Every sailor needs a reliable and dependable fixed compass in the cockpit, allowing safe navigation while keeping on a straight heading. We pick out 6 of the best fixed compasses, both binnacle and bulkhead mounted....

Fixed compasses are an essential piece of kit that every yacht needs. They are especially good in this day and age, as they do not need any electrical power to run. They can get you where you are going and back home again safely, even in the event of an onboard power outage. 


Under the compass card is a small magnet which lines up north/south using the Earth’s magnetic field. Then the whole compass is encased in a damping fluid to give a stable heading at sea.


Many things may alter the compass alignment. Deviation is caused by onboard metal, such as  your engine, cockpit speakers and even the wires supplying power to your compass light. Consequently, all compasses then need to be adjusted using small compensating magnets inside the compass. Usually, this needs the hand of an experienced compass adjuster, during a process called “swinging the compass”.

Compass styles

Traditionally, binnacle compasses are mounted directly in front of the wheel. These compasses have a flat card, which is only viewed from above. Usually they are mounted on a platform, to raise them up from the pivot point of the wheel. Also they tend to be larger, giving a clearer vision.

Smaller yachts and those with tiller steering, usually have bulkhead-mounted compasses at the front of the cockpit, to one side of the companionway. One advantage of these, is they mostly come with a built in clinometer, showing your angle of heel. Knowing this, also helps you to decide when to put that reef in. Many of these have hybrid dials. This allows you to read the compass from above, as well as when stood in the cockpit at the helm. The downside is, you need a hole to be cut in your boat to fit the compass.

If you are in interested in the best hand bearing compasses, we’ve covered them off in a separate feature.

6 of the best fixed compasses


Ritchie BN 202 Navigator


Card diameter: 130mm
Size: 200mm x 200mm x 180mm
Warranty: 5 years
Lighting: 12v

Reasons to buy:

High performance
Solid workhorse
Built-in inclinometer up to 40 degrees
Built in sun cover
Duel lighting for dependable night sailing

Reasons to avoid:

More expensive than many compasses
Larger than most

This is a top quality fixed compass and built for all conditions. Having a vertical numerical display 1.5cm high, this makes it easy to read from the helm position, as well as from the cockpit. A sapphire jewel pivot system gives a steady reading, together with its internal gimbal.

A good safety point with this compass, which is not usually seen, is it has dual 12v night lighting. This will make it more dependable on longer voyages, where you don’t want to be dismantling the compass for repairs. Below the bezel is an easy to read in-built inclinometer, which reads up to 40 degrees, together with 3 lubber lines for steering to windward.

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Plastimo Contest 130 

Best fixed compass for racing


Card diameter: 130mm
Size: 190mm x 170mm x 170mm
Lightning: 12v/14v

Reasons to buy:

Can be fitted to any thickness of bulkhead
Can also be bracket-mounted, even to the mast
Heel angle clearly marked up to 45 degrees
Sharp and clear display
Bulb positioned at front for good even illumination
Scratch-resistant dome
Can be read from inside and outside bulkhead

Reasons to avoid:

Can be hard to track down

This compass is very sharp and can be clearly read from up to five metres away as well as from above too. In addition, the bulb integrated into the front flange, gives an even illumination over the whole compass dome. Another bonus is this also makes for easy replacement. It comes with a scratch-resistant compass dome and is fully UV-ray treated.

This is a very versatile compass, as it is one of the few compasses that can be read from both inside the cabin as well as the cockpit. It can be fitted to bulkheads inclined up to 25 degrees and of any thickness. All these points have made it a very popular choice for racers, where it is regularly used on the Figaro circuit and Golden Globe race.

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Lewmar Flush Mount 135 compass with hood

Best fixed compass for ocean passages


Card diameter: 130mm
Size: 150mm x 150mm
Warranty: 5 years
Lighting: 12v/24v

Reasons to buy:

Has a large compass card
Can be binnacle-mounted or bulkhead-fitted
Suitable for larger yachts using a 24v system

Reasons to avoid:

The price
Pedestal mount requires separate binnacle mount, which is not included

This compass features a durable sapphire jewel pivot. The flush mounting can be read from both above and the helm position. A handy built-in cover slides over the compass when not in use, to protect it from damaging UV rays, so no more searching about at the end of a voyage for that cover.

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Silva 100NBC Compass

Best all-round, versatile fixed compass


Card diameter: 100mm
Size: 60m x 160mm x 160mm
Warranty: 2 years

Reasons to buy:

Can be read from top, as well as from aft
Bulkhead or pedestal mounted (using separate binnacle mount)
Built-in protective cover
Many mounting options with adjustable bracket
Adjustable lighting within the protective cover

Reasons to avoid:

Mount not as solid as bulkhead or binnacle
Lighting cable very exposed and prone to damage
No heel angle scale

This compass has duel scales, allowing it easily be read from both above and the helm position. The Silva 100NBC, has a solid bracket, permitting various mounting alternatives and can even be mounted upside down on the headlining, if space is limited.

It’s one of the few compasses to have adjustable illumination, operated by moving the protective cover up and down.

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Autonautic CHE-0074 Compass

Best fixed compass for larger and steel yachts 


Size: 195mm x 195mm x 180mm
Card diameter: 140 mm
Warranty: 5 years
Lighting: 12v/24v

Reasons to buy:

The Compass for larger vessel
More accurate graduation markings
Can be fitted with iron correctors, for steel vessels

Reasons to avoid:

More expensive

Aimed at bigger yachts, this is the largest of the fixed compasses featured here. Its is especially good for steel yachts, which produce much deviation from their metal hull. This is a no-fuss, but robust compass that is durable and trustworthy.

Having a larger diameter, this allows more space for extra graduations on the compass card. Lines are marked ever 2.5 degrees, giving better accuracy compared to most, which have 5 degree markings.

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Clipper Fluxgate Compass System

Best fixed compass for coastal sailing


Card diameter: N/A
Size: 110mm x 110mm
Depth behind panel: 30mm
Supply voltage: 12v DC
Power consumption: 40mA
Fluxgate accuracy: +/- 1 degree with Adjustable Damping
Resolution: 1 degree
Fluxgate Dimensions: 72mm x 68mm x 40mm
Fluxgate Data: 475 grams, including 10 metre cable

Reasons to buy:

Fluxgate sensor can be mounted away from metal
Bright easy to read screen
On-screen arrows show which way to steer to stay on course
Off course alarm
Very accurate

Reasons to avoid:

Always needs power to keep working, unlike a magnetic compass
Not as visible from all angles, as with a binnacle-mounted compass

The Clipper Compass is a fully electronic compass with remote fluxgate sensor. This is a totally electronically operated compass, and can display both true or magnetic headings.

The display is large and clear, having seven levels of illumination. Coming with a 10m cable, the gimballed sensor can be mounted well away from strong magnetic fields and metals

In use, it can display a series of chevrons, showing the direction and amount to steer, to return to your chosen course. Secondly, an off-course alarm provides a safety feature when not at the helm. If the yacht’s heading deviates by more than a preset amount, then the alarm will sound.

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