2008 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Norfolk to Bermuda
Date June 28-July 4, 2008
Students: Tom Bedwell, Don Boccuti, Dahl Harris, David Sullins
First Mate: Jerry Nigro
Captain Jack Morton

 As usual, these trips 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 is well underway.  That said, most of the crew had checked in by the afternoon of June 27th, and several of us had dinner together that evening, before starting in earnest to go over the boat and our plans the next day. 

6/28 Tom, Dahl, David and Don gathered bright and early to begin the training dockside with me and the mate, Jerry Nigro, a licensed captain in his own right who’s probably done about as many of these Bermuda runs as I have, several of them with me.  Wasn’t hard, since only Tom was staying ashore.  In what passed for the still air of the morning we set, reef,  and strike all plain sail, and the trisail as well.  We also went over the whole process to set and retrieve the sea anchor.  Departing from the usual training plan, we spent the afternoon refastening the tang on the pulpit that the headstay attaches to, which had taken new strains on the way out, as we had changed the lead a bit before the last trip.  The new strain angle revealed that two of the four bolts holding the tang down had given under the tensile load some time earlier, but not been evident.  While half the crew worked on that, the other half used the time to do the privisioning at Somer’s market.  Long day, with the showers at Captain Smoke’s marine most welcome.  

6/29     Juggling to cover the training we missed with yesterday’s repair job, we talked of cruise planning, weather and weather resources, emergencies, and how we’re prepared to deal with them, and put people to work on their pre-departure checklists. Two of our students, Don and Tom, are actually instructors for the school in the courses taught in and around the Chesapeake, and we’ll appreciate and put to work their expertise.  By 1700, the boat is ready, and the crew is ready, and the weather looks good - we’re still under the influence of a huge Bermuda high, that promises fair winds for at least the first few days of the voyage.   We clear Bermuda customs, top fuel & water, get permission from Bermuda Harbor Radio, and are going back on EDT and clearing Town Cut by 1830.  Light tail winds carry us north of the bank, and by midnight are filling in heavier, letting us take a healthy reach toward Norfolk.   

6/30   The morning finds us well out of sight of Bermuda, booming along on a fine fast reach in gathering SW wind.  Bermuda lontails circle us a few times in a farewell salute.  By afternoon, breeze has picked up enough to put in first reef, with no loss of speed - still doing six to eight knots.  The seas are growing with the breeze, and a few of the crew are discovering for the first time that feeling good while sailing isn’t guaranteed.  Occasional showers add to the wind speed, and rinse the boat.  

7/1   Morning comes with multiple rain shower/squalls.  For the first, we fumble a bit getting the genoa in, but with practice it becomes more routine.  At one point we discover a small wear tear near the clew, and bring the genny down to sew a bit.  In short order it’s back up, and holds nicely for the remainder of the trip.  Carrying sail repair materials is part of the offshore routine. By late afternoon the skies are clearing, and we sail on.    Forecast tells us that a front that might have affected us as we approached the Gulf Stream has dissipated.   

7/2    Sailing well under double reefed main, and - ho hum - great SW winds, even if a bit cloudy, with prospects of more squalls.  Some bring us winds close to 30 knots, for which we roll up the Genoa.  We’ve been sailing with the stats’l set in reaching conditions, which makes it very convenient to roll up the genny whenever big wind threatens, and still have some fore triangle working.   By evening, winds are abating, and we do some motorsailing.  

7/3   By morning, winds have dropped considerably, and we motor.  The calming seas are not altogether unwelcome, although the worst of the seasickness had passed a day earlier.   For amusement and education, we dip some Sargassum, the ubiquitous weed of the Atlantic gyre, to examine the ecosystem it carries, with Sargassum triggerfish, filefish, shrimp, nudibranchs, crabs, and the queen of the lot - histrio histrio - the Sargussumfish, which eats anything up to it’s own size in one gulp. Crossing the Gulf Stream is a breeze, so to speak, with calm seas, and a reward for all that trolling in the form about a 20# wahoo, which feeds us all a generous dinner, and snacks all the way home.  

7/4   Happy Birthday America!   Will we see the fireworks along the shorline as we approach?  SW wind is back, with enough W in it to have us beating hard, but not yet having to tack.  A little engine gives us a better angle on the wind, and we make our way into the Chesapeake and to Taylor’s Landing by dark.   From where we sit in our nice protected slip, God’s fireworks in the form of a pretty healthy thunderstorm, with lots of lightning, dwarfs any we might have seen from the municipal display.   "Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill." 

Captain Jack Morton
Little Creek, Norfolk, VA
July 5, 200

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