2005 Bermuda Reports
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Departed Norfolk: 5/28/05 @ 1100
HALIMEDA, our Island Packet 45 foot sailing
yacht, recently arrived in Norfolk after a 1500 NM ocean training cruise from St
Thomas, USVI and was docked at Taylor's Landing Marina in Little Creek Harbor
when I arrived on May 20, 2005. That cruise was straight forward with no
personnel injuries and no significant equipment problems, and she was left in
fine condition by the departing Captain Hal Sutphen; so I set about with routine
maintenance actions including engine oil and filter changes, some canvas
repairs, and minor repairs to the rigid boom vang.
The previous crew did experience variable success receiving
Weather Fax images during the cruise, and I investigated this issue extensively.
The Fax antenna was tested and proved to be providing excellent signal strength
using standard test frequencies; the signal processor tested A-1, and the
printer passed all of its tests, but Fax signals were weak. I tuned the SSB
transceiver in to the Fax frequencies and found similar weak signals there also.
Discussions with a radio technician concluded that there was nothing wrong with
the Fax installation and that the problems stemmed from the normal variability
of HF signals and the recently high solar flare activity. So, I programmed the
Fax for the optimum frequency schedules for different times of the day,
sprinkled holy water on it and hoped that we'd have reasonably good reception
during our forthcoming Bermuda cruise.
Crewmembers began to arrive during the day of Wednesday,
May 25th. First Mate Jerry Nigro from New York is a USCG Licensed
Captain and an outstanding seaman who has sailed with us in the past as
First Mate on a number of blue water ocean training cruises. He owns a Skye
51, which he skippered to Bermuda and back a few years ago, and I feel very
fortunate to have had his expertise and wonderful attitude on this cruise.
Student crewmembers included John Gaul from Florida who owns a Perry 47; Elaine
& Doug Webb from Massachusetts who own and totally rebuilt a 1941 Alden 42
foot yawl; and Don Young from New Jersey who owns a Beneteau 39 foot yacht. So,
they were all experienced sailors who knew how to handle themselves aboard a
boat and were all looking forward to a serious ocean cruise to upgrade their
extended sailing skills. We reviewed individual learning objectives, the overall
cruise plan, navigation, weather forecasts and personal gear stowage then went
to dinner at a local restaurant to socialize and get to know each other a little
better. Some of the crew chose to sleep ashore in a local hotel to ensure
adequate rest prior to the cruise.
Thursday, May 26th was a full work day starting at 8:00 am;
weather was bright, calm and cool. We deployed each sail at dockside, inspected
them thoroughly to understand how they functioned and how to handle them, and
reviewed line and winch handling procedures. Also reviewed use of the main boom
preventer and procedures for safely gybing in strong winds and emergency action
in the event of an accidental gybe. Bent on the storm trysail and, after
dropping, left it attached to its dedicated track and bagged at the base of the
mast ready for emergency use. Rigged the boom crutch to safely immobilize the
boom when the trysail, which is not rigged to the boom, is being used. Discussed
heaving to in heavy weather conditions and rigged the sea anchor for training,
and rebagged and stowed this important piece of ultimate safety gear. Reviewed
the Maryland School's Offshore Training Cruises booklet including
personal gear requirements and watch keeping procedures. Discussed cruise route
planning and prepared the navigation logbook and dead reckoning (DR) plotting
sheets. By this time it was late afternoon, and after a swim in the pool, we met
for dinner at a local restaurant.
Friday, May 27th was another bright, clear day with NW
winds at 12 knots and we continued with pre-departure preparations including the
remainder of the Offshore Training Cruises booklet topics. I assigned
Doug Webb and John Gaul as Bos'ns to work with First Mate Jerry Nigro on
additional inspections of deck hardware and equipment; also, they lifted the
dinghy onto the stern arch and secured it for sea, climbed the mast and verified
all rigging and fittings aloft and at deck level. Elaine Webb was assigned as
Emergency Coordinator and charged with inspecting and verifying all emergency
equipment and procedures including abandon ship, fire, flooding and man
overboard. Don Young was assigned as Engineer responsible for inspecting and
verifying all machinery and belowdecks equipment prior to departure. Later in
the afternoon we jointly inventoried food provisions currently onboard and
developed a meals menu taking into account personal preferences of the crew,
cruise duration and extra meals needed in case of delay enroute; Elaine and I
shopped for the needed supplies.
At this point, weather reports were looking favorable and
we laid plans for a mid-morning departure the next day. Accordingly, I assigned
John and Elaine to the 12 to 4 watches, myself and Don to the 4 to 8 watches,
and Jerry and Doug to the 8 to 12 watches.
