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Author Topic:   Compass Fluid
nevada posted 11-05-2002 08:03 PM ET (US)   Profile for nevada   Send Email to nevada  
What is compass fluid? My new 1979 Montauk's compass is dry. What should I fill it with?

Thanks Joe

JBCornwell posted 11-05-2002 08:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Hi, Nevada.

The fluid is odorless mineral spirits. You can get it at any pharmacy. Get an eyedropper or syringe while you are there.

Turn the compass over and remove the screw in the globe. Fill'er up.

If she leaks a lot, you might be able to get a new globe from Ritchie and sons. They told me that the one I bought was the last one, but some vendors seem to have a few "last ones" lying around.

Good luck.

Red sky at night. . .

nevada posted 11-05-2002 09:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for nevada  Send Email to nevada     
Thank you JB.
Tates posted 11-05-2002 09:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tates  Send Email to Tates     
May as well get a new one if the fluid is gone.It probably has a hairline crack
JBCornwell posted 11-05-2002 10:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Yes. If you don't care whether your compass is original, some of the newer models are excellent.

On the other hand, if you want to keep your original, red base, Ritchie Explorer, you will need to keep your base and either rehab or replace the globe.

I found a new globe for my leaky Explorer at a retailer on the net. If I recall, it was $15.00. It was one of those "last one"s.

If you replace the whole compass let me know what you want for your original. I would buy it at the right price.

Red sky at night. . .

buster1389 posted 11-05-2002 11:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for buster1389  Send Email to buster1389     
I am not positive on this one but, many Ritchies as well as other manufacturers put a diaphram inside the compass to compensate for temperature expansion and contraction. Someone here may be able to elaborate more on this topic, but the diaphram may be another area to research.
jimh posted 11-05-2002 11:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In Sterling Hayden's epic sea novel THE VOYAGE OF 1898, he relates a story of some down east fishermen who drink the alcohol fluid from their schooner's compass. They replace the fluid with their own urine, which then promptly freezes, disabling the compass and resulting in the ship foundering on the rocks!
jameso posted 11-06-2002 08:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for jameso  Send Email to jameso     
Hence the term, I'll take mine on the rocks.
Drisney posted 11-06-2002 02:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for Drisney  Send Email to Drisney     
Some compasses take alchohol....others take mineral spirits....others take..? Check with the manufaturer otherwise you may totally ruin the compass with the wrong fluid...Dave
newt posted 11-06-2002 04:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Or you can buy some Richie Compass Fluid for about $100/cup at West Marine and have it all leak back out because you took the entire compass apart and put it back together wrong instead of researching the question here on this forum first.

Someone I know went that route. :)

JBCornwell posted 11-06-2002 05:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
My use of odorless mineral spirits (a few bux for a quart) was on the advice of Ritchie and sons.

Red sky at night. . .

Jay A posted 11-06-2002 10:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jay A    
jimh, My grandfather sailed "out-of Gloucester" with Sterling Hayden ! He had all kinds of crazy stories at sea,but never that one. nevada, don't mess with the compass! Either send it to the manufacturer for repair or buy a new one. You need it to be might save your butt someday!
nevada posted 11-07-2002 09:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for nevada  Send Email to nevada     
The compass does not have a red base. It has a cast iron black base and you are welcome to it at no charge.

...sailors' delight


JBCornwell posted 11-08-2002 09:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Oooops. I assumed that you had the red base Ritchie explorer.

Never mind.

Red sky at night. . .

newt posted 11-08-2002 10:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
While we are on the subject of compasses, as my above post suggests, I have ruined my compass, and will be replacing with a new one.

Boat US has Ritchie explorers for about $45 bucks. Are these OK, or is is worth spending the extra cash on a Helmsman or Navigator model?

JBCornwell posted 11-08-2002 11:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Hey, Newt.

The Navigator is wonderful if you are willing to give up the console space. Much easier to use than the Explorer, but harder to compensate.

Because I use a chartplotting GPS my Explorer is more of a backup than a primary navigation tool.

Without GPS I would seriously consider the Navigator.

Red sky at night. . .

triblet posted 11-09-2002 10:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
I've got a low-profile surface-mount Explorer
on the Montauk, and it's fine. I had a
bracket mount Explorer (still do, out in
the garage, anybody want it cheap?) but
wanted the low profile to get the room to to lay my dive gloves and hood on top of it when
conditions are VFR.

