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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date June 17-24, 2010
Students: Jocelyn Henderson, Bernard Marchive, Carol Wills, Bodo Wolters
First Mate: Jerry Nigro
Captain Tom Tursi

Sunday June 13, 2010:
, our Island Packet IP440 sailing yacht, completed her first Bermuda round trip ocean training cruise a few days ago and was berthed at Vinings Landing Marina, Norfolk, VA when I arrived today. She was in fairly good shape, according to the previous Captain, with no major repair issues needing attention. This was pleasant news since she has been away for eight months covering over 4,000 ocean miles plus 100 days of coastal training cruises in the Virgin Islands during our winter sailing program. She responded well to her duty calls during that time and appeared ready for more challenges. 

My Bermuda outbound crew is due to arrive June 16th, and I came these few days early to familiarize myself with CELESTIAL's gear and stowage plan, to change engine oil, clean the refrigerator and fresh water system, and take care of some routine maintenance actions always cropping up on a well-used cruising yacht. My First Mate for this cruise, Jerry Nigro, arrived June 14th and we worked together on final preparations before student crew arrival. Jerry is a USCG licensed Captain, owns a Skye 51 sailing yacht, MONTAUK LIGHT, which he has sailed to Bermuda and back a couple of times, and has been sailing with us for many years on ocean training cruises. He is the most reliable right hand that you can have at sea when things get rough, and I always welcome his positive, can-do attitude. 

Wednesday, June 16:
Our student crew arrived this afternoon. They were Carol Wills and Bodo Wolters, a couple from New York, and Jocelyn Henderson and Bernard Marchive a couple from Virginia. Carol holds ASA certifications through the first three levels, owns and races a J-24, has chartered as skipper in several locations and sailed as crew on a Beneteau 50 offshore delivery cruise from NY to North Carolina. Bodo holds five levels of ASA certification, recreational boating licensing from Germany and has sailed quite a lot on the Baltic and North Seas where conditions are challenging to say the least. Jocelyn and Bernard own a Hunter 38 and sailed it for seven months throughout the Bahamas, Florida and the US East Coast a few years back, and are seasoned live aboards with their sights set on ocean crossings. It was a pleasure to have this experienced crew accompany me on this ocean cruise from Norfolk to Bermuda. This evening, we all went to dinner at the Surf Rider Restaurant to get to know each other and lay some initial plans for our cruise, and we returned to CELESTIAL and it's air conditioned comfort for the night. 

Thursday, June 17th:
Warm and sunny with a light NW breeze. Some ate breakfast onboard and some went out for an early morning jog. At 0800 we began our predeparture training and preparations in earnest. We spent the entire day on deck with hands-on practice of sail deployment and emergency procedures. 

Starting with the roller furling mainsail, we traced all the lines that control this powerhouse including sheet, traveler, furling and outhaul lines, all which lead to the cockpit, as well as the halyard that raises the sail on its mast internal furling mandrel. We practiced unfurling and furling the mainsail paying close attention to the procedures needed to roll it smoothly into and out of the mast without binding or jamming. CELESTIAL is equipped with three mainsails: #1 is the large, full sized sail. #2 is about 10% smaller, and #3 another 10% smaller. We'll be sailing with the #2 mainsail since the main often needs to be partly reefed during most ocean cruises, and it offers a good compromise for the variety of conditions met at sea. 

The headsails include a 110% roller furling genoa mounted on the headstay and a small roller furling staysail on the inner stay and a Hoyt self-tacking boom. The staysail is controlled by furling and outhaul lines on portside and a sheetline led to a winch on the cockpit coach roof. Genoa is controlled by a furling line led to the cockpit on starboard side, and conventional sheets lead port and starboard to the primary winches on the cockpit coamings. These winches are both manual and electric drive, but we plan to use only manual during this cruise. We practiced winch-handling techniques including wrapping, grinding, releasing under load, how to avoid overwraps, how to safely release an overwrap without losing control of the sheet, and the best working position of your feet when grinding a winch... And, importantly, how to avoid crunching fingers when wrapping or unwrapping a winch under load. 

The trisail (heavy duty storm mainsail) is rigged on a separate dedicated track on the mast. It uses a spare halyard rigged to the masthead, and a tack pennant rigged to the base of the mast. Sheets are rove through dedicated turning blocks affixed to the side decks just forward of the stern. The sheets are rigged and secured before raising the trisail to tame the otherwise flogging clew of the sail, and the tack pennant length is adjusted to place the tack of the sail just above the clew of the furled mainsail, and to provide a proper lead of the sheets to the turning blocks. This sail is used for heaving to in heavy weather, usually 40 knots and above. 

