2007 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making, Norfolk to Bermuda
Date June 17-24, 2007
Students: David Dawson, Nancy Mailoff, Bill Tracy, Karl Westman
First Mate: Jim Bortnem
Captain: Jack Morton

These ocean training cruises really begin well before people arrive onboard, as they go over gear lists, check the weather on the web, and exchange thoughts, hopes and fears by email.   All that happens for the Captains too, so by the time we actually meet at the boat, the trip planning is well underway. That said, most of the crew had checked in by the afternoon of June 16th, and several of us had dinner together that evening, before starting in earnest to go over the boat and our plans the next day.  

Crew included a Bermuda repeater, Bill Tracy, and sailors Karl Westman, Nancy Mailoff, and David Dawson, all arriving with willing spirits and enthusiasm.  Jim Bortnem rounded the crew out as First Mate, making what must be his tenth trip with us and is a seasoned hand.  The first days are spent dockside, while students go over ship systems, rigging, sail protocols, and generally prepare themselves and the ship to go to sea, ready to meet the unknown challenges that await us there. Among the tasks to be addressed is the meal menu, as we discuss and decide what stores to provision after we’ve inventoried the food aboard. This crew brought a small supermarket aboard, which formed the base of good meals to Bermuda and what seemed weeks afterwards. God bless chickens.   

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By late afternoon on the 18th, the students and boat were ready, and we seized the opportunity to get a head start with a favorable tide and very light (read motoring) winds carrying us past Cape Henry by nightfall. Anchors were secured for sea, and not too much later, enough breeze rose for us to secure the engine and raise sail. 

June 19, Tuesday:  By morning, the wind was light enough that motorsailing seemed prudent for a few hours before the breeze filled in from the southwest and again let us sail, making about six knots.  By evening, we were entering the Gulf Stream, and putting in a reef didn’t slow the seven to eight knots we were now making. The wind builds. 

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June 20, Wednesday: Predictions from NMN radio and the weather maps we had printed out ahead of time from the internet were coming true, and by morning we had two reefs in the main, and half a genoa out, and were still making six to eight knots. Winds still out of the southwest, gusting 27 to 29 knots and letting us choose our course.  Bermuda here we come! In early evening we gave the School a call to report our position, and let them know that we were still alive, and making excellent time; talked to a message machine.  

June 21, Thursday: In the pre-dawn hours, the wind was gusting to 35 knots, and dawn rinsed the ship with some rain. The wind abated to around 20 knots – still more than enough to maintain the good speeds that characterized the voyage so far. We’d discovered that the furling line newly installed for the genny was chafing just the same as the fairly new line it replaced had. What seemed a mystery was later resolved in the Bermuda layover; the newer, fatter furling lines now filled the drum full enough that when the Genoa was half furled, the line could rub on some rough edges in the Harken furler – sanding these smooth and changing the lead from the last block before the Harken an inch or so seems to have eliminated the problem. 

June 22, Friday: The front that had given us all that fine southwest breeze finally caught up with us and gave a brief taste of NNE winds... What? Port tack? There’s a novelty! By late afternoon, however, the order of the universe was re-established, and we  were again on starboard tack with WSW winds. By late afternoon, too, we were encouraged that we might be going in the right direction by our first sighting of Bermuda Longtails – the beautiful harlequin marked birds with tail streamers longer than the rest of themselves that nest in Bermuda in summer. Another message left to give the School. another position report and probable ETA. 

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June 23, Saturday: Night orders of the night before spoke of first sighting of Bermuda, which came at about 0430, when the Gibbs Hill light was sighted in the pre-dawn hours.    Some downwind tacking brought us to the marks rounding the bank on the approach to St. George during 3rd watch. Announced ourselves to Bermuda Harbor Radio, and entered Customs and Immigration at St. Georges about 1100, before shifting berth to Captain Smokes and the showers, electricity and air conditioning that made student’s last day and night aboard downright luxurious. 

Captain Jack Morton
St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda
June 24, 2007

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