2008 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Norfolk to Bermuda
Date June 17-24, 2008
Students: Jocelyn Henderson, Bernard Marchive, Tom Penders, John Yuzdepski
First Mate: Jerry Nigro
Captain Jack Morton

As usual, these trips really begin well before crewmembers arrive aboard 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 cruise 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.  Most important bit of local knowledge shared that evening was that the Blue Crab was apparently no longer the place to go for the best local eating.   

6/17 Bernard, Jocelyn, Tom and John gathered bright and early to begin the training dockside with me and the first mate, Jerry Nigro, a licensed captain in his own right who’s probably done about as many of these Bermuda cruises as I have, several of them with me.  In what passes for the still air of the morning we set, reef, and strike all plain sail, and the trisail as well.  In hopes that we won’t need it, we also go over the whole process to set and retrieve the sea anchor.  In the afternoon we gather in the air conditioned salon for cruise planning, discussion of watch assignments and roles, and begin to think about how we’ll eat during the passage.   

6/18 Bosun, engineer, safety officer and the steward go over lists, check gear and spaces, and we top water and fuel.  Crew depart for the Food Lion and return with provisions, and topped off propane bottles.  As things look pretty well ready by 1700, we depart.  Slow progress against a rising tide, but we make good progress after leaving Cape Henry astern, and are about ten miles farther out and sailing well, when BANG!, and from the floppy set of the genoa, it becomes clear that it’s no longer riding on the headstay, but only on its halyard, and the headstay fitting has given.  About face, and back to the dock at Taylor’s Landing. 

6/19 It's about 1 AM when we dock and rack out.   Come about 0600 we’re getting up and about, and setting to the task of replacing the headstay fitting that broke.  We have a spare (carry spares of anything you can anticipate going wrong) and after some hard work, had the headstay back tight, and were able to depart again by 1500.  For good, this time, and despite foul tide - again - we are sailing close hauled toward Bermuda by nightfall.   (Note - although part of our pre-departure checks had included me going up the mast to check the rig before departure, the part of the headstay fitting that broke is hidden from view by the socket that it fits into.  As much as we want to check everything, it's not always possible.)

6/20 With time to make up some of the crew are thinking “will we make our flights?”  So far, their prospects are good, and a fair SW wind is letting us boom along at six and seven knots, putting many miles under the keel.   As if that were not good omen enough, we come to and through a school of probably a hundred or more pilot whales lolling about.  A rare treat.  Forecast  is calling for more S and SW winds.  As part of the weather briefing, I’ve explained to folks that ordinarily, squalls are carried along in the prevailing wind, so the weather you want to be particularly paying attention to is going to come from windward, so I’m as surprised and baffled as the rest when about 2300 a squall shows up downwind of us, and marches right upwind to drench us.  Hmmmm. 

6/21   In the early dawn light a sea turtle is spotted to starboard.  Always a treat to see things larger than flying fish.  We’re now motoring against a light headwind, but by midmorning are sailing in about 12 knots from the south, and by afternoon, have two reefs in and are sailing very well indeed, at six to seven knots.  Through with engine until it’s needed again for charging.   As usual, we’re heading south of the rhumb line to give ourselves some cushion as we enter the Gulf Stream, ahead.  Just to show life still has challenges, the aft head packs up, to the chagrin of some disgruntled crew, who think using the forward head, which is working well, is uncalled for.  

6/22    Jerry does the noble work of dismantling the aft head, to remove the excess TP that someone has jammed it up with.  Thank you, Jerry.  And renewed words to the rest about how much paper and solids a marine head can handle without rebelling.  Both heads again functioning, we sail on, with our steady, strong SW wind.   People still concerned about making flights and critical meetings, and we’ve agreed that when sailing speed drops below five knots, we’ll add the iron stays’l.   Fortunately, the winds continue to make that unnecessary for now.  

6/23   Continuing to sail close hauled with steady, strong SW breeze, making good time.  Beneficial solar flare conditions allow us to continue to receive Navtex reports well past the point where they ordinarily drop out, and we’re assured that no tropical weather is brewing, and our SW wind is likely to hold through the end of the trip.   Biggest, sturdiest Bermuda high I’ve ever seen.  Roll on, HALIMEDA

6/24   night orders on how to approach the Bermuda bank without becoming part of it, and by midmorning, we’re seeing the island.   Continue on our way, leaving North rock, Northeast breakers, and other bank lights to starboard.  The last bit involves going south along the east edge of the bank, and we do our first real tacking of the trip, in company of the faster boats just finishing up their Newport-Bermuda race.  Within sight of the bank we caught a mahi mahi, which Bernard (a professional chef in his shoreside life) turns into a fine last night feast for us all after we’ve docked and cleared customs in St Georges.   And yes, everyone made their flights and critical meetings. 

Captain Jack Morton
St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda
June 18, 200

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