Schedule of Courses
~ A Cut Above ~
Training Cruise, Norfolk to St Thomas, USVI
||November 2 to 17, 2013
|| IP440 CELESTIAL
||Claude Bilodeau, George “Nordie” Norwood, Theo
||David Gifford; Tom Tursi
Friday, Nov 1
Crew flew or drove to join Celestial at Vinings Marina, and gathered for
orientation and dinner at Captain Groovy’s,which despite the teenage name, is
a fine seafood restaurant a few blocks away.
Three intrepid crew matched by three staff – try to match that ratio at
any other sea school. Catalina
owner “Nordie” Norwood, from Florida, and Theo Wolfensberger both already
had their ASA108 certifications, and IP420 owner Claude Bilodeau from Canada was
going for his ASA108 certification as part of this cruise, and all were
enthusiastically looking forward to the trip.
For mates I was privileged to have David Gifford and school founder and
owner Tom Tursi aboard, both of whom have done many of these trips.
If I fell overboard, the ship was going to be in good hands.
Saturday 2 Nov
Promptly at 0800 we started the shore component, in which we review the “blue
book” and ensure that although we’ve all done a good bit of sailing, we see
eye to eye on how things will be done on Celestial.
And of course, as is true for any November trip, we begin the agonizing
process of deciding when it makes the most sense to depart, and what our initial
courses and waypoints ought to be, in light of the expected weather.
Ultimately, we do our own routing, but it would be rash and temerarious
to do so without at least considering the advice given by the professionals like
Chris Parker, who was advising waiting four or five days and then jumping almost
due east to get across the Gulf Stream before more bad weather was expected.
We considered that, and the capabilities of the boats to which that
advice had been given – larger, more weatherly craft than ours, and felt that
it might not be geared particularly to us. While
others provisioned the boat, allowing the food to get good and cold before we
left shore power behind, I spent a lot of time integrating the information from
our myriad weather prognosticators.
Sunday, 3 Nov
More shore seminar, and more balancing the input of the various weather gurus.
More discussion of heavy weather techniques, planning and how to use the
various things responsible sailors take with them when they venture offshore –
life raft, emergency gear, and sea anchor, which we brought out, inspected, and
Monday 4 Nov
Still undecided in the morning, we commit to an afternoon departure, on the
tide, figuring that with the projected winds, we are better off coasting down to
and past Hatteras, and crossing the stream south of there before heading east to
get over to 65º west, and the prospect of easterly trades to carry us south to
the islands. It’s not a bad
plan, although as time will tell, it doesn’t work as well as we hoped and had
good reason to expect. While the
rest of America went off daylight savings time, we stayed on, which would work
better for meals, and would be the time we’d be on when we reached the
Virgins, which keeps Atlantic time. We left at 1540 ship time, setting a course
almost paralleling the coast towards Hatteras.
Tuesday 5 Nov
Pure sailing for a time; motorsailing for a time, and making better time than
expected, we slow down in the wee hours of the morning to time our arrival to
the region of the Gulf Stream below Hatteras about Wednesday morning, when the
wind is expected to be least unfavorable. In echoes of former trips, it seems the ship is hungrier for
electrons than is seemly, or maybe the genset isn’t making enough of them?
Either way, it feels like we’re running the genset too much, and seem
to do better for electricity when the main engine is engaged.
Wednesday 6 Nov
Big event of the day is expected to be the crossing of the Gulf Stream, with the
prospect of uncomfortable seas if the wind opposes, which could happen,
depending on when we cross it. Life
is complicated by a peculiar northwest leg to the GS that has been predicted in
the area. For a time we appear to
be on the edge of that leg, then out of it. We surmise that it was the corner where the GS was due to
turn back northeast, but wait! Where
has the GS gone? When we cross the
area that was to have the eastbound leg below that, it’s not there.
I’ve crossed the GS many times, and it’s always had the courtesy to
at least show up, whether to help or hurt us.
In this trip, we never did come across more than what we took to be
eddies or edges. A mystery.
Thursday 7 Nov
At daylight, we see that we’ve got about a foot long tear in a genoa seam,
just above the clew. Among the
principles of offshore cruising are redundancy and self reliance.
I consider lowering it and sewing it on deck, but ultimately yield to the
suggestion that we replace it with the spare genoa, which we do.
Serendipitously, the old sail gets rid of the annoying ‘drumming’
that we sometimes got with the newer genoa close hauled.
Realizing that whatever happened to it, the GS was now
behind us, we take advantage of the developing SSW wind to beat feet to the
east, and try to get ourselves positioned about 65º W to catch the easterly
trades down to the islands. A long
way to go, as by the time we’re through where the GS should have been, we’re
still about 75º W. ‘Til this
point, although the wind has had too much east in it to suit, it hasn’t been
too strong, and while some people were feeling the effects of their first real
offshore seas, conditions were OK, to which we’re now adding rain and drizzle.
Between spray and precipitation, we’ll be wearing foulies a lot this
Friday 8 Nov
Anticipating the trades to kick in about 29º N, we are using our SW wind to go
mostly east, and not holding for a rhumb line course.
(The right judgment at the time, although in retrospect, the trip would
have been about a day shorter had we then gone for the rhumb line.)
