2014 Bermuda Reports


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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date June 5, 2014
Vessel: IP440 CELESTIAL
Students: Bob Louton, Jerry Murphy, Wayne Rigby and Greg Sachs
First Mate: Captain George Nordie Norwood
Captain Captain Tom Tursi


Our cruise from Norfolk arrived in Bermuda in the afternoon of June 2nd, and after clearing Customs, CELESTIAL, our IP440 ocean cruising yacht, docked at Hunters Warf in St Georges Harbour. Our departing seamen bid us fair winds for our return cruise, and proceeded to return to their daily lives ashore, while First Mate George Nordie Norwood and I proceeded to prepare CELESTIAL for the return cruise to Norfolk. There was really not a lot to do except routine items like boat cleanup, laundry and oil change. We had a severely torn dodger canvas to deal with, but on closer inspection decided that the temporary repairs that we made at sea would serve well for the return cruise, so we checked that off our list. Also, there's food provisioning for the return cruise. After that, we took a long hike around St Georges Island to view close at hand the local scenery and items of historical note. 

In reviewing the just completed outbound cruise, Nordie and I decided that our onboard training plan needed some refinement, and after considerable discussion came up with the following underway training plan for the return cruise. Our return crew is due to arrive on June 5th, and departure for sea is scheduled for June 8th. 

Student Crew Assignment Plan 

As the purpose of this course is to train sailors to operate sailing vessels on long distance ocean passages and to achieve ASA108 certification, the following Student roles and responsibilities will be employed:

Student Roles will be assigned as follows|: 

  • Captain
  • First Mate
  • Navigator
  • Weather Communicator

Pre Departure Tasks starting 1600 on Friday 6/6/2014

  • Captain & Mate
    • Complete the Boatswain, Engineer and Emergency Coordinator inspection tasks outlined on pages 7-1 to 7-3 of Blue Book
  • Navigator
    • Complete the Navigator tasks outlined on page 7-1 of Blue Book
    • Prepare Bermuda departure navigation
  • Weather Communicator: Collect, analyze and share weather data from the following sources:
    • NAVTEX Weather
    • SSB USCG Weather
    • Bob Cook Weather emails
    • Skymate Weather images
    • VHF Weather

Underway Duties are as follow and will change daily at noon

  • Weather Communicator
    • Collect and evaluate weather forecast info
    • Brief Captain and crew on Weather status
    • Turnover to follow-on Weather Communicator
  • Navigator
    • Evaluate DR logbook and plot for accuracy and correct procedures
    • Calculate miles per day and distance to destination
    • Brief Captain and crew on Navigation status
    • Turnover to follow-on Navigator
  • First Mate
    • Brief Captain and crew on status of
      • Boat and equipment issues
      • Fuel and water consumption and practices
      • Holding tank level
      • Battery voltage level and charging practices
      • Status of refrigeration
      • Crew health
    • Turnover to follow-on Mate
  • Captain
    • 1100 daily debrief Mate, Navigator & Weather Communicator
    • Brief entire crew on status of boat, crew, weather, navigation and status of cruise progress and issues
    • Turnover to follow-on Captain
  • Follow-on Captain:
    • Introduce his crewmember assignments
    • Summarize navigation, weather, route and equipment issues expected in the next 24 hours.

It was our intention that this plan would add clarity to underway training activities, which is by design a hands-on learning experience, and it did work well to this end as discussed in the subsequent narrative. 

Thursday, June 5th
Our student crewmembers arrived at various times during the afternoon, and First Mate Nordie showed them around the sleeping berths, heads and gear stowage areas, and gave a general introduction to the layout below deck. They included Bob Louton, Jerry Murphy, Wayne Rigby and Greg Sachs all of whom brought sextants. So, including Nordie's, the boat's and my sextants, we had a total of seven sextants onboard, certainly enough to ensure that we find the East Coast of the US on our return passage. After stowage of gear, we all hiked to the Town Square of St Georges and the second floor restaurant of Freddie's where we had a delightful dinner on the veranda and discussed crew expectations and goals and plans for our forthcoming ocean cruise to Norfolk. We also introduced the Student Crew Assignment Plan show above, which by the way was provided to crewmembers before they came to Bermuda. After dinner, we returned to the boat for an early turn in in preparation for a busy day tomorrow, and two crewmembers elected to go to hotels for a good night's sleep after a long day of traveling and training. 

By the way, we're keeping Ship's Time on Eastern Daylight Time as we will be moving into that time zone after about one day at sea and this will avoid the necessity of resetting our ship's clock as we do so. Bermuda time is one hour later, so our crew was introduced to converting time zones as you sail to distant ports which is something that most of us do not normally need to do in our daily lives. 

