2006 DELMARVA Reports

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Course Advanced Coastal Cruising; DELMARVA Circumnavigation
Date October 13-20, 2006
Students: Bruce Head, Mary Lihou, Mike Robinson, Ralph Morgan
Captain: Jochen Hoffman

Day 1, Friday, October 13:  With HALIMEDA docked at scenic Lankford Bay Marina, our four-member student crew spent the day engaged in pre-departure activities.  The previous night’s rain and wind - plus the barometer at a low 1012 mb - indicated that the predicted cold front had blown through sooner than forecast.   Temperatures would briefly dip into the nippy mid 30s before climbing to the mid 70s later in the voyage.  Bundled up, we completed a thorough check of rigging, sails, storm tri-sail, and the heavy-weather and emergency equipment.  Systems checks, provisioning, route planning, and a hearty dinner at Watermen’s Crab House concluded our day.  

Day 2, Saturday, October 14:  To catch a favorable tidal current, and with a hint of dawn in the eastern sky, we cast off at 0615.  With the winds southwest at 15-20 knots and the barometer climbing to 1025 mb, we made rapid progress north under full sail to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Underway, students practiced navigational fixes, attempted compass calibrations using Mike's suggested sighting tool, and enjoyed glorious sailing conditions.  At 1735, Mike docked HALIMEDA safely to a T-head dock at Summit North Marina, Delaware, and we settled down for a relaxed dinner at a nearby restaurant. 

Day 3, Sunday, October 15:  Catching the ebb tide on the Delaware River and Bay, we warped HALIMEDA off at 0615.  In the stillness, we watched the sun rise through sheets of radiation fog wafting up as HALIMEDA glided onward to the mouth of the Canal.  Keeping a sharp lookout, we stayed clear of shoals and commercial traffic while enjoying a rare treat off Reedy Island - a bald eagle alighting from a nearby buoy and soaring away to the distant shore.  Skies were sunny and the westerly winds would eventually increase to 8 to 12 knots.  Even so, we motor sailed for the better part of the day to maintain maneuverability just outside the channel and maximum current advantage, with the goal to reach the Bay entrance and ocean well before night fall. Students practiced navigation, vessel identification, including Cape May Ferry traffic, and setting waypoints for our off-shore passage.  Once in the ocean and clear of traffic, students practiced daytime MOB maneuvers under sail before settling down to an especially delicious on-board dinner.  This treat kept spirits high as we began night watches and the much anticipated ocean passage, with winds dropping to 4 to 8 knots.

Day 4, Monday, October 16:  The beautiful, starry night passed quietly except for the appearance of two brightly lit fishing fleets surprising the watches with their frequent course and speed changes.  With winds during the day lighter than forecast, we took time to practice DR navigation, go over the ASA skills list, analyze naval radio chatter, prepare for landfall at Norfolk, and conduct a fire drill.  At 1610, bearings on Cape Henry Light and a point of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel confirmed that we were inside the Bay entrance.  Traffic remained light until we approached the vicinity of Little Creek with its naval facilities.  Seeing three USCG and two naval vessels making ready for sea, Mary placed a securiteé call to indicate our course and destination.  Flood currents at the channel entrance set us off to the WNW.  But Bruce - with a steady hand at the helm - navigated us safely to Taylor’s Landing Marina and into our assigned slip, by 1830. Over dinner ashore, students recounted with pride what they had achieved so far. 

Day 5, Tuesday, October 17:  We spent the better part of the day reviewing the ASA-106 standards and enjoing the in-port relaxation.  After systems and weather checks, we warped out of our slip and Mary brought HALIMEDA to the pump out dock.  At 1700 we were underway, keeping a sharp lookout for a Navy pocket destroyer making ready for sea. Two sonorous signals from her whistle indicated that she wished to overtake us on our port side inside the channel.  Mary, at the helm, responded with two short blasts - by comparison, two little toots from our tiny air horn - to indicate agreement.  Her act of proper ship handling earned Mary a salute from the Officer on the bridge and a waving of hands all around.  By nightfall, and clear of shipping channels and traffic, each student practiced nighttime MOB maneuvers under power.  As a final all-hands maneuver under rainy skies and freshening winds, we raised a reefed main, the staysail, and started our watch routine for the long, traffic-filled run up the Bay.  

Day 6, Wednesday, October 18:  The day dawned foggy and misty, prompting the watch to sound fog signals, as needed.  Once north of Smith Point, the fog lifted, but a strong ebb current at the mouth of the Potomac slowed our progress over ground to two knots until we changed course and sailed northeast, closer to the Eastern Shore.  In good visibility, we approached the Annapolis Harbor entrance at 0100 on a course to the red, lighted entrance buoy. A lighted buoy with the “proper” characteristics did show ahead, but five sets of tired eyes had missed and overshot our entrance mark by a considerable distance!  We later concluded that the light on our mark must have been out; however, a continuous time/distance check - even close to home waters - would have told us early on that we had passed it.  Using local knowledge, we changed course toward the well-marked Severn River channel and Ralph brought us safely to our mooring. 

Day 7, Thursday, October 19:  Today, everyone slept in, took hot showers on board or on shore, and placed their orders for breakfast a-la-carte served by the captain. Then, everyone was ready to take the ASA106 test, which all passed with flying colors), clean the ship, and complete systems and weather checks.  When we heard “gale warning for 11 a.m., Friday,” we decided on an early departure next morning.  But first, celebration over a delicious seafood dinner at Milton’s Tavern near the Annapolis city dock.  

Day 8, Friday, October 20:  The weather report confirmed last night’s prediction: gale warning from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  At 0515 we dropped our mooring and motored sailed north, and by 1125 we were safely tied up to begin pump out and re-fueling.  While the wind was still from the SW, now 18 to 20 knots, the barometer had dropped six mb in the last three hours  to 999 mb!  When the winds shifted suddenly to the NNW, blowing at 25 to 35 knots, with gusts into the 40s, the prudent decision, reached together with the School and the Marina, was to leave HALIMEDA at the fuel dock until the gale had blown through.  Thus, we secured and tidied up the ship before saying hearty farewells.  This crew had achieved its goals:  to have great learning experiences and, as Bruce put it, a “Happy Voyage”.

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
Aboard S/V
Lankford Bay Marina,
Rock Hall, MD

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