Other than being bigger and 5x more money,
how is the Navigator "easier to use"?

Ritchie compass oil is $7.99 a pint at West,
not $100/cup.


JBCornwell posted 11-09-2002 11:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     
Hi, Triblet.

Being visually challenged, I found the Navigator in my OR-18 much easier to read when standing to deal with aquatic mountain climbing, spray and/or darkness.

Easier, that is, than the Explorer in my Montauk under similar conditions. Those are the conditions in which the compass seems to me most important.

Red sky at night. . .

aniolem posted 10-30-2006 01:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for aniolem  Send Email to aniolem     

i hope any of you guy's can help me here...

i have a german military marching compass that needs

fluid, now i havent got an idea how to fill this

instrument. Its made of bakelite, and doesnt seem to have

a specific place to be filled any ideas?

Many thanks!

Don88outrage posted 10-31-2006 09:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for Don88outrage  Send Email to Don88outrage     
Of Whales and Men, a good book on the New England whaling industry talks about how they always brought along a good supply of compass fluid. This has since evolved to Of Boston Whalers and Men.
davej14 posted 10-31-2006 01:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
I installed a flush mount Ritchie F83 Voyager and am very satisfied with the performance and readability. It is slightly larger than the original equipment Explorer model. A benefit to this particular model is that it has a movable sun shield and two methods of reading the card. This makes it easy to read standing or sitting. Price is about $80.
macsfriended posted 10-31-2006 01:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for macsfriended  Send Email to macsfriended     
One more thought is your local library or small airplane airport should have a Trade A Plane (tabloid) around. You'll find several mail order houses ads for true compass fluid probably less than $10.00 for a quart or so.
PeteB88 posted 10-31-2006 10:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
My Ritchey works great and is clear but at night with lights on it is foggy and hard to read - what, if possible, is the fix/cause?


contender posted 10-31-2006 11:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
Compasses are filled with alcohol, and I think a type of special fine oil. If your compass is dry you have a leak, depending on the compass it may be better to purchase a new one, good luck
PeteB88 posted 11-01-2006 05:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
It's not dry, it's full for sure, just kind of cloudy or fuzzy when the lights are turned on.


Frank O posted 11-01-2006 06:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
If you have an issue with a Ritchie compass, I thought I'd pass along that I recently emailed them ( with questions about the 11-year-old compass on my Outrage, and got a response that was hearteningly prompt and helpful.

Martino posted 11-01-2006 09:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for Martino  Send Email to Martino     
What macsfriended said. Used to have a plane. Fairly common to have compass refilled and resealed. Most mechanics at the smaller airports know all about it.
saxart posted 11-01-2006 10:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for saxart  Send Email to saxart     
We had an airguide compass in our previous boat (26' Tiara) that went dry one day. I removed the entire sealed "bubble" from the black plastic housing and found that the bottom had a "rub through" crack from years of vibration inside the housing.

I brought the "bubble" assembly in the house and put it, upside down, in a clear glass mixing bowl and filled the bowl with enough oderless mineral spirits to cover the crack in the bottom of the "bubble" and fill the entire cavity. Once most of the air was out of the "bubble" and it was full of mineral spirits, I carefully took it out of the bowl and set it upside-down in a small bowl of aquarium gravel. The gravel allowed it to remain upside down on it's round dome-shaped top without spilling the mineral spirits.

I then dried the cracked bottom off with a paper towel and sealed up the crack with epoxy. (I think it was JB weld 5-minute formula..) 15 minutes later I put it all back together and the compass was working just fine when we sold the boat 3 years after that.

I can't say this is your solution, but it worked for me....

Royboy posted 11-02-2006 10:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royboy  Send Email to Royboy     
The instrument mechanics in the Air Force used to (and likely still do) refer to the analog compass as a Whiskey Compass, to differntiate it from the electronic one, presumably because it was filled with alcohol.


sternorama posted 11-06-2006 12:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for sternorama  Send Email to sternorama     
off topic, but does anyone care to illuminate us on the adjustment of a compass once installed? I have heard that this is an advanced subject...
My compass has two rods (at 90 degrees to each other)underneath the card-could anyone please explain how these work? Thank you!-G

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