In these modern times of Google Maps and dropped pins and Share My Locations, map reading is so out it's almost in. In fact, it is in, according to Finisterre's Instagram anyway. There you'll find your fingerless-gloved, cable knit jumper clad hero, enamel mug placed just so on the corner of the OS, 'pouring over the charts' (pouring?!?) - or at least pretending to be, for the benefit of an iPhone 8.
Great news: you're better than that.
You'll see their OS map posturing, and raise em a bit of celestial navigation and wayfaring, the very kind the Hokule'a used to find the Hawaiian Islands.
Then, if you find yourself shipwrecked or lost in the desert on a horse with no name after a bad trip, smart phone out of battery, you'll be fine.
As the name suggests, this involves using the stairs to determine points of the compass. In the Northern Hemisphere, first you need to find Ursa Major. This constellation is everyone’s fave, the big dipper, the plough, etc, the one that looks like a ladle with a big handle.
The pointer stars, the two stars of the end upright of the ladle point towards Polaris (the pole star).
Polaris is located about five times the distance from it than the distance between the two pointer stars. Polaris is in a constellation called the Little Dipper, the end star of the ‘handle’ of the Little Dipper, and also the brightest star in this constellation.
From Polaris, a line down to the earth’s horizon will give you north. Once you’ve found north, well, everyone remembers the old saying from school right? Going anticlockwise: NWSE (Never Wread Surf Europe).
On the other side of the world, use the Southern Cross and the Two Pointers to find south and thus your bearings. If you draw a line lengthwise along the SC, and another line perpendicular between the stars of the TP, where the two lines meet is the south celestial pole... kinda.
The Polynesians used a system called Wayfaring, using stars, the moon, trade winds, swell direction as well as wildlife to navigate about the South Pacific. During the day obviously we don’t have stars, so being aware of the predominant trade is a decent bet for gaining a sense of direction, as with the predominant swell direction and currents.
In terms of locating landfall, birds fly away from land during the morning in the search for food, and towards it again in the afternoon/at dusk. Remember that.
Shipwreck may be an unlikely scenario. But old school navigation has other uses, too. Let's assume you find yourself in a potential courtship scenario with an attractive man or woman (or both) one fine, balmy evening.
Impart your star-gazing, north-locating knowledge to impress, surely pointing towards your suitability as a sexual/life partner. Sure, you might not find the north pole, but you might find yourself some sweet, sweet lovin'.