With the advent of GPS, why do I need a Magnetic Compass?
A GPS provides COG (course over ground). COG is calculated from historical position data to give average COG.
The magnetic compass gives you real-time heading for your boat.
COG and Heading are both an integral part of navigation. Conditions such as wind, tide, current and even physical properties of your boat can cause differences between COG and Heading. Heading is the only reliable reference to steer your vessel accurately under all conditions.
Check out our Resource Center for additional information.
Why do my compass and my GPS seem to disagree?
The factors which cause the difference between COG and Heading have a greater affect at slow speeds. More importantly, the GPS, which uses historical data to calculate COG, needs a straight line to give an accurate reading. When you make a turn at slow speed, you will need to travel in a straight line for a period of time before the GPS can give you an accurate calculation.
While a boat is at rest, there is no historical data for the GPS. Therefore, there is no COG to report. The COG given by the GPS tends to be erratic and incorrect until you resume movement in a given direction. The Magnetic Compass, however, will give you accurate heading information in real time, from stop to go, and slow to fast.
What type of fluid is in my Ritchie Magnetic Compass?
Until 2001, all Ritchie compasses (see exception) were filled with Odorless Mineral Spirits (100% Paraffin based). Ritchie now uses a fluid called Isopar L that has similar properties but some added benefits over Odorless Mineral Spirits.
Exception: Some old style Flat Top Compasses used a mix of denatured alcohol and water. This process was stopped in the 1960s. If you have a Flat Top Compass, it is recommended that you test the fluid to see if it is Odorless Mineral Spirits or an alcohol/water mix.
Why is my Ritchie compass exactly 180 degrees off course?
It may seem like the compass is 180 degrees off depending on what style dial you are accustomed to reading. We manufacture compasses with 3 different types of dial styles – Open face (flat card), Direct read, and Combi.
Most are familiar or used to reading traditional “Flat card compasses”. To read a flat card compass, you look down at the compass card and read the heading at the lubberline (pointer) farthest away from you.
A “Direct reading compass”: A direct read compass is read at/around eye level. You look at the front of the compass and read the heading at the lubberline (pointer) closest to you.
With our “Combi dialed” compasses, you get both the flat card heading (using rear lubberline) and the direct read heading within one compass.
My compass worked correctly when I bought it but now that it is installed it is not reading correctly, what’s wrong?
Most likely, there is something mounted too close to the compass causing magnetic interference. Some culprits include Magnets (speakers, microphones etc.), ferrous metals (steel, iron, etc.) and current carrying devices.
Can I adjust my compass if there is magnetic interference?
Ritchie provides general compensation instructions within the instruction packets that come with most compass series.
Most Ritchie compasses have internal comp rods that can correct for +/- 15° of deviation. If your compass has a considerable amount of deviation (+15°), the built-in compensators will not be enough. Hiring a professional compass adjuster may be the way to go.
A professional compass adjuster is trained to help you locate potential causes of deviation and make recommendations to reduce them. Your local marina or harbor master should be able to put you in touch with a compass adjuster.
I’m trying to compensate my compass, how do I start?
Once you’ve temporarily mounted the compass in its intended position, you want to make sure the rods are neutral. You neutralize the comp rods by setting the slots in a horizontal position.
I want to compensate my compass, which is the N/S compensation rod and which is the E/W?
The slotted rod in front of you is the E/W. The slotted rod on the right hand side is the N/S.
*On some models the compensators are covered by two small plugs. Simply remove them to access the slots.
What are the wires for on my Ritchie Magnetic Compass?
Most Ritchie compasses come equipped with a night light system which can be connected to the boat’s DC electrical system.
Why are there two sets of wires on my Ritchie Magnetic Compass? What should I do with them?
Some Ritchie compasses have two sets of lights.
If this is the case with your compass, twist the positive leads together (red or white wires) and connect them to (+). Twist the two black leads together and connect them to (-).
My compass instructions say to make sure the lighting is connected to an “appropriately fused circuit”, what size fuse should I use?
A 1 AMP fuse is sufficient.
Will my compass still work if I don’t hook up the light wire(s)?
Yes; unlike electronics, i.e., chart plotters, etc. magnetic compasses do not need electrical power to work. The only part of the compass affected by a loss of power is the night lighting.
My compass “sometimes has a bubble” or “has no fluid”, what’s wrong?
All Ritchie magnetic compasses should be completely filled with fluid. If your compass has a bubble or no fluid, most likely, the compass needs to be repaired or replaced.
Please see our Return Policies and Procedures.
Can I purchase a dimmer for my Ritchie compass light (s)?
Yes, from Blue Sea Systems who manufacture an excellent marine dimmer for 12V and 24V systems see link: https://www.bluesea.com/products/category/Dimmers.
Can I purchase a light or parts for my Ritchie compass?
Yes, Ritchie offers replacement parts for most compasses. Our Service Manual is available on our website.
If you know the model and serial number off the compass and want to order parts or would like information about your compass, you can contact our service department by calling 781-709-3202 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can my Ritchie compass be repaired?
Yes, most Ritchie compasses are 100% repairable. We have Authorized Ritchie Service Stations that repair our products.
Our factory also has its own in-house Service Department. Please see our return procedure for details.