2009 Caribbean Cruises
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Thursday, February 12, 2009:
Weather today was moderate: 84 deg, wind 20-22 ENE.
Tuesday/Tues night it was E 25-30 with gusts to 45 due to a high pressure system
just north of us. Our plan tomorrow takes us East, toward St John, possibly the
VI National Park waters. This will place us well for clearing into the BVI at
Jost Van Dyke.
Friday February 13, 2009:
Motor-sailed east along the south coast of St Thomas,
short-tacking between Buck Island and St Thomas. We passed Great St James Island
around 1:00 PM and passed through the Current Cut to enter Pillsbury Sound. We
crossed the sound with St John to our starboard, Lovango Cay to port. At this
point, our crew elected to cross north to Jost Van Dyke, to clear customs and
immigration on a weekday. Altered course to the north, set the genoa and sailed
directly to Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke, arriving at 3:00PM. We anchored and
went ashore to clear in, returning to Celestial at 4:15. We then left Great
Harbor to move east to Little Harbor, quieter with better holding at anchor.
Chip prepared a delicious dinner of shrimp stir fry with
rice and salad. Little Harbor remains an idyllic, peaceful place to spend the
night. Weather today was wind E- 15-19 knots, seas to 5 ft, sunny and 85 deg. A
typical February day in the tropics!
Saturday February 14, 2009:
After leaving our peaceful anchorage at 9:15, we sailed
east past Sandy Cay and sheeted in hard for our close-hauled course. At 10:40,
John, looking ahead from the starboard side of Celestial spotted something ahead
of us in the water. Whale-Ho!!! We passed within 50 yards of a mature humpback
whale swimming on the surface at 18deg 27.9N and 64deg 40.5W. The whale spouted
for us, lingered a few moments, then dove. We didn't see her again. As we
continued east we kept a lookout for more whales, as they are known to migrate
here this time of year, but no luck.
Jim continuously updated our position with 2-bearing fixes
and we sailed smartly along Tortola, passing to the north of Guana and Great
Camanoe Islands, the dog islands and finally Virgin Gorda. We entered Gorda
Sound at 3:51PM and were anchored in sand in 18ft of clear turquoise water 20
minutes later. Mike is cooking us a pasta dinner tonight, but first, a brief
shore excursion to the Bitter End Yacht Club.
Sunday, February 15, 2009:
Once this training was completed, we set sail at a compass
heading of 007 deg for the island of Anegada. This landfall is especially fun,
since the island is off limits for most bareboat charterers and the main
attraction is the delicious Anegada lobster, grilled over an open driftwood fire
and eaten on the beach! The tricky, shallow reef entrance poses a special
challenge, perfect for an advanced coastal cruising class. We arrived at noon
and after some of the crew enjoyed a brief swim in the brilliant turquoise
water, the captain led a 2 hour group discussion of advanced coastal cruising
topics. It was time for dinner and we rode the dinghy ashore for the lobster
Monday, February 16, 2009:
We sailed around the west and north coasts of Anegada and,
as darkness fell, the wind began to decrease due to an approaching frontal
system. At 8:00 PM we practiced crew overboard recovery at night, under sail
alone. This always proves to be a very challenging and intensive exercise in
open waters. I am happy to report all crewmembers successfully maneuvered
Celestial alongside our horseshoe ring and pole buoy,to bring the big boat to a
complete stop for rescue.
Onward, into the night! The stars and Venus were brilliant,
and the winds softened even more. We soon found ourselves motorsailing to
maintain 4 knots of boat speed. As I write this, the sun has risen, we see
Culebra rising in the haze above the bow and we have been underway for 22 hours.
Each crew is standing watch for 4 hours on, 6 hours off, with 2 crew standing
watch at any given time. We anticipate navigating the dangerous reefs of Culebra
within an hour and hope to make port by noon. With that update, I'll close now
to oversee the navigation challenges ahead-- our crew has come together as a
close unit and their excitement of making this landfall is already rising.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009:
We returned to Celestial and elected to explore the
neighboring out-island Culebrita and her outlying reefs! Hooray! Another
navigational challenge! With the captain taking the helm for our now weary crew,
we motored north from the protection of Ensenada Honda through the "canal
of the sea" between Culebra and Culebrita to the East.
How pristine and primeval a scene, untouched by mankind, a
scene of indigo and turquoise water against the rugged cliffs and green meadows
reaching to pale tan desolate beaches. Sea turtles abound and thrive in this
sanctuary. The unusually calm conditions allowed navigation to a secluded north
coast beach transiting through water so clear, the reef was clearly visible at
45 feet deep. We anchored on 15 feet of sand in pretty blue water a short swim
from the beach and most of the crew took a short refreshing swim. After two
hours in this remote paradise, we needed to seek the shelter of more protection,
since the forecast called for strengthening winds from the northeast that night.
We found a mooring on the west coast of Culebrita and had
the entire anchorage and island to ourselves. The sun set and we were treated to
a dazzling display of phosphorescence in the tropical water. Chef Jim turned in
a magnificent performance in the galley of pasta and tomato bread with
"Alabama Toast" and our stalwart crew finally succumbed to fatigue,
retiring by 8:30PM.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009:
It was a wet, challenging sail as the wind had freshened to
20-23 knots NE and the seas were a confused mix of NE and NW swells, the latter
a remnant of the previous day's winds. Chip kept us on course; past a local
landmark "sail rock" named for its resemblance to a brigantine under
full sail, then turned the helm over to Mike who sailed us into Lindbergh Bay on
the south coast of St Thomas. Once at anchor, the captain prepared a dinner of
black bean soup, pan seared grouper with asparagus. Jim and Mike took the ASA
106 and passed! Congratulations!
Thursday February 19, 2009:
Mike dutifully motored us to the east to enter Elephant Bay where the captain radioed for port entry clearance. The Atlantis submarine was beginning her daily trek to Buck Island and was waiting for her tow vessel to pull her away from the harbor entrance.
We deftly navigated astern of the sub and had a perfect
alongside docking at the marina's fuel dock where we filled the diesel tank.
Next, with an assignment for each crewmember and the captain at the helm we
silently and efficiently docked Celestial in a 25 knot cross breeze without a
Jim had asked me earlier in the trip to tell him at what
point in such a trip did I think sailing students typically come together as a
crew. I'm still not sure of the precise moment on this voyage, possibly during
the 25 hour non-stop run, but it was plainly evident we were one cohesive crew
now. We truly enjoyed each other's company and we trusted each other as
Celestial's crew. The sense of pride a captain feels for such a crew after only
8 days is remarkable.