2009 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date June 6-13, 2009
Students: Christopher Fleming, Rick Lane, Edonna Long, Kevin Malloy
First Mate: Jim Bortnem
Captain Jochen Hoffmann

Pre-departure Preparation, June 4-5, 2009
First mate Jim and I are focusing on maintenance (oil change, bow thruster and wind instrument, electronics), boat cleaning, and small repairs. Now, CELESTIAL is ready for her new student crew. We are docked right behind PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II. She is here to help mark the 400th anniversary of Bermuda (which resulted from the wreck of “HMS Deliverance” which led to the first English settlement on the Island). In fact, a large fleet of Tall Ships is coming in, having finished a regatta from Spain to Bermuda. For Jim and me, this is exciting since the Superintendent of Bermuda’s Tall Ship Program and co-captain of the SPIRIT OF BERMUDA is none other than our School’s captain Jack Morton with whom we have both sailed as first mates. We take time to visit Jack to congratulate him on winning the first leg of the regatta along the African coast. But now it’s time to welcome our new shipmates who are about to arrive by plane. 

The crew of the first two class-days dockside are busy with intensive pre-departure training. Students learn to use CELESTIAL’s offshore equipment, including storm trysail, sea anchor, and other safety equipment. Then we continue below decks with systems checks, and meal and route planning. After an enjoyable dinner ashore, I show my students how to set up NIMA plotting sheets for our dead reckoning (DR) navigation while underway. Anticipating our Gulf Stream crossing, I explain its features using the latest Gulf Stream chart print out.  Next, students develop a detailed navigation plan, coached by Chris, a USCG licensed ocean captain and experienced Tall Ships mariner. 

Day 1 at Sea; Sunday, 6/7/09
By 1630 we are ready for sea and walk to the Bermuda Customs dock to clear out of the country. Soon thereafter, Bermuda Radio clears us at 1720 hours for departure through Town Cut Channel. Forecast calls for SW winds 12-18 knots veering WSW 10-15 knots late. That’s good enough for us. We set jib, staysail, and a reefed main and settle down to watch Bermuda recede into the distance as we change course for Cape Hatteras as soon as we pass NE Breaker Light.  I set a watch schedule of four hours on and eight off to allow time for study, offshore training, boat maintenance, and lots of celestial navigation. 

Day 2 at Sea
Daily, at 0800 hours, I log our position; it is 32°25.1’N; 065° 0.1’W. Other boat checks include: engine hours – 1504 hours, fuel full reading 16/16 on the dial (160 gal.), plus water full reading 10/10 bars (270 gal.) and holding tank empty reading 0/10 bars on the sensor. Forecast is SW 8-12 veering to NW 3-6 kts – time to add the engine to maintain boat speed at plus 4.5 knots. Morning training includes DR navigation, SSB operation and weather offshore broadcast schedule, as well as a Man Overboard (MOB) exercise under power. As we settle in to our watch routine, we realize the day has gone by in a flash. 

Day 3
Our 0800 hr position: 33°12’N; 067°19’W; Weather report via satellite link predicts NW 3-6 knots, increasing to 8 knots with some showers. In short, a near calm but just enough wind to get a lift from the main sail as long as we steer N for a while. CCourse is 348° True; Speed 5 knots through the water. Our Skymate satellite system reports our position automatically to the School twice a day, and we download daily weather reports. Training includes SSB (Single Side Band) operation, recording SSB weather forecasts, and DR (dead reckoning) navigation. Chris, who is an accomplished celestial navigator, and the captain refine dead reckoning positions by shooting the sun (captain) and planets and a variety of stars (Chris). 

Day 4
We show progress: 34°12’N; 68°57’W. The wind has been WNW 18-20 knots keeping us close hauled but moving at a good clip. Rick is monitoring systems, keeping the log and reports that all is well. He ensures that engine fluids are okay, fresh water draw down is within limits, and that the battery charge is sufficient to power instruments, etc. Training includes offshore weather and an MOB exercise under sail. At Civil Twilight, Chris springs into action having pre-calculated azimuth and altitude of numerous stars. Edonna records his results which Chris then reduces fixing our position so exact that he “proves” our GPS to be correct. 

Day 5
Kevin focuses on DR navigation, ship systems, and log keeping. SSB reception is found to be poor. Sun spots? Our 0800 Position: 34° 57’N; 071°27’W; Weather: SW 11-16 knots; all sails up on port tack. Training includes landfall preparation and instrument navigation. Sailing the wind angle has put CELESTIAL well E of the Cape Hatteras meridian. Approaching the center of the Gulf Stream, we determine the current set to be 045°T with a drift velocity or 5 knots, requiring us to steer due W to achieve a course over ground of 310°psc to the distant Chesapeake Bay Entrance. 

Day 6, 6/12/09
We “smell” land and take extra care fixing our position and recalculating our ETA. At 0800 our GPS shows us within 8 NM of our DR/celestial position at 36°14.1’N; 074° 56.3’W – a very satisfactory result. Weather over VHF radio calls for SW 12-18 knots and severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. Course is 305° psc; Speed is 6.2 kts. We believe our landfall will be just before sunset. “Land Ho!” At 1500 we cite Virginia Beach broad on the port bow with towering cumulonimbus clouds rising above it. Safe passage at landfall requires a navigator’s full attention. Edonna who recently earned her USCG captains license is tracking our progress on the charts. She rises to the occasion as, indeed, some of her crisp log entries show as well: 

1600 – Chris/Kevin relieve watch, all sails up. Wind veering N of W, going light 6-8 knots
1630 – Increase RPM to 2300.
1705 – Buoy Y “A” close on starboard
1720 – Change course to 324 deg psc
1815 – Capt. calls Customs. Direction: “Marina.”
1822 – Strike jib; RPM 2600
1921 – Cape Henry light on port; c/c 326 deg psc
1930 – Strike staysail; mainsail
1935 – Turn on running/steaming lights; all bright  
1940 – Crew in assigned positions
2000 – Dark; Capt. has con up channel, to dock 

We reach Vinings Landing Marina - having long suited up for foul weather, which is brewing on both port and starboard. A U.S. Customs officer is waiting at the dock, and check in is completed efficiently. At last, we can get out of foulies and harnesses and relax at a nearby restaurant. 

Day 7
Thorough boat cleaning and hearty farewells bring this eventful cruise to a close for my group of dedicated mariners. Your captain thanks you and bids you Fair Winds, always. 

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann,
On board CELESTIAL, June 14, 2009
Vinings Landing Marina, Norfolk, MD 

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