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The Barefoot Navigator: Navigating with the Skills of the Ancients Paperback – 31 May 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Adlard Coles (31 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713674296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713674293
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 1 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 493,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is a most refreshing book about navigation. Forget for a moment GPS and stand on deck using just your own senses.'', --Gaffers Log (September 2006)

''A refreshingly different book which not only encourages seafarers to develop greater skills and knowledge of the world around them for the satisfaction this imparts, but reduces their dependency on technological gadgetry. Learning the navigation skills of our ancestors may not only be for interest, it could even save your life. The Barefoot Navigator' is highly recommended.'', --New Milton Advertiser (September 2006)

'Fascinating reading for long passages.'', Yachting Monthly (August 2006) ''This differs from every other navigation book and contains important principles overlooked by the official yachting navigation texts.'', Canoeist (November 2006) ''A fascinating read, presented in a clear format which is almost guaranteed to make the reader want to ""give it a go"" when next at sea, or to at least do more star gazing.'', World Cruising Club Magazine (Autumn/Winter 2006) 'Make sure you can find your way through the waves and wakes of the ocean by getting stuck into this fascinating read.', --Welsh Coastal Life

About the Author

Jack Lagan has been sailing since the 1960s on everything from 14ft dinghies to 30m Baltic Traders around the world. When not living-aboard, fitting navigation systems and helping with yacht deliveries, he is a writer and documentary film-maker.'

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have wanted to try celestial navigation and this book is very user friendly and now feel with a bit of practical practice I will be able to plot courses very accuratly.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Pacific Researcher on 22 July 2008
Format: Paperback
The uncontactable Mr Lagan is to be congratulated on an interesting and readable book, The Barefoot Navigator, but the reviewer confesses to being very puzzled. He continually refers to Gavin Menzies Book - 1442 - The Year China Discovered the World, throughout the book and even in the references. He appears to have a book that none of us, not even Gavin Menzies know about or even wrote. Gavin Menzies as far as we know, has only written 1421: The Year China Discovered the World and now 1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance.

This is obviously an error on Mr Lagan's part and that of his editor and proof readers. Nobody bothered to check the accuracy of his work and referencing. The error stands out like a red beacon especially as he chose to be very critical of Gavin Menzies' theories. If he makes such an obvious error and cannot get the title right, how can his opinion of 1421 be correct?

Many of Gavin Menzies' critics reject his whole book on the basis of one or two minor errors and if applying the same logic, I should do the same with the Barefoot Navigator. However I have taken the trouble to read this book in full and certainly find merit in a great deal of it. Its broad purpose is understandable and what the author sets out to do, admirable. Lagan's historical research lacks depth and he tends to parrot the opinions of convention. The Barefoot Navigator would have been better without the potted histories but I am not going to trash it as many others will do, if they take this work seriously. There are some hidden gems in this book for those with eyes to see. Mr Lagan may likewise find plenty in 1421 if he takes the time to read it carefully.

It would be a commendable gesture if Mr Lagan could put up an apology on his website with the correct information regarding 1421 so that his readers may be correctly informed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William D. Robinson on 6 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have only just started reading this book yet I am already becoming frustrated with the authors style. So far there has been more criticism and opinion of other peoples work than anything of substance. I hope I will find some useful information which is not contained in We the Navigators and other books I have read.
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By Raul Sousa Machado on 19 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Informative and Entertaining 27 Jun. 2008
By Dave Lochner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Students of Polynesian history are familiar with tales of sailors crossing vast expanses of the Pacific. Lagan's book, The Barefoot Navigator begins with a discussion of their ancient techniques before exploring other ancient navigators; Norse, Chinese, and Arab.

Lagan's premise is that modern sailors are too dependent on electronic navigation tools and that those tools are subject to failure. In contrast the movement of sun and stars, ocean currents, and weather patterns have remained consistent for eons. The prudent sailor will know how to use natural patterns to safely navigate when electronics fail.