The whisker pole is used for sailing wing-on-wing at apparent wind angles of 110 to 180 from the bow, and allows the genoa to be furled in, out or part-way without taking down the pole. This pole is 18 feet long and 4 inches in diameter, and normally is stowed vertically on the forward side of the mast. It can be used in very light wind and up to 30 knots to hold the full or furled genoa in proper position to the wind. In this wing-on-wing arrangement, the genoa and pole are deployed to the windward side and the mainsail to the leeward side of the boat. We practiced rigging and deploying the whisker pole and genoa to learn the best procedures and peculiarities for doing this safely and without damage or injury. It requires some practice and know-how to do this without incident. 

So we practiced deploying the pole, making sure we had the right lines led correctly: The topping lift for the outboard pole end secured to a cleat on the mast. Topping lift and downhaul on the inboard pole end led as a continuous loop over a cheek block up the mast near the first spreader. Fore guy tied to the pole end and led through a bow cleat and back to a secondary winch in the cockpit. And an after guy tied to the pole end and secured to the midship cleat. We had to make sure the pole jaws on the inboard end were secured in the proper direction to the moveable car on the mast to ensure that the jaws on the outboard pole end would open in the up direction to allow proper capture and release of the genoa sheet. We also needed to ensure smooth operation of the jaw release plungers, and lubricated them for this purpose. Actually, the inboard jaw plunger was bent slightly preventing release from the mast, but we could live with this once we knew about it. 

That was the morning's work. After a lunch break, we worked on the sea anchor, an 18 foot diameter parachute deployed over the bow when you want to hunker down in storm conditions. It consists of a 24 inch diameter float, a 30 foot depth control line, the parachute sea anchor including shroud lines and swivel shackle, 300 feet of 3/4 inch nylon line, a 3/4 inch nylon bridle line with snatch block, and various cleats, winches and turning blocks on deck. It's an important piece of survival equipment, and rigging it under storm conditions can be a daunting tasks with many potential pitfalls and irretrievable foulups, so advance practice is essential. Refer to a Blue Water Sailing Magazine article that I wrote for additional discussion and diagrams of sea anchor setup and deployment. 

We dragged all of this equipment from the deep recesses of CELESTIAL's lockers, rigged it and did a mock deployment at dockside to ensure that all understood how to do it in case we run into an ultimate storm on our way to Bermuda. This degree of preparation is necessary since we will be sailing in the beginning of hurricane season in their happy hunting grounds. Afterwards, we stowed it all back below making sure that all lines were properly flaked in their storage bags to ensure proper deployment when needed in an emergency. Then we took another cooling break to gather energy for our next training exercise. 

By now it was mid-afternoon on a hot and humid Norfolk summer day. Everyone was moving slow and wondering when this torture would end while eying the sparkling swimming pool just a stone's throw away. But, we plugged on as ocean sailors must do in the face of adversity. Our next training topic was abandon ship drill, which no one likes to think about but for which we need to be prepared in case that awful fear becomes a reality. 

First we needed to find all of the gear, inspect it to ensure that it was all there, complete and working. First, two water proof, floating yellow plastic bottles about 1.5 cubic feet each with screw on, water tight lids and six foot long tethers. (1) Yellow bottle #1 contains the 406 MhZ EPIRB, our automatic electronic emergency signal to the USCG and search and rescue agencies. When this signal is released, it tells them our location and that we have a danger of loss of life at sea, which abandon ship certainly is. This bottle also contains a handheld VHF radio, handheld GPS, flashlights, signal mirror, signal flag and batteries. (2) Yellow bottle #2 is chock full of flares, both standard and SOLAS grade. 

The waterproof abandon ship bag (3) contains additional items that might be needed if adrift in a liferaft at sea, such as water rations, energy bars, hard candy, saltine crackers, sun tan lotion, sea sick pills, radar reflector, fishing line, plastic storage bags, drinking cups, first aid kit, parachute cord, knife... We also take two five gallon fresh water jugs (4) & (5). 

These five containers are each affixed with a six foot long tether that is attached to a crewmembers wrist; the container is dropped into the sea as the crewmember steps into the liferaft. 

