Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Each cruise begins with a two day preparatory seminar on board the yachts where crewmembers are given an assignment as either Navigator, Boatswain, Engineer or Emergency Coordinator. We provide detailed checklists and guide them through an extensive inspection of the yacht and its equipment and procedures. This is an effective learning process and a necessary verification step to ensure the readiness of the yacht and its crew for the ocean passage. It also enables crewmembers to get to know each other prior to putting out to sea. During this period, we also track the weather to determine departure conditions and the ideal departure time.
During the cruise, we’ll have three watch sections with two crewmembers each who will stand watch for four hours and be off for eight hours twice per day. Meal preparation and cleanup will rotate among the crew with everyone having a turn at these duties. Navigation will be primarily by Celestial methods augmented by modern electronics (GPS) for landfall and port entry. On board routine will variously include watchkeeping, sail trim, navigation, training sessions, fishing, sun bathing, reading, sea stories and more.
The Rhumbline course between Norfolk and Bermuda is 115° True and 650 nautical miles. We’ll aim for a point about 15 miles northeast of Bermuda in order to clear the outlying reefs on the north side of the island, round the east end and enter Saint Georges Harbour through Town Cut Channel. Bermuda Harbor Radio has a powerful VHF transmitter which can be heard 100 miles out to sea; we’ll contact them from 25 miles out and they’ll track us on radar and give port entry directions.
The return Rhumbline course back to Norfolk is 295° True and 650 miles. We’ll generally sail south of the rhumbline to allow for the northward set of the Gulf Stream unless the weather forecast suggests a different strategy. Chesapeake Light, several miles out to sea, is always a welcome sight when returning home. Entrance into Chesapeake Bay is usually straight forward due to the wide opening and the excellent navigational aids in place for ships which come here from all parts of the world.
Dream Catcher, an Island Packet 40 sailing yacht, will make two round trips between Norfolk and Bermuda; this will make up four training cruise legs which we designate as BDA1, BDA2, BDA3 and BDA4.
It’s About Time, an Island Packet 38 sailing yacht, will make one round
trip between Norfolk and Bermuda; this will make up two training cruise
legs which we designate as BDA5 and BDA6.
Crewmembers for these cruise legs
Bermuda is a great destination. To get there by sailboat, you need to be thoroughly prepared and carryout your passage in an expeditious and seamanlike manner. Sailing conditions can vary from mill-pond calms to roaring storms and there is something new to learn from every cruise.
An ocean passage is significantly different, in many ways, than coastal
or bay cruising. A lot of the time you’re tired, itchy, smelly, hot, cold,
apprehensive, anxious, queasy or just plain tired of your shipmates. You
wonder whatever possessed you to go on a
It is uncomfortable a lot of the time, but what a fantastic experience;
what challenges; what memories! Sailing day and night, day after day, an
entire week! Porpoise, whales, flying fish, Portuguese men of war, tuna,
shark, Bermuda longtails... Beautiful sunsets,
BDA1 Norfolk to BermudaAllen Page, Dan Wurster, and Bob Fredrickson joined me aboard Dream Catcher, an Island Packet 40, in Rock Hall on May 24th to assist with departure preparations and the 130 mile Chesapeake Bay trip to Norfolk. We left Rock Hall the next morning and arrived in Norfolk two days later after an overnight stop at Solomons Island on the Patuxent River. The remainder of our crew, Mark Schnabl and Captain David Isbell, arrived on the 28th.
Crew training and pre-departure preparations were conducted on May 28th and 29th, and we departed for sea at 5 PM on May 30th setting a course of 115 True for Bermuda, 625 nautical miles away. We sailed in 10 to 15 knot southwesterlies with overcast skies. Mark and Al prepared a delicious dinner of pan fried steak with mashed potatoes and salad.
