2009 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date May 26-June 2, 2009
Students: Maciej (Mike) Mika, James Wallace, Allan Zell, Richard Zell
First Mate: Jim Bortnem
Captain Jochen Hoffmann

Pre-departure Preparation, May 23-26, 2009. 
I have arrived well ahead of time to get CELESTIAL ready and to monitor repairs to the generator, dodger/Bimini, and bow thruster. My crew arrives on the 25th throughout the day. For all of us, the first two class days dockside are busy with intensive predeparture training. Students learn to use CELESTIAL’s offshore equipment, including storm trysail, sea anchor, and other safety gear. Then, we continue below decks with systems checks, and meal and route planning. After an enjoyable dinner at the Surf Rider restaurant, I demonstrate how to set up NIMA plotting sheets for our dead reckoning (DR) navigation on the high seas. Students also learn about Gulf Stream (GS) features and examine the latest chart print out. It shows a narrowing of the stream NE of Cape Hatteras, a good place to cross the GS quickly. 

Day 1 at Sea: May 27, 2009
Students have been collecting weather information. I explain our Skymate satellite system, which reports our position automatically to the School twice a day and allows us to download daily weather reports. A look at tides, currents, and available forecasts (there is an advancing Low from the SW) tells us we best depart as soon as preparations are complete. Check out at the Marina and the School, topping off water, plus a light dinner round out our second day. At 2115 hours we cast off. Since there is no wind, we motor toward Cape Henry and have ample time to follow our nav plan down the coast and settle into our watch routine. Mike and I have the evening watch – 2000 hours to midnight, Mate Jim and Richard will take over the midnight watch from 0000 to 0400 hours, and James and Allen have the dawn watch from 0400 to 0800 hours. 

Day 2 at Sea
Our 0800 position is Latitude 36° 07’N; Longitude 075° 75’W; Course is 149° True. We are nearly becalmed. Out of VHF range, the captain gets a weather report via our Skymate satellite transceiver: More of the same weather through tomorrow, Friday – SW 5-10 knots; showers in the afternoon. We keep on motoring at 2200 rpm, with the main sail up to get a bit of extra lift. Assigned crew positions are: Mike bosun, Richard engineer; James electrician/radio operator, and Allen emergency coordinator. Mike, a committed outdoorsman, is taking the class with big plans in mind - an Atlantic crossing in his own boat. We discuss DR navigation and how to refine a DR track through celestial fixes, emergencies at sea, such as abandon ship procedures, and the importance of maintaining routines. Dinner is early since all are tired. Soon after midnight, the wind is picking up allowing us first to set a full genoa and main and secure the engine, then requiring us to put two reefs into both the genoa and main. We use hand steering to further increase crew skills in handling an ocean yacht in building seas. 

Day 3
Dawn is breaking brightly. Our 0800 position is Lat 35°05’N; Lon 072°51W; wind has veered SW 15-20 knots; Course is 151°T as we aim to enter the Golf Stream well S of our rhumb line and let the Stream carry us NE toward our intended track. Our Speed is up to 7 knots in the building breeze. The forecast via Single Side Band (SSB) radio station NMN calls for winds building to 25 kts by Monday. The Low well S of us has intensified, as foretold by increasing swells up to 6 feet. We expect to be able to outrun it – seen as good news by two crewmembers who are nursing queasy stomachs. 

Morning training includes DR navigation, Gulf Stream current set/drift navigation, and elements of celestial navigation. The captain has been able to get good sun shots, and the resultant sun-run-sun fix allows us to re-start our DR track. Water temperature is rising as we near the GS. 

Lunch in the cockpit under a brilliant sun is pleasant, lulling first mate Jim to relax his hold while enjoying his desert. Just then, a big swell propels him straight across the cockpit where his shoulder strikes the companion way bulkhead. He is in great pain, but as luck would have it, he is immediately checked out by Richard an orthopedic surgeon. Nothing appears to be broken. Jim gets an over-the-counter pain pill, is asked to rest his arm for 24 hours, and to get an x-ray in Bermuda. There is no shortage of volunteers to take up Jim’s watch duties. The captain decides on a rotating schedule to ensure that everyone still gets enough rest. Almost as an afterthought, we register that we have long crossed the Stream. 

Day 4
The wind has been holding steady, speeding us along to our half-way mark at close to 7 knots. At 0800 we log Lat 35°05.2’N; Lon 072°50.8’W; Course 122°T; wind is SW 18-24 kts, expected to back NW late. Engine hours show 1460 hrs; generator 392 hrs; fuel registers 15/16; and water 8/10. Clearly, the crew is getting “the hang” of careful, offshore resource management. Better yet, two tender stomachs have recovered. Offshore training today includes SSB operations, weather, fire fighting, plus more sun sights and fixes. Jim has been resting, his pain is more tolerable. With Richard’s and the captain’s okay, he is conning the ship during his watch, using the autopilot when it is his turn to steer the boat. 

Day 5
During the night we’ve been beating to windward and shipping green water with winds again from SW 18-22 knots. Hand pumping the bilge as a check on water ingress has shown an hourly rate increase to above 40 strokes. At the morning “deck walk” we have the answer: hawse pipe plugs at the anchor locker (rags, actually) had become dislodged and are stuffed back in. Our position is Lat 33°00’N; Lon 067°07’ W, in short, we are closing with Bermuda. The waste overboard discharge is malfunctioning (later found to be an obstruction near the sea cock) requiring us to stop the boat and use the deck pump-out rig. That done, we carry out an MOB maneuver under power. ASA108 discussion topics include landfall procedures and navigation through treacherous reefs. 

Day 6
We call Bermuda Harbour Radio to announce our arrival as required – first at 25 NM out on SSB (no response), later at five miles out, on VHF. At 0800 we have NE Breaker Light on starboard and the reefs in sight. The captain had faxed the required ship and crew information ahead of time, and we are directed to proceed to the Spit Buoy and to request entry clearance at that location. Entry granted, we arrive at 0930 at the Customs Dock to obtain clearance. St. Georges colorful buildings are a welcome sight. From Customs we proceed to the Town Dock to fuel up, top off water, and, finally, to our permanent dock just two boat lengths away. 

We learn that it is a big month in Bermuda’s history - the 400th anniversary of the wreck of HMS DELIVERANCE the survivors of which settled the Bermuda Islands. The event is marked by a Tall Ships regatta from Spain to Bermuda. For first mate Jim and me this is exciting news since the Superintendent of Bermuda’s offshore sailing program and co-captain of Bermuda’s Tall Ship, the SPIRIT OF BERMUDA is none other than our School’s captain Jack Morton with whom we have both sailed on Maryland School boats. 

Thorough boat cleaning ensues. I dive on the hull with a wire hook and find, and remove, an obstruction from the waste through hull. The system is working again. My crew disperses to various hotels to enjoy the island a bit longer. All meet again for dinner to reminisce about our eventful voyage. Your captain thanks you for being great shipmates and bids you Fair Winds, always. 

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann,
On board CELESTIAL, June 2, 2009
St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda

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