Oh yes, the raft. This is a six-person offshore liferaft with sun canopy, boarding ladder, anti-inversion water bags, and small sea anchor to resist being rolled over and blown downwind. Its tether is tied to the yacht, and the raft is dropped overboard and inflated by yanking on the tether which activates a CO2 bottle inflating the raft. The raft is stowed on a shelf in the starboard lazarette locker out of the weather and where it is protected from accidental loss by a boarding wave as might occur with a deck mounted raft. Of course, it's a little hard to retrieve from the locker, but when motivated, you can overcome minor difficulties. 

After checking out all of this equipment, we restowed it, took a short rest, and the First Mate (Bless his heart.) spotted water rising in the bilge, and the Captain commanded "Prepare to abandon ship!!" This was a drill of course, at dockside, but it put our emergency wheels into action. Jerry and Bodo were assigned the job of finding and plugging the leak. Carol went to the SSB and VHF radios and sent out Mayday emergency messages, logged our position and stood by the radios to communicate with any station answering. Jocelyn and Bernard dragged out the five emergency containers, life raft and offshore life vests, and helped everyone don them. Captain maintained the helm and overall perspective of the condition of the ship and emergency repairs. 

As the water rose higher and higher (a drill) Jerry and Bodo worked frantically to locate the leak. As the yacht settled to its gunnels, the ship appeared in serious danger of foundering and the Captain commanded "Abandon ship!!" Liferaft went overside and inflated (not really). Crewmembers took their assigned containers and filed one at a time into the raft; Mate next; Captain last. We cut the tether and drifted away as the yacht slipped below the waves... 

Drill secured. We stowed the equipment and proceed to the swimming pool, showers and bar. The end of a busy day. 

Friday, June 18th:
After all of that work yesterday and a good nights sleep, we tackled day two of our predeparture preps including boat inspections, navigation, weather, food provisioning, watch keeping duties, and man-overboard (MOB) procedures. 

For the boat inspections, Bodo was assigned as Engineer responsible for all the mechanical and electrical equipment below decks. Jocelyn was Emergency Coordinator responsible for equipment and procedures for man overboard (MOB), abandon ship, medical and provisioning. Carol and Bernard were the Bosn's (boatswain) responsible for deck gear, sails and rigging. Each was given a checklist pertaining to their area, and Jerry and I worked with them to determine the condition of all critical equipment. 

Engineering includes inspection of steering gear; main engine, shafting, coupling, throttle and shifter and instruments; diesel generator and instruments; fuel tanks, gages and shutoffs; batteries and electrical charging systems, switch gear, distribution panel, breakers and instruments; fresh water tanks, pumps, piping, faucets and level gages; galley stove and propane system; marine heads and waste handling tank, pumps and piping; navigation and communication equipment including radar, chart plotter, SSB radio, VHF radios, NAVTEX receiver, Skymate satellite email and graphics communicator, laptop computer and printer; and inventory of tools and spare parts.  

Emergency Coordinator inspections include Abandon Ship equipment including the raft and five containers previously mentioned and their contents; medical bags and contents; emergency medical advisory services accessible through SSB or VHF radios; man overboard rescue equipment including throwable horseshoe float, strobe light, 12-foot pole float, Seattle rescue sling, throw rope and retrieval procedures. Also, inventory of food provisions currently onboard, survey of all crewmembers for food preferences and preparation of a food shopping list. 

After checking out all of the MOB rescue equipment, Jocelyn demonstrated its use for the other crewmembers at dockside.

  • The strobe and pole with flag are each attached to the horseshoe float with eight foot tethers. The entire assembly can be deployed overside in five seconds, and provide flotation for the MOB and visual contact for the boat crew.
  • The Seattle rescue sling can be dragged behind the yacht to encircle the MOB and give them flotation as well as something to grab and become attached to the yacht.
  • The throw rope is a 75 foot rope flaked in a weighted bag; and is thrown over the head of the MOB while the rope pays out to give them something to grab.

Bosn's are responsible to inspect and verify condition of all sails, running rigging, winches, spars, standing rigging, lifelines, pulpits, jacklines, boarding ladder, dodger, bimini, navigation lights, sailing instruments, anchors, windlass, hatch covers, wind scoops, liferaft stowage and inflatable dinghy stowage. This necessitated that they inspect the ship from stem to stern above decks and to climb to the masthead, which Carol did enthusiastically and with great enjoyment. She took a camera with her, so I guess she did a little sightseeing up there. 

