Plastimo Compasses: The Champion's Choice
We recommend Plastimo compasses to our customers. We stock the full range for every navigation requirement, this page will help you to choose the right product. If you know which product you need, click it now otherwise read our comprehensive guide below:
Handbearing Compasses & Accessories
Compass Buyers Guide
Plastimo Compasses: 45 Years on the Right Course
Research & Development
Quality Control Tests
5 Year Warranty
How To Select Your Compass
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Deviation and Compensation
Compass Selector Sheet
Plastimo Compasses: 45 Years on the Right Course
For ultimate quality, Plastimo selects the best components in order to ensure that your compass is a highly dependable instrument which will provide years of reliable service.
- A sapphire equips every compass: its hardness is a warranty for the long life and precision of your compass.
- All Plastimo compasses feature an anti-vibration system, which ensures a minimal contact between the pivot and the sapphire cup; the latest-born "Vibration absorber" device damps spinning caused by high-speed pounding and vibration.
- A compass is a meticulously engineered instrument: all the "precious" components are produced by Swiss clock-makers, worldwide famous for their legendary precision.
- The soft Viton® diaphragm or the semi-soft ultra sound welded diaphragm is fully waterproof and has an extreme expansion and retraction capacity: it compensates the fluctuations in fluid voulme caused by the differences in temperature and atmospheric pressure.
- All plastic components -and more specifically the material used for the dome- are carefully selected to withstand shocks, UV-rays and harsh marine environment.
- The crystal transparency of the dome and exceptional magnifying index of the fluid contribute to the perfect legibility of the card.
(Viton® is a registered trademark of Dupont de Nemours)
Innovation Stems From State-of-the-Art Research & Development
For over 45 years, the Plastimo Research and Development department has created and engineered extremely dependable compasses, combining top performance with stylish design. Building on the same development philosophy, our engineers now use the most sophisticated computer assisted design programs.
To Be Allowed On Your Boat, A Plastimo Compass Must Pass Challenging Quality Control Tests
Needless to say, all Plastimo compasses comply with the regulations but Plastimo's stringent requirements are even more demanding: at every stage of production, each compass is tracked, checked and thoroughly inspected, so that quality is never a coincidence.
- Accelerated ageing tests, carried out in our laboratories, guarantee that the dome and all other components are totally impervious to UV rays.
- Vibration tests used to simulate the vibrations generated by rough sea and high-speed: the card must remain absolutely stable, whatever the vibration frequency. While the regulation requires tests from 7 to 40Hz, Plastimo challenges its compasses to tests between 5 and 100Hz.
- Temperature tests : our compasses are tested in heated and refrigerated cabinets from +60° to -20°C (+180°F to -70°F). Evene in these extreme temperatures, the compass must not leak or develop bubbles.
- Stability tests: when the card is deflected (40° or 90°), it must return to its original posistion and settle within a predetermined time (called the "half-period").
- Precision and accuracy are tested on each cardinal point. After a 95° deflection, the card must return to its original position , within a 1° maximum allowance.
- Packaging protection: in order to guarantee optimum protection during transport, we regularly drp test our packaged compasses from a 1 metre height to a hard surface.
- Final quality tests: assembled, packaged and ready for shipment, Plastimo compasses are once again inspected with a statistical sampling.
5 Year Warranty
These stringent tests and quality assurance procedures allow Plastimo to offer a 5-year warranty on all its compasses and to certify an outstanding quality that meets all European and ISO specifications.
Excellence In Compass Craft
For over 45 years, we have owed our position as market leader not only to our extensive range of 400 models, but also to our continuous effort to offer you such a top quality product that you never have chance to mention it, except than recommend it to a friend getting ready to equip his boat.
Compass production is fully controlled in our Lorient (France) factory, including of course plastic injection engineering, on which Plastimo has built its worldwide reputation.
Produced from state-of-the-art injection moulding machines, domes are individually inspected, thus eliminating the slightest risk of imperfection-optical or mechanical.
