Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
||Offshore Passagemaking; Norfolk to St Thomas
||November 1-24, 2011
Heinrich, Jacques Levesque, Lisa Powell, Dick Sloan.
Tuesday, Nov 1
Travelers converge on Vinings
Landing and the S/V CELESTIAL to begin training for the long
offshore. Jim Bortnem, mate
engineer extraordinaire, and veteran of 15 or more Maryland School voyages
has graciously and trustingly agreed to do it yet again. Soon joined by boat owners and experienced sailors Roland
Heinrich, Jacques Levesque, Lisa Powell, and Dick Sloan.
Dick is a physician (always welcome offshore) and a mostly fresh
water sailor. Lisa is
chalking up her second ocean voyage, and prepping for the cruising life
she and her husband aspire to. Jacques
is also testing the water as he looks to the prospect of longer ocean
cruising. Roland, a German
import, is also considering whether more extensive cruising offshore is
for him. All appear to be
well qualified for the voyage at hand.
Thursday, Nov 2-3
We begin the two day shore component of this ASA108 course, in which we
review how all the sails go up and down, or in CELESTIAL’s
case, in and out, as well as reefing them, setting the storm trysail, the
sea anchor, and other considerations for heavy weather.
We review onboard living routines, provisioning, stowage, stove
safety, deck safety, and a whole host of other safeties. Beyond that, we
go over departure preparations and checks, and most importantly, the
Friday, Nov 4
OK, make it three days of shore
prep and training. Weather
not auspicious for departure – a strong low going by with winds at 35
– 40 knots. Manageable
if we get caught in it mid voyage, but not something you deliberately take
Saturday, Nov 5
Ok make it four days of shore
prep. Weather still not
encouraging – instead of following the usual pattern of lows moving
northeast, paralleling the coast at a pretty good clip, this one is
hanging around, not far off Hatteras, right where we’re planning to go.
Sunday, Nov 6
Today is the day – took off
about 0920, in light NE wind. Departure sort of a hot and cold thing –
weather cold, and engine hot. Yes, by the time we were abeam Cape Henry,
the engine had overheated. ???
After some preliminary moves to address it ourselves, I judge that
as close as we are to home, it makes the most sense to have this well
addressed before taking off, and for the first time in my life, I call for
a tow, and we arrive at Vinings Landing around 1900, tail between our
Monday Nov 7
Even before the mechanic arrives
at ~0830, we have solved the major problem by pulling the sea water
strainer top, and backflushing whatever blocked the sea water intake back
out using the fresh water hose from the dock.
Engine cooling again, but somewhere along the way, we burned out
one of the two solenoids on the starter – not the one that’s difficult
to get at, but the one that’s impossible to get at.
While the exact replacement is not available (we order one to be
delivered to St. Thomas) Roland finds one locally that will work, and it
is temporarily mounted, letting us start the engine without jumping the
contacts with a screwdriver each time. By 1300, we have departed. Again.
Tuesday Nov 8
Motorsailing through the night,
in light winds, paralleling the coast, giving ourselves the option to
change our collective mind and duck for cover if the low – still hanging
around – does the unexpected, and develops more. Through the night, the
wind slowly builds, and we shut the engine down, as we can
sail handily. By midday, we’re in heavy seas and wind, entering
the Gulf Stream. The unexpected has come to pass, and the low that won’t
go away is developing into tropical storm Sean.
By mid afternoon, in the nasty edges of the Gulf Stream, I’ve
decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and we gybe around
and head west for Beaufort, a port of refuge.
Jacque is saved – he’s been suffering some heavy duty mal de
mer. It’s far enough away
that we don’t get there until
Wednesday Nov 9
When we have rounded Cape Lookout, and are approaching the sea buoy, and
- surprise! – the engine overheats again. Same thing – no salt
water cooling, but the odds of this being a blocked intake twice in two
days are miniscule. Something else is happening.
In Beaufort (a great port of refuge, if you need one, and between
repairs and awaiting the next weather window, we have a delightful time.)
