2005 Bermuda Reports

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Course:      Offshore Passage Making, Norfolk to Bermuda
Date:          May 26-June 4, 2005
Vessel:       IP45 HALIMEDA
Students:    John Gaul, Elaine & Doug Webb, Don Young
First Mate: Jerry Nigro 
Captain:      Tom Tursi
photos by John Gaul & Christopher Simpson

Departed Norfolk: 5/28/05 @ 1100
Arrived Bermuda: 6/4/05 @ 1600
Elapsed Time: 7 days 5 hours = 173 hours
Rhumbline Distance: 630 NM
Distance Sailed: 849 NM
Engine Use: 70 hours
Generator Use: 10 hours
Diesel Fuel Used: 41 gallons
Fuel Rate = 41 gal 70 hours = 0.59 GPH
Speed through water = 849 NM 173 hours = 4.9 MPH = 118 MPD
Daily nautical miles through water:
5/28            46
5/29            112
5/30            138
5/31            102
6/1            132
6/2            111
6/3            119
6/4            67

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 150M, which was set below the rhumbline course of 127M in order to make a more southerly entrance into the Gulf Stream about 100 miles ahead. Continued motor sailing in fluky winds.   

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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 61F at noon to 82.5F at 1630 hours; current direction was 80M at 3.3 knots, and we later saw current velocities of 5.5 knots. 

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 150M. Weather forecast is for winds to remain SE today and tomorrow and to veer to SW by Thursday. Progress slow. 

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Wednesday, June 1st. Winds E 15-20 overnight; skies mostly cloudy; sailing on port tack on course of 115M. 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 160M 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 3315'N- 6910'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 155M. At 1700 we were at 3135'N-6810'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 85M, which provides an improved VMG, velocity toward destination. Weather forecast continues to predict winds veering to SW but this did not happen today.   

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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 110M, 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 3241'N-6637'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.   

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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. 

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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
Saint Georges Harbour, Bermuda
June 5, 2005

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