Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
||Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
|| May 26-June 2, 2009
James Wallace, Allan Zell, Richard Zell
|| Jim Bortnem
|| Jochen Hoffmann
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann,
On board CELESTIAL,
June 2, 2009
St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda
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