A couple of replacements – maybe the hose from the salt water
intake to the strainer has an intermittent aneurysm, and we have it
Thursday, Nov 10
Jacque has decided that offshore cruising is not for him, and sells his
sextant before leaving the ship. It’s a valuable lesson, and way cheaper
than outfitting a cruising sailboat before learning it. We are lucky, and
Fred Lipp – a veteran of
last year’s run south, and also a licensed Captain and a basic level
instructor for the Maryland School – joins us for the duration. Still
waiting for weather improvement.
Friday Nov 11
Skymate email has gone belly up,
and after downloading new software, and a couple of hours of diddling with
it, we get Skymate back online. An important fix, as we will be using it a
lot in the weeks to come. At noon, we leave Beaufort, one week behind
schedule, pushed along by the diminishing N winds following passage of a
Saturday Nov 12
More motorsailing as the winds die back to less than 10 knots.
Weather now beautiful, as TS Sean is finally moving NE.
At 1140, while crossing the Gulf Stream, we have the good fortune
to hook a Mahi Mahi that Roland plays, and Jack gaffs.
Interrupts the change of watch, but it’s worth it – 25 pounds
plus or minus, and the heart of two great meals for the ship, with
leftovers to boot. But dear reader, lest you think all is well, be
advised, as we were, that battery bank one is not taking a charge well –
even with engine or genset running, voltage hanging at 12.0.
??? And by dark,
the engine has again begun to overheat. We’re better at catching it
before the alarms now, and shut it down to cool for a few hours before
trying it again. Hmmmmm.
Sunday Nov 13
When we do restart the main
engine – after backflushing – it doesn’t overheat immediately, but
is still not charging properly, for either bank one or two.
Seems not to be putting in the bulk charge that does the lion’s
share of charging in the first few hours. With a light south wind, we’re
making our easting, but not enough south. Toward evening the wind is
piping out of the SSE, which is of course where we want to go, and we reef
to go in a direction that’s not exactly where we want to be.
Monday Nov 14
Wind persisting out of the SSE.
Making reasonable easting, and not enough south.
Finally the wind clocks a bit to SSW around midnight, and we’re
able to make some progress to the SE.
Will this whole trip be hard on the wind?
Tuesday Nov 15
By dawn, the voltage on battery
bank one is reading zero, despite running both genset and main engine.
On the other hand, we’ve been careful with the water, and the
captain declares a shower day. O frabjous day!
In pretty good shape on the fuel, too. We’ve been checking in
with Herb of Southbound Two every day for his weather briefing, which
supplements the weather emails Tom Tursi is sending.
Herb warns of a trough along 20N 55W that is expected to develop
into – what else – a tropical storm that will likely give gale force
winds along 65 W, which is the usual route to reach south in the trade
winds. So the prudent
course is to stay a bit west of 65, and hope to make up the easting after
whatever is developing there finally starts to gallop north. We have to consider if ducking into Bermuda as a
port of refuge makes sense.
Wednesday, Nov 16
Putting together the best
information from the NOAA high seas forecast, Herb’s routing advice, and
Tom’s weather updates, I decide that by staying over about 68 W, we can
avoid enough of the mess associated with the newly developing tropical
storm to the east, we’ll be OK, and we skip Bermuda, and head SSW. Oh,
and by the way, engine overheating again. We’re getting better, and
easing it back to idle lets it cool down on its own, and we plug on. At
0730, it overheats again, for real, and we again shut it down. More water
torture for the strainer. We examine the saltwater pump impeller, which looks fine.
??? With the # 1
battery – the engine starting battery – reading zero volts, we now
have to use a crossover circuit to start the engine from the house bank -
#2. Thank goodness we have
it, and don’t have to go stringing jumper cables through the boat every
time we want to start.
Thursday Nov 17
Lest you think life is miserable
at this point, I should point out some of the positives. The crew has come
together wonderfully, and whether it’s routine sail changing and
steering, or more ad hoc engine attentions, they are right there,
cheerful, resourceful, and making it possible to be enjoying this
otherwise somewhat challenging voyage. We’re eating like royalty, the
sails and rig are doing their job, and overall, life is good. But the
Skymate – our link to MDSchool world headquarters – has again gone
belly up. This time it will take several reloads of the software, and two
days of tweaking before it again comes on line.