Our navigation plan included three segments: Departure from Norfolk, the ocean route to our target point near Bermuda, and entrance into Bermuda. The first and last of these requires coastal navigation and piloting procedures near land where there are numerous hazards and other vessel traffic to deal with. A few weeks ago, I asked Jocelyn and Bernard to lookup the NavAids on the NGA website for the Chesapeake Bay departure route including Thimble Shoal Channel and the Traffic Separation Scheme Southern Approach down the coast from Cape Henry. Likewise, I asked Carol and Bodo to lookup the NavAids for the Bermuda entrance route to St Georges Town Cut Channel and those marking the reefs to the N and E of Bermuda. I downloaded the offshore lights and buoys and mobile drilling rigs for reference during the ocean leg of the cruise. 

Armed with these listings and the navigational charts, our crew was able to prepare our intended rhumbline courses for these coastal areas. They drew the rhumblines in on our charts and prepared a tabulation of courses and distances to each waypoint and programmed the waypoints into our GPS system. They also identified the seacoast lights at Bermuda and drew the light sectors and light characteristics in on our charts for ready reference if approaching at night.  

We selected the Chesapeake Bay Entrance Lighted Whistle Buoy "CH" east of Cape Henry as our departure buoy for transitioning to ocean navigation protocols. It is shown as Aid #405 in the USCG Light List for NOAA Chart 12200 and is a red and white buoy with a Mo(A) light characteristic, and it marks the juncture of the Northern and Southern approaches in the Traffic Separation Scheme for ships inbound and outbound from Chesapeake Bay. We selected the NE corner of NGA Chart 26341 of Bermuda as our target point to ensure a liberal clearance of the reefs that ring the N and E sides of Bermuda. 

Between these two points, we drew a straight line on a small scale Mercator chart (INT403) to establish a rhumbline for the ocean leg. It came out to be 115T and 650 nautical miles long. It is not our intention to tiptoe down this line, but to use it as a guidepost in an area where there are few guideposts. Actually, we'll attempt to stay south of this line since prevailing wind and currents will tend to push us to the northeast. As we approach the Gulf Stream west wall, we'll aim for a point about 30 miles south of our rhumbline since the strong NE flowing current will push us back toward the rhumbline. After we cross the Gulf Stream, we'd still like to be south of the rhumbline since we'll be able to sail on a reach in prevailing winds from the SW, rather than close hauled. Of course, if a Cold Front or Low Pressure system comes roaring through, all of this strategy goes out the window. But, you need to play the odds, the probabilities when planning an ocean route. 

Underway, we'll need to keep track of our progress, and this will be done by plotting a Dead Reckoning (DR) plot on our Position Plotting Sheets (DMA925 and 926). These plotting sheets are about 30 by 40 inches, and, when folded into quarters with printed side out, they are a perfect size for plotting on a sailing vessel at sea. Many sailors use the 14 by 14 inch Universal Plotting Sheets, but it's not possible to maintain an adequate perspective of your route progress since you need to frequently change sheets. We don't use these small sheets since too many sheets are needed for an offshore cruise, and constant changing from sheet to sheet is not conducive to offshore navigation. 

For the DR plot, we need to enter course and distance data into an hourly tabulation. We'll be keeping a four-hour watch schedule with two crewmembers per watch, and they will be responsible to make these hourly entries of course steered per ship's compass during the previous hour and the distance log reading at the end of each hour. At the end of their four-hour watch, they will average courses steered for the four hours, convert this value from Compass to True and draw this course on the plotting sheet from the end of the previous watch's plot. Then they'll calculate distance traveled through the water based on the beginning and ending log readings, mark off this distance on the course line, and annotate with the time. 

This DR plot, simple though it is, is vitally important to navigation even if you're just doing GPS navigation, since it gives you a visual record of course and distance and is used to evaluate other information like lines of position (LOP) whether from celestial sightings, bearings on seacoast lights or ocean buoys, landfall expectations, and depth contours or the effects of current on your progress. DR is also used for mid-ocean running fixes of your position enabling you to combine LOPs taken at different times and infer a position fix. However, all that said, the DR is not completely accurate due to errors introduced by current, wind leeway, speed or distance instrument errors, compass errors, steering errors and reporting errors, but it does show a fairly reliable trend and allows informed judgment of other information. 

So, we reviewed these navigation lessons with all crewmembers and prepared the charts and logbooks to be able to put these procedures into action from the beginning of the cruise. Ocean navigation can fail if the crew does not "hit the ground running" from the very start of the cruise. 

