2008 Caribbean Cruise

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Course ASA104 Virgin Island Cruise
Date Dec 11-18, 2008
Students: Charles Shipley, Claire Moore and Gabriel Moore
Captain: Lee Tucker

Our crew arrived the afternoon of Wednesday, December 10 to join Captain Lee Tucker aboard S/V CELESTIAL, the Maryland School’s Island Packet 440.  After becoming acquainted, our crew stowed gear and began route planning for the week’s cruise over dinner at “Tickles” the marina’s restaurant. 

Day 1  Thursday, December 11
The day began early with breakfast ashore followed by crew assignments: Charlie as engineer, Claire as safety and emergency coordinator and Gabriel as boatswain. After each crewmember thoroughly examined the ships operating systems, rigging, sails and safety gear, each presented their findings to the assembled crewmembers for orientation.  Menu planning and provisioning followed. After provisions were stowed, the crew participated in line handling and winch safety exercises in the cockpit. That evening, Gabriel passed the ASA 101 examination! 

Day 2  Friday, December 12
departed Crown Bay Marina early for a short passage down the West Gregorie Channel for a morning  of sail training exercises in the lee of Water Island, the fourth largest of the US Virgin Islands. All crew participated at all crew positions as we maneuvered to all points of sail, reefed the mainsail and hove-to. The real-life hazards of porpoise rocks, Saba Island and the Flat Keys made this close-quartered sailing especially exacting. We had lunch while hove-to, then practiced crew overboard recovery under power until all crewmembers had an opportunity to perform all tasks.  By now, it was 3:00PM and time to find an anchorage for the evening. A secure and comfortable spot was selected off Flamingo Bay on the west side of Water Island. The crew went ashore for an island tour, including the old Fort Segarra, dating to WWII. 

Day 3  Saturday, December 13   
The NOAA weather forecast on VHF6 indicated a freshening of winds from the ENE at 20 to 22 knots. We weighed anchor, set the main with two reefs and with full genoa, sailed close hauled to the east with a series of tacks along the south coast of St. Thomas. Our destination was to be Great St. James Island. We cleared Buck and Capella Islands, then porpoise rocks and finally, Cow and Calf Rocks, barely visible above the surface and unmarked. We entered Christmas Cove by mid-afternoon and found a perfect place to anchor, close to the beach with gentle, cooling breezes! 

Day 4  Sunday, December 14
We awoke at our anchorage in Christmas Cove to find Santa Claus waterskiing behind a dinghy driven by a reindeer! After finishing breakfast, our crew had a chart briefing of the day’s planned cruise. After sailing through Current Cut between Great St James Island and St. Thomas, we would sail across the Pillsbury Sound to round the south coast of St John. We explored the bays along the south coast of St John in sequence: Great Cruz Bay, Chocolate Hole, Rendevous Bay, Fish Bay and Reef Bay with its stunning white sand beaches extending to the east and west. We settled on Little Lameshur Bay in the Virgin Islands National Park for the evening and all crew enjoyed practice approaching and retrieving a mooring pendant. We had the bay all to ourselves under stars that shone brighter than in anyone’s memory. 

Day 5  Monday, December 15
We began early, sailing from Little Lameshur Bay to the east past Ram’s Head and Eagle Shoal to enter Round Bay on the east end of St. John. Here, we practiced crew overboard recovery under sail until all crewmembers had a turn at helm and recovery positions. We continued our voyage east around Privateer Point on St John turning north to Tortola, BVI and finally west to enter The Narrows, an aptly named venturi of wind and current. The tides were with us this morning and we sailed on a broad reach west then north to Jost Van Dyke, BVI. After clearing BVI Customs and Immigration, we went ashore for a dinner and at the infamous Foxy’s Tamarind Bar. Gabriel passed the ASA103 exam  with flying colors! 

Day 6  Tuesday, December 16
Our crew wanted to explore some of the British Virgin Islands, so today we set sail for a fast reach south from Jost Van Dyke to the west end of Tortola past Pelican Island and Norman Islands to Peter Island. Wind now was 20 knots NNE, so we sailed along the south side of Peter Island to arrive at Key Quay and its little anchorage sheltered from the north wind and swell. The water, at fifteen feet deep was a brilliant clear turquoise. We had plenty of room here to practice setting two anchors off the bow. 

Day 7  Wednesday, December 17
Our itinerary now required us to make our way west, toward St. Thomas. After raising our two anchors without difficulty, we set full sail for St John, finding essentially no current in The Narrows for our second westerly transit of that body of water on this trip. Wind was moderating at 15-18 knots from NE. With swells from the NE as well, we opted to take a mooring at Maho Bay, St. John, well protected in most conditions and very close to shore for a safe dinghy landing. Once ashore, we quickly found a taxi for a trip west along the north shore road to Cruz Bay. After clearing US Customs and Immigration, we visited the National Park headquarters to pay for our moorings and had lunch. After a little shopping for souvenirs at Mongoose Junction we were ready to return to CELESTIAL. We found the location in Maho Bay a little rolly for overnight so we relocated to a more sheltered mooring in neighboring Francis Bay. Gabriel took and  passed the ASA104 exam! 

Day 8  Thursday, December 18
On the last day of our cruise, the winds became light, 5 to 6 knots from the NNE. We left our mooring in idyllic Francis Bay early and motored west, to the south of the dreaded Johnson Reef, across Pillsbury Sound and along the south coast of St Thomas arriving at

Crown Bay Marina at 1000.  After refueling we left the fuel dock to enter our slip with the quiet professionalism that comes with sailing and working together for a week. Congratulations to all for a job well done!

Capt. Lee Tucker
St Thomas, VI
18 December, 2008

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