Printing and legibility of the card must pass microscopic examination. Quality and durability of the printing are fundamental. Once the compass is assembled, the magnification of the card is such that the slightest flaw would be intolerable. Plastimo owes its position as market leader to this uncompromisingly stringent selection of cards.
Every compass card is balanced manually to ensure its perfect horizontality. This is an extremely delicate operation, requiring patient and scrupulous craftsmanship which only years of experience can bring.
The oven test is used to detect possible leaks. Each compass is placed for 2 hours in a cabinet heated to +60°C. As this produces an expansion of the fluid, the diaphragm compensates for volume fluctuations.
A Plastimo compass is a meticulously engineered instrument. The complexity of components and the extreme accuracy required at every stage forbids production automation; every compass is assembled manually. Even when brand new, it already has an interesting history...
How To Select Your Compass
For almost 40 years, we have owed our position as market leader not only to our extensive range of over 400 models, but also to our continuous effort to offer you such a top quality product that you never have chance to mention it, except than recommending it to a friend getting ready to equip his boat.
Selecting the best compass for your boat is extremely important, as the compass will be the helmsman’s or pilot’s navigation mate for many years. To help you choose, we suggest that you ask yourself the following simple but essential questions:
What Type of Boat Do You Own?
Dinghy, cruising boat, racing boat powerboat kayak or yawl.. - You should know that the main differences between a sailboat and a powerboat (in terms of compass construction) are the heeling angle and the resistance to vibration and shocks. These technical elements are of course integrated in the engineering of our compasses.
What is Your Navigation Programme?
Day sailing, cruising, passage making, racing... you will select a compass with or without lighting, with or without compensation, with the right card balanced for the geographical card where you are going to sail with a plain or tactical card.
Which Size of Compass?
If the compass is designed to be read from a distance you will need a larger compass. Generally speaking and as a benchmark indication, you should select a card apparent diameter between 70 and 90mm, for a 5 to 9m (17-30ft) boat.
Which Type of Mounting?
Flushmounted on a horizontal, vertical or inclined bulkhead on a binnacle or mini-binnacle, on a bracket, in a take-away or mast- mounted version... you must choose a compass which remains easily readable (shape of card) at all times. The Plastimo range of compasses cover all mounting options and all our models are designed for minimum drilling and screwing. Last but not least, be stylish: often located at the heart of your boat your compass should ideally match and enhance the character of your boat; you will therefore pay particular affention to its design and colour.
What Are The Different Types Of Cards
A flat card is read on the back edge, where the lubberline is located. The fluid magnifies the numerals which become easier to read. In addition, the flat card provides a global view of the card and its North point in relation to the baot’s direction.
Conical or Cylindrical Card
Reading from the front and the top of the card. In addition to front reading this type of card usually features numerals and cardinal points on the top part of the card thus providing two reading possibilities. This card is particularly suitable when steering or piloting is done sitting or standing.
A Jewel on Your Dashboard
While holding the course is obviously the primary function of a compass, we at Plastimo believe that elegance and style add to your sailing pleasure. We have designed your compass to enhance your boat. You will be proud of it. Plastimo compasses have been presented with several prizes, of which the most impressive are French, Japanese, German, and American Design Awards.
Compass Installation On Board
Flushmount on horizontal surface
This extra-flat version provides an excellent viewing angle and also reduces vibrations by absorbing them. On a powerboat, a flushmount compass is ideal for the fly bridge, the upper deck or the central steering pod; on a sailboat, a flushmount compass will be ideally located on either side of the deck or mounted on a binnacle.
Flushmount on vertical or inclined surface, often known as bulkhead compass or dashboard compass
A bulkhead compass is generally mounted on the cockpit side of the cabin bulkhead, allowing easy viewing from the cockpit (and also from the cabin, with the famous Contest 101). On a powerboat, this is ideally suitable for a vertical dashboard or a central steering pod.
Very popular on powerboats, a bracket allows for swift and easy mounting whatever the location. It is particularly suitable on surfaces with awkward angles. A bracket-mount compass can generally be taken away for safe storage, which is a real plus on a powerboat with no cabin.
Binnacle for steering wheel
For sailboats with a steering wheel.
