2014 Caribbean Cruises
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Captain completes several minor maintenance issues left over from the last class
and is ready for the arrival of the crew by the afternoon of 27 Mar.
All arrive by late afternoon. After stowing gear, inventory of on board
supplies and initial boat orientation, the Captain provides an overview of the
course, cruising area and cruising options. We head up to Tickles,
the dock side restaurant, for dinner and to start getting to know each other.
Each member of the crew brings a wealth of sailing experience that we
will seek to share and build upon over the next week.
Following dinner, we return to the boat to develop a cruise and
associated meal plan. After much discussion, the crew opts to spend an
additional day sailing in vicinity of St John before heading off on our
overnight sail. All
settle in for a well-deserved night’s rest.
1: Fri, 28 Mar: Up
early and ready to start by 0800.
We finalize our cruising plan and associated provisioning list.
The Captain, Les and Joe head to Pueblo, the local market,
for provisions while Les and Joe check out the boat to find required/recommended
safety equipment and get familiar with boat storage and equipment locations.
After stowing provisions, we review the ASA course requirements, review Federal
Boating safety requirements and check personal safety equipment before spending
time on deck inspecting the standing and running rigging, rig the storm
tri-sail, set the whisker pole and demonstrate the rigging of the spinnaker.
Following lunch, we go over key sections of The Mdschool
course “Blue Book” – a great source of information for passage
preparation. We focus on operating procedures, safety, navigation and boat
systems. This is
followed by time working on assigned crew duties: Pred, as navigator, lays out
course for tomorrow; Adrian, as engineer, checks engine fluid levels, other
mechanical systems and locates spares and tools; Joe, as emergency coordinator,
checks the medical supplies and safety equipment; and Les, as boatswain, checks
all standing and running rigging.
With few exceptions, all is found in order.
Pre departure equipment inspection is critical when cruising especially
when planning overnight cruises.
Better to find and correct maintenance issues before leaving the dock
than having to do so underway.
After a long day on the boat, the crew elects to walk up the hill behind
the marina to Victors, a restaurant with excellent food and a view
of the area that is truly exceptional. The walk back sets us up for an early
night to bed in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures.
2: Sat, 29 Mar: After topping off our
water and securing all lines, we depart our slip heading first to the west side
of Water Island to get familiar with maneuvering the boat under
power and sail and then east to find a mooring at Christmas Cove
by Great St James.
We practice MOB under power, reefing, all points of sail and heaving to
before taking advantage of the sometimes gusty wind conditions to beat our way
toward our night’s mooring.
Along the way we practice coast navigation and plotting skills by taking
two bearing fixes to confirm our position and tracking our progress on the
chart. The gusty winds and building seas give a foretaste of what offshore
sailing conditions can become and for some symptoms of mel de mar.
As we approach Great St James, we see numerous sails – small
and large, some with brightly colored spinnakers.
We remember that the 42d St Thomas Regatta is underway and we will be in
an excellent position to see the action.
As we close on the mooring area, it becomes clear that lots of other
boats have already settled in to see the race, all moorings are taken.
Adrian, our navigator, quickly works out an alternative course thru the Current
Hole, across Pillsbury Sound and into Rendezvous Bay
where we anchor in 15 ft of clear, blue water.
By dusk our anchorage is empty; we are alone in this beautiful spot
enjoying our first meal at sea and discussing the day’s events.
Taking time to fully analyze each day’s experiences is an important
part of each day’s training, providing an opportunity to answer questions,
emphasize key learning points and identify areas for further emphasis.
The day’s work is not yet finished.
Joe, tomorrow’s navigator, must layout our course for tomorrow which
will take us up and around St John.
Short work is made of this important task with help from other crew.
We are soon able to enjoy a quiet night at anchor under a star filled
sky. No one has
trouble falling into a well-earned night’s sleep.
3: Sun, 30 Mar: Another early day.
After a quick breakfast, a review and execution of pre operations checks which
includes a NOAA wx update, we are ready for the day’s adventures.