Friday, June 6th
This day was dedicated to hands on training of various underway operating procedures including: winch handling techniques; mainsail, staysail and genoa furling and unfurling practice; sail reefing practice; rigging of storm trisail and boom crutch; rigging of genoa whisker pole; sea anchor rigging and deployment; abandon ship procedures and walk through; and man overboard equipment and rescue discussion. This was a full day's work and a necessity to ensure trouble free and smooth operations when underway where things can go very badly very quickly at sea if careless actions occur. At 1600 crewmembers slipped into the pre-departure assignments noted in the Assignment Plan above, and began the process of functioning as a team rather than just as individual crewmembers. These first day assignments were:

  • Captain: Greg
  • Mate: Wayne
  • Navigator: Jerry
  • Weather Comm: Bob

These assignments will continue for 24 hours afterwhich crewmembers will move up in the list; for example Wayne moves to Captain and Greg to Weather Comm. 

After this, we went to dinner ashore at the Tavern By the Sea restaurant where we reviewed the day's activities and plans for tomorrow. Back at the boat, crewmembers began work on their pre-departure check lists per the Assignment Plan with guidance and coaching by Nordie and I. 

Saturday, June 7th
Work continued in earnest on the pre-departure check lists with Nordie and I assisting and coaching the student crew. Expected weather for departure emerged as our primary item of interest at this point. NOAA Fax forecasts indicate a Low Pressure System passing offshore from the Carolinas and headed toward Bermuda; it is expected to arrive a few hundred miles north of Bermuda by tomorrow, our planned departure date. It is expected to bring rain and winds of southwest 15 to 25 knots to our area and could make for a bumpy first 24 hours of our cruise, but we will be leaving in the lee of the Bermuda Islands so waves will be moderated for departure. After that we'll be exposed to open ocean waves but of improved shape. By late tomorrow, a Cold Front and High Pressure System will move in along our route bringing light winds for the next several days. 

So it looks favorable for departure tomorrow, and we'll gear our thoughts and timing toward that goal. For the balance of this day crewmembers completed their inspections and check lists. Jerry as Navigator laid out the departure route and waypoints, and Bob, as follow-on Navigator double checked the waypoints and programmed them into the GPS. 

At noon today, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Wayne
  • Mate: Jerry
  • Navigator: Bob
  • Weather Comm: Greg

By late afternoon, we called it a day and went to the Wahoo Restaurant for a departure dinner enjoyed by all with lots of pre-departure sea stories being swapped and somewhat magnified...   

Click picture to enlarge

Sunday, June 8th
As Student Captain, Wayne held a departure briefing at 0800 with all crew members. At 0930 we departed Hunters Warf and proceeded to the fuel dock to top off water and fuel. At 1000 we entered the blustery St Georges Harbour for man overboard drills. At 1100 we tied up at the Customs dock to clear out, then called Bermuda Radio on VHF16 to request departure permission, which was granted with caution to steer clear of the incoming cruise ships about a mile out to sea. And by 1130 we passed through Town Cut Channel to begin our sea adventure. 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Jerry
  • Mate: Bob
  • Navigator: Greg
  • Weather Comm: Wayne

At 1305 we reached our departure waypoint, set a course for Diamond Shoal off of Cape Hatteras and began our ocean navigation employing the DR logbook and plotting sheets. Winds were SW 20 to 30 knots and our course was NW under reefed main and jib. After 2100, winds clocked to N 15 to 20 knots and we tacked to starboard on a course of 280M, and this continued overnight. 

Dinner tonight was sandwiches for three of the crew as three others were not inclined toward eating. Made 57 miles as of Midnight. 

Monday, June 9th
We had a rough start yesterday with the tail end of that Low lingering; three tender tummies improving. But sun is now shining and balmy breezes blow. We're motor sailing in 12 knot winds from the north making 295M. It's a very good day for celestial shots, and everyone tried their hand at it with some very accurate shots being taken, many within a mile or less of our GPS position.
 

With the expectation of SW winds during the next few days and the certainty of the Gulf Stream pushing us to the NE as we proceed across it on Thursday, we reset our next waypoint to a position 20 miles SW of Diamond Shoal Light to compensate. 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Bob
  • Mate: Greg
  • Navigator: Wayne
  • Weather Comm: Jerry

Dinner tonight was Dinty Moore beef stew of which most crewmembers partook. Today we made 124 miles. 

Tuesday, June 10th
Winds continued light from SE and later shifted to SW, so we motor sailed on in mostly clear skies with puffy cumulus clouds. Very pleasant conditions to enjoy the beauty of the sea when it is tranquil as it is today. 

More celestial shots taken today, and toward evening Jerry and Wayne ran a calibration of the ship's compass using the True direction to the Sun as a point of reference. This is accomplished by holding the boat heading steady on a series of eight different courses around the compass, and taking a bearing on the Sun on each of these headings. Using this data and the known Magnetic Variation of the Earth for this date and time, and the True bearing to the Sun from this location and date, we can compute the Compass Deviation from Magnetic for each boat heading. This can then be used to convert future bearings or courses between Magnetic and Compass values. 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Greg
  • Mate: Wayne
  • Navigator: Jerry
  • Weather Comm: Bob

Dinner tonight was pasta and meatballs of which all crewmembers joined in. Today we made 129 miles. 