By following the historical development of navigational techniques, Lagan introduces complex topics in a simple, easy to understand manner. Along the way he shows how ancients used primitive navigation tools to find their way across oceans and deserts. Lagan instructs the sailor on building and using these tools built of string, sticks, and hands and fingers.

Informative and entertaining, an evening or two spent with The Barefoot Navigator will yield a wealth of knowledge of interest to any sailor, knowledge that might just help you reach your destination.

Dave Lochner
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, but a few confusing misprints 25 Jan. 2011
By Candid Reviewer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I definitely recommend this book. It will make you a better navigator even if you don't adopt the low-tech navigation solutions he recommends because it will clarify the origins/basis of major navigational concepts, such as latitude and longitude, etc.

One thing worthy of note. There are approximately four places where the (nicely printed) text flatly contradicts itself. A diagram will incorrectly refer to the "Southwesterly" trade winds immediately after the text clarifies that they are "Southeasterly." This can raise confusion about the point that section tries to make, which is that winds are named from the direction they come FROM, not the direction they blow TOWARD. The diagram will suggest the opposite (wrong) answer. Elsewhere, there are several contradictions about Zenith Distance being positive or negative. The picture or text will say that ZD is positive, immediately followed by a caption that tells you it is negative, or vice versa. These are small blemishes on an otherwise brilliant and fine book, but the reader should be aware of them.

Some of the other moments are tricky to follow, but that is due to the complexity of the subject. Lagan is a good, clear writer. If you read him patiently (and go over difficult concepts a few times), all the information you need is there. This is a truly fascinating look at pre-technology (and for much of it, pre-compass) navigation. Well worth having on your shelf.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Any sailor will find THE BAREFOOT NAVIGATOR intriguing. 14 Dec. 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
The navigation skills of the ancients were legendary yet seem to pale in comparison with modern technology and navigation research - but THE BAREFOOT NAVIGATOR: NAVIGATING WITH THE SKILLS OF THE ANCIENTS offers up an important survey of these early skills, and applies them to modern times. From how to analyze clouds and currents to determine direction to how 21st century sailors can integrate these techniques with modern equipment, any sailor will find THE BAREFOOT NAVIGATOR intriguing.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Important technical mistakes 24 Sept. 2013
By luis ferres - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is not usefull for non instrumental navigation.

The solar compass is only valid for the Equator (and with some errors within the tropics)

The suposed universal star compass is only valid for the Equator.

There are other mistakes, like the conversion from time error to Longitude error.

If somebody uses the book for non instrumental sailing in temperated latitudes will not succeed at all.
I found this book fairly good, but I was a bit disappointed 14 Dec. 2014
By lipmanfan - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this book fairly good, but I was a bit disappointed. I thought the author could have done a better job explaining Polar sticks, astolabes, cross-staffs, and backstaffs. He also mentions a knotted rope held in your teeth without complete explanation. Diagrams would have helped. There was a diagram of a Polar stick, but it didn't make sense to me. I had to google those to get a better handle on how they worked. He does a great job with quadrants and sun-shadow boards, including diagrams and instructions on constructing your own. Wish he had done the same for the three I mentioned.

He also describes how to calculate your latitude by measuring the altitude of stars as they cross your meridian. He uses Mintaka (a star in the belt of Orion). He says you don't have to worry about declination when it comes to stars. I think the only reason you can ignore declination with Mintaka is because it's declination is close to zero (the same way you can ignore the declination of the sun during equinoxes as the declination equals zero). But he suggests you can ignore declination with stars in general when calculaing latitude. He writes on page 104, "No, I didn't forget to allow for the declination - that only applies to the sun; consider it a huge bonus for working with the stars." I believe that is just plain wrong. I'm not an expert on Celestial Navigation and if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me.

Also his website no longer exists. The address take you to a site in Asian lettering that doesn't have anything to do with the author. I tried googling the author Jack Lagan, but It seem that he has dropped off the face of the earth. I hope he is in good health.

All in all a fairly good book with, but marred by the issues I described above.
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