Compass Watch

-- Last Updated: Dec-04-08 5:01 PM EST --

I have a compass on my kayak and a handheld in my PFD. When I want to take a bearing I either fumble with my handheld, using both hands off the paddle, or I turn my kayak to the direction I'm taking the bearing. I can also use the compass function on my GPS but that still requires one hand off the paddle and flipping through pages to bring up the compass.
I've been looking at wrist compasses or compass watches. Then I could keep my boat on course, keep both hands on the paddle, and still get a decently useful bearing to other points on shore. They range from $40 up to $400 or more. Anybody use one of these things and have any recommendations?


buy a backpacking compass instead
and keep it in your pocket. I had a Suunto Vector but it wasn’t very useful for taking bearings.

he said he tried that
and didn’t like it. I’ve had bad luck with watches. They always seem to die in salt water. $400 is a lot of money just to have it die. Plus, I don’t know what you’re wearing, but watches never fit on my wrist over my drysuit, so I lash mine onto my PFD instead. Seems to fare better there. A couple of ideas for the compass: One, you could put one under the bungees on your deck for quick access. Or two, you might put it in a fanny pack and lash that down on your deck. Something small. Just an idea. All the best.

Use the boat’s compass…
and paint a compass rose on your deck. Shouldn’t be too hard to extrapolate a reading.

Memorize major compass headings,
on a compass rose, beginning with N,S,E,W; each being 90 degrees apart, then do the intermediate headings, NE,SE, etc, each being 45 degrees from the primary headings/bearings - also memorizing the actual degree headings, numerically (N=0 or 360, E=90, S=180, W=270, etc.). Get where you can close your eyes and visualize which way you would turn from your present heading to take up a new heading.

In a short time, you will have a mental picture of a compass in your mind. You will not need to refer to a compass rose. Using a magnetic compass mounted on your boat, you can then take note of your current heading/bearing and turn in the direction of your desired heading by “pulling” that number to you until it is on the line.

The tendency for new compass users is to turn toward the desired heading they see on their compass, but with a little practice, they will see that the number moves away from the line when they try to turn toward the number. I have always found it easier to visualize “pulling” the desired heading toward you by turning the opposite way until the number is “pulled” into line on the compass. Visualize the direction you have to turn first, then begin turning, while watching for your desired heading to come up.

This is much easier to do if you have a mental picture of a compass in your head. For example, if you are on a heading of 220 degrees, and come to the point on your chart where you now need to turn to a heading of 280 degrees, you will know that this will be a right turn of 60 degrees (from 220 to 280). As you turn your boat toward the new heading, you will see the compass turn until that heading, or bearing, comes into view.

It’s late and I don’t think I explained this as clearly as I wanted, but hopefully, you get the general idea. It’s quite easy - especially with a little practice. One good compass properly mounted on your boat, and a backup in your pocket (in case you lose the mounted one, or get separated from your boat) are all you will need. A good book on navigation will also be of great help.

I have used 3 different watches
Timex tide, temperature and compass. It is about $160. The tide component works well, the compass part leaves a lot to be desired, in that the reading is through the second hand on a watch face. I found even when calibrated correctly it does not give very accurate readings quickly.

The second is a Suunto Xm9i. It is over $400. The compass portion works well and gives a BIG digital readout. The downside is the watch has not held up well to rugged wear.

The third is a Casio Pathfinder. (this is an older model not the new PAW15007V). It retailed for about $180 and provided a very accurate digital readout. The numbers were smaller than the Suunto but the watch held up well in some heavy ocean going.

IMO the compass watches will never replace a good hand held compass or boat mounted compass, but if you need to get a really quick bearing when you are in the shit (and need hands on the paddle) the compass watch has worked well for me on more than one occasion.

I guess if I had to pick between the three it would be the Casio. Just my thoughts.

I had
I have had 2 digital watch-compasses,one quite expensive.Both wouldn’t stay calibrated.Meybe I have a magnetic body.I now us one of those little cheap add on old fashoned magnetic compasses on my watch band.


Wrist compass
With a watch compass you still need to take one hand off the paddle - the watches I’ve seen require you to push a button to activate the compass. May be the expensive ones do it for you continuously, but they’ll run out of battery fast if they did that…

I have a $30 Timex that I use for paddling and it has a compas that works reasonably well but needs to be calibrated often. Have had it in water for windsurfing, swimming and paddling for may be 5 years now and still works (battery has been changed a couple of times, the wrist band also was changed as the original one wore-out)

What about this?


I thought any watch
with hands could at least orient you south.

That is if the sun is shining.

what’s with the west and east on it ??

Even when it is dark outside…
My watch will point due south at least every hour even if I never touch it.

Yep, that’s it
What about this?

Posted by: Jsaults on Dec-05-08 1:20 PM (EST)

Thanks J, good find, just what I am looking for; simple, no batteries, foolproof, cheap…thanks