2011 DELMARVA Reports

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Course Advanced Coastal Cruising; DELMARVA Circumnavigation
Date June 26-July 3, 2011
Students: Dave Albert, Laurie Albert, Mike Breslin, Art Shearer
Captain: H. Jochen Hoffmann

Pre-departure Preparation, Sunday June 26, 2011
I arrive on June 25th and find that CELESTIAL, already professionally cleaned inside and out, was in very good shape. By 1700 my student crew had arrived and – after introductions - we immediately began to check out the boat below decks. Today, by about 1130 we conclude training topside - on lines, sails, and emergency equipment. Systems below deck are once more explored in air conditioned comfort. With the meal plan in hand, Laurie and David (who will prove to be an excellent cook) start provisioning while the rest of the crew inventories equipment below and generates a detailed navigation plan for the next day. By dinner time at Bay Wolf restaurant, we feel tired but pleased with our progress. 

Day 2
Tide and current calculations, part of our navigation plan, call for departure at 0700. After an early breakfast, we are nearly ready, except for a quick review of undocking maneuvers. With our bow pointed into a narrow fairway, Laurie and Mike use a doubled-over midship spring line to the outer starboard piling to turn the boat efficiently out of the slip. All-hands training in protected waters follows (anchoring, MOB, engine maneuvers, bearing fix procedures) with each crew member taking a turn at the wheel. The purpose: to ensure that crew skills are tuned early on to the challenging conditions entailed in this advanced coastal cruising course. To apply these skills from day one, students rotate hourly into four positions - navigator, lookout, helm, and line handler - as we motor sail up the Bay in light NE winds. Along the way, crew uses charted light ranges to establish a complete compass deviation table with good results. At 1700, upon arrival at Summit North Marina on the C&D canal, Art who is also an ASA instructor and licensed Captain uses his finely honed skills and experience to maneuver CELESTIAL first to the fuel dock (to wait until a slip becomes free) and then into our assigned space. Since the marina restaurant is closed, David treats us to the first of his many fine meals.


Day 3
Per tide calculations, we cast off at 0600 with a 2 knot current pushing us toward the Canal exit at Reedy Point. While this timing means fighting an opposing flood current for nearly three hours on the Delaware River, it also means that we will be riding a favorable ebb current for about six hours and expect to arrive at the mouth of the Delaware Bay at near slack tide. In short, at that critical location, we expect then to fight only ocean swells – not swells plus current. With the wind on the nose, it’s not a bad plan. Underway, we discuss meal preparation, review watch standing, navigation rules - including lights on vessels at night, and the captain’s standing orders. The crew also develops a nav plan for the ocean leg. Laurie selects an offshore route of two legs with a waypoint at 38°04'N, 074°31'W which is desirable in the expected SW breeze. David and Art select a chain of sea buoys along the coast, and Mike picks two legs using two lights. By the time we reach the Chesapeake Bay Entrance, we will have used parts of each plan. 

Day 4
What transpired offshore? To give everyone the experience of standing watch in complete darkness, Mike and David had the 2100 to 0100 watch and Art and Laurie the 0100 to 0500 watch. I rotated myself into watch segments during the day and slept fully harnessed in earshot of the cockpit while the watch kept an eye on distant lightning. By 2330 – after motoring along on calm seas with head sails plus half the main sail furled – I go on deck to help roll out half the jib when a NW wind of 10 knots arrives. Within minutes, and contrary to the weather report, we are engulfed by hauling winds of 35 plus knots that lifted the Bimini frame out of one retaining base. Lightning and rain squalls followed. With engine assist we tack into a heave-to position, which calms the boat sufficiently only after we furl the jib completely and heave-to with half the main sail up. As Mike secures the Bimini frame, all of us remain harnessed and tethered to jack lines watching the squall pass to the SE.

