2009 New England Reports

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Course Advanced Coastal Training Cruise
Date July 9 - 16, 2009
Students:  Mary Burrows, David McKay, Claire Moore, Gabriel Moore, Mike Poole
Captain: Jochen Hoffmann

Mystic Shipyard, Mystic, CT, July 7 to 8, 2009
I arrived early to link up with Captain David Appleton who has just finished teaching a Maryland School oceans class that started in Bermuda, nearly 700 sea miles to our South. CELESTIAL still has the rig and feel of an ocean voyager, and together with David, we work to get our good ship ready for the next group of students. The Yard assists us in getting her “ship shape and Bristol.” By early evening of the 8th, my arriving students have become acquainted with the ship’s lay out below decks and we get to know one another over dinner ashore. 

July 9, 2009, Monday, Day 1
During the introductory training of systems below deck, of all lines and sails, and CELESTIAL’S extensive safety and rescue equipment, I have the full attention of my new crew two of whom, Claire and Gabriel have voyaged previously in CELESTIAL in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Meal planning, provisioning, and navigation planning take up the afternoon. Several students have taken extra steps in following the pre-departure preparation guidance and share copies of weather charts, light lists, and cruising guide highlights for potential stops along the Maine coast. At another fine dinner ashore the word is that all are eager to get going. 

Day 2, Mystic River to Buzzards Bay
Today is departure day. All wake up early for breakfast and by 0730 we cast off. The winding Mystic River channel plus rocks awash in Fishers Island Sound give us a taste of the close quarter navigation required along New England’s coast. This crew has come up with a precise navigation plan from the E end of Fishers Island to Cuttyhunk Island on Buzzards Bay. Using depth contours and charted objects on Block Island to take fixes, they take CELESTIAL safely across shipping lanes and into Buzzards Bay. We have motored at the front end of this leg, but for the best part of the day we sail to weather in a NNE breeze before picking up a mooring in Cuttyhunk Harbor for the night. 

Day 3, Cuttyhunk Island to Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA
We time our early departure to catch the tide at the Cape Cod Canal which per U.S. Coast Pilot sets E at 3-5 knots. Our navigators are right on the mark as to both their course and tide calculations. Good job, crew - especially Mary, who (claiming to be very rusty in this skill) is catching up admirably. Now on to Provincetown, Cape Cod while the wind is building to 20 to 25 kts. This is glorious sailing made even more exciting when we spot our first whale in the afternoon. But once in the wind-swept harbor, mooring in a crowded field becomes tricky – made more trying when the Harbor Master says he has to relocate us to another mooring which, alas, proves even less protected. Once he has taken us to shore, though, we are mollified by sight seeing and a terrific fish dinner. 

Day 4, Overnight Passage: Provincetown, MA to Casco Bay, ME
Today’s forecast is for WSW winds 15-20 kts, partly sunny. Good conditions for our offshore passage from Massachusetts to Maine. As we round the tip of Cape Cod, we spot a pod of whales in the distance. To sharpen our skills, we review the navigation rules for day/night conditions, MOB procedures, and deck safety. I’ve set a watch of three hours on six hours off to ensure that each team of two is standing a watch in full darkness and has time to rest up. We speed along at 6-7 knots and careful DR (dead reckoning) navigation, periodically verified by GPS, is keeping CELESTIAL on her initial course of 008° T. Claire, who has been battling a cold, is getting extra credit for standing a full watch. 

Day 5, Casco Bay and New Meadows River, ME
As calculated, we raise Portland Light after dawn and wake the rest of the crew with sea shanties from a CD by the group “Schooner Fare” from Maine. Mike Poole and Dave McKay who have both cruised the Maine coast for years make enticing landfall suggestions. While we cross Casco Bay, Mike is reading aloud from a Maine Cruising Guide. All agree: we must explore and anchor in “the Basin” on the E side of the New Meadows River. What a spot! After we clear a deep, but extremely narrow, cliff-lined channel, we see what must be the most pristine anchorage anywhere. A quick swim for some and delicious dinner for all set us up nicely for a relaxing evening. Nearby, the wind is rustling in tall pine trees; in the distance a loon is calling. Is there any better way to enjoy passage making? 

Day 6 New Meadows River – Penobscot Bay – Hurricane Sound, ME
After a hearty breakfast and a fond look back to our great anchorage, we shape a course first of 154° T to round Mile Ledge Light and then to a waypoint at 43°58.2’N; 065°14.3’W. Gabriel is proving a rear hand with gear that needs fixing. Reaching ahead smartly under clear skies, wind SSW at 18 kts, swell high, we pick up a distress call on Channel 16. A female voice reports to the Coast Guard loss of power, rapid drift to a rocky ledge, and “need for immediate assistance” for her husband, herself, and their motor boat. Her position: 4 NM or 35 min to our N – a location known to Mike for its rapid currents. We broadcast on offer of assistance, but a nearby fishing vessel is able to cast them a line and tow the boat to safety. All are pleased. Now, with Monhegan Island and its exposed anchorage in sight, our decision is to cross Penobscot Bay and proceed to another beautiful spot for the night: Long Cove on Vinalhaven Island, off Hurricane Sound and Island, known to many as the original base of the “Outward Bound Program” for youth groups. Great choice! 

Day 7, Hurricane Sound to North East Harbor, ME
After dropping our mooring, the crew’s detailed navigation plan established last night is put to the test today as we approach the challenging, narrow Fox Island Thoroghfare via Leadbetter Narrows. Once again, we have timed our early departure to coincide with the East-setting tide. By the time we transit the Deer Island Thoroghfare, all are so confident in our navigation that we can thoroughly enjoy Claire’s recounting of her canoe trips through the nearby islands. Like yesterday, carefully calculated tidal currents speed us along the coast line. Our navigators in looking beyond our intended anchorage, calculate that our final destination – North East Harbor, 12 NM SW of touristy Bar Harbor - is in reach well before sunset. The crew decides they feel fresh and energized enough to keep going. All have planned to vacation in Maine. We head straight for Casco Passage and reach NE Harbor by 1830 where the harbor master is able to put us into a slip. Exhilaration makes the dinner ashore taste especially good. 

Day 8, North East Harbor, ME
For once, we are sleeping in and start the ASA-106 test well rested and breakfasted. After test review and boat clean up, it’s good bye and farewell. Mike, whose wife is picking him up tomorrow, helps me run some errands – made all the easier because David has kindly left us his car for the purpose. Then, we shift the boat from slip to mooring and finish some rope work. Like our shipmates earlier, we reflect on this crew’s many accomplishments during the voyage and anticipate lots more sailing in the summer and years ahead. 

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
On board CELESTIAL 17 July, 2009
North East Harbor, ME

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