristics
0 0 metres (0 ft) Calm (glassy)
1 0 to 0.1 metres (0.00 to 0.33 ft) Calm (rippled)
2 0.1 to 0.5 metres (3.9 in to 1 ft 7.7 in) Smooth (wavelets)
3 0.5 to 1.25 metres (1 ft 8 in to 4 ft 1 in) Slight
4 1.25 to 2.5 metres (4 ft 1 in to 8 ft 2 in) Moderate
5 2.5 to 4 metres (8 ft 2 in to 13 ft 1 in) Rough
6 4 to 6 metres (13 to 20 ft) Very rough
7 6 to 9 metres (20 to 30 ft) High
8 9 to 14 metres (30 to 46 ft) Very high
9 Over 14 metres (46 ft) Phenomenal