The next few days the winds were SW 10-20, and we sailed on a beam reach with good boat speed making over 130 miles per day. We entered the gulf stream after 24 hours out of Norfolk. This was confirmed when the sea temperature jumped from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 83 degrees Fahrenheit within a distance of five miles. The sea became a cobalt blue and typically cumulus clouds formed overhead.
For the next few days skies remained cloudy with southwest winds of 10 - 15 knots. However the sun did burn through now and then to permit good sun shots for use with our dead reckoning plots. On one occasion we got a simultaneous sun, moon, celestial fix.
Weather forecasts reported severe weather to the east along the line of our tracks, but we did not encounter any of this.
At 4 am on June 4th, we arrived north of Bermuda and “hoved to” to await daylight before entering port. We completed this passage in 4 1/2 days, averaging 140 miles per day.
We were all glad to step ashore to a very pleasant welcome by the always
friendly Bermudians. Some of our crew were joined by their spouses
to spend several days on
Tom Tursi aboard Dream Catcher
BDA2 Bermuda to NorfolkCrewmembers Bill Clarke, Bill Novak, Fred Cosandey and Richard Davis boarded Dream Catcher in St. Georges Harbor, Bermuda on June 6, 1998. After two days of intensive training and preparations, we cleared port at 1700 hours on June 8th, sailed through Town Cut Channel, rounded the reefs lying NE of Bermuda and set a course of 296 degrees True for Norfolk, 625 nautical miles away.
For the next two days we battled head winds of 15-25 knots blowing out of the NW. We sailed 100 miles to the north on port tack, then came about to the SW. After a day and a half, we had made only 120 miles along our rhumb line. Slow progress!
On June 10th winds went to the SW, and we were off and running toward Norfolk. On June 11th winds went E at 10 knots then slowly clocked around to SW at 15-20 knots, all of which was favorable to our progress.
During all this time, atmospheric conditions were very unstable with a persistent trough to our north and several low pressure systems, some with gale force winds. Also, we had cold fronts pushing lightning squalls ahead and warm fronts bringing warm, moist southerly air. On the night of June 13th, we were hit by a fast moving lightening squall packing winds of 45 knots and torrential rains. We hove to under double reefed mainsail while this storm played out. This was followed by fresh, cold NW winds which later backed to SW giving us a refreshing sail toward home on our last day.
We motored the last few hours and docked in Little Creek, Norfolk at 1700 hours on June 14th. We had sailed 790 nautical miles in six days, for an average of 132 nautical miles per day. All crewmembers performed well during the cruise and learned a great deal about the practical aspects of seamanship in a small boat at sea.
Tom Tursi aboard Dream Catcher
BDA3- Norfolk to BermudaOn 17 June 1998 Dream Catcher, an Island Packet 40 and It’s About Time, an Island Packet 38 met at Taylor’s Landing Marina in Little Creek Harbor, Norfolk, VA and received new crewmembers for the next outbound cruise to Bermuda. I was joined aboard Dream Catcher by Captain Jack Morton and crewmembers Tom Caulkins, Rich DeRoy, Matt Miller and Bob Drake.
Captain David Appleton had sailed It’s About Time from Rock Hall, MD to Norfolk in preparation for this cruise with assistance from Tom & Cheri Jetmore, Bob Morganthaler and Ray Bartholow. They were joined in Norfolk by First Mate Bob Renneisen, a graduate of two of our earlier ocean training cruises.
Over the next two days, both crews participated in intensive cruise preparations and training drills and both yachts departed Norfolk on 19 June and set course for Bermuda.
We on Dream Catcher had light SW winds on our first night out which provided pleasant sailing and ideal conditions for our first dinner offshore. We entered the Gulf Stream about 100 miles from Norfolk at 8 am on 20 June when the sea water temperature jumped from 73°F to 84°F in the span of 15 minutes. We also noticed the deep cobalt blue water color typical of the Gulf Stream, increased air temperature and humidity and clumps of Sargasso weed which sometimes fouled the taffrail log.
