A Regiment for the Sea

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Contents | Glossary | First Chapter >>

A collection of useful writings, rules of thumb and tables that every Navigator should know.

This is a reworking of writings by William Bourne, with all tables and calculations updated to reflect conditions on Alusia accurately, including our Calendar, Zodiac and planets, and extended to include flying vessels. Some of the original sections have been omitted, expanded, or rearranged, and the language made much clearer. The original work is out of Copyright, having been written in 1574.

A bound collection of these writings


In my opinion, which is also the saying and writing of all the Philosophers, those things are most principally to be taught and maintained, which are the most profitable and necessary. Then may I boldly say and affirm, that Navigation is not the least but one of the principal matters to be known in these times; considering that state and situation of our country, for we are nearly surrounded by the sea, so that we neither can visit far-away places, nor they that are of distant countries can come to us, but only by the Sea. These things considered, what can there be more necessary to be taught for those interested in travel and high adventure than Navigation, considering also what Navigation is – how to direct ones course through the sea, where one has no know path to the place intended, and how to attain the port in the shortest time, how also to preserve the ship and goods in all common disturbances, such as storms, dangers by the way, and otherwise. Moreover, it is not unknown how necessary Navigation is, both for the transport of our commodities to other countries, and also the brining of other commodities to us, by which means we receive no small measure of comfort. Given this situation, so that Navigation continues to be a chief force and strength of our country, I have written this Regiment for the Sea with a few rules of Navigation. While the learned sort of Mariner has no need of this book, yet it may be a necessary aid for the simplest sort of Seafarer; for that they shall find here the names of the circles in the spheres, with the names of diverse things good for Navigation, together with their uses, which the majority of seamen do mistake or misremember; neither do they know the use of those tables being most necessary for Navigation.


Navigation is how to direct the course of a vessel in the Sea or Heavens to any place assigned, and to consider in that direction what things may be of use or hindrance, having consideration of how to preserve the ship in all storms and changes of weather that may happen by the way, to bring the ship safe into the port assigned, in the shortest possible time.

The Use of Navigation

The use of Navigation is first to know the direction of any place from you, by what winds or points of the compass, and also how far that place is away, and also to consider the tidal flows and currents, and which way they do set or drive the ship, and also to consider what dangers lie upon the way such as rocks and sandbars and other impediments, and also if the wind should change or shift, to consider which way to travel to resume the course, and to direct your course to the most advantage to attain the port in the shortest time, and also if any storms happen along the way, to consider how to preserve the ships and its crew and goods, to bring her safe into the assigned port. Also, it is important to consider and foresee that if you have by occasion of contrary tempest or other dangers of the high sea, to go very much out of your course, to know how the place now bears, and what other ports may be visited or avoided, howsoever far you are off course, and thence by what point of the compass each port is from you, and how far. The way to know this is to first consider by what compass point or direction the ship has made her way, and how swiftly she has gone, and to consider how often the ship has altered her course, and how much she has gone each time, and then to mark all this on your chart, and so you may give a near guess as to by what point or wind it bears from you, and also how far it is there. You may have assistance from the Sun or stars to estimate the height of the Pole above the horizon, and also in some places you may guess by your sounding, both by the depth and the ground. It is also very useful and necessary to recognise any port or landmark by sight, from many angles.


The use of most Navigational Instruments, whether Astrolabes, or common Rings, or Cross staffs is to take the height of the Sun or other stars, to help determine one’s position on the sea, and the behaviour of the Celestial bodies, and hence the tide, weather, etc. All instruments to take the height of the Sun or any star, are either a circle or part thereof, whose divisions are marked with the 360 degrees of a circle, whatsoever form it may have; even the cross staff is marked according to the proportions of a circle, and every one of the marks is of equal degree, although their spacing on a line differs.


Regarding those persons that are appropriate to take charge, that is, to be masters of ships in Navigation, they ought to be sober and wise, and not to be light or rash-headed, nor to be too quick-tempered or hasty, but one who can govern themselves, for else it is not possible for them to govern their company well; they ought not to be too common or friendly, but instead keep their company in awe of them (by discretion), doing their company no injury or wrong, but letting them have only that which seamen ought to have, and then to see that they do their labours in all points. And the principle point in governance is to cause oneself to be both feared and loved, and that occurs principally by cherishing men who do well, and for those men that are honestly addicted to the sea, let them have reasonable pre-eminence in the company, so long as it proves not hurtful to either the owner or master, and to punish those malefactors and disturbers of the company, and give gentle admonition to amend their ways for small faults. And the two principle points for a ship’s master are to serve the Archangels and to see that all the company does so in like manner, at such times as it is convenient to do so; and to not gamble or play at dice or cards, not (as near as one can) to suffer any such play, for any sufferance thereof may do much hurt in diverse respects. Furthermore, the master ought to be one that knows the Moons course, whereby they know at what time it is high or low water, knowing in what quarter that the Moon makes high water at that place, and also the master ought to be acquainted with any place that they sail (unless they have taken a pilot), and expert in how the tide gates or currents flow from place to place, and not ignorant of such dangers lying on the way such as rocks, shoals, or sand banks, and also most principally to be able to direct a course to any place assigned, and to have capacity to handle the vessel directly, if there is need to shift all crew in foul weather or storms. It also behoves them to be a good coaster, that is, to know every place and mark by sight. Those that take charge for long journeys ought to have knowledge of charts and logs, and also of such instruments that are used to take the height of the Sun or stars, and have the capacity to correct those instruments, and to calculate the Sun’s declination or have tables or other regimen to allow this, and know how to handle the Sun’s declination, when they have taken the height of the Sun.