Ultra-slim and compact version; does not require any cut-out hole. The compass can be taken away for safe storage.
Mounted on a fixing plate or a specific bracket, a removable compass can be taken away when not in use, safe from UV-rays and possible theft.
If you only have little space available, mast installation can be the answer. It is very easy to carry out thanks to a specific mast mounting kit.
On fixing bracket
Often a multi-function compass (combines course + handbearing functions), this type of compass is usually removable for storage.
Some helpful hints - Does my compass need to be compensated?
If you use your compass as a real navigation instrument, it is indeed preferable to have it compensated. All Plastimo compasses either have an integrated factory compensation or can be further compensated.
Magnetic fields generating interference on the compass performance exist on all boats. They can originate from many fifferent sources:
loudspeakers, engine, electronic instruments.., Do remember that the distance from the interference source is more critical than the intensity of the interference.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
I plan to sail in a geographical area different from the zone my compass is designed for. Can I use my current compass?
All our compasses are balanced manually: with a standard procedure for Zone A models, and using a specific magnetic field simuator for all other area compasses. Balancing the compass consists in adjusting the card so that it is perfectly horizontal. If you sail too far away from the area your compass was originally balanced for, the card will dip and the precision will be affected by a few degrees. For a long passage in a different zone the acquisition of a compass specifically balanced for that area is a wise investment.
To select the geographical area where you are going to sail, please consult the map of magnetic zones worldwide.
My boat has a steel or ferrocement hull. Which compass should I choose?
No compass can answer this specific requirement alone. It is necessary to call for the services of a professional compass adjuster who will set up a compensation system relevant to your boat.
My boat is equipped with a GPS. Is a magnetic compass really useful ?
A magnetic compass indicates the boat’s course in real time. This information comes as a complement to the GPS data. Also bear in mind that a magnetic compass remains fully operational even in the event of an electrical failure on board, which would prevent you from relying on your GPS. The magnetic compass is therefore a major safety element on board.
Does my compass need to be compensated ?
Magnetic fields generating interference on the compass performance exist on all boats. The impact on the compass, called "deviation”, can originate from many different sources : metallic masses, loudspeakers, engine, electronic instruments….
If deviation ranks between 7 and 20°, your compass should indeed be compensated. Most our compasses are designed to be user
compensated. Please refer to “Deviation and Compensation”
Why does my compass not indicate the right course?
This can originate from either a wrong reading of the compass or from magnetic fields impacting the compass accuracy :
If the course error is exactly 180 degrees, you are probably not reading your compass correctly : a flat card is read on the back
edge, where the lubberline is located ; whereas a conical or cylindrical card is read from the front and the top sides. On
Contest 101, a lubber line located in the back allows reading from the cabin.
Any other directional error probably originates from a deviation problem : the operation principle of a compass lies in the position of magnets which allow the alignment of the compass with the earth magnetic field, to ensure the compass accuracy. Other
magnetic fields on the boat such as instruments or metallic objects can alter the precision of the compass. To correct this deviation, please refer to the “Deviation and Compensation ” chapter in our catalogue.
How can I correct the deviation of my compass?
1 – First thing to check is that your compass is installed at least 70 cm away from objects or instruments that can
generate magnetic fields (another compass, fire extinguisher, loudspeaker, electrical equipment and wire, metal and cable steering system, camera, tools, digital gauges…) ; and at least 1 metre away from the inboard/outboard engine or from the windshield wipers engine. Do remember that the distance from the interference source is more critical than the intensity of the interference.
2 – Correcting the deviation :
If deviation is no more than ± 7°, simply draw a deviation table. If deviation ranks between 7 and 20°, the compass must be
compensated and a new deviation table done. Compensating a compass is a delicate operation and you may find it easire and safer to call for a professional compass adjuster.
How can I make the electric connection ?
All our compasses come with 2 wires. Simply connect them to the boat’s power supply, regardless of polarity.
12 or 24 Volt Compasses equipped with 2 x 12V bulbs can be used on 24 V power, provided bulbs are mounted in series as indicated on drawing:
Lighting does not work. What should I do ?