Once the anchor is up, we head west into Pillsbury Sound
where we again practice all points of sail.
Joe carefully tracks our progress up the Sound and thru the Windward
Passage where our ability to short tack thru this narrow passage proves
are getting their “sea legs,” adapting well to the wind and waves that make
sailing in the Virgin Islands so sought after.
Once clear of the reefs and small islands that guard the passage into the
area north of St John, we head up toward Jost Van Dyke and
practice MOB under sail.
This provides another great opportunity to practice boat handling and see
the difference in MOB recovery techniques.
With the tipsy MOB dummy secured, we beat our way into the entrance to Thatch
Island Cut and by Soper’s Hole at the west end of Tortola.
Short tacking thru this narrow cut continues to refine the crew’s boat
handling and coordination skills.
By the time we enter the Sir Francis Drake Channel and head
toward Privateer Pt at the east of St John, all are ready
for some long tacks and a break in the action. As we enter the Channel, the wind
picks up and we have a great ride east, seeing how reefing sails, adjusting the
traveler and different sail configurations affect the balance of the boat.
Shortly after lunch we have reached the east end of St John and turn
south where we fall off to a broad reach and, for
the first time, spend time running before the
wind in rolly seas.
All quickly see the value of a boom preventer and the importance of
Joe’s danger bearing to keep us clear of the Eagle Shoals near Ram
rounding the point, we head into a much anticipated mooring at Great
Lameshur Bay where we quickly secure the boat in this
quiet anchorage. A
swim and snorkel in these beautiful waters are followed by a quiet afternoon
relaxing in the cockpit.
While Adrian and Joe prepare dinner, Les and Pred, our navigators
for the next two days, layout our course around St Croix and up to Vieques.
The wind is expected to be light, so they layout two course options that
give us flexibility to take advantage of however the weather develops.
Dinner again provides the perfect opportunity to review the day’s
events, enjoy a beautiful sunset and discuss tomorrow’s long distance
adventure. After a short time
enjoying the bright, starry sky, no one has trouble falling asleep in this
4/5: Mon/Tues, 31 Mar/1 Apr: In
preparation for our overnight trip, we sleep in a little this morning.
By 0930 we have eaten, cleaned up the boat, rigged our lee cloths and
done our pre operations checks.
We take the opportunity to discuss marine wx and get an update on wx for
the next 36 hrs. The forecast calls for light and variable winds: 5-10 knots
from ESE. We check the GPS to make sure we have not fallen thru a “worm
hole” and ended up somewhere other than the VI in the winter. Not often do we
have winds this light in late Mar.
After clearing our mooring, we secure the boat and are able to sail a
course that takes us west of our intended course line.
By mid-morning the winds have dropped and we motor sail back to our rhumb
line and then further east hoping the afternoon winds will allow us to continue
Despite some occasional gusts, the wind lives up to the forecast.
Fortunately the seas are also down so at least we are able to motor sail
without any rolling. Les
and Pred discuss the option of going north of St Croix because of the
light winds, but we decide to continue our course south round Lang Bank,
off the east end of the island. By late afternoon as we are approaching Lang
Bank our AIS (automatic identification system) picks up a NOAA research
vessel moving east and west across the Bank.
They broadcast a SECURITE safety of navigation radio alert so we contact
them by VHF to establish a clear passage.
We round the Bank just before dark and are treated with a beautiful
head west, south of a distant St Croix as a moonless night closes in and cross
courses with a larger tanker.
We coordinate crossing info and watch him cross our bow and turn north
over Lang Bank, an interesting choice of course.
With the exception of the NOAA vessel and the tanker, we have had the
ocean to ourselves. Throughout
the night we rotate watches and monitor our progress along the south of St
Croix. At the change of the 2000 hrs watch, we conduct a MOB in a very dark
securing our MOB equipment, we discuss the difficulties of recovering a MOB at
under power in the calm seas and light wind, without the strobe light it would
have been very difficult to find someone in the water.