Winds remained light for the next two days requiring that we motor-sail in order to maintain reasonable progress towards our destination. However, these conditions were ideal for practicing Celestial Navigation and everyone made great progress in learning the fundamentals of this very old method of navigation at sea. We had many opportunities for good shots of the Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars. Planets are my favorites as they are very bright and remain visible long after the Sun has washed out all of the stars. The early morning positions of the planets Venus and Jupiter were perfectly aligned to give us a good navigational fix on three consecutive mornings.
At sunset on 21 June with over 300 miles to go to Bermuda, It’s About Time reported by radio that she had experienced a serious overheating and smoking problem with her batteries. Thereafter, she could not maintain proper charging voltages and one of her two battery banks seemed to be dead. Captain David Appleton and his crew conducted troubleshooting and, along with advice from the peanut gallery on Dream Catcher, were able to coax their electrical system into operating adequately for the rest of the trip. In Bermuda, we traced the problem to the voltage regulator system and repaired it along with replacing the two damaged batteries.
On the early morning of 24 June, after five days at sea, we heard “Land Ho” ring out from the deck watch. There was Bermuda and a few hours later we passed through Saint David’s Cut into Saint Georges Harbour. We were met at the dock by the always courteous and very efficient Customs Officer who quickly cleared us in but not before impounding our flare gun for safe keeping until we departed. An hour later It’s About Time hove into view and joined us at the dock. Everyone was glad to set foot ashore again and we celebrated our safe passage with a jolly dinner at the Carriage House Restaurant.
Mr. Brian Adderly, the Saint Georges Dockmaster, placed us side by side in very choice berths right at the center of town where we could chat with passers by about the challenges of blue water sailing. This location was also ideal for watching from our cockpit the Ducking Stool punishment of “criminals” by the Olde Towne crier. We remained there for the next five days while we relaxed and prepared for our return cruise to the US.
BDA4 Bermuda to Norfolk, VAOn 26 June 1998 our new crewmembers Paul Jones and his daughter Jennifer Jones, Mike Richings and Hector Miranda boarded Dream Catcher, our Island Packet 40, in Saint Georges Harbour, Bermuda. We spent the rest of the day with a general orientation , stowing their gear, and a bit of relaxation before getting to work. We made the following duty assignments for this cruise based on the previous sailing experience and the interests of each crewmember:
Inspection and Preparation Duties:
Abandon Ship Duties:
The next day we began on board crew training which included:
We were equipped to receive weather reports both by voice over SSB and by printed text over NAVTEX. The SSB voice reports come from station NMN, the US Coast Guard’s SSB station at Portsmouth, VA and are updated six times per day on a predetermined schedule. NAVTEX carries the same reports and the receiver is constantly in operation and stores all it receives whenever transmitted in digitized form ready for review at anytime. I like this system because of the redundancy it provides and because I do not need to be on the radio exactly when forecasts are being transmitted as is the case with SSB. Also, previous forecasts remain in storage for a couple of days and can be reviewed by any crewmember at any time.
The forecasts predicted gales to our north and winds in our area of SE15-20 tonight increasing to SW35 by tomorrow. I’ve generally found these forecasts to be accurate, and they were this time, and the next two days gave us wind in the 30 knot range between S and W. It did not blow steadily at this speed but ranged up and down at various times. Waves never exceeded 10 feet and overall our motion was comfortable. Lightening squalls accompanied us much of this time and, on two occasions, we were directly hit by strong squalls with torrential rains, lightening and winds to 50 knots. We simply rode these out with double reefed main and kept the apparent wind ahead of our beam noting that the wind backed by 100 degrees during these squalls and later resumed it’s original direction. Conditions for the remainder of the passage to Norfolk were moderate and with favorable wind direction which sometimes were light enough to require motorsailing.
