Once a position was found, setting a course was another navigational challenge faced by ship captains and, like the sextant, there are a variety of compasses to be enjoyed as collectibles. The two basic types are dry—where the compass ring spins on a jeweled pin—and wet—where the compass ring floats in a liquid.
If you have the space, you can probably find a complete binnacle topped by a compass under a brass and glass cover, such as one from a World War II Liberty Ship for $3,475 (Antiques of the Sea; www. antiquesofthesea.com). A more realistic choice might be a box compass, which is a gimbaled wet or dry compass in a wooden case. This was often kept as a spare, and used in lifeboats in an emergency. A nice box compass from the late 1800s in a mahogany case is currently on the market for $950 (Cutty Sark Antiques; www.cuttyantiques.com).
Even more unusual is the "telltale compass," which is an upside-down compass mounted to the overhead above the captain's berth. This allowed him to glance up and check the course even when he was off watch, hence the "telltale" label. Woe betide any watch officer or helmsman who was caught wandering off course.