Doing lots of motorsailing, partly because the wind comes and goes, and
we want to keep our speed up, since we’re getting a bit behind the 8-ball, as
far as schedule and easting go, but also because the main engine seems to be
doing a better job of keeping the house bank charged.
First of a series of cold fronts has given us north wind. Pushing for all
the easting we can get
Saturday 9 Nov
In the early AM the recently repaired MOB pole loses its upper section overboard
– better not fall overboard. Varying between motorsailing and sailing as the wind pipes
and wanes. During the day, the wind slacks to the point that we strike sail for
a time, and head the 130º that we are trying to steer. Latest word is that trades may kick in about 27º north.
We are pulling weather information from daily updates from Jochen,
Navtex, and weather maps and forecasts from Skymate, our satellite service.
The latter usually arrive in time to predict the weather we had
experienced earlier that morning. Visually,
and by radar, we see that we are being surrounded by large rain clouds. Some we dodge, and some make us wet. Another cold front approaching.
Sunday 10 Nov
Wind still SSW. We’re expecting
it to clock, and finally work its way around to the long awaited trades, hoping
we’ll have the easting we want before that happens. With as much cloudy
weather as we’ve come through, there has been little opportunity for the
celestial navigators to do their thing. We see some sun today, and heave to for a while for them to
get the best sightings to reduce.
One of our most critical, and irreplaceable, provisions is
water. Yesterday, daily checking
looked like we were doing OK on that front, and I authorized ‘sea showers’
for the crew. Apparently, I
hadn’t explained well enough what ‘sea showers’ entailed – make yourself
wet – turn off the water – wash – rinse off – turn off the water.
The whole process can be done with less than a gallon of water.
It wasn’t, and by day’s end, we had used 20% of our total supply of
water in 30 hours, which called for imposing water austerity for pretty much the
remainder of the trip. No more
showers ‘til further notice; dishes to be washed in buckets of salt water in
the cockpit; selective activation of the marine head system (which, saints
preserve us, uses fresh water) to disposition of solids only.
Monday 11 Nov
Wind goes light enough that we strike sail and motor toward our newly selected
waypoint of 27º N x 65º W for a time.
Calm interrupted by a lightning squall around 0330.
By morning, sufficient steady breeze has arisen to again be sailing, in
fairly calm seas. How
pleasant it must be to sail like this often enough to not find it worthy of
logging. Sometime in the morning we
discover more of our precious fresh water overflowing the forward head.
Hourly boat checking means we didn’t lose much, as verified by the
morning tank check, but it postpones any relaxation of the water austerity
program. Morning is
brightened by our catching a small Mahi Mahi.
It’s enough to feed all the fish eating crew come dinnertime, but no
seconds or leftovers.
Tuesday 12 Nov
More rain, but no electrical show. Motoring in calm, relieved by wind at 15 – 18 knots later
in the morning, still unexpectedly from the SSW.
Trades not now expected until 25º N.
Well, we’re at 25º N, and still in SSW – what gives with that, huh?
The SSW wind has not allowed us to turn south, and we’ve already
overshot our 65º W destination by a degree of longitude, and still going SE.
Trade winds, Hmphh. Consolation prize – we got enough sunshine for a few shots.
Wednesday 13 Nov
Another strong cold front approaching.
It appears that it’s the repetitive strong cold fronts that have robbed
us of the trade winds we feel entitled to.
N wind predicted – I’ll believe it when I see it.
Caught a little dinner for two size Mahi, and threw it back to grow up.
Thursday 14 Nov
Well it’s about time – wind clocks enough for us to lay a course for the
Virgins. We’ve come to about 63º
W, which means laying a course for the Anegada Passage, which will let us cruise
past the whole the BVI on the way to St. Thomas.
Caught our third Mahi – a nice dinner for five fish.
Friday 15 Nov
NNE wind, although it’s light, still gives us enough way to give the engine a
well deserved rest. The
strong CF that gives us this pleasant sailing was more robust farther north, and
the leftover swell from that is running 10’ to 12’.
Period great enough that it means a bit of rolling, but nothing really
unpleasant. About midday we hook
into the fish we’ve been waiting for, and after about a 45 minute fight, land
a 30# (by scale) Mahi. It’s a dinner for 35 fish, and I retire the fishing gear
for the remainder of the trip. We
get two more meals out of it, and still will have fish to give away and take
home at the end of the trip.
Saturday 16 Nov
Wind is still light, and now we’re motorsailing just because the trip has gone
into overtime, and people are hoping to make their rearranged flights.
Wind far enough behind us that we try the whisker pole for a time, but
find the angle isn’t quite right, and the wind is very light, so we soon
strike it. More rain.
Hope it’s sunny enough tomorrow that we don’t have to pack up our
foul weather gear soaking wet.
Sunday 17 Nov
Landfall on Anegada, and the eastern British Virgins.
Rest of the trip will be done by pilotage, keeping track of Nav marks and
identifying islands. The wind briefly pipes to 17 – 18 knots as the front
comes through, and we make 7 +/- knots under sail alone, which feels good after
all that engine time. Grateful to have had that reliable iron staysail, but on
the whole, would have preferred much less use of it. Sunny enough that we all
get our foul weather gear dry. Secure
at Crown Bay Marina 1434 Atlantic time, and Nordie makes his Sunday flight.
Captain Jack Morton
St Thomas, USVI