With a couple of days of heavy sailing like this, conditions belowdecks become hot, smelly, soggy and messy due largely to the lack of ventilation with closed hatches. But, by 2 July the weather cooled off and settled down enough to allow some ventilation and a general cleaning below. Wet clothes were hung out, belowdecks were swept and scrubbed, things were put away, and crewmembers showered with freshwater which we had been conserving since leaving Bermuda. Everyone felt better and more comfortable, seasickness had passed away as it usually does after a couple of days, and we started to look with anticipation to our landfall in the new world. Well, we did not exactly experience the conditions that Columbus faced, but we could imagine a little more clearly what his crews might have encountered.
At 0800 on July 4th we cited land to our port side, just about where it was supposed to be. Two hours later we rounded Cape Henry Light and entered the Chesapeake Bay. I called the US Customs Service from my cell phone and obtained clearance. We were back in the US and by noon time we were berthed in Little Creek Harbor, Norfolk. We were tired but happy that this sailing adventure had come to a safe a happy ending. Three of our crewmembers left that afternoon for their flights home and a resumption of hectic life ashore. Mike and Hector accompanied me for the transit up Chesapeake Bay to our home port where we arrived on 6 July. Home again after a six week tour!
BDA 5 Norlolk, VA to BermudaIt's About Time, our Island Packet 38, began its trip in Rock Hall, Maryland on June 13 when Captain David Appleton was joined by Ray Bartholow of Jefferson, MD, and Cheri and David Jetmore of Richmond, IN. The foursome loaded aboard provisions and special off-shore gear and made ready to sail for Norfolk just before the Rock Hall area was hit by a cracker of a frontal system driven squall line. After the storm, we were joined by Bob Morganthaler who now holds the undisputed Distance Record, having traveled half way around the world to Rock Hall from Bhutan in the Himalayas at longitude 90° East. With five members the crew was now nearly complete, and on Sunday we set sail for Little Creek, VA and Taylor’s Landing Marina. There, we planned to complete voyage preparations and conduct final preparations, crew training and our offshore sailing seminar.
Upon arrival in Norfolk on Monday night, we were met at the dock by Tom Tursi who had just arrived from Bermuda aboard Dream Catcher a few hours earlier. On Tuesday, First Mate Bob Renneisen of Absecon, NJ joined our crew and immediately pitched in with vessel inspections and preparations. Thorough inspection of It's About Time revealed a couple of minor flaws that could cause real problems at sea. The automatic bilge pump switch was malfunctioning and the manual hand pump in the cockpit had a small crack in the handle housing that could fail in use. We replaced the switch and the manual pump and continued inspections, preparations and drills, including, rigging the storm trisail and sea anchor. After work, crews from both It's About Time and Dream Catcher socialized over dinner and libations exchanging sea stories as we did so.
On Friday, June 19th, crews of both vessels made final preparations for sea. It's About Time left the dock at 0930 with Dream Catcher following about an hour later. Light southerly winds of 10 to 15 knots provided for a nice reach on a course of 135°M, enabling the crew to get a feel for the performance of the vessel on the ocean. Unfortunately the high pressure system dominating the weather for most of the voyage generated only light winds and we were forced to motor far more than we would have liked. Such is life in the Horse Latitudes!
However, these conditions provided minimum seas and a sharp horizon so that we had a stable platform for sextant work and celestial observations. And moderate breezes on the starboard beam to quarter offered perfect conditions for flying the ship's gennaker, giving the crew a bonus experience in handling this performance sail. The celestial view at sea is always breathtaking. Without atmospheric and light pollution to clutter the view, the Milky Way can be seen in all its stellar glory, particularly on moonless nights. And the shooting stars provide an almost constant show for the patient observer. But on the night of June 22nd, our evening watch (2000 to 2400) was treated to an astonishing display as a meteorite hit the Earth's atmosphere and hung for a couple of seconds in a spectacular explosion, illuminating the entire sky with an eerie green flash. Wow! What a show! We later shared the experience with the Dream Catcher’s evening watch who had also witnessed this spectacle.
