2008 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date May 26, 2008
Students: Christian Adams, John Rokita, Mark and Tanya Trainor
First Mate: Mike Walker
Captain Jochen Hoffmann

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 analysis. 

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 more. 

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 the sun. 

Landfall preparation for tomorrow’s approach to Bermuda put the rest of our crew in a good mood as well. 

June 01: Land ho! Tanya is the first to spot land at 0530. As we raise Bermuda, we switch from ocean navigation to coastal piloting. Mike has picked and plotted waypoints that keep us clear of Bermuda’s dangerous reefs. We also make our initial call to Bermuda Harbor Radio announcing our approach. At 0800, just N of Spit Buoy we obtain entry clearance, proceed to the Customs dock and, thereafter tie up at Dowlings Marine to top off fuel. The final tie up is next to Dowlings to clean the ship, pack, and say good bye to our shipmates. They have made this a truly enjoyable voyage. Thank you from first mate Mike and the Captain.

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
St Georges Harbour, Bermuda 

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