Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Saturday, June 24- The Norfolk to Bermuda crew had done well. We’d arrived in the wee hours of the morning, anchored near the Customs dock, and settled in for a bit of a snooze. So, at 0700 local time, we weighed anchor and moved to Ordinance Island to clear Customs.
This done, at 0900, we shifted berths to the duty free fuel exchange on the cruise ship dock. I stood by waiting our turn to fuel among the 6 or 7 yachts and granted the crew "liberty" to explore St. Georges and make phone calls, provided they return by 1030. We took on 35.1 US gallons of fuel and had run the engine a total of 62.8 hours since the last refueling. Tom computed we had consumed an average of .56 gph, doing well conserving fuel, even though we needn’t have been so conservative with the IP 45’s ample 140 gallon fuel tank.
We then moved the boat to the inside berth right next to the "ducking chair" in the canal behind Ordinance Island. It’s a great berth, right down town and conveniently near the White Horse Tavern and other attractions. Some of the crew then disembarked for shore side accommodations.
Sunday, June 25- The Norfolk to Bermuda crew left, heading home or off to explore Bermuda. We’d had a great ride together. Tom, Ken, Gerry, and Leo had been a great team. Joe and I were sorry to see them go. Our Mate, Joe Kliment, also took leave of the boat for a day or two ashore as well, joining his wife who had flown in for a few days vacation with him.
At 0830, Captain Tom O’Grady of S/V PHOENIX stopped by to visit. We had been in radio contact as PHOENIX and HALIMEDA exited Chesapeake Bay on June 19th around 0430 in the morning. We had exchanged positions and route plans as we headed for Bermuda. PHOENIX had arrived in St. Georges about a half day after HALIMEDA. It was good to meet the radio voice face to face and give him a tour of HALIMEDA.
Monday, June 26- This was a cleaning and maintenance day. At 1700, John Pierce arrived to check in. He was staying ashore at the same lodging as Joe and Ruth. John, at 82, has the distinction of being the oldest student to make this Bermuda to Norfolk voyage. His outstanding physical shape is an inspiration to us all, and his wealth of sailing and flying experience would prove a valuable asset and resource for us.
Bill Fay also reported in. He, too, will be staying ashore for a day or two but wanted to check out the boat ahead of time. Bill owns an Island Packet 350, which he and his wife, Vickie (scheduled to sail on our Mystic to Rock Hall cruise in July), plan to sail south on a great adventure to Florida and the Bahamas this fall.
Tuesday, June 27- This is the official crew arrival day and, at 1100, Bill Tracy reported aboard, having flown in from Colorado. We contacted the office and found out that the remaining crewmember, Mark Schnabl, would not arrive until the 29th. He had made this voyage with us before and would easily catch up on any seminar materials he might miss by arriving late.
Continuing maintenance, Joe returned with the winch handle we had had fashioned by Myer Industries for the anchor windlass (the original having gone missing somehow!). I finished several miscellaneous repairs including resewing the mainsail headboard straps and replacing a broken slug.
Wednesday, June 28- We began the Ocean Training seminar at 0830 and quickly outlined the overview of the course and the voyage. All had come well prepared, having studied the Maryland School’s OFFSHORE TRAINING CRUISE Manual (OTC), so the seminar went smoothly and quickly. John had the benefit of our ASA 106 class featuring a Delmarva circumnavigation cruise, and thus had the "basic training" for this ocean passage. Bill Fay and Bill Tracy, (whom we decided to call "Tracy" to avoid "Bill confusion") have good experience as well, and caught on quickly to the program.
We assigned billets and began the vessel survey and preparation faze. John took engineering responsibilities and Joe helped him become familiar with the ship’s system’s idiosyncrasies. Tracy had been studying navigation assiduously for the past several months and was more than ready to tackle the student navigator assignment. Bill Fay, interested in advancing his seamanship skills, eagerly approached his boson assignment. We decided to make Mark boson as well, knowing his previous experience on this voyage would serve us well in sail handling and working with the special devices, such as the sea anchor and storm sails. Mark’s resume also reveals he spent several years in the Argentinean Navy and so has plenty of sea time and experience upon which to draw.
Keeping an eye on the weather, we considered the SW winds most favorable for our course. Given the weather reports, we contemplated an earlier than scheduled departure, perhaps by Thursday afternoon, in order to take advantage of these conditions.
Thursday, June 29- After breakfast, we convened at 0800 and continued to review our pre-sail checks according to the lists in the Maryland School Offshore Training Cruise manual. Tracy, our student navigator, set up the charts and DR plot on the DMA plotting sheets and reviewed the current Gulf Stream reports we had received from the Customs Office. The large cold eddy that we had utilized during the outbound trips on both GRAINNE and HALIMEDA, and during our return trip on GRAINNE just a few weeks ago, is still located near 35-30N by 72-00W. We’ll target the eastern side of it and attempt to get a ride out of its estimated 2 knot current setting NW. This means our course to steer will be almost on the rhumb line, and, that when we get our ride, it will take us north initially, then speed us on our way due west. The southwesterly winds will make this a nice close reach and a good sail if we leave early. A cold front moving in from the NW threatens to change things.