During the passage, we maintained VHF radio contact with Dream
Catcher most of the time since they were rarely more than 20 miles
away. We exchanged position notes and weather observations about once a
day. This became important when It's About Time’s fuel level
dropped to one-quarter tank after four days of motoring. Contingency plans
were made for a rendezvous with Dream Catcher so that she
could lend assistance if needed. But, when we sounded the fuel tank with
a dipstick improvised from a coat hanger, we happily found that we had
adequate fuel to reach Bermuda. After another brief six and a half hour
reach on the gennaker, the calm returned and we had to resort to
On approaching Bermuda on Wednesday morning, June 24th, our intrepid crew felt only mild twinges of guilt for their shameless use of the Iron Genny as we wove our way through a fleet of beautifully sleek racing yachts engaged in the famous Newport to Bermuda Race. Each had tons of sweaty rail meat deployed to leeward, stacked there in vain efforts to fill their limp spinnakers with the negligible wind on these frustratingly glassy seas. Ah, the sporting life!! “Better they than us” we sighed as we plotted our course to Spit Buoy and Town Cut Channel into St. Georges Harbor.
We entered the cut about three hours after Dream Catcher, and cleared Customs on Ordinance Island by 1400. From there we motored to Dowling’s Fuel Dock where we took on fuel and water and then made our way to Market Wharf in downtown St. Georges where we tied up, breasted out next to our companion vessel, Dream Catcher. After a quick but thorough cleanup of boat and crew we made our way across Kings Square to the White Horse Tavern where we enjoyed a sip or two of the local ale which proved quite tasty after a thirsty crossing.
BDA6 Bermuda to Norfolk, VAOur Bermuda to Norfolk crew began reporting aboard It's About Time on Friday, June 26th when Captain David Appleton greeted Tom Unruh and Jill White of Washington, DC who arrived early in the morning. A little later, Bill Dunbar arrived after a long journey from Zambia, Africa where he lives and works; he became second place winner of the Distance Traveled Record; see Bermuda 6 report. Then our new First Mate, Dr. Lee Tucker of Wirtz, VA, joined the group; I enjoyed seeing Lee again as we had sailed together last November on the Maryland School’s Off shore Training Cruise from Norfolk to the Bahamas and Jacksonville. Finally, late that afternoon, Jim Bortnem of Hawley, MN arrived to complete our crew of six..
After enjoying a tour of Bermuda on Friday, we got to work early Saturday preparing the boat and ourselves for sea. As Captain, I assigned duties to each to each crewmember. Lee as First Mate was in charge of safety equipment and crew emergency assignments; Jim and Tom as Bosons were responsible for the deck gear, rigging, sails and sea anchor; Bill as Navigator was charged with route navigation and getting us to our destination, buoy “CBJ” at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, and maintaining charts and navigation and communication equipment; and Jill as Engineer became the ship’s expert on machinery including the engine, electrical and plumbing systems. They spent the day familiarizing themselves with the boat and their roles as members of the crew.
That evening David and Lee were treated to a surprise visit from Dr. Bud Holmes who had sailed with them on the Maryland School's Norfolk to Bahamas Cruise last November. Bud was in Bermuda to crew on a return delivery of one of the Newport to Bermuda race boats. He joined us for dinner and a few salty sea stories.
On Sunday each crewmember briefed the others on the various equipment and procedures that they were in charge of. Emergency procedures and equipment were explained and demonstrated. All became well acquainted with the ship's machinery, sails, rigging, safety and other equipment.
The overall navigation plan was explained and discussed with all crewmembers, with particular attention on Gulf Stream tactics. On the voyage out, with the light winds, the Gulf Stream had presented no problem; it was docile, even flat, in the light southwesterly breezes. But on the way back to the US mainland, the Gulf Stream could be an impediment, potentially a significant one. Since it flows to the north east after passing Cape Hatteras, it could be setting us away from the US coast at the rate of about 2 to 3 knots. And, should we find ourselves in the Gulf Stream at a time when the winds are out of the northeast opposing the current flow, it could get really rough as well! We had to plan where we would like to cross it, and at what angle, to minimize its adverse effects. We decided to approach the Gulf Stream at a point some 60 miles to the southwest of our rhumb line and cross it quickly and at right angles to minimize our exposure time in this current.
So the crew was well prepared, and on Friday, June 29th we arose at 0600 to slip our lines early so as to be the first boat at the fuel dock when Mr. Dowling opened at 0700. Jill, our ever vigilant Engineer, noticing that the engine hour meter was not working, quickly diagnosed the problem as a loose wire and fixed it. The crew topped off the fuel and water tanks and set out for Town Cut Channel, getting a bit of a jump on our friends aboard Dream Catcher who were still rubbing sleep from their eyes. (Is this a race? Or What???). By 0900 we were clear of the shoals to the North of Bermuda at NE Breakers light and on our rhumb line course of 295°T to Norfolk. By 1100 the northerly winds freshened to a point where the we needed to put a reef in the main sail, and we were sailing along smartly a 6.5 knots.
At 0900 on Tuesday, June 30th the reel on the trolling line that Lee had mounted to the stern pulpit screamed... A STRIKE!... We hooked into a beautiful 18 pound dolphin known as mahi-mahi to the Hawaiians. What a great way to start the day! Lee reeled it in and filleted it for dinner. It was a fine fish and it provided two large meals for the entire crew.
Over the past day, we noticed an increasing amount of water in our bilge during our hourly inspections and noted that the number of strokes of manual bilge pump required to empty it was increasing. Engineer Jill had noted this and checked all the through hull fittings, hoses and the bilges thoroughly but found nothing amiss. Next, she and Jim checked the shaft alley and found that the hose clamps on the shaft packing gland were broken allowing water to freely run in. They managed to get the old clamps off and install a new set that we had in our spare parts kit. We were glad to have them and quite thankful that we observed the discipline of checking the bilge every hour for water. Had this problem gone unnoticed for long, we could have been in real trouble, taking on water hundreds of miles from shore. Thus, we had a valuable lesson in preparedness and procedural discipline.
Later that evening the southwesterly winds freshened considerably
and reached sustained speeds of 25 knots with gusts over 30 knots.
The crew got considerable practice reefing sails and moving about the boat
with care and difficulty as it pitched and rolled on the mounting seas.
The rough conditions persisted throughout the next day. We were on
We entered the Gulf Stream sometime during the night and endured a quick hitting squall at about 0330 on the morning of July 3rd as a predicted cold front passed through our area. We were where we wanted to be in the Stream, southwest of the rhumb-line but moving in a decent NNW direction in spite of the 2.5 knots of NE current. The northerly winds made for a bit of chop in the Gulf Stream but nothing too severe.
Indeed we made excellent time overall, arriving at buoy CBJ at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay at 0300 on the 4th and crossing the Thimble Shoal Channel Tunnel at 0455. We docked at Taylor's Landing Marina at 0550 having covered the 680 nautical miles in less than 5 days, a respectable jaunt for a cruising boat! We fueled, watered and cleaned the boat, showered ourselves, said good-bye to Lee (who left to join his wife in Norfolk) and departed for Rock Hall at 1230 before Dream Catcher came sailing in over seven hours after us.--(having left St. Georges only about an hour behind us). We greeted them politely, "Where've ya been???" at the mouth of Little Creek channel as they entered and we exited on our way up the bay. So Lee, Jill, Tom, Bill, Jim and David can truly say with more than a dash of swagger, "We Smoked Em!!" But who's racing? Yeah, Right!
Captain David Isbell Captain David Isbell
Instructor Tom Tursi Instructor Tom Tursi
Marc Schnabel Bill Clarke
Allen Page Richard Davis
Dan Wurster Bill Novak
Bob Fredrickson Fred Cosandy