Weather forecasting was the next order of business we needed to prepare for the cruise. As mentioned earlier, CELESTIAL is equipped with the following electronics with weather forecast capability: VHF radio, SSB radio, NAVTEX receiver, Skymate satellite email and graphics communicator, laptop computer and printer. 

VHF radio (Very High Frequency) is the common, line of sight radio that most boats are equipped with. Line of sight means that the transmitting and receiving antennas must be able to "see" each other in a straight line above the earth's curvature, as these waves travel in a straight line, and those not captured by a receiver travel out into space to another world. VHF weather forecasts are given for the coastal area within sight of the transmitter, usually a 25 mile radius, and are repeated frequently. These forecasts will be helpful to us for departure from Norfolk and arrival at Bermuda, but will not be available to us once away from land. 

SSB radio (Single Sideband) can be used to dial in to the USCG HF transmitter and receive weather predictions for selected areas of the ocean. These are transmitted several times each day on a fixed schedule, and are not repeated, so you need to be ready to hear what you need to hear the first time around, or else use a tape recorder to capture the info. SSB radio uses high frequency radio waves that bounce off the ionosphere and back and forth to earth, and so can travel long distances around the earth. But, they are subject to atmospheric disturbances including storms, lightening, sunlight, temperature and sun spots to name a few. Radio antenna experts know how to set up their antennas and frequency selection to milk the best out of this 50-year old technology, but us commoners are sometimes disappointed in the results. 

The NAVTEX receiver is a gem. It receives low frequency transmissions from land based towers, and stores this information for later review at your convenience, and you can select the stations and message content you want to receive so as to reduce clutter. It has an advertised range of 200 miles, but I've regularly received transmissions from stations more than 500 miles away. DMA Pub 117, Radio Navigation Aids, Chapter 3 has a several page section describing this system, transmitter locations, frequencies, station codes and content codes. There's no charge for its use, as it's government operated, and it's a system that I believe every boat should be equipped with, ever those sailing only coastal routes. For this cruise, we chose the Norfolk, Bermuda and Miami stations, and the weather forecast and weather warnings content, and we had complete coverage during the cruise from either the Norfolk or Bermuda stations. 

The Skymate satellite communicator is another gem, but it can be expensive to operate since you pay per character transmitted and received. You can send and receive emails, but no attachments, and can receive weather forecast text and graphics. You need a laptop computer for these services, and we also had a printer for easy access to earlier graphics. Skymate also automatically transmits the location of your vessel to a designated email address without the computer being attached. But, it can sometimes take hours between requesting a report from Skymate and receiving it onboard since it needs to have the right satellites available to do it's thing. 

Rita, in our office, setup a Google Earth tracking map using the Skymate position reports so that families ashore were able to track our position daily. Also, Captain Jochen Hoffmann, ashore, agreed to review weather forecasts on the internet daily and send us an email with a summary of his observations. 

With all of these weather forecasting procedures in place, the crew was able to track weather and remain fairly well informed. One crewmember was assigned each day to track weather during the cruise and to brief others on it. 

Next, we reviewed Watchkeeping procedures and responsibilities. As mentioned earlier, we setup four-hour watch sections with two crewmembers per watch. Their primary duties include: maintain course and speed; lookout for ship traffic; and periodic inspection of the vessel. 

We reviewed operation and use of the following instruments available to the Watch to assist with the first two of these duties: 

        Wind direction and speed, both Apparent and True

        Boat speed and distance traveled through the water

        Water depth sounder; used until depth exceeds the operating range of the instrument, that is when we're off soundings over 600 feet

        Water temperature to determine when we enter or leave the Gulf Stream

        Radar to track other ship traffic and squalls

        VHF radio to talk with other vessels on channel 13 or 16

        Hand bearing compass to cite crossing paths of other vessels


We also reviewed the USCG Navigation Rules, which specifies the navigation light displays for various vessel types, vessel passing protocols and signals, operations in restricted visibility, and emergency signaling among many other topics. Collision with another ship is my greatest fear offshore where large ships come roaring through at 20 knots or more, and can sail over the horizon and cross your path in 15 minutes. This seems like a lot of time, but considering that watchkeepers cannot be looking around 360 degrees all the time, it's really not much. Also, it's not always readily apparent how close that ship will come to you (closest point of approach or CPA) and whether it plans to alter course to avoid you. Actually, they often don't even see you, so it behooves you to stay clear and make avoidance decisions early. Calling the ship on VHF 13 or 16 is sometime beneficial, but it's not unusual to have a language barrier in spite of the fact that English is the mandatory language to be used regardless of the ship watchkeepers native tongue. 