But we’re still being careful with our water, and again get the
shower tickets. If only to
highlight how badly it’s doing most of the time, the engine charging
system works properly for a brief interlude. Then not. And shortly after
dark, the engine overheated again. And we’re hit with some windy
showers, calling for more reefing.
And life is still good.
Friday Nov 18
At midnight turnover, while
reminding Roland and Lisa of the need to monitor engine temp carefully, I
notice that the engine is well on it’s way to overheating again. Shut
down. Checked water flow, and carefully restarted.
Able to cool engine at neutral idle this time.
This is getting old. Wind
backs slightly from S to SE. Where
we want to go. Now going SW, which is OK for avoiding the developing storm
to the east, but making us more and more dependent on a predicted NE wind
by the time we get to the trades. By sunrise, wind has gone NW, and we can
broad reach for a while. What a treat. By noon, however, we’re again
close hauled, in ESE wind. An
exercise in heaving to for dinner. Not really necessary, but something
everyone should know how to do, and we enjoy the respite.
Saturday Nov 19
NE wind, long promised, is arriving, and
we can shift course to begin to go where we want - to the Virgin islands. Novelty.
Wind increasing 20 – 25 in showers
Sunday Nov 20
Day dawns in squally wet windy weather
– gusting 30. Another vessel, part of the Caribbean 1500 fleet, unable
to reach their organizers, calls any ship. They have steering problems,
are tired, and want to know what to do. We suggest heaving to and catching
up on the sleep they’ve clearly been missing (crew of three), and then
walk them through the process to heave to. Can they really be this far
offshore and not know how to do that? Meanwhile, on our own ship, more
overheating. Shut down for a long cooling, which fortunately coincides
with the long awaited NE wind. Can
do without engine nicely. Heading
for St Thomas.
Monday Nov 21
Things are getting better.
Wind lays down enough to ease some more main out, and we’re
making pretty good time towards St. Thomas. Still only about half a jib
out. With engine cold, we pull the cover off the salt water pump
and examine the impeller again – no answers there – it looks fine.
About 310 miles from STT at noon.
By late afternoon, we’re back to a full jib, but reef it again by
Tuesday Nov 22
Back to full jib by dawn, and making good time under sail.
In the right direction. Although
we don’t really need it, we’re running the engine at low speeds to see
how it does with them. Gathering
data. It’s fragile, but we may be able to use it at low speeds if
we need it later. For now, beautiful sailing into the cool, clear starry
night. This may the best memory of night sailing the crew gets to put in
Wednesday Nov 23
We check the records – it’s been over a thousand hours since the
saltwater pump has been replaced – maybe the metal parts are starting to
wear and it’s not pumping at full efficiency? By late evening, the
lights of St. Thomas are in sight. More traffic to avoid. Oh, and by the
way, the voltage on bank one is back
to zero, and with the genset and engine both on, bank two is barely
holding twelve. I wonder if the electronics will stay engaged until we tie
Thursday Nov 24
Thanksgiving. And the truth
is, we have a lot to be thankful for.
Although we’re arriving a week late – and we all missed our
flights a week ago, on the 17th, the end is in sight. We have
all our fingers and toes, the last few days of sailing has been great, and
let me repeat – the end is in sight. We round Savana Island to head for
Crown Bay a little after midnight, and I figure one long tack hard on the
wind toward St. Croix, and another back will put us near the airport.
But I’m wrong. IP’s are not great to weather, and the tide is
running a strong current against us, so we roll up the genoa and motor
straight into the wind at over 2000 rpm.
If the engine is going to overheat now, (we’re checking literally
every minute) we’ll have to go to plan D. But it doesn’t, and we tie
up at the fuel dock at 0335. A mere five minutes of arguing with security
and we convince him that it will be alright to lie alongside there until
the marina opens at eight. Lisa is off to the airport three hours later;
Roland and Dick a few hours after that, and Jack by 3 PM.
The boat is clean, and Jim and Fred will be gone by Friday noon.
What a trip!
Captain Jack Morton
S/V CELESTIAL IP440
November 24, 2011
St Thomas, USVI
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