2010 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date June 28-July 05, 2010
Students: Michael Brown; Paul Goswitz; Mike Poole; Tom Przybelski
First Mate: Jerry Nigro
Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann

Pre-departure Preparation, June 28-29, 2010
I had arrived two days early to overlap with Norfolk to Bermuda ASA108 Captain Tom Tursi and First Mate Jerry Nigro to check with them on the condition of CELESTIAL. We conclude she’s in excellent shape and requires only minor maintenance to be ready for sea. I have previously sailed with Jerry on numerous MDS ocean voyages, and will welcome his expertise on this one. We make final preparations and soon it’s time to welcome our new shipmates who are about to arrive by plane. 

The two days of dockside training cover carefully thought out topics as presented in detail in the MDS text Offshore Training Cruises Preparation Guide. Students had been asked ahead of time to study this book to make them aware of the intensive training that awaits them. Under sunny Bermuda skies, they learn to use CelestiaL’s offshore equipment, including storm trisail, sea anchor, collision matt, and other safety equipment. Then we move below decks to explore the systems of this modern ocean yacht, make meal plans and a provisioning list before focusing in detail on route planning and navigation plotting procedures. After an enjoyable dinner ashore, I show my students how to set up NIMA plotting sheets for underway navigation and assign these lead crew roles: Tom – bosun, Mike – emergency coordinator, Michael – engineer, and Paul – navigator. To be sure, everyone needs to know about everyone else’s role and, in fact, all will take turns as navigators. Anticipating our Gulf Stream (GS) crossing, I explain GS features using the latest GS chart print out (see below).  Next, students develop a detailed navigation plan while others shop for the provisions that we have mutually agreed upon. Finally, we turn in early to get a good night’s rest before departure. 

Day 1 at Sea
Last night, after dinner at the fabled White Horse Inn, we cleared customs since all was ready for departure. Early this morning the only thing left to do was to top off fuel and water and check in with the Maryland School Office. At 0830 Bermuda time, we obtain departure clearance from Bermuda Harbour Radio and cast off. First, we make our way through Town Cut, and at 0935 - following Paul’s navigation plan – we reach the start of our rhumb line course to Montauk Point, NY just north of Northeast Breaker Light. As the crew settles into watch routines, four eager celestial navigators focus on procedures to fix CELESTIAL’s position using the sun. Some are successful on their very first try and all compare notes as to sighting and reduction procedures. A steady, gentle breeze at 12 knots from SW has us moving comfortably at 5 plus knots into the evening under full sails. 

Day 2 
We collect weather (wx) forecasts from onboard sources such as CELESTIAL’s Single Sideband Radio, Skymate satellite system, Navtex receiverand via satellite email from Captain Tom Tursi who writes: "At 0000 UTC 7/1 a Cold Front extends from 36N70W to 40N61W. At 0000 UTC 7/2 Low at 34N71W to move East Northeast and produce Southwest winds 35 knots along the cold front. Expect winds N-NE 15 knots on Friday north of the cold front."  In short, watch out for squalls. At 0800 we log our position as 33°42'N, 66°16'W; forecast winds are SW 12-16; our course is 335 degrees per ship’s compass (psc), and speed is up to 7 kts. It’s glorious sailing since yesterday in SSW winds 12-15 kts. All four celestial navigators take multiple sights on sun, moon, and Venus. Good position fixes are their rewards – and big smiles all around. At nightfall we practice man over board (MOB) drills. Happily, all is well. 

Day 3
At 0900 our position is 35
°05'N, 067°33'W; wind is NE 15 to 25 knots; barometer rising; and the course is still 335 degrees psc. Yesterday’s forecast held true: first squalls arrived in the afternoon followed by the cold front in the evening. The center of the Low hit us at 0200 with backing winds between 30-35 knots. Our already deep reefs were finally reduced to a triple-reefed main and a scrap of jib when it became time to heave-to. Forereaching at a mere 1 kt things aboard became wonderfully calm. Crew and boat did great. For today, under clearing skies, our navigator of the day has worked out a course west of our rhumb line that will intercept the Gulf Stream’s bulge as it turns NE – giving us an extra boost from its 2 knot current toward our rhumb line. 

Click thumbnail for an enlarged image

Day 4
Course calculations are on target as we approach the Gulf Stream bulge and will be riding its current for the next 20 hours. Although winds are NE – an undesirable, opposing direction to the Stream’s current – they are light enough for the crew to concentrate on repairing the jib which had sustained three tears between one and nine inches during the squalls of the night before. And before long the jib is up again. The loss of one radar reflector during the same squall is not critical since CELESTIAL carries redundant equipment.

Day 5
Today is Fourth of July and our VHF radio picks up chatter about offshore boaters making plans to celebrate the day. We mark the day by making landfall preparations. The navigator logs our 0800 position as 38
°41'N, 070°56'W which puts us 140 miles south of Montauk Point. Winds have backed to a favorable direction – NW at 18 to 22 knots keeping boat speed around 7 kts. Just before sunset, students working on compass calibration exercises using the sun. Invariably, they are amazed by their results which indicate clearly that the method works 

BloggerDay 6
At 0615 Mike and Tom who have the morning watch report “Land Ho.” Montauk Point is in sight. And soon thereafter they spot our landfall target, the Mo “A” sea buoy. This marks the end of ocean navigation and the beginning of careful coastal piloting according to a succession of plans worked out by Tom, Mike and Michael. They take great care to get us past the rock-strewn east end of Fishers Island and into the Mystic River. I call U.S. Customs as required but get repeated voicemail requests to call back. It’s a holiday weekend and they are short staffed. After topping off fuel in Noank, we tie up in our assigned slip at Mystic Shipyard where we make contact with Customs which sends an officer who clears us in. Farewells seem anticlimactic since our hearts are still at sea.

To my terrific crew: Thank you for a job well done – and God speed, always. 

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
Mystic, Connecticut

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