The night started out clear and starry. We were sailing way off shore in Lake Okeechobee in a small sloop complete with a cuddy cabin. Our destination for the night was the South Florida cow town of Okeechobee. I was about 21 years old and knew next to nothing about sailing or marine navigation. The other guy--a friend's father--was a generation older, and needless to say knew a whole lot more than I did.
He let me take the tiller while he tended to a few chores aboard. I remember him telling me "Just keep the bow pointed to that star there." He was talking about Polaris (the North Star), and a due north course would take us very close to where we wanted to go.
So, with sails filled by the gentle yet powerful winds, we splashed along on the Big Lake's waves, making steady headway to the north. As I kept the bow fixed on Polaris, I began to realize that following a star to my destination was one of the coolest things I could think of. For some reason, it brought me great satisfaction. There was, and still is for me, something primal and cosmic about following a celestial body to my destination.
About that same year, I was in US Army basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was tough, and a lot of stuff you just had to grit your way through. But the day or two we studied land navigation was for me a real treat. Maps, compasses, the compass course were all pure fun. You can't learn it all in a day or two, but it was a good introduction to the subject of land navigation.
After graduating from college, my first job was at the University of Wyoming. Now, Wyoming is the place to be if you like the great outdoors, which I did and still do with a passion. Wanting to explore Wyoming's great wilderness, I drove all the way one day from Laramie to Boulder, Colorado where I purchased a book which I still proudly keep on my shelf: Bjorn Kjellstrom's "Be Expert with Map and Compass." What I learned from that book, I soon put to good use backpacking and exploring big, wonderful Wyoming.
Over the years, I've kept teaching myself more about land navigation. Fairly regularly, I go out and just "navigate around" some wilderness area trying to prove to myself how hard it is to truly get lost if you have a good sense of your surroundings and can determine directions either with a compass or with the sun, the stars, or the moon.
Just lately, I've gotten into orienteering, essentially a competitive land-navigation sport in which speed and navigation ability are the two critical factors.
Oh, I guess I should formally introduce myself. My name is Reid Tillery, and my passion for this topic has led me to create this web site.
My goal is to provide for you in these pages the information you need to be an accomplished land navigator. My hope is that such knowledge provides you with the pleasure of learning something fundamentally useful, keeps you safer in the great outdoors, and brings you home alive and well every time.