2004 Bermuda Reports

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Course:      Offshore Passage Making, Norfolk to Bermuda
Date:          June 6-13, 2004
Vessel:        IP45 HALIMEDA
Students:   Carroll Christiansen, Christopher J. Galuardi, Michael McGovern, Jerry Nigro
First Mate: Lew Jalbert
Captain:      Tom Tursi

We arrived in Saint Georges, Bermuda aboard HALIMEDA on June 2nd after a cruise from Norfolk; our student crew departed for home and First Mate Lew Jalbert and I were left with cleaning up and doing minor repairs and maintenance. Several of the quays around the harbour had been damaged by a hurricane last year, and dockside tieup was at a premium so we decided to anchor out in Convict Bay a few hundred yards east of the Customs Dock. We put the dinghy overside, rigged the outboard and had a very pleasant time staying aboard doing our maintenance chores and running in to shore with the dingy when necessary. 

Our return crew arrived on June 5th as scheduled including: Carroll Christiansen, Christopher Galuardi, Mike McGovern and Jerry Nigro. We immediately set to work with crew training and boat preparations for the return training cruise to Norfolk. Over the next two days we thoroughly inspected the entire yacht from stem to stern and to the masthead including belowdecks and below the waterline; we went over every piece of equipment, all tools and spare parts; all procedures, both routine and emergency. We rigged the storm trisail, boom crutch, sea anchor, whisker pole, mainsail, genoa and staysail. We did a complete walkthrough of abandon ship and man overboard procedures. And, by the end of two days, found that we thoroughly knew the boat, equipment, procedures and, importantly, each other. Assignments for this work were Carroll as Navigator, Mike as Engineer, Carroll and Jerry as Bosun's and Christopher as Emergency Coordinator. We also prepared our meal plan and food provisions list, and purchased what was needed at the local market. 

By the morning of June 7th we felt pretty well prepared for an afternoon departure that day. Watch assignments were: Jerry and Mike on the 12 to 4 watches. Tom and Christopher on the 4 to 8 watches. Lew and Carroll on the 8 to 12 watches. We setup the navigation plan, the logbook and the navigational plotting sheets;  reviewed watchkeeping procedures and man overboard and abandon ship procedures; topped up our water tanks; did a final check of the weather; called home; cleared out with Bermuda Customs and Bermuda Harbour Radio and, by 1430 am, departed for sea via Town Cut Channel. 

Skies were clear and winds were SW at 10 knots; the forecast was for SW winds for the next few days which would prevent us from remaining south of the rhumbline as is usually desirable when approaching the Gulf Stream near Cape Hatteras as we would in a few days. I considered rounding Bermuda south about the island in order to gain some southing on our course, but this put us too close to the lee shore and we aborted and turned around to go north about the island. At 1600 we passed Kitchen Shoal light and made our departure along our rhumbline to Norfolk of 295T sailing close hauled on port tack with full mainsail and genoa. 

We were able to hold this course for a few hours, but by late evening the wind clocked to W and began pushing us north of the rhumbline. The NAVTEX receiver indicated two derelicts along our possible course north of the rhumbline and they could be a cause for concern if the winds remained W. One was an unlighted spar buoy reported to be 80 miles NW of Bermuda and the second an abandoned sailboat 170 miles NW of Bermuda... We would keep a sharp eye out for these as we approached those positions. 

June 8th: Winds clocked to NW and dropped to 5 knots overnight and we motorsailed to maintain speed above 4 knots on a course of 310T so we were consistently driven north of our rhumbline. By 0800 skies were clear, but it was very moist and humid and punctuated by occasional rain showers. Lew and Carroll prepared a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, juice, coffee and fruit to boot... great way to start the new day. During the day winds clocked further to NNW and our best course was 335T or about 40 above our rhumbline and slow motor sailing was the order of the day. By evening, skies cleared as a weak cold front passed and the evening was cool and comfortable... Great for star shots of which Carroll took advantage. 

June 9th: Winds continued light from the NW overnight and we continued sailing on port tack considerably north of our rhumbline. By noon we were about 100 miles north of the rhumbline and 40 miles south of the latitude of Norfolk. The weather forecast predicted winds clocking to NE in the next day or so and we'll continue making the best we can toward Norfolk although we wonder if we might not end up in Newport, RI at this rate. There is a clear possibility that we may need to go in at Delaware Bay but that decision is a ways off yet. 

By mid afternoon winds backed to SW and increased to 10 knots and we were able to secure the engine and sail free on a close hauled course and improve our heading a little although still heading north of our desired course. For a good part of the day we had a favorable current of 2.0 knots giving us ground speed of 7 to 8 knots. Beautiful, clear, sunny day and comfortable temperatures. Sailing well and life is good. 