Soon thereafter, with Art and Laurie now on watch, we roll out a full jib and steer south along part of Laurie’s nav plan to make some westing in SW winds of 12-15 knots. By noon we take in the jib and motor sail into the wind to our landfall buoy, R“4A”, at the mouth of the Bay to pass, eventually, under Fishermans Island Bridge in waning daylight. ETA is on target. But as David navigates us successfully toward Cape Charles Harbor in darkness and to (as we are told) beautiful new floating docks, I steer along the Harbor Fairway when uncharted, poorly lit docks appear right in front of us. Fortunately, our two lookouts spot them in time and I can turn safely to starboard and glide up to the T-head of dock “C”. We toast our eventful ocean voyage with a cold beer and fall into deep sleep.


Day 5
Today we sleep in, have breakfast on shore, and eventually find a grocery store for shoppers, Mike and David, while Art, Laurie, and the captain clean the boat. At 1330 Laurie, our skipper-of-the-day, takes CELESTIAL to a perfect docking at the fuel dock where we top off fuel and then out to the channel for a day and early night sail on a course of 350 degrees psc to our chosen destination – Mill Creek at the mouth of the Great Wicomico River. Underway, Mike and Art make a detailed nav plan for a challenging landfall at night while others review course texts. After a pleasant dinner at sunset, Laurie deftly directs nighttime MOB maneuvers under engine power and all are surprised how difficult it is to locate our life vest victim in the dark - his strobe light notwithstanding. Locating the Wicomico River entrance light against the backscatter from Reedville is another challenge. The latter is matched by the challenge of locating the unlit markers of Mill Creek. Art’s time-speed-distance calculations help, so do lookouts posted at the bow and amidships. Still, when a State Regulatory Marker is mistaken for a lateral day marker, we briefly touch bottom before we can breathe easy at our final anchoring ground. One last attention getter: the all-chain anchor won’t deploy so that the bow crew quickly drops the secondary anchor which holds securely, as confirmed by the anchor watch.

Day 6 
We are waking up to the smell of David’s freshly brewed coffee and birds chirping at our picture-prefect anchorage. Mike sets to work to free the anchor chain that got stuck last night between hawse pipe and windlass while a friend of the Captain’s plus wife and son come alongside from a nearby anchorage for a brief chat. Laurie and Art (a great navigation tutor to all)  pilot us out of winding Mill Creek. Mike, as skipper-of-the-day, calls the required evolutions needed to get us to our goal – Solomons Island. For one long leg across the Bay, we have perfect wind to keep boat speed at 5 kts on a course of 045 degrees magnetic. Once at Solomon’s Mill Creek, a friendly hail from an anchored sailboat prompts us to drop anchor nearby. It turns out that our hailing neighbors recognized CELESTIAL since they had taken their MD School sail training aboard her in the Virgin Islands and along the New England coast. This happened to be their first outing on their own boat since then and without a captain. They looked mighty pleased. 

Day 7
David, skipper-of-the-day alerts us that the forecast calls for SE 5 to 10 kts, sunny, and no showers. We have a ten-hour leg ahead of us, raise anchor early, and have breakfast underway as we glide over glossy seas – a good time to do manual position fixes and review the ASA advanced coastal cruising standards. Then we get a surprise; it will turn this day into one of the best of the voyage. The wind has built to a speed of 10 to 12 knots  and from a direction on our starboard quarter that is perfect to set our cruising chute. This learning experience brings elation to all, and cameras are getting a work out. We even tack the chute as we round buoy R“2” into the Annapolis Harbor approach to add to our experience bank. The Harbor Master advises that we take the South Anchorage north of Horn Point since restrictions off the Naval Academy will be enforced due to the Fourth of July weekend. Dinner at Pussers restaurant (via water taxi) proves to be a gourmet treat and rounds out this perfect day. 

Day 8
On our final leg to Rock Hall, skipper-of-the-day Art calls out needed evolutions from raising anchor to docking at the fuel dock to top off fuel, water, and to pump out. He then navigates us safely on our route. Upon final docking in our marina, we clean the boat and all take the ASA106 test to challenge their knowledge gained during the course. 

Hearty farewells bring this eventful cruise to a close for a crew of accomplished mariners. Your captain thanks you and bids you Fair Winds, always. 

Captain H. Jochen Hoffmann
On board CELESTIAL IP440
July 4, 2011
Osprey Point Marina, Rock Hall, MD

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