Part-sighted sailor invents ‘talking compass’ aid

Ready for the high seas: Max Hatfull (16) with his 'talking compass' invention and Bourne Grammar School headteacher Jonathan Maddox. Photo: SG191011-582MD
Ready for the high seas: Max Hatfull (16) with his 'talking compass' invention and Bourne Grammar School headteacher Jonathan Maddox. Photo: SG191011-582MD
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AN INSPIRATIONAL partially-sighted schoolboy sailor has invented a ‘talking compass’ to help him navigate his way around the seas.

Bourne Grammar School student Max Hatfull (16) has long had a passion for sailing despite being blind in his right eye and partially sighted in his left eye since birth.

He wanted a compass that can make sounds to help him while out at sea but was not able to find one to buy so decided to make one for himself.

Max said: “I thought it wouldn’t be too tricky to make one. It turned out to be harder than I first thought because there are so many different bits you can change. Getting it just right is really tough.”

Max enlisted the help of dad Frank and used his knowledge of electrical engineering to help make the MaxPAC, a hi-tech small orange box that is able to tell sailors if they are on the right course.

Max added: “When you are going out to sea there is no land to line anything up with so it is easy to veer off course. The initial product took about a week to make but we have been changing bits for six months.”

The first MaxPAC beeped to let sailors know if they were going off course, but after a successful trial run the beeping model was upgraded to a talking version.

About a dozen have been sold so far, including a custom-made box for a blind American man who fishes in a kayak.

Last year Max won the UK National Blind Sailing Championships in Suffolk Yacht Harbour. He is currently studying maths, further maths, physics and chemistry at AS Level and hopes to go to the University of Cambridge.

Bourne Grammar School headteacher Jonathon Maddox said: “He’s a bright, motivated lad, he works very hard, has made excellent progress and achieved very, very good GCSEs. We are not entirely surprised but are delighted with his invention.”

To find out more visit www.blindsailing.net/AudioCompass.htm.