Our other preparations and surveys continued apace. John, with Joe’s help, checks out all the ship’s systems, electrical and mechanical, as well as all damage control checks, especially watertight integrity. Bill continued making the deck checks, surveying the rig and all topside gear including the storm tri-sail and our Para Tech sea anchor. Joe and I pitch in where needed in Mark’s absence. It really takes a substantial crew to fully survey the whole vessel properly prior to departure for a sea voyage. We resolved to complete our orientation to all rig and storm gear with the full crew once Mark had arrived.
At 1000, we broke from checks for discussions of our over all voyage plan and weather expectations. We also reviewed heavy weather techniques and safety precautions such as maintaining watertight integrity at all times, and keeping all crew hooked on at all times. Following our primary safety rules, 1. "Keep the boat afloat!" And 2. "Stay on the boat!!"
Just after 1130, Mark checked in. It had become apparent that we have progressed sufficiently to go to sea this afternoon. So, after greeting Mark and exchanging quick introductions, we broke for lunch ashore.
At 1230, we returned to work, setting up a mock deployment of the sea anchor which was led by Bill and Mark. Mark’s experience on previous Maryland School Offshore Passages proved valuable as he quickly comes up to speed and offered his own insights into the use of the boson gear. By 1330, we finished the deck orientation and conducted a brief engineering/damage control orientation lead by John, assisted by Joe. At 1420, we left the dock, heading for Dowling’s fuel dock to top off our water. Fuel remained near capacity since we had run the generator very little while in port. By 1440, we cleared Customs and headed toward Town Cut. At 1500, we were at the outer buoy motor sailing toward Kitchen Shoals Light, and, by 1600, we could secure the engine, just north of NE Breakers. We got our last terrestrial fix using the NE Breakers and Kitchen Shoals lights and headed NW with a fine SW breeze blowing 15 to 19 knots.
With the good wind, we conducted a quick MOB drill, demonstrating the virtues of the quick stop maneuver. After this, Joe, continued with a thorough safety orientation, familiarizing the crew with key equipment and procedures.
We enjoyed a lovely stir fry steak dinner at 1800 and, after cleanup, the freshening breeze provided an opportunity to practice and use HALIMEDA’s single line slab reefing system, a nice feature allowing crew to reef the main without leaving the cockpit. After the drill, we left one reef in the main for the night. We settled in for the cruise, relaxing as we can during the first evening at sea. Rest is important after a hectic day getting under way.
At 2330, a fatigued Bill experienced an accidental gybe at the helm, a serious miscue! Fortunately, we are rigged for such with a preventer and we were able to get out of the awkward hove to configuration and back on course with little difficulty. But the lesson, how quickly things can go badly, was not lost on the crew. After a brief discussion of this danger, we put the second reef in and altered course to 310M to make for an easier ride for the mid watch, Joe and John, and the rest of us as well.
Friday, June 30- At 0530, we copied the NMN weather reports, which predicted SW winds strengthening to 25 to 30 in our area, with a weak cold front north of our position weakening. A low developing off Hatteras should move NE and be no threat to us.
Our morning checks revealed the batteries getting low so we took the opportunity to use HALIMEDA’s genset to charge up from 0630 to 0800. This uses less fuel as well as saves unnecessary wear and tear on the main engine and drive train.
After breakfast and our morning "field day," general ship clean up, we had our morning meeting at 0900 and discussed some of the problems we had keeping course and maintaining control during the night. All the crew were impressed with the debilitating effects of fatigue and how this was probably the cause of a couple of blunders during the night which could have caused serious problems. All vowed to get ample rest. We also reviewed log keeping procedures, regularly plotting the DR position update at the end of each watch and the hourly boat check routine. By now, after nearly 20 hours under way, the routine was becoming automatic and efficient. Also 3 crewmembers were suffering from varying degrees of seasickness. We discussed remedies, mostly fresh air and keeping busy, taking the helm being the best remedy!
Through the day we continued sailing in nearly ideal conditions. The winds have persisted out of the southwest to west enabling us to keep on our 305°-310° M course which is right on track for our rendezvous with "Cool Fast Eddy," our expected cold eddy current boost awaiting us at 35-30N by 72-00W. The counter clockwise rotation of this 70 mile wide whirling current southeast of the axis of the Gulf Stream will give us up to 2 knots of additional speed over the ground. HALIMEDA’s boat speed through the water was already excellent, often averaging 7 knots and more!
At 1530, the prefrontal squalls arrived, harbingers of the cold front we had been expecting. At 1800, we copied NMN, which reported the front nearing our position. As the evening progressed, the SW winds increased ahead of the front and we