The Captain will request that a certain course and speed be maintained considering our route plan and expected weather conditions. The Watch is to maintain this requested course and speed unless weather conditions prevent it, and inform the Captain of this fact. It may be necessary to change or adjust sails or turn on the engine to maintain speed and heading. But, this is a sailboat, and we'd like to minimize use of the engine and enjoy the sail! So there are a few tradeoffs to consider here. 

The Watch is required to remain constantly alert to the condition of the boat. In addition to sails, rigging and other things on deck, they must check belowdeck hourly for crewmember condition, water level in bilge, toilet bowl overflow, stove turned off, propane secured, smoke or other unusual odors, battery voltages, water pump turned off, faucet leaks, hatch leaks, decks clear of trip hazards, and anything unusual that could lead to a problem. 

By this time, late in the afternoon of the second predeparture day, we're almost ready to go. We still need to finalize the meal and shopping menu, shop for food and drink and make watch assignments. After putting together the list, Carol and I went shopping and brought back our booty. Bodo organized the refrigerator stowage, and the other crewmembers stowed the dry goods and made lists to label each stowage locker.  

After this, I made the following watch assignments, and we all went out to dinner to celebrate our readiness and completion of Tom's Torture Test known as predeparture preparations: 

  • Section 1- 0000-0400 and 1200-1600: Jerry and Bernard
  • Section 2- 0400-0800 and 1600-2000: Tom and Jocelyn
  • Section 3- 0800-1200 and 2000-2400: Bodo and Carol

Actually, if you're well prepared, the cruise itself can be anticlimactic...

Saturday, June 19th

We're all up early and rarin' to go. Beautiful day; warm and sunny; winds SE at 10 knots. Final preps. Top up water tank. Remove trash. Last showers ashore. Settle with the marina. We need to exit our slip and tie up at the fuel dock to ship our dinghy in the davits, which we couldn't do in the slip. By the time we secure it for sea, this takes well over an hour, and it's finally noon before we're ready to go. We are ready, and at 1237 we depart the marina and head for sea, stowing dock lines and fenders as we motor down Little Creek to the Bay. Watch Section 1 is on duty, so Jerry is at the helm as we motor out. 

Carol planned the departure navigation and provides the course as we exit the rock piles at Little Creek entrance and head for Thimble Shoal Channel to pass through the tunnel opening in the Chesapeake Bay bridge that spans the Bay from Cape Henry to Cape Charles five miles away. Most of this bridge is on trestles except for the two ship channels, and this southern pass was built with a tunnel below the mud for automobile traffic in lieu of a suspension bridge to meet US Navy requirements not to have its large Norfolk Fleet penned in by collapse of a bridge. We motored alongside of the Thimble Shoal Ship Channel as the channel itself is restricted to vessels of greater than 25 foot draft. 

We carried on toward Cape Henry and past it to the red and white Chesapeake Bay Entrance Lighted Whistle Buoy "CH" to the east as our departure point for the start of ocean navigation. We noted our distance log reading, deployed our mainsail and genoa, and set a close hauled course on starboard tack of 120 per ship's compass (PSC) which converts to 110 True. Our rhumbline to Bermuda is 115 True, and we'd like to be sailing south of it, but the wind direction doesn't allow it at present. At 1700 the wind increases to 18 knots and shifts to the south and we're able to sail below our rhumbline and maintain decent speed. 

Sunday, June 20:
At 0240, the wind dropped to 7 knots and the watch turned on the engine to maintain four knot speed as a tug-barge combo passed close astern. Since the wind is light and we're motoring anyway, I decide to "get south" well below our rhumbline so that we can enter the northeast flowing Gulf Stream tomorrow about 30 miles south of our rhumbline. This will allow the Stream to push us to the northeast back toward our rhumbline as we transit it. 

By sunrise the wind started to veer to the SSW at 10 knots, and by mid-afternoon we had SW12 and by dinner time we had WSW18. We continued motor sailing south on a close hauled compass course of 195psc. At 2000 hours we noted a 6F jump in sea water temperature going from 81F to 87F in two hours signifying our entry into the Gulf Stream. Our course over ground was 160psc as the Stream pushed us 35 to the northeast of the course we were steering. At this point, the direct line to Bermuda was 106T or 123psc. We carried on this way through the wee hours of the night. 

