Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Course: Offshore Training Cruise, Norfolk to Bermuda
Dates: May 26 - June 3, 2000
Student Navigator Lesley Ward
Student Engineer: Michael Fegen
Student Boatswain: Jimmy Barnes
Vessel: IP350, GRAINNE, owned by the Wards
Captain: David Appleton
First Mate: Bobby Ward
Our first voyage out to Bermuda this year provided more opportunities to examine weather reports and systems to maximize safety and efficiency in making ocean passages. Multiple lows developing off Cape Hatteras and inland over North and South Carolina required careful consideration of our route. For this Norfolk to Bermuda cruise, we were aboard GRAINNE (named for a notorious Female Irish Pirate of the 18th Century), a nicely equipped Island Packet 350, owned by Bobby and Lesley Ward who were aboard for the round trip. Joining us for this voyage were Dr. Jimmie Barnes of Milton, FL, who was taking his first class with us, and Michael Fagan, an attorney from the Cleveland, OH, area and a graduate of several Maryland School classes including our Delmarva cruise.
Thursday, May 25 Owner Bobby Ward had sailed GRAINNE from Rock Hall, MD, to Norfolk, VA, in preparation for the cruise to Bermuda. Both he and his wife, Lesley, will be making this round trip cruise to Bermuda as part of their personal learning program for sailing over the horizon a couple of years from now. I arrived in Norfolk by car and began to organize the offshore part of this cruise. Our other two crewmembers, Jimmie and Mike, arrived later this day and joined in the preparations.
Friday, May 26 Using the Maryland School's Ocean Training Cruises Manual, I made crew assignments to the preparatory positions of Engineer, Emergency Coordinator, Navigator and Boatswains, and we all set to work with the inspection and checkout of GRAINNE and her equipment and procedures. We thoroughly inspected the entire yacht from stem to stern and to the masthead, including below decks; we went over every piece of equipment, all tools and spare parts; all procedures, both routine and emergency. We rigged the storm trisail, boom crutch, sea anchor, whisker pole, cruising chute, mainsail, genoa and staysail. We did a complete walkthrough of abandon ship and man overboard procedures. And, by the end of the second day, found that we thoroughly knew the boat, equipment, procedures and, importantly, each other.
Saturday, May 27 We continued with preparations and, by now, were paying close attention to the weather reports which were not at all encouraging for our planned departure tomorrow.
Sunday, May 28 We spend most of the day in port contemplating weather reports and debating whether to go or not. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss weather and routing around it. Dealing with Cape Hatteras and the lows that had been marching off the Carolina coast could not be taken lightly. After considerable thought and discussion of various scenarios with the HALIMEDA crew, at 1300 we made the decision to leave. Weather patterns indicated a “now or next Tuesday” scenario as we saw it. So we elected to depart by 1430 and to sneak out behind the low that was currently moving up the coast toward the northeast. We hoped to get in behind it. Off the dock by 1436, we made our way out to Cape Henry and CBJ (Chesapeake Bay Junction buoy) by 1700, with cloudy but relatively moderate windy skies.
Monday, May 29 At midnight and again at 0530, we copied NMN weather reports which promised us winds of 35 knots and more out of the NE as we entered the Gulf Stream. This is not a welcome piece of information. We planned to monitor the weather closely, but so far we had nothing serious to deal with. During the night we went through some rain and gusts to 28+ in squalls, but this was not too bad and GRAINNE and crew handled the wind, seas and precipitation well. The crew even enjoyed the opportunity to see something of a stormy sea.
