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~ A Cut Above ~

Course Advanced Coastal Cruising; DELMARVA Circumnavigation
Date July 5-13, 2019
Students:  Michael Magee, Corey Provencher, Kazuya Tokunaga, Charles Zapf
Mate Tim Cook
Captain Tom Tursi

Day 1- Friday July 5, 2019
Captain Tom Tursi and First Mate Captain Tim Cook convened aboard S/V NAVIGATOR, IP40 this morning to finalize plans for this DMVA Circumnavigation cruise along with four student crew members. We will conduct one day of in port pre-departure training with our student crew on Saturday, July 6th then depart on Sunday for underway training ending the day at anchor in Swan Creek. Monday we will transit north up Chesapeake Bay to Summit North Marina on the C&D Canal. Tuesday morning we'll get underway for the non-stop route to Cape Charles, VA via the C&D Canal, Delaware Bay and the coastal Atlantic expecting to arrive at Cape Charles late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon we will again be underway for an overnight north up Chesapeake Bay bound for Annapolis, MD by Friday morning where we will overnight at dock. Saturday will be the final cruise leg returning to our home port at Lankford Bay Marina in Rock Hall, MD. This cruise will cover about 450 nautical miles.

Having completed our overall cruise plan by noon on Friday, we were ready to receive our student crewmembers onboard as they arrived at various times during the afternoon, stowed their gear, and started general familiarization with each other and with S/V NAVIGATOR. Michael Magee and Charles Zapf are MDSchool graduates with ASA Certifications up through the ASA104. Corey Provencher and Kazuya Tokunaga have ASA certifications up through ASA104 from a sailing school in California. All want to earn the ASA106 certification resulting from this DMVA cruise, however some first need to complete the prerequisite ASA105 Coastal Navigation  certification. Food provisioning for the cruise was completed prior to the crewmembers arrival. 

This afternoon, after student crew arrival, we inspected NAVIGATOR below deck from bow to stern including all locker contents, electronics including chart plotter, radar, AIS and radios, engine, heads, batteries and selector panel and procedures, electrical breaker panels, sea cocks, bilges and bilge inspection procedures, safety equipment, fire extinguishers, USCG required equipment, charts, and reference publications following the guidance of the MDSchool's DMVA Advanced Coastal Training Plan, a 150 page publication that we will use for guidance throughout this entire cruise.  

In the evening, we went to dinner ashore to continue our familiarization with each others' backgrounds, sailing experience, professions, families and sea stories. Then we turned in early as tomorrow will be a very busy day of pre-departure training. 

Day 2- Saturday
This morning we started training with an ondeck inspection from bow to stern including anchors, windlass, mast, boom, standing and running rigging, winches, electronics, lockers, PFDs and other safety equipment. This was followed by deployment of all sails (one at a time) at dock, reefing, rigging preventer, gybe procedures, winch handling procedures, line flaking and coiling, line heaving, engine operating procedures, MOB equipment, and harness and tether use with the safety jacklines in cockpit and side decks.

In the afternoon we prepared our navigation plan for tomorrow's cruise to Swan Creek first by planning our route, courses and waypoints using the NOAA paper charts, USCG Light List, NOAA Coast Pilot, USCG Notices to Mariners, and Chesapeake Bay Cruising Guide. This paper-based preparation provided our education of the route to be sailed including a large-scale view of the overall route, risks, hazards and opportunities, plus a close-in view of the details. The four-person student crew worked on this as a collaborative team effort with each member handling a different aspect such as plotting routes and waypoints, looking up NavAids in the Light List, checking the Notices to Mariners for latest updates, researching related guidance in the Coat Pilot and Cruising Guide, and writing key route information in the Deck Logbook for later reference during the cruise. There was a great deal of discussion and collaboration between crewmembers during this process leading all to a better understanding of the route to be sailed and building of a smoothly functioning team, which is an essential component of this advanced coastal cruise training. 

After this paper-based navigation plan was completed, the crew then entered waypoints into the electronic Chart Plotter based on the decisions made during the paper-based preparations. During the cruise, we will use both the paper charts and reference pubs as well as the electronic chart plotter for route and navigation monitoring to maintain an overall big-picture of our route and a close-in detailed view. This is to avoid the problems so often encountered by sailors who rely solely on the electronics and loose the overall perspective. What the USCG calls EACs... Electronically Aided Collisions. 

Again... Dinner ashore and early to bed in preparation for the start of our cruise tomorrow morning. 

Day 3- Sunday
Completed the day-of-departure preparations and checkoffs (these are different than pre-departure preparations which are conducted once per cruise) and were underway at 0900 for start of the cruise. We motored out of slip and turned toward Cacaway Island for calibration of the boat's speed and distance log instrument. For this we set up two GPS waypoints 0.6 NM apart on a bearing of 182M. We motored from waypoint #1 toward waypoint #2 at a constant engine speed of 2000 rpm while maintaining minimum cross-track error. The boat's Log Speed instrument,  LSO read 6.2 knots, and the elapsed time to complete this run was 7 minutes and 17.61 seconds, which equates to 0.12155 hours. We then turned around and motored in the opposite direction from waypoint #2 back toward waypoint #1 at the same engine speed and minimum cross-track error; the boat's Log Speed, LSR was 6.0 knots for this leg due to the opposing wind, and elapsed time was 7 minutes and 54.95 seconds, which equates to 0.13193 hours. With this data, we calculated the Speed and Distance Log calibration as follows: 

Speed Over Ground Outbound, SOGO
= Distance Over Ground Time Outbound
    = 0.6 NM 0.12155 hours
    = 4.94 knots over ground

Speed Over Ground Return, SOGR                         
= Distance Over Ground Time Return
= 0.6 NM 0.13193 hours
= 4.55 knots over ground

Speed Correction Factor, SF                         
= (SOGO + SOGR) (LSO + LSR)                        
= (4.94 + 4.55) (6.2 + 6.0)                        
    = 0.778

During later operations, a Log Speed reading can be corrected for this instrument error as follows: 

Corrected Speed Through Water, SC = SF x LS

For example, if the Log Speed instrument read 7.0 knots through the water. then the corrected speed through the water would be 

SC = 0.778 x 7.0 = 5.45 knots. 

After completing this instrument calibration, we continued down Langford Creek to the Chester River where we conducted underway sail training using the DMVA Training Plan for guidance to ensure that all crewmembers were synchronized with the details and with each other in these important procedures. For this, students were assigned to different parts of each procedure with one student in charge of directing the other crewmembers to ensure proper sequencing of the steps as outlined in the DMVA Training Plan, and with the Captain and Mate monitoring details. 

Upon completing sail training exercises, we continued on down the Chester River following our navigation plan, round the horseshoe bend at the Wildlife Refuge, and north toward Love Point at the northern tip of Kent Island. To this point, we were outbound on Chester River so that the green NavAids (buoys) were to our starboard side (green right going out.) But on passing Love Point we entered Swan Creek and thus the NavAids shifted to red to our starboard side as we were now entering an estuary (red right returning.) From here we motored past Rock Hall Harbor and entered Swan Creek tot the mooring buoys of Swan Creek Marina, but before anchoring, we motored some circles to calibrate the ship's compass using the Sun as a directional reference. Following this, we anchored in six feet of water (N3908.99/W07615.21) about a half mile north of Haven Harbour Marina where we spent a pleasant evening of dinner onboard and navigation preparations for tomorrow's route up Chesapeake Bay. 

Day 4- Monday
Underway at 0700; slight rain; winds NE 10-15 knots. Headed out of Swan Creek under motor and turned southwest to cross the Swan Creek Bar just south of the Swan Point Channel North Rear Range Light (LL# 8330.) After crossing the bar, we headed NW toward lighted buoy R12  in the Tolchester Range of the Chesapeake Main Channel and headed north staying on the east side of the channel. As we headed north, the winds built to NNE at 20 to 25 knots with driving rain making for a wet and bumpy ride with very slow progress over ground. We hove closer to the shoreline on starboard side to gain some protection from the wind and waves and to allow better speed progress.  

In spite of the uncomfortable conditions, our crew undertook their necessary operational duties and navigation tasks including one and two-bearing fixes and comparison with the paper charts and chart plotter, as well as interpretation of what we see visually in comparison with the charts. By 1400 the winds dropped below 10 knots NNE, rain stopped and our progress improved.  

At 1500 we entered the C&D Canal, and at 1700 we entered the Summit North Marina where we topped up fuel, pumped out the holding tank, and took a T-head slip port side to on Dock H. Dinner ashore at the Grain Restaurant, which was a disappointment. Then back to the boat for the extensive navigation preparations needed to get us from here to Cape Charles via the C&D Canal, Delaware Bay, Coastal Atlantic, and the Chesapeake Bay entrance, a trip of over 200 miles... So, the navigation preps that we completed the previous two nights were a necessary training exercise for this major navigation prep task that we undertook tonight and completed by midnight. 

Day 5- Tuesday
Up early and completed the day-of-departure check list; departed Summit North Marina at 0800; breakfast underway. Seas flat in canal; wind calm; skies clear; Temperature 71F; Barometer 1015 MB. Underway watch schedule set as follows: 




Mate Tim




Captain Tom




Captain Tom




Mate Tim




Mate Tim




Captain Tom




Captain Tom




Mate Tim

Exited the C&D Canal into the Delaware River southbound at 0930. The challenges of transiting the Delaware River and Bay include the strong currents, extensive shoaling on either side of the main ship channel necessitating staying close to but outside of the channel; steep waves when wind is against the current; heavy commercial ship traffic moving fast; limited visibility in foul weather or nighttime. These factors made careful and continuous navigation monitoring with eyes as well as paper charts, electronic chart plotter, AIS and radar essential to safe passage. It also required that we continuously scan the scene with binoculars and compare observations with the charts and compass bearings. Also, it is not always apparent if a beacon or lighthouse adjacent to the channel is actually on your side or the opposite side of the channel, so careful examination of charts is essential especially if a ship is bearing down in the channel as you do not want to be inadvertently crossing at close range. 

1200... Winds WNW at 5 knots; skies clear; motoring 

Our watches are setup so that one student crewmember is on the helm manually steering and keeping a careful lookout while the other student crew is the on-watch Navigator and Rover constantly on the move and checking out boat systems and equipment both above and below deck as well as monitoring the navigation status. After each hour, these two crewmembers switch positions for a relief and so that both are familiar and adept at both roles and the duties of each. This will become very important as we enter our coastal Atlantic route at nighttime. Captain Tom or Mate Tim continuously monitor this process to keep it safe and honest. 

1600... Winds backing to south at 10 to 12 knots; on the nose now; skies clear. 

1700... Passed Brandywine Shoal Light, and here began keeping a DR plot on a DMA 926 ocean plotting chart for practice and as an introduction to this method of offshore navigational plotting; distance log at start of DR plot = 9489 NM 

1730... Dinner served; wind veering to SW at 10 to 12 knots. 

1900... Rounded Cape Henlopen and headed SSE between Traffic Separation Lanes and coastline. 

2030... Sails up; 1st reef in mainsail; full genoa and staysail. However, there were several commercial ships anchored shoreward on the Traffic Lanes which was a little disconcerting when viewed from a distance at night, but the situation resolved itself as we drew nearer and we passed between the anchored ships and the Traffic Lanes. Crossed Traffic Separation Lanes under sail at a safe angle with no ship traffic threatening. 

Day 6- Wednesday 

0200... Motor sailing; some traffic; lots of stars. 

0330... Motor sailing; winds less than 5 knots SW; struck Genoa and Staysail; returned to waypoint track. 

0600... Sunrise; motor sailing; dropped mainsail 

This was an easy, peaceful day at sea with little wind as we motor sailed to our destination at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. At 2000 we approached our entrance waypoint at the Red "2N" Flashing Red buoy south of Nautilus Shoal. From there we turned north toward Fishermans Island just south of Cape Charles and the parallel pair of bridges crossing the Chesapeake North Channel on the north end of the dual Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel complex. By now it was full dark, but clear with good visibility.  

We could see the green lights marking the 75-foot high center span of these bridges, which lights need to be lined up for safe passage under both bridges that are separated by about 100 feet. Also visible were the red warning lights marking the bridge abutments on either side of the channel span. The view from red "2N" buoy showed the green lights considerably misaligned, but as we proceeded up the Chesapeake North Channel toward the first bridge span, the green lights began drawing gradually closer. On reaching the last pair of buoys, about one mile before the first bridge, the green lights were still considerably separated, and we needed to aim our course at a location to the right of the first bridge so that the green lights would align before we reached it.  

We verified by radar, AIS and visually that there were no other vessels approaching the bridge southbound from the north, and we sent out a Securite call over VHF 16 that we would be passing under the bridge. No other vessels were noted and we proceeded, without incident, under the two bridges.  

On the north side of the bridge is a red over green channel junction buoy, RG N "LS" that we left to our starboard side as we wanted to follow the preferred channel north to Cape Charles town. Just after that is a green can buoy, G N "13" that we left to portside; from here its a straight shot to Old Plantation Flats white light, and just beyond that is the green lighted buoy, G "1CC" Fl G 2.5 sec marking the entrance to the Cherrystone  Channel to Cape Charles town.  

Cherrystone Channel is marked by two sets of range markers and half dozen other NavAids including two unlighted buoys which we will need to identify during our port entry in the dark of night. To make this entry safely and efficiently, our student crew was assigned as follows: Mike to the helm for steering and lookout, Charles to the Nav Station, radar and chart plotter, Corey as deckhand and forward lookout and Kazi with an electric spot light as forward lookout and buoy spotter. Mate Tim was in the cockpit to monitor events there. Captain Tom was in the companionway as relay between cockpit and nav station to ensure that communications were clear and that the process was moving along smoothly and safely. Charles, as navigator provided course directions and distances to the next waypoint or NavAid, and Mike, as helmsman followed the navigator's steering directions. The lookouts reported citing and identifying each NavAid. In this way we groped our way into Cape Charles in the dark of night and found the marina and secured to a T-head floating dock for the night. 

Day 7- Thursday
This morning we were up late and showered, breakfasted, prepared navigation for the overnight run up Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, fueled up, pumped out, settled with the marina and departed about 1300 for the trip north.

The day was clear and summery warm with a moderate breeze from the southwest as we proceeded north and conducted MOB drills. Weather forecast predicted lightning squalls in the late afternoon as part of a squall line extending from Florida to New England, so we are not likely to avoid it. Sure enough, about 1900, the building clouds to our west began to take on a black and very ominous appearance as they seemed to be advancing toward us and over the bay.  

We prepared the boat and crew for the expected foul weather: Turned on navigation lights, closed all hatches, double reefed the mainsail, furled in both head sails, donned foulies, headed boat closer to the middle of the bay to gain sea room on both sides, checked location speed and course of all nearby traffic, and instructed the helmsman how to handle the helm during the squall: We will ride the squall with just the double reefed mainsail and no engine unless it is needed. Expect the wind direction to rotate counterclockwise as the squall passes, and the helmsman, Charles, was instructed to steer the boat to keep the wind at 50 degrees apparent (to port in this case) and to not let the wind get in back of us.  

The squall hit with a vengeance with wind going from less than 10 knots to 45 knots in a few minutes when the cold blast hit followed by driving rain, lightening and thunder. The crew was hunkered down in the cockpit glad for their foulies and protection from the dodger canvas. Charles manned the helm like an expert and kept the boat correctly headed while being drenched by driving rain. Actually, he was grinning from ear to ear and enjoying himself to the challenge. Other crewmembers kept a lookout as far as visibility allowed, and I went below to monitor the radar, AIS and chart plotter during the squall, which lasted about 30 minutes. The storm blew through, winds calmed, skies cleared and by midnight we had starlight for a pleasant sail up the bay to Annapolis with winds of about 10 to 12 from SW to West. 

Day 8- Friday
Beautiful morning for a sail in bright sunshine and 10 to 12 knot breeze, which carried us all the way past Tolly Point and to the approaches to Annapolis Harbor. Called the Harbor Master and arranged a slip in Ego Alley where we berthed at 1330. After straightening up the boat and taking showers, the student crew took their written ASA106 exams, and we went out on the town for dinner followed by a visit to the ice cream factory. Then a good night's sleep for all.

Day 9- Saturday
This morning, we had a simple breakfast onboard and prepared the navigation plan for the return trip to Lankford Bay Marina. Bright, sunny day; light winds. Proceeded to the Gulf fuel dock and topped up diesel. Departed Annapolis at 0900. Winds filled in and we sailed and motor-sailed back to home port where we pumped out, flushed the holding tank, and returned to our home slip. After presenting diplomas for completion of this cruise and a round of photos and hugs, this crew of seasoned sailors pointed toward their respective home and returned to shore life after completing this 400 mile cruise around the DMVA peninsula
... Well done Sailors!

Thanks and fair winds to all...

Captain Tom Tursi
July 13, 2019
Rock Hall, Maryland


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