Saturday, May 28th was cloudy in the morning with some rain
and variable winds below 10 knots. We conducted man overboard drills and abandon
ship practice, went through our final departure check lists, topped up the water
tanks and departed the marina at 11:00 am... Next stop: Bermuda. We raised the
mainsail and motor sailed out Thimble Shoal Channel, past the Chesapeake Bay
Bridge Tunnel and Cape Henry. At 1450 we passed the red and white junction buoy
"CH" our departure point, and set a course of 150ºM, which was set
below the rhumbline course of 127ºM in order to make a more southerly entrance
into the Gulf Stream about 100 miles ahead. Continued motor sailing in fluky
Sunday, May 29th. Winds continued light from E shifting to
SW and W; continued motorsailing S of rhumbline aiming for an intermediate
target point 15 miles E of Diamond Shoal Light for Gulf Stream entry. Skies
mostly clear with high cirrus clouds. Took advantage of the clear skies and calm
conditions to practice celestial shot accuracy. This procedure focuses on
getting accurate, repeatable results by taking consecutive shots and comparing
results with GPS readings; the object is to learn to properly swing the sextant
and achieve the proper picture of the sun's pendulum swing as it just kisses the
horizon. John and Elaine took several shots and achieved accuracies in the range
of 2 to 4 NM. Entered the Gulf Stream in late afternoon as evidenced by sea
water temperatures increasing from 61ºF at noon to 82.5ºF at 1630 hours;
current direction was 80ºM at 3.3 knots, and we later saw current velocities of
Monday, May 30th. Overnight winds settled down to SW at 10
to 15 knots and we sailed free on starboard tack. Exited the Gulf Stream at
about 0200 hours. Skies mostly clouded with stratocumulus. Weather forecast
indicates a Low moving off the South Carolina coast tonight and moving E.
Another Low is forecast to come off the Virginia coast on Thursday and move E by
Friday. Forecast for our area is for winds to go NE at 10-120 knots tonight and
then veer E tomorrow and SE by Thursday. The clouds parted enough to allow sun
shots at 1215 and again at 1300; the resulting running fix placed us 52 NM south
of our original rhumb line. Continued close reaching on starboard tack.
Tuesday, May 31st. Winds backed to SE 10-15 and then to E 20-25 by late afternoon; went over to port tack and sailed close hauled. Skies remained mostly cloudy with some rain. Weather Fax indicates the South Carolina Low heading our way. Progress overnight towards our destination is poor; tacked to starboard; motorsailed to improve progress. At 0500 tacked to starboard; progress no better. At 0700 winds veered a little; secured engine; deployed genoa. At 1300 winds backed to E; port tack; motor sailing at 150ºM. Weather forecast is for winds to remain SE today and tomorrow and to veer to SW by Thursday. Progress slow.
Wednesday, June 1st. Winds E 15-20 overnight; skies mostly
cloudy; sailing on port tack on course of 115ºM. Quoting from a logbook entry
by Elaine: "Awesome sailing double reefed main and genny- Waves for sleigh
riding- not a speck of weather helm- HALIMEDA's sweet spot;
average 6.8 knots." This sweetness lasted until mid afternoon when winds
veered to SE 15 and course changed to 160ºM and we were sailing well but
heading further S with very little easting. John, Elaine and I got some Sun
shots and plotted a good running fix at 1620 which placed us at 33º15'N- 69º10'W
or 66 NM south of our original rhumb line. Weather forecast indicated winds
remaining SE 20-30 today and veering to SW tomorrow although we've heard this
before and it hasn't happened.
Thursday, June 2nd. Winds continued SE 10-15 increasing to
20-25 by afternoon. Skies mostly cloudy. Sailing on port tack course of 155ºM.
At 1700 we were at 31º35'N-68º10'W, 200 NM from Bermuda. We're actually south
of Bermuda; I'm seriously considering making a southern approach to Bermuda. At
1900 tacked to starboard course of 85ºM, which provides an improved VMG,
velocity toward destination. Weather forecast continues to predict winds veering
to SW but this did not happen today.
Friday, June 3rd. Continued sailing on starboard tack in
winds SE 15-20 increasing to 30 knots by noon. In mid-afternoon winds moderated
to 15-20 knots and began to slowly, grudgingly veer SW. We were now making a
course of 110ºM, which was close to our bearing to original target point in
Bermuda. Skies remained completely clouded all day and night with periods of
rain. At 1130 our GPS quit; I broke out two portable GPS units and programmed
the appropriate waypoints needed for landfall. By 1530 we were at 32º41'N-66º37'W,
which is north and west of Bermuda making the originally planned north about
approach feasible. John laid out our landfall approach and entrance route and
programmed these into the portable GPS units.
Saturday, June 4th. Winds continued veering SW, remained brisk at 15-20 knots and we sailed free on starboard tack toward our target point... Life is great!! At 1215 our depth sounder indicated bottom at 400 feet and shortly we were able to make out the low lying Bermuda islands visually... Land Ho!! Elaine called Bermuda Harbour Radio on VHF 16 and requested entrance permission and instructions. We were advised to proceed to Spit Buoy outside of Town Cut Channel and there request final clearance for entry.
At 1600 we entered
Town Cut and proceeded to the Customs Dock for entrance paperwork, and were met
at the dock by two of our returning crewmembers. As we were a day and a half
late in arriving, our salt encrusted crew left for accommodations ashore and to
rearrange returning flight schedules. We fueled up at Dowling's Shell and then
anchored on the south side of St Georges Harbour, where Jerry and I cleaned up
the boat, launched the dinghy and prepared for our returning crew.
Captain Tom Tursi