Wednesday, June 11th
Overnight it was very humid and today we've had heavy rain squalls which we rode out in fine style none the worse for the wear. This afternoon, we were about 180 miles from Cape Hatteras and 130 miles from entering the Gulf Stream and currently motorsailing in the calms following the squalls. We've had two days of sunny skies and balmy breezes from the clocking winds from SE then S and SW at 10 to 15 knots with comfortable sailing and moderate seas.
 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Wayne
  • Mate: Jerry
  • Navigator: Bob
  • Weather Comm: Greg

Thursday, June 12th
Entered the eastern edges of Gulf Stream today when we saw a significant increase in sea water temperature from 76F in the morning to 84F by 1600 in the afternoon. While holding a course heading of 300C per compass, our COG increased to 330M indicating the strong movement of Gulf Stream water to the NE coincident with the increase in sea water temperature. By sunset, sea water temperature had dropped to 77F and the COG to Course divergence mostly disappeared. We were out of the Gulf Stream and heading toward our next waypoint ten miles east of Diamond Shoal Light. 

Earlier in the day we experienced some rain squalls with gusts to 25 knots, but otherwise light winds from the SW. Also, we're expecting more rain squalls tonight. This has been a wet and squally trip! 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Jerry
  • Mate: Bob
  • Navigator: Greg
  • Weather Comm: Wayne

After passing our Diamond Shoal waypoint, we turned north toward the Cape Henry waypoint at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.  

Dinner tonight was chicken stew and all crewmembers brought their voracious appetites to the meal. Today we made 130 miles. 

Friday, June 13th
Overnight we maintained our northerly course toward Cape Henry. Winds were from the SW at 10 to 15 knots. Very humid. Mostly clear with cumulus clouds. Greg sent the following note by email to our office:

Hello Rita! I write with the student update on our progress & disposition. It is a beautiful morning & we are making good headway. While we may be motor-sailing right now, this is okay as we are eager to be shoreside. Going on Day 6 we have reached the point in our voyage where we reflect upon all that we have learned. Such as: We can eat good meals even with only one pot (kudos to the Tursi menu); Don't fight the squall! (keep the relative wind close hauled at about 60 degrees) & you will emerge fine; A clean ship is a happy ship, especially on ocean voyages (thanks Nordie); Draw on each other's strengths, reflect & improve your weaknesses (of which I especially have many!); & much more. We are honored to sail with both Captain Tursi (a legend in our circles) & First Mate Nordie, both of which are amazing & patient instructors. Parting thought: Sailing is not like other hobbies; sailing is a "macro hobby" involving many other hobbies/talents: diesel mechanic, electrician, navigation, weatherman, international customs, physical ability, psychological assessing, attention to detail, love of challenge, sense of adventure & so much more. Perhaps that's why we like it so much. Greg Sachs, signing off. 

At noon, crew assignments rotated to the following:

  • Captain: Bob
  • Mate: Greg
  • Navigator: Wayne
  • Weather Comm: Jerry

And now it was time to finalize our port arrival plans and navigation. We earlier made the following preparatory assignments: 

  • Plot courses and waypoints: Greg
  • Enter waypoints into GPS: Wayne
  • Review restricted area guidance: Jerry
  • Review USCG Nav Rules: Bob

This planning now needs to be finalized and double checked, and reviewed with the entire crew. Bob, as acting Captain needs to establish crew roles for near shore operations per pages 7-7 to 7-8 of the Blue Book. 

Near shore operations are a risky time after a long ocean passage as the change from sea rhythm to port rhythm can surprise the unwary. It's kind of like exiting a 70 mph Interstate Highway and coming quickly to a small, local residential street and encountering young children wobbling along on bicycles... Makes you sit up and take notice, except here we have lots of commercial traffic with big steel ships that cannot make quick stops or turns. It's really essential for you to do the right things and not cause them or you a serious problem. 

So Captain Bob organized his crew into a working team, each with specific assignments. We had our route waypoints established and programmed into the GPS and Wayne served as full time Navigator at the chart table checking off progress and communicating back and forth with deck crew. Greg was bow lookout and kept a full time watch on traffic and obstructions and relayed information to the Captain as appropriate. Jerry was on helm full time with no other duties but to follow the steering orders issued by Captain Bob, and to also watch ahead, abeam and astern. 

Since we had reviewed the Coast Pilot and Nav Rules directives regarding restricted areas, cautionary areas, traffic lane, and right of way rules, we were well prepared to do the right things at the right time. Thus, our passage through this congested area was straight forward and uneventful... just the way we like it. 

At 1830 I phoned US Customs to advise of our arrival from Bermuda. They asked for information about the vessel, crewmembers and destination, and informed us that a US Customs Agent would meet us at the marina at 2130 to interview all crewmembers. 

At 1930 we docked at the Vinings Landing Marina fuel dock, and proceeded to dinner at the close by Surf Rider restaurant. At 2130 we met the US Customs Agent who interviewed us all and cleared us back into the US. 

Welcome back, and thanks to a great crew for an enjoyable ocean cruise!! 

Captain Tom Tursi
S/V CELESTIAL, IP-440
June 14, 2014 

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