Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
||ASA106 Advanced Coastal Cruise
||February 23-March 2, 2010
|| CELESTIAL IP440
||Peter Budulas, Jeff Kelly, Charley Shipley, Mike Spinelli
and Tom Tursi
The third Virgin Islands circumnavigation in the Maryland
School’s Winter 2009-2010 program began as the school’s founder, Tom Tursi
joined Captain Lee Tucker and student crew Charley Shipley, Jeff Kelly, Mike
Spinelli and Peter Budulas for eight days of trade-winds sailing and
certification in Advanced Coastal Cruising.
For Capt. Lee and Tom it was a welcome reunion, having sailed many ocean
miles together on various vessels between Norfolk and Bermuda in the 1990’s.
As winter storms continued to make life a challenge for those on the continent,
our crew boarded S/V
CELESTIAL at Crown Bay Marina in St. Thomas under warm sunny skies
and a light breeze from the southeast.
Tuesday, February 23 Day 1
Crew assignments today helped familiarize our team with the complexities of this
ocean-going yacht. While the first day is spent in port, time passes quickly as
each crewmember thoroughly examines the ship’s operating systems and gear and
leads a crew orientation session in his/her assigned area. Today, Peter is
safety officer, Jeff is engineer, Mike is boatswain and Charley—navigator.
Under Tom’s watchful eye, Peter and Jeff begin their work as the Captain, Mike
and Charley obtain and stow provisions from the nearby market, Pueblo.
After lunch, with crew orientation complete, an interim mainsail, procured from
an Island Packet 420, is bent on. The
dingy is hoisted and lashed to the stern arch and the week’s sailing itinerary
is reviewed with Charley.
The weather forecast for the upcoming week indicates a
frontal boundary will move into the area and stall with a low pressure system
moving to our south-east. The result will be light wind, including wind from the
south and west—unusual for this time of year.
In view of the prediction for light wind, the Captain retrieves the
asymmetrical spinnaker from storage, hoping to fly it when the opportunity
Wednesday, February 24
We depart Crown Bay Marina by 10:00AM and transit the East Gregorie Channel with
Mike at the helm. We find the wind is west of south, allowing for a rare
downwind passage east along the south coast of St. Thomas. Our destination is
Jost Van Dyke to clear Customs and Immigration and possibly anchor for the
night. We visually navigate through the narrow passage in the coral at Current
Hole, then cross the Pillsbury Sound leaving St. John to starboard. Once clear
of the Durloe Cays, a hazard of closely–knit islands and the aptly named
Blunder Rocks, we turn north for Jost Van Dyke. The wind is due to clock around
to the NW and NE during the night, so we reason Great Harbor at Jost will
provide adequate shelter. We are successful in setting the hook on the first
attempt in 18ft in sand near the southeast edge of the anchorage. After dinner
ashore at the infamous Foxy’s, we
retire back to CELESTIAL for a peaceful first night at anchor.
Thursday, February 25
After the morning’s ritual of breakfast followed by engineering and boatswain
checks, we are underway at 0900 under full genoa and mainsail heading east. The
wind has completed its turn and is now south-southeast in the 8-12 knot range.
We easily sail close-hauled on one tack along the north coast of Tortola,
standing off far enough for clear air. No
whale sightings today, sorry ! We
sail on, with the entire crew participating in coastal navigation practice. Our
DR plot is updated every 30 minutes and parallels our pre-departure rhumbline
nicely. Our position is
progressively fixed with a series of 2 and 3-bearing fixes, running fixes and
electronic position fixes for comparison. Nearing Virgin Gorda, we double the
angle on the bow to estimate our distance off one of the Dog Islands, Seal Dog.
Two miles – perfect! Much
better than the captain’s estimate of one mile!
We carefully navigate the north entrance into Gorda Sound.
The weather forecast again helps with our choice of anchorage. Wind is expected
to be less than 10 knots, southwest to west, becoming northwest on Friday.
We opt for the seclusion and protection of Gun Creek located in the
southwest corner of Gorda Sound. Once the small but fast-moving passenger
ferries from Biras Creek, Saba Rock and the Bitter End stop running after
dinner, the water is as smooth as a pane of glass and the setting idyllic. All
rest well after a full day of sailing and a magnificent chicken stir fry dinner
from Jeff our chef du jour!
Friday, February 26
The crew excitement is notable today as we prepare for our journey to Anegada.
Wind has clocked as promised and is now WNW at 10-12 knots. We slowly motor out
of Gorda Sound and, after raising genoa and full mainsail, clear Necker Island.
Here, we practice crew-overboard rescue maneuvers under sail alone with quick
turns and figure-eights as necessary to return to the “victim” our
horseshoe-strobe-pole combination. It is always instructive to practice rescue
under sail on one’s boat. In the case of CELESTIAL, our crew
quickly learns how much momentum a 32,000 lb. vessel carries even after luffing
all sails! All crew
participate in rescues from all crew positions and after two hours, our
“victim” is brought onboard for the last time.