June 10th: Winds shifted back to W overnight and we continued our trek to the northwest. Now everyone is getting antsy about getting back in time for work schedules and all of that. By midnight we were only 10 miles south of the latitude of Norfolk but still 300 miles east of Norfolk!! Almost certainly we're headed to New England!! But, the weather forecast predicts the long awaited wind shift to NE coming tonight at 15 to 20 knots and that will be great if it occurs. This afternoon a weak cold front passed through giving us cooler air and winds W at 15 to 20 knots; continued sailing on port tack to the northwest. 

June 11th: Last night's weather fax showed a new low pressure system directly over Norfolk and predicted to rapidly track straight east just to the north of us by this morning. Also, there was an east-west cold front pressing down from the north and the low was forecast to track east along this front. So we were located at a very interesting position. In order to put some distance between us and the low, we tacked to starboard at 0100 and motorsailed for added speed on a course of 200T. We saw lots of lightening covering the entire horizon to our north but none reached us. At 0500 as daylight came we could see very dark and ominous clouds to the north indicating the low, and bright and clearing skies to the south indicating the cold front. 

At 0800 we secured the engine and practiced heaving to in 20 knots of wind. First, we hove to with double reefed mainsail and backed staysail; we adjusted the rudder and mainsheet traveler to various positions, but the best heading we could achieve was 70 apparent wind angle where 50 is desirable. Then we furled the staysail and hove to just with double reefed mainsail and the mainsheet traveler eased and the rudder to windward; here we laid about 50 to the apparent wind and pretty well stayed within our turbulence slick which is desirable. At 0830 we set the double reefed mainsail and genoa on port tack and held a course of 300T. Rain showers in the afternoon. 

At 1600 winds abruptly clocked to NE at 15 to 20 knots; we tacked to starboard and reached off with reefed mainsail and genoa on a course of 280T... The long awaited NE shift had arrived and we were now on a direct heading to Norfolk. 

June 12th: Overnight winds continued favorable and we made good progress toward our destination. We were now approaching the Gulf Stream, which at this point was flowing at about 75T; the NE winds would be opposed to this flow and would no doubt set up steep waves. The morning weather forecast predicted NE winds of 20 to 40 knots today and abating to 15 to 20 knots late in the day. By 0900 winds were off our starboard quarter and we set the whisker pole with genoa to starboard and double reefed mainsail to port and thus sailed wing on wing toward the Gulf Stream. Sea water temperatures had gradually increased by 4F over the past several hours and by 0900 reached 82F and by noon 83.4F... this was clearly Gulf Stream. 

During this same period winds continued to build, and by early afternoon we had steep 10 foot waves on our starboard quarter wanting to wrest control of the boat from the helmsman and cause us to gybe the mainsail or back the genoa on the whisker pole. Either situation could have serious consequences, but our helmsmen did a superb job and maintained control very well. But, I was concerned with the forecast winds to 40 knots and approaching evening hours and considered our various options if conditions worsened. First option was to drag some warps to improve directional stability. Second was to furl the genoa, put out the staysail and head up to a starboard reach in hopes of finding a comfortable heading. Third was to heave to. And fourth was to deploy the sea anchor if it really got bad. 

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But, at 1600 the helmsman reported a 2F drop in sea water temperature indicating that we were passing out of the Gulf Stream. By 1900 sea water temperature dropped another 6F to 75F... we were clearly out of the stream. Wave heights reduced and became less steep. And the predicted 40 knot winds never came. By 2100 we were sailing gently in 5 knots of wind on gently rolling waves. 

June 13th: Overnight winds remained light and we motor sailed on a direct line to Norfolk. At 0900 we hove to for sea anchor training. We practiced the Larry Pardy method of deploying the sea anchor with a bridle to hold the boat at a roughly 50 apparent wind angle while hove to on the deep reefed mainsail (or trisail). It was an enlightening exercise for all involved, and we found this method simpler than what we previously used. We retrieved the sea anchor by casting off the entire rig onto its float letting everything hang straight down, and picked it up by its head... quite simple. 

Now it was on to Norfolk and we motored directly there arriving at the Chesapeake Bay entrance at 2300 and at Little Creek, Norfolk, VA by 0100. We had covered a distance of 749 miles since departing Bermuda on a straight line distance of 620 miles due to the significant diversion necessitated by the adverse winds. We cleared in with US Customs by telephone. Docked at Taylor's Landing Marina. And all of my crew departed that morning for home hopefully please with their ocean experience. 

Captain Tom Tursi
Little Creek, VA
June 14, 2004

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