Monday, June 21:
Secured engine at 0140 hours. Reefed mainsail at 0300. At 0500 furled genoa and reefed mainsail in advance of a squall, which lasted for about 20 minutes with max wind of 40 knots, driving rain and some lightening. By 0800 wind settled at SW13 and we changed course to 130psc = 115T. Still getting a 2 knot lift from the Gulf Stream; course over ground (COG) = 110T, so Stream must be flowing pretty much in our direction. Direct line to Bermuda = 105T. 

We're sailing easy in 12 knots of wind on a reach. 0900 logbook entry by Carol: "Glorious day. Beautiful swells. Saw two Bermuda Longtails following the boat." And a 1300 logbook entry by Jerry: "Great sailing- steady 7 knots. Staysail flying. Dolphins earlier. Life is great!" 

At 1940 started diesel generator to charge batteries since we've been sailing for 18 hours and batteries we're getting low. 

Tuesday, June 22:
0130 log entry by Jerry: "Wind dropped below 10 knots. Boat speed below 4 knots. Turned engine on- boat speed 5 knots motor sailing. Very clear night; moon just set." 

0400 winds light; furled genoa; engine at 2000 rpm; boat speed 4.5 knots. Changed course to 105psc = 96T. 

0800 log entry by Tom: "Weather clear except for some ominous rain clouds on our port quarter at 7 miles distant. Winds SW10." 

0930 log entry: Holding tank 60% full. Opened overboard valve. Pumped holding tank to empty. Secured overboard valve." 

Conditions were perfect for sailing wing on wing with the genoa poled out to windward. We're sailing east on a broad reach with wind SW8-10. We practiced deploying the whisker pole in port, but now it was time to do it on a rocking rolling boat underway at sea. We reviewed procedures and made assignments stressing that we need to communicate with each other and not jump the gun. We're not racing, so speed is not essential in deploying the pole... Safety is! Well, we got it up with no trouble and motorsailed on starboard tack with the genoa poled out to windward on starboard side. 

Practiced celestial shots of the Sun. Did a shot accuracy drill with Bodo, who got it down to within two miles, and merrily went to the books to practice doing the sight reduction calculations manually. Tom took a Sun shot at 1215 and another at 1620 to establish a running fix. Comparing this position with the 1620 DR position showed that the Gulf Stream had pushed us 75 miles east! This is not surprising since the Gulf Stream chart showed a distinct easterly flow in this area and we've been consistently seeing boat speed over ground of one to two knots higher than the speed log for the past two days. 

Took down the whisker pole at 1700 and set main and genoa for broad reaching on starboard tack motor sailing in winds SW10-12. Course 120psc = 108T. 

At 2000 hours, Jocelyn made notes on the Bermuda weather forecast from the NAVTEX receiver, as follows: "Existing high pressure will maintain across Bermuda. Tuesday winds SW8-12. Wednesday winds S/SW5-10. Thursday winds S8-12. Seas inside and outside the reef less than 3 feet." 

Wednesday, June 23:
0105 log entry by Jerry & Bernard: "Started watch with a large squall cloud threatening to starboard. Rolled in genoa and reefed mainsail with help from Carol and Bodo. Cloud dissipated. Rolled out genoa. Bright moon." 

0130 log: "Secured engine. Sailing at 5 to 6 knots. Clear sky. No squalls in sight." 

0800 log entry by Jocelyn: "Large black squall cloud noted at 0715 to starboard, windward of us and moving on a collision course with us. Changed course to sail behind the squall for about an hour. Squall passed ahead. Resumed our original course of 120psc. 

1000 Set cruising chute (genniker) increasing boat speed under sail to 6.5 knots. At 1130 noted another dark squall line 12 miles out off our bow. Secured genniker. 

Bodo took a Sun shot at 1309 and another at 1644 and established a running fix that correlated well with our DR and a GPS position taken to confirm his accuracy... Excellent results! Later, Bodo took a Moon shot at 1923 and Venus at 2003 for another RFix that also correlated well with our DR position. Changed course to 115psc at 2030 hours. 

Thursday, June 24:
0100 log entry by Jerry and Bernard: "Came on watch at midnight. House bank down to 12.2 volts, winds 8 to 10 knots and boat speed down to four knots. Started engine to charge and increase speed; if winds come up, will secure engine after 0200. We've had 24 hours of great sailing including several hours on the cruising chute." 

0200 log: Secured engine. Sailing at 5.5 knots. 

0630 log: Fuel tank level 80%. Water tank 40%. Holding tank 50%. 