We now must sail in good light to Anegada. But where is
she? At 22ft elevation, the flat
island isn’t visible until almost there. Our navigator today is Tom (yes,
the author of
the navigation textbook) who updates our course to steer to Anegada
after receiving 2-bearing position fixes from our crew. After a two hour sail on
a port tack, we enter the shallow and narrow channel and anchor in ten feet on a
sandy bottom. After a group review of selected ASA 106 discussion topics in the
cockpit, we go ashore early for dinner on the beach. The crew’s unanimous
choice: Anegada lobster!
Saturday, February 27
Spirits are high today in anticipation of our non-stop circumnavigation cruise
to Culebra, Puerto Rico one of the Spanish Virgin Islands. After our morning
boat checks, the dingy is secured for sea and a crew seminar is conducted on
safety topics, including emergencies at sea, emergency radio calls and abandon
ship procedures, led by Jeff our safety officer of the day. Mike and Charley
have collaborated on the navigation plan spanning two days, Saturday and Sunday.
The captain reviews the watch schedule: 2400-0400/1200-1600 Lee and Mike,
0400-800/1600-2000 Tom and Peter, 0800-1200/2000-2400 Charley and Jeff. There
would be two crew on watch at all times for four hours with an eight hour break
until the next duty.
NOAA weather radio continues to predict light to moderate
trade winds in the 10 knot range from the southeast and south. Unfortunately, a
large north/northwest swell has entered the region with 10-12ft long period
swells originating from storms in the North Atlantic. We decide to lay a
rhumbline to the south, passing east through the Necker Island Passage which is
located to the north of Necker Island. After departing Anegada at 1330, the
southeast wind sets CELESTIAL to the west, so a tack is necessary to clear Necker Island to the
south and the Horseshoe Reef to the north. We exit the passage, sailing
south-southwest as daylight recedes. A brilliant full moon rises over the gentle
southeast swell. Well south of Virgin Gorda and Pajaros Point, we bear off and
sail west with apparent wind just broad of the beam.
Sunday, February 28
At 0400, we begin a drill to rescue a crew overboard under sail at night. With
Friday’s exercise fresh in our minds, we each maneuver CELESTIAL under
sail back to our hapless victim, now affectionately named “Chuck”. Even in
the moonlight, we remark how much more difficult sighting the victim is at
night. It is a clear message to us
all: stay on the boat and wear a strobe! As dawn arrives, we see the Island of
Culebra before us to the west. Soon thereafter, we identify the red-lighted buoy
at Bajos Grampus and plot a 2-bearing fix with the lighthouse on Culebrita
Island. At 0800, Charley and Jeff are on watch, guiding CELESTIAL into
Ensenada Honda and our anchorage off the town dock near Cayo Pirata. We obtain
Customs and Immigration clearance by telephone from the efficient staff on duty
in Fajardo, PR and go ashore to tour the town. It was a sleepy Sunday in the
sleepy village and most of the activity was centered on the ferry dock in
anticipation of the ferry from Puerto Rico whose mountains were clearly visible
to the west.
1 Day 7
We begin the day with an on-deck demonstration of rigging a whisker pole to the
genoa sheet. After stowing the pole, it’s time to leave Culebra and return to
St Thomas. The weather is favorable, but the wind is still light for this time
of year, 8-10 knots. The wind direction—SSE means we can probably sail back on
one tack. Better still, we have plenty of time to rig the asymmetrical spinnaker
in this light air, so everyone can be ASA 106 “spinnaker qualified”.
We first hoist the protective sock with the spinnaker halyard, then raise
the sock as the spinnaker opens and fills. Snap! One could feel CELESTIAL accelerate under the big sail as we headed off at 100
degree apparent wind. After a few controlled gybes, we all had a feel for this
wonderful sail and it was finally time to douse it. After flaking the sail into
its bag, we continued our starboard tack to Brewers Bay where we set two anchors
off the bow in 18ft over a sandy bottom. The Captain was guest chef, preparing
the crew’s choice of hamburgers while Jeff, Charley, Peter and Mike took and
passed he ASA 106 examination. Congratulations!!
Tuesday, March 2 Day
CELESTIAL returned to Elephant Bay with Charley at the helm, navigating
the West Gregerie Channel to find the world’s largest cruise ship,
OASIS OF THE SEAS in port at Crown Bay. We top off diesel at the fuel
dock, pump the holding tank and quietly return to our slip. All express the
desire to sail together again and it is no wonder—in 8 days we function like a
professional crew, as competent navigators and confident mariners. We’ve
become certified in Advanced Coastal Cruising.
Most of all, we’ve enjoyed each other’s company and realize the hard
work of the last week has paid off. And we had so much fun.
St. Thomas, VI
March 2, 2010
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