Better to stay hooked in and stay aboard than in the water no matter what
the conditions. As
the sun rises, hoped for wind fails to materialize.
The warming sun does cause
low lying cumulus clouds and several small rain showers to dissipate as we
continue to head toward the town of Esperanza on Vieques. Along the way we see numerous flying fish, but have the sea
to ourselves. By mid-morning
we have picked up one of the new moorings off the town, boat secured and cleared
in with Home Land Security. Despite
the lack of sleep, all are ready to explore this less traveled cruising
destination, so we head ashore to see what awaits us. Over some cool
refreshments, we congratulate ourselves on our overnight passage and excellent
navigation. After a walk about town and lunch, we return to the boat for swim
and showers, later going ashore for a well-earned dinner at the Trade
Winds Guest House and Restaurant. After
the long night at sea and a great meal ashore, it’s early to bed under a star
filled sky confident in the knowledge that our 145 nm overnight passage has
given us new skills to be further developed and utilized.
6: Wed, 2 Apr:
Up early to prepare for our trip to Culebra.
Adrian lays out a course that takes us around the east end of Vieques
and north to Culebra, with its guarding reefs, to an anchorage off
the town of Dewey.
After pre operations checks, we drop our mooring and make ready for sea.
The forecast again calls for light winds, but as we round Cayo Real
at the entrance to Esperanza we host sails in hopes that sailing
winds will develop during the morning.
We are able to sail / motor sail as we head east.
Once around the tip of Vieques, we bear off toward R2 at
the entrance to Culebra. Along the way we refine our coastal navigation
skills by taking several two bearing fixes and a running fix to confirm or
location and update arrival time.
The entrance into the channel leading to Dewey needs to be
done with an eye to changing water colors because of the numerous reefs, so we
keep a sharp eye out for reefs and entrance buoys.
By midafternoon we have the anchor down and boat secured.
Our first stop once ashore is the Dingy Dock where we find
some liquid refreshment and plan our strategy to explore the area.
We have some time before dinner so it’s off to explore this interesting
little town. We
decide on dinner at the El Eden Restaurant.
Although away from the water, they serve an excellent meal, providing a
perfect background to review the events of the last several days.
After a brief stop at a local market for some needed supplies, it’s
back to the boat and a quiet night at anchor in prep for our return to St
Thomas and the ASA 106 test.
7: Thurs, 3 April: After breakfast and
pre operations checks, we depart for our final night in Brewers Bay.
The forecast is for isolated showers and E winds 12-17 knots.
After yesterday, we look forward to the long beat to weather, so we
position ourselves to the north of the rhumb line by heading up the Canal
de Sur and around the north side of Culebrita. This gives us time
to see more of this interesting island and several anchorages that beckon to be
explored. Once clear of reefs and small islands, we have a welcomed sail east
toward St Thomas. Along the way we have the opportunity to see Sail
Rock from multiple perspectives. By early afternoon its time to work our
way into our anchorage at Brewers Bay.
Numerous rain showers give us an opportunity to wash a little of the salt
off the decks. Anchor
down and boat secure, its time for Adrian, Pred and Joe to take the ASA 106
test; all pass with flying colors.
Most then take a short swim and shower before we enjoy our last dinner on
there are numerous rain showers in the area, we have a nice sunset, a great way
to end our trip and perfect background to discuss lessons learned and make
future cruising plans.
8: Fri, 4 Apr: After a very quiet
night at anchor, we motor sail toward home. As we motor up the West George
Channel, we contact the marina on VHF Channel 11 for clearance to the
fuel dock. Joe brings us in to top off our fuel and Adrian puts us back into our
slip – each maneuver done with little fanfare, underscoring how effective we
have become as crew.
After securing and cleaning up the boat, we have a final review of the
cruise and exchange farewells. All agree this has been a great learning
experience, meeting all training objectives.
Adrian recruits several of the crew to help
him move his IP 42 down the east coast this summer in preparation for his own
offshore adventures. Congratulations to a great crew and a job well done. Fair
winds and great sailing to all!