0800 log: Start diesel generator and battery charger. We're getting near Bermuda; about 80 miles to go. Seeing a lot more Longtails, and tall cumulous clouds in that direction. At this rate, we expect to make landfall in the dark of night and will need to make early decisions on whether to lay off or enter at night. 

0935 log: Generator off. 

1045: Set cruising chute in 13 knots of true wind speed. Carol owns and races a J24, and gave us some finer points of instruction on getting the most out of the spinnaker and staying out of trouble, which can easily happen as the wind increases as it's doing now. We're on a broad reach to starboard with the True wind creeping up to SW15 knots, the limit of this sail. Our course is 115C, and apparent wind angle is between 90 and 135 apparent, referring to the angle from the bow of the boat. 

We're moving like a freight train on a mission, being dragged through the water by a team of angry bulls. Heading up to starboard curls the luff of the chute and it becomes very angry and starts to flap and shake the boat to its keel. Heading off to port causes the chute to collapse as it's blanketed by the mainsail. Since we're broad off the wind, wave action causes the boat to corkscrew through the water and the helmsman needs to anticipate this action to keep her moving on the proper heading. As a wave approaches, you feel the boat start to surge and turn toward the wind; you need to turn the helm down to resist this turn and ride the surge to keep boat speed and not dump the sail. Carol demonstrated the helm techniques and coached everyone in this exciting challenge until the wind creeped up to our limiting speed and we had to douse the chute. 

I took Sun shots at 1006 and 1307 and got a good running fix that confirmed our DR position indicating that the crew has been collectively doing a good job at steering and recording our navigational DR data. We've now met our original rhumbline, so at 1615 we head off to 130C to parallel the rhumbline to Bermuda. 

1630 log entry by Jocelyn: "NAVTEX weather forecast for Bermuda at 1930Z: Mostly fair weather will continue with isolated showers. Light to moderate S/SW winds will persist. Tonight S/SW 10-15; seas 2 to 4 feet outside the reef. Friday S/SW 8-12; seas 2 to 4 feet outside the reef. Saturday S/SW 8-12; seas 2 to 4 feet outside the reef." 

1900: Bodo, as Navigator, was charged with setting up our approach navigation into Bermuda. For this he had to get us onto the Bermuda Approach Chart #26341 and transition from ocean navigation to coastal navigation and piloting procedures. He laid out four key waypoints that would take us safely around the dangerous reefs that ring the north and east sides of Bermuda, and over the years have captured many unwary ships. They are not visible above the water and there are no waves breaking over them. Add to this a night time approach, and we needed to be extra careful in our navigation and lookout duties. Recall that Bodo and Carol downloaded the details of the Bermuda Nav Aids before the cruise, and this information came in very handy for this effort as it listed the key markers on the reef edges and their colors and light characteristics for us to lookout for and verify.

2100 log entry by Bodo: "Made initial contact with Bermuda Harbour Radio. They advised us to call back when we were closer as our VHF radio signal was weak. They confirmed permission to anchor in Five Fathom Hole near Town Curt Channel if we chose to do so, but suggested that we enter the harbor as they could call Customs & Immigration to meet us at any time since they are on standby duty all night." 

After following Bodo's road map around the reefs, we entered Town Cut Channel just after midnight, went to the Customs dock on Ordinance Island, and cleared in. 

Friday, June 25:
We left Customs after clearing in and, at 0310 we anchored across the harbor. Carol broke out the bottle of champaign that they brought and packed away in the refrig patiently awaiting this celebration moment. After toasting our successful cruise and each other, we all sacked out for a good half-night's sleep. 

At 0800, we upped anchor and went to Dowling's Shell Station to top up our diesel and water tanks. Then we moved the 100 yards to the corner of Hunter's Warf where we tied up alongside the rocky quay. Our crewmembers packed up their gear, cleaned up the boat and went off to their ashore accommodations where they'll enjoy the Bermuda sights before returning state-side and reentry into their normal lives. Jerry and I set about taking care of minor maintenance items, one of these being to remove the genoa for transport to the local sailmaker for some needed repairs not unusual after an ocean cruise. 

Captain Jochen Hoffmann arrived about noon to relieve me for the return cruise, and Tom Pryzbelski, who will sail the return cruise to Mystic, CT, came by to say hello. We invited them to join us and our departing crew for dinner. 

So all eight of us met at Cafe' Gio that evening for a farewell dinner and some very tall sea stories! 

Bye all; hope to sail with you again... 

Captain Tom Tursi
St Georges Harbour, Bermuda 

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