Compass Vs GPS: Do You Need A Compass On Boat?
tokyo keiki gyro compass
9 Types of Navigation Components Use On Onboard Modern Ships
July 8, 2021
Yokogawa gyro compass

In recent times, since the emergence of global positioning systems (GPS), a debate is going on among sailors. The debate encapsulates whether or not a compass (previously the sailor’s biggest navigational tool) is still of some importance or is necessary to install on your boat. However, among boating safety instructors and Yokogawa gyro compass manufacturers, there is no debate.

A GPS may be relatively easy, quick, and handy, a compass still holds the key. It should always be among the first things to be installed on your boat. Let’s have a look at each system.


The compass along with a history nine centuries-long is among the oldest navigation tools, which is still in use. The Marine compass has been around since the 1300s in Europe. Also, it has been utilized for navigation on the seas. A compass, by reading the Earth’s magnetic field, can tell you the direction of that magnetic field almost always.


Yokogawa gyro compass

As a compass point in the same direction irrespective of your location on the planet. You can always use it to find which direction to head. This is regardless of the weather, the condition of your ship, or whether you have the battery power available or not. 

Further, because of its capabilities of consistently direction finding, if used together with a sextant, you can find latitude, and in conjunction with the marine chronometer, the time.

A conventional Yokogawa gyro compass also has three parts:

  • a needle,
  • a pin,
  • a compass rose

Among these three, the needle moves. Beyond that, it needs no more external or internal components, and unless thrown out by a local, magnetic field is always accurate.


On the other hand, a GPS has a range of moving parts, and as a result, a massive deal of things can be broken. Further, a GPS unit uses an electric current to work and demands an external battery or power source of some kind to function. The functional abilities of a GPS can be dependent upon the availability of a signal that can be lost or degraded in bad weather.

Moreover, after recording all the necessary waypoints, although the GPS would tell you the direct way to go for getting a destination, that direct way might have everything from sandbars to islands in its path. As such, the capability of map reading and compass use may still prove to be necessary.

Finally, if you install a compass on your boat, it cannot be forgotten on land, whereas portable GPS units can.

Last Word

Although GPS is an excellent navigational tool and makes course-plotting quicker and easier, it has its downsides. With its fragile nature, susceptibility to damage, and being harder to repair; GPS may be a problematic case. However, a compass must always be kept on board. Map knowledge and how to use it remains indispensable.   

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