Compass Basics - BoatUS Magazine

It funny how some memories really stick with us no matter how old we become. I recall many of mine, mostly my fondest, like they were only yesterday. I definitely remember my first trip “offshore.” My dad had a 17-foot Whaler named “Sugar Babe”, my dads nickname for my mom. We fished that Whaler hard for many many years often pushing her to the extremes back in the day. I was about 10-years old at the time and dad took Andy and I out to troll the shipping channel for Kings. This particular day was slick so we just kept trolling further and further out till we were beyond sight of land. We reached the C buoy and it was loaded up with monster Amberjack. The line snapped out of the outrigger like a gun going off, dad set the hook and passed the rod to me as I was sitting in the fighting chair and the battle was on! (That’s right a 17-foot Whaler with a fighting chair and outriggers!) Andy had to hold me in the fighting chair the entire fight, and we finally boated a 55-pound AJ that ended up being a Trident Tournament leader for almost the entire season.

We spent several hours that day tangling with more of the reef donkeys and finally with soar arms and backs dad looked at us and said, “Well fellas it’s time to call it a day and head for the hill. Who can tell me which way is home?” Keep in mind this was way before GPS and when only the big boys were running Loran C. I pointed in the one direction and Andy pointed in another. Dad shook his head. We both surveyed the horizon straining our eyes but we could not see the Cooper River Bridges, the Sullivan’s Island Light or even see the dark and light bands of the Morris Island light. Andy thought hard and I did as well. Andy made his second guess based off the swell direction and I based my guess off the wind. Dad said, “ Well boys; one of you would have us headed to Kiawah and the other pretty close to Capers, better but still a long way from the harbor. He then showed us how to read the compass. He offered the simple advice of always keeping a reco