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Many boats come with navigation systems, but you can’t find better navigation than a marine compass. There is something nostalgic about having a marine compass on your boat.

Marine compasses are the conduit to the tradition of marine compass navigation that goes back centuries.

Any true seaman is going to have a marine compass. It’s the most reliable way to navigate the sea.

Where do you start? In this article, we are going to give you all the information you need to find the best marine compass for steel boats.

We want to be a part of giving you the best navigation experience possible.

In order to get you the right marine compass, we need to first discuss why we think you need a marine compass, what you should and shouldn’t avoid, and how to use them. Let’s get started!

Why do steel boats need a marine compass?

A marine compass is hands down the most reliable navigation device that you can find. We all know that electronics will always have glitches and inevitably have a higher chance of failing.

Since a marine compass navigates based on magnetism and not satellite, you do not have to worry about it failing when you need it most.

With a marine compass, you do not have to worry about batteries dying or the weather interfering with your navigation systems connection to the satellite. 

When is it useful?

You may think “I rarely use it, so why invest?” That’s a great question.

Let’s discuss a scenario in which you would need it even if you rarely use it.

You are out on the water and notice that a storm is coming. You are far enough out that you cannot make it back to land before the storm hits.

The storm ends up being stronger than you expected and your boat is being thrashed around quite a bit.

Regardless, you are trying your best to get back to land.

Because of the weather, your navigation system cannot connect to satellites. How do you know which direction you are going?

You guessed it! Your marine compass will successfully guide you in the direction you need to go even in rough weather. 

This is just one example of why it is so important to have a marine compass on your steel boat.

Is it required?

Not every seaman has a marine compass aboard. Some may argue that it isn’t required. But if you want to comply with Navigation Safety Regulations, you need a compass. 

Marine compasses will give you peace of mind in times of uncertainty on the water.

Some boats do not come with any form of navigation device, which is all the more reason to choose a good marine compass for your boat. 

You do not always need the fanciest high tech devices on your boat to get the most out of navigation.

There is a reason marine compasses have been used for centuries. They are reliable and the proof is in the success of the passage.

What type of marine compasses work well with steel boats?

Steel boats produce magnetism over time. Naturally, a marine compass that navigates based on the earth’s magnetism can encounter deviation because of the ship’s magnetism.

For this reason, you need a marine compass that can compensate for that deviation.

Certain compasses are specifically made with built-in compensators and quadrantal correctors to counteract the boat’s interference with the compass’s reading.

Which marine compasses should you avoid?

You should avoid any compasses that are made for general vessels (ones that are not steel) as to avoid unnecessary deviation.

You may find compasses that seem like great options, but if they do not have D-correctors, you are in for some disappointment.

Your compass needs to be reliable and that means that it has as little interference as possible. Steel boats require more attention to detail when it comes to picking compasses.

How to use a marine compass with a steel boat

There are a few things you need to know about using a compass with a steel boat. You cannot place the compass anywhere you please.

There are a few things that can interfere with your compass if it is placed in the wrong spot.

For example, placing a compass near any electronic on the boat will cause interference with your compass. The same goes for any magnetic objects or electrical wires. 

Your best option before permanently mounting your compass is to move it around and test the magnetic deviation.

Temporarily mount your compass and take your boat out to test it. If there is too much deviation, then you know it’s in the wrong spot.

Typically, the best place to put a compass is near the helmsman within easy access from your steering position. 

Once you find the best spot on your boat to mount your compass, unless you have experience, it is a good idea to get a professional to calibrate and mount your compass to ensure the best accuracy.

Properly mounting a compass on a steel boat is not a simple process and if it is done wrong, you will experience a lot of frustration in the future. 

Once everything is ready to go, you need to make sure you have a maritime chart. You use a maritime chart to pick your course.

You first find your starting position and then where you want to go.

Once you know your course, you will use the lubber line on the compass to point your boat in the direction of your destination.

Once you are used to the way your compass works, it will be easing sailing!

Now let’s check out some great marine compasses!

Best Marine Compass for Steel Boats

Ritchie Navagation F-50 Explorer Compass

Ritchie is one of the most dependable brands for marine compasses. The quality and accuracy of their marine compasses are something to rave about. This F-50 Explorer Compasse is one of their most popular compasses. 

It comes with built-in compensators which is a must for steel boats. It has internal greenlight illumination so that you can easily see it at night.

It has a high temperature composite construction for a wider operating range. Other features include a moveable sun shield and 2 ¾ inch easy read direct dial.

The inner workings of this compass is something to mention.

The triple cup sapphire jewel and hardened steel pivot were scientifically matched for smooth dial operation and fast lock-on.

The directive force magnets are field balanced and fit specifically to fit this compass model, dial style, and size. It comes with excellent gimbal systems that are engineered to work without bottoming out.

Did we mention that this compass also comes with a 5 year warranty?


  • Built-in compensators
  • Sun shield
  • Internal greenlight illumination
  • Scientifically crafted for best performance
  • 5 year warranty

Compass, Surface Mount, 2.75″ Dial, Blk.

When we want quality, why not stick with the best? This compass is another Ritchie compass that is well known for being reliable. 

It too comes with built-in compensators, sapphire jewel and hardened steel pivot dial movement, powerful directive force magnets for fast heading lock-on, and green light illumination. 

This compass is smaller than the F-50 explorer compass so it is more ideal for smaller steel boats, but its size does not discredit its navigation ability.

It works just as well as its Ritchie counterpart! If anything should happen to it, it is 100% repairable and also comes with a 5 year warranty. 

This compass provides accurate readings and will be a great addition to your boat.


  • Built-in compensators
  • Greenlight illumination
  • 100% repairable
  • Well constructed
  • 5 year warranty 


  • Typically for smaller boats

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