Simply replacing the bulb is the answer in most cases. Spare bulbs are available for most of our models. You should also check the connection clamping and make sure that there is no corrosion on the wires or the connector.
Is my compass operational if the electric connection is not done ?
This is one of the major assets of a magnetic compass compared to navigation electronics: a compass indicates the course perfectly with no need for electrical power. However, we advise you to make the electric connection which will make compass reading easier and safer when sailing by night.
Why is there a difference between the GPS data and the compass heading ?
A magnetic compass delivers the real course. Once drift and current are taken into account, compass and GPS data should be very similar.
Some water is leaking along the bulkhead, underneath the compass.
Make sure you drilled the hole at the exact cut-out dimension, as instructed on the drilling template supplied with the compass. Check that the mounting surface is perfectly even and flat. Some compass models are supplied with a gasket for watertightness ; check that the gasket is properly positioned and that the light wire is correctly fed through the appropriate hole.
The dome of my compass is ageing or damaged. Is it possible to repair or replace it ?
Replacing the dome is not possible. If the dome is scratched, you can smooth out the scratches by using a polish (grain below 1 micron) and a soapy solution. Careful: make sure the cleaners you use do not containt solvents! If the dome turns whitish, rinse it with fresh water and soap. If rinsing is not sufficient, proceed as described above, using a smooth polish.
Deviation and Compensation
The earth magnetic field can be segmented in two components: horizontal and vertical. The vertical component affects the horizontality of the compass card and pulls it to dip towards North or South. This natural force varies according to the geographical location: a compass balanced in Lorient is not horizontal in Sydney.
The horizontal component exercises an influence on the card directivity. The compass environment on board and the various sources of interference create a specific, local magnetic field, which is different from the earth magnetic field. The compass does not point towards magnetic North.
The course discrepancy (in degrees) between the compass north and the magnetic north is called the deviation. It can be negative or positive.
In order to minimise this error, your compass should be installed as far as possible from objects generating local magnetic fields: compass, fire extinguisher, loudspeaker, electric wires end equipment, metallic parts of steering system, camera, tools, analogic instruments...
Once the deviation errors are known quantities and allowed far, the compass is a perfectly reliable navigation instrument. Deviation is then recorded goegraphically on a deviation curve, always handy for future reference. deviation must he checked and updated once a year.
How to draw a deviation curve
Check that the compensation screws are in neutral position (according to the compass model, the screw slot will either be horizontal or aligned with the dot).
Although very simple, the procedure to calculate the deviation must be carefully carried out. Deviation can be checked very effectively by comparing different headings read on your steering compass with those obtained from a handbearing compass held well clear of any interference. Standing at the stern of the boat is usually the easiest, provided it is a non magnetic area.
Example: if the handbearing compass reads 30° and the steering compass reads 34°, deviation on a course of 34° is - 4°.
Step 1: Find a position that is well away from any source of interference.
On a nice day with a smooth sea, run the boat under power. Select a distant object or landmark (at least 3 miles away from the boat), whose bearing in known.
Sight the landmark with the handbearing compass and steer the boot slowly round in circles.
If the bearing remains constant, it means that you are in an area well clear of any interference, If not, repeat the operation, re-siting yourse in another part of the deck.
Step 2: Compare headings from handbearing and steering compasses.
Reversing directions, compare the 2 compasses on each heading.
At this stage, the difference you may notice is only due to the deviation on the steering compass.
Step 3: Establish the deviation curve.
To assure accuracy on all headings, check for deviation every 30° (North, 30°, 60°, East, 120°, etc.) and record any deviation (positive or negative) on the deviation cord.
How to read a deviation table
If deviation is no more than ± 7°, simply draw a deviation table assessing the error and keep it for future reference when calculating the true course.
If the deviation curve shows values between ± 7° and ± 20°, the compass must be corrected with the compensation box. A new deviation curve must then be drawn.
If deviation is superior to ÷ 20°, your compass should be relocated to another place on board, to keep well away from local magnetic fields.
Compass Selector Sheet
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