German Sextant
Robert White: The Instrument Master at Work

Robert White's Story

Robert White

It’s rare to see the maritime community unanimously anoint one person or service above all others. But when it comes to repair and maintenance of “yestertech” such as sextants, barometers, and barographs, there is only one name that comes to mind; Robert E. White, who goes by the nickname, Ridge. For over 60 years Ridge has built this legendary reputation around his company with exceptional customer service and old fashioned nautical knowhow. He accomplished this while also helping grow and publish the longtime family publication.

Ridge was born with a heritage that included the Eldridge family who developed a chart business, invented navigation aids, and of course, published the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book. And the White family who founded Wilfrid O. White & Sons Co, manufactured nautical instruments. It was no surprise when Ridge, at the age of 10, began his study of marine technology and boating at Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts. Just a few years later, his father Robert became the publisher of Eldridge, and with his brothers heading in different career directions, it became clear that he was going to the heir of the family publication. With this knowledge, Ridge went on to study naval science, and seamanship & navigation, before joining his father and dedicating more time to nautical instruments.

Eldridge 2024

Sextant Repair and Eldridge in 2024

In 1961, Robert E. White Instrument Services, grew out of his family’s company and today maintains the family tradition in the repair, service, and calibration of sextants, barometers, and barographs. It is one of the few places in the country who offers such services and word out on the water is that, nobody can do it like Ridge. He's a strong believer that there is a necessity for traditional tools in the GPS age. With the U.S. Naval Academy reviving the Celestial Navigation curriculum after 20 years, there are signs that Ridge is not alone in his beliefs.

In the last 20 years Ridge, his late wife Linda, and daughter Jenny have fully taken over publishing of Eldridge. The handy yellow book boasts coverage from Nova Scotia to Key West and has become a mariner’s staple on the East Coast. Ridge took steps to ensure Eldridge was not left behind in the digital age by modernizing the data and allowing the book to be a companion as well as a backup to GPS.

Ridge White runs Robert E. White Instrument Services in Marblehead, Mass. You can reach him at [email protected], or by calling 508-359-7467.

Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book has been published for 149 years, giving boaters valuable information on GPS and electronic navigation, marine weather, Federal regulations, navigation rules, coastal piloting tips, and emergency first aid. You can purchase a copy at Bluewater Books & Charts.

Happy Boating,

James D Henjum

Content Creator, Bluewater Books & Charts