2008 Bermuda Reports
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
May 26-27: Our
first two days of intensive dockside training on the use of emergency equipment
including sea anchor, storm trysail, man over board rescue, fire fighting and
flooding went well, as did provisioning and stowing. When it was time to inspect
the mast, we had a competition: Tanya was eager to climb; John wanted to go up
as well. They drew straws and John won - going up with Tanya’s assistance.
Mate Mike and Christian are trouble shooting the Skymate weather satellite
system; no luck. Now, the important tasks of navigation preparation and weather
Students, led expertly by first mate Mike, have set up two
NIMA plotting sheets for dead reckoning (DR) plotting en route. The sheets are
set up to record our voyage across nearly five degrees of latitude (37° N –
32° N), twelve degrees of longitude (076 ° W to 064° W), and four isogonic
lines of magnetic variation (10 W variation to 14 W variation). Students have
drawn in a rhumb line of 115° True
which will be our reference course underway to a point NE of Bermuda, 640 miles
distant. But we set an initial course of 145° per ship’s compass (psc) to let
the northeast setting Gulf Stream
current of 3 plus knots carry us toward our rhumb line. To record our progress,
students will be plotting our DR track and position every four hours at the end
of each watch using traditional navigation methods.
May 28: We arise
early in calm winds to be underway by 0530. The weather report of SW winds at
15-20 knots and higher gusts by midday will speed us along on a favorable point
of sail after we round Cape Henry. By the time we leave Little Creek, it’s
blowing hard. A new VHF weather broadcast warns of deteriorating conditions for
the mouth of the Bay with gusts to 35 knots through 10 a.m. Turning around and
docking at the Marina fuel dock in a blow rather than chancing cross currents at
the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is the better option. By 0730 we are safely
back at the dock. By 1100 we again cast off again after the strong weather cell
embedded in a cold front has moved off to the south. Now we can take advantage
of winds in the air mass filling in behind the front and the high pressure
system forecast for the next three days.
By 1330 hours HALIMEDA
is speeding along under double reefed main and reefed jib toward Cape Henry at
the exit of Chesapeake Bay. Next, we spot U.S. destroyer 55 fast approaching
from astern and inside the Channel. Mindful of the 500 yard security zone
imposed by all U.S. warships, we request and receive permission to maintain
course and speed. Once off Cape Henry, another destroyer leaves the channel and
hails us on VHF to say that she will pass under our stern. At 1730 we sight a
pod of dolphins as we spped along toward the Gulf Stream. By sundown, the wind
has moderated enough for us to shake out the second reef in the main sail and
let out more of the reefed jib as sail plan for the night. Orange flares high in
the sky and NAVTEX notices tell of naval exercises to the north of us.
May 29: The day
is clear and sunny, with winds E 15-17 knots and perfect close-hauled sailing,
but it’s not so perfect for one of our shipmate’s queasy stomach. 0700 the
sea temperature has jumped to 82° F; we are in the Gulf Stream. Our 0800
position has us at 35°48' N and 074°26' W. Good progress, indeed. Today’s
training includes man overboard drills under sail, weather analysis, and onboard
electrical systems. Students are getting adept at taking sun sights with the
sextant and obtaining a position fix. Our mate Mike obtained a fix at sunrise
crossing LOPs obtained from bright Jupiter and the star Vega. Everyone on board
is excited that celestial navigation works: We know where we are on a big ocean.
Students restart our DR track from this known position. By 1600 the wind is down
to 7 knots from the east. We take in both head sails and motor with a full main
sail up. Christian has become our weather guru by default; he pulls up useful
weather reports on the single side band radio and then demonstrates to his
fellow shipmates how he did it.
May 30: Students
are experiencing the value of hourly onboard weather observations and entries
into the log. The SSB and NAVTEX forecasts tell us to expect SE winds at 10-20
knots, becoming SSW 15-25 with seas 3-6 feet. Reality: no wind where we are (35°19'
N, 071°47' W at 0900 hrs), but we do experience swells close to the forecast.
Conditions hold true for 24 hours. With the queasy stomach on board now settled,
we are spending extra time training with DR plotting, celestial navigation, and
SSB operations. We finish with a MOB drill under power and then stop the motor
to check engine fluids. As we power up again, an unusual vibration prompts me to
secure the engine and investigate; nothing found.
Mark dons snorkle, mask and fins and dive to inspect the propeller and
shaft. Again, all okay. We restart the engine, and the vibration was felt no
May 31: Christian
is picking up a U.S. Coast Guard forecast on the SSB radio calling for winds
from SSW 10-15 knots becoming SW 15-20. Yes, we feel it; HALIMEDA is cooking along
at 7 to 8 knots. Our 0800 position (34°35' N, 069°21' W - indicates we are
making very good progress toward that beautiful island. Today’s training
topics include DR analysis and refinement, fire on board, and compass
calibration using the sun, carried out by Mark
for his ASA108 certification.
The day began with a surprise serenade for John when he
came up for his midnight watch: Happy Birthday, John. His day became special in
other ways, too as he gets a pancake breakfast with fruit, great weather with a
building SW breeze, and a speed record of 9.75 knots when we are finally able to
hoist the spinnaker. The crowning achievement: He got his first sextant shot of
Landfall preparation for tomorrow’s approach to Bermuda
put the rest of our crew in a good mood as well.
Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann