2022 Bermuda Reports

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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Norfolk to Bermuda
Date May 26 to June 2, 2023
Students: Steve Kachmar, Steve Sideris, Ryan McKenzie, Rob Wells
First Mate: Captain Tim Cook
Captain Captain Tom Tursi

May 24, 2023: I am currently onboard NAVIGATOR, our Island Packet 40 foot ocean sailing yacht, at Cobb’s Marina in Little Creek, Norfolk, VA preparing for our upcoming round trip cruise to Bermuda and return. First Mate Captain Tim Cook arrived today and we inspected the boat together and discussed upcoming cruise plans in advance of our outbound crew arrival tomorrow afternoon. We settled on some details related to navigation, watchkeeping, gear stowage and provisioning for the cruise, and completed some minor maintenance issues.

Next day, Thursday May 25 our student crew arrived in the afternoon: Steve Kachmar, Steve Sideris, Ryan McKenzie and Rob Wells. We had a bit of a chat getting to know each other, then did a stem to stern inspection of the boat below deck including all lockers, tools, spares, charts, reference books and electronics. After that we went to Captain Groovey’s for dinner and had a fine time chatting about backgrounds, families, professions and, of course, aspirations for our upcoming ocean cruise. Afterward, student crew went to their hotels for the night, which is the normal practice during the prep phase, and Tim and I returned to the boat.

Next two days were spent on pre-departure preps for the cruise including deploying all sails one at a time at dock, adjusting mainsail reefing lines, practice with the genoa whisker pole, deploying storm trysail, boom crutch and sea anchor, practicing controlled gybes and mainsail preventer setup and adjustment.

Weather during these two days was not inviting for an ocean cruise departure with sustained 25-30 knot NE winds in Norfolk, and the next day did not look good for departure either as offshore the winds were even higher. So we waited another day and departed on Monday, May 29 stopping first at the fuel dock for diesel and waste pump out. Winds now were light with partly cloudy skies and high humidity.

We departed the marina at 1230 and watches were set as follows:

12 to 4: Steve Sideris and Ryan McKenzie

4 to 8: Tim Cook and Steve Kachmar

8 to 12: Tom Tursi and Rob Wells

As we departed through the Little Creek breakwater, fog closed in and we redoubled our monitoring of the radar and AIS and sounded the fog horn at regular intervals to alert other vessels of our presence. Fog came and went and returned periodically as we proceeded down the auxiliary outbound lane of Thimble Shoal channel leaving red buoys to our portside and at 1430 passed through and over the western tunnel of the Chesapeake Bay bridge carrying Route 50 motor traffic. At 1540 we exited the Thimble Shoal auxiliary channel at green lighted buoy “1TS” and changed course toward green can buoy “1” just past Cape Henry light and near the beginning of the ship inbound/outbound traffic lanes. Winds remained light and fog continued to come and go as we continued down the coast on the western side of the ship lanes gradually losing sight of land as dusk fell, and we continued to motor on a southeasterly course.

Overnight into Tuesday fog cleared and winds piped up to 15 knots East at around 0300 and remained so for a few hours allowing us to sail with single reefed mainsail and full genoa until 0600 as the winds again lightened with the dawn. So we returned to motoring until 1500 when winds again increased to 15 to 20 knots East and we sailed with double reefed mainsail and reefed genoa and entered the Gulf Stream by 1800. A few hours later winds further increased to 25 knots NE and we struck the genoa and deployed the staysail to accompany the double reefed mainsail. 

By 0200 on Wednesday we had gale force winds of 35 to 45 knots NE blowing directly opposed to the Gulf Stream’s northeasterly current flow of two and a half knots and creating 15 foot waves that beat us up pretty thoroughly, so we hove to on double reefed mainsail until the wind blew through by 1000 hours. This NE gale was caused by a Low pressure system moving north across our path. That was not bad enough, but two more Lows were forecast to cross our path over the next two days and we will be fighting NE 30 knot winds or greater all the way to Bermuda. 

So, swallowing pride and the fact that we never in 30 years aborted a Bermuda cruise, I surveyed the crew for their thoughts on turning back in view of the forecast gales for the next three days and received unanimous agreement for turning heel and returning to Norfolk. So, at 1000 hours on Wednesday, May 31, we turned around and headed back to Norfolk which gave us another Gulf stream crossing to enjoy. We left the Lows and expected gales to the east toward Bermuda and enjoyed good sailing weather giving the crew another opportunity to practice celestial shots and plot a running fix on the ship's DR plot.

On Thursday June 1 we had heavy fog on and off until we reached Norfolk after dark entering Little Creek and docking at Morning Star Marina.

The following SPOT track shows our course for the entire cruise. Note the hump in the outbound track resulting from the Gulf Stream push to the northeast.

Captain Tom Tursi
Little Creek, VA

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