At 1600, we made radio contact with HALIMEDA and learned they were pinned down at the dock with 50+ knot winds in Norfolk. They will not be able to leave until Tuesday as we expected. We were glad to be underway and already in the Gulf Stream. The HALIMEDA crew took our position and told us we were very close to a new low forming off Cape Hatteras; perhaps even near its center. Glad turned to sad as we copied the NMN 1800 weather report which confirmed HALIMEDA’s observations and predicted 45 knots out of the NE in the Gulf Stream that night. We were about to get our butt kicked!!! Strong winds out of the NE opposing the Gulf Stream current always means extremely rough conditions; steep waves, perhaps breaking, at 18 to 24 feet. We were not pleased, but resolved to face the situation as best we could and to learn from it. We stripped all we could from topside, double lashed everything, secured all loose gear below, made a hot stew dinner, and set the storm tri-sail. I told the crew this would be an interesting experience, not fun, but interesting. We had confidence in GRAINNE, because she’s a stout craft and handles the seas well. We had prepared our vessel and ourselves and fully expected to weather the storm in good order.
Through the night, the seas remained confused, slapping us about in annoying irregular rocking and pitching motions, making sleep nearly impossible. But the big winds never came, and I found myself even wishing they would! At least strong winds would have made the seas more regular, albeit rough, and wind in the storm trisail would have stabilized the boat.
Tuesday, May 30 Nothing! Ready to sail Hell’s own moat, but nothing! Our own observations of cloud patterns indicated a low somewhere, but winds remained relatively light and variable from S to variable to E to SE. Apparently, we were in the middle of the low and in its lightest winds. We were oddly disappointed. At 0600, it became clear we need not be rigged for heavy weather, so we doused the storm trisail and reset the main, stay sail and genoa. The threat seemed to have passed so we continued on our way, thankfully unmolested.
Wednesday, May 31 At 0800, we contacted HALIMEDA via SSB. They were just getting underway and heading for Thimble Shoal Channel. Wow, it must have been a corker back in Norfolk!
After cleanup at 0900, we were able to work celestial navigation exercises. We discussed and practiced taking sun shots and planned to make a sun-run-sun running fix for the day. At 1200, NMN weather reported 2 lows. One was to our north moving ENE at 35 knots, and the other was south of us. This one we actually attempted to court, to catch up to it and benefit from the NE winds it would offer. But it moved away quickly.
During the afternoon, we noticed our VHF antenna at the masthead had wobbled loose and was in danger of being thrown off. There was nothing to be done, however; the seas were not terrible, but far too lumpy for a mid ocean pole climbing exercise.
Thursday, June 1 Jim got a good sun shot at 0630 and resolved
to do another sun running fix today. We set the genniker at 0700 and the
crew got some practice getting it out and up. At 0720, we were off and
running under genniker. Yahoo! At 0800, we attempted to raise HALIMEDA
on SSB but failed. In this attempt, RISKY BUSINESS, an IP
420 with the “Bermuda High” rally heading back to the Chesapeake, heard
us. Bobby had a chat with Ed Kurowski of Gratitude Yachting Center. We
tried unsuccessfully to contact Eric Peterson on ISLAND TIME
with the same rally. At 0900, Bobby attempted to adjust the genniker halyard
under load and got a substantial rope burn on his hand. WEAR GLOVES.
Friday, June 2 This was the day of the genniker! Beautiful
skies prevailed with just enough cumulus clouds to indicate consistent
winds. They were steady SW to WSW from 12 to 18 knots, so we hoisted her
early and flew her all day. As the winds reached the upper ranges of the
day’s offerings, we had some exhilarating sailing. Also, the relatively
clear skies gave us the chance to make a couple of good celestial fixes
to be certain we were on course for our final approach to the island.
Saturday, June 3 Arrival Day! During the night, we were able to see the glow of Bermuda on the horizon, just off to our southeast where it was supposed to appear! Jimmie bobbed the Gibbs Hill Light at about 0230, which indicated we were about 30 miles out from it. This technique, giving our bearing as well, provided a decent fix with both distance off and bearing, yielding essentially two lines of position.
At 0824, we entered St. Georges Harbour through Town Cut and headed for Customs. Once we cleared Customs, we moved quickly to the duty free fuel fest held each Saturday in St. Georges and took on 28 gallons of fuel. We motored 70 hours total for the whole trip, averaging 2000 rpm, which yielded a consumption rate 0.5 gallons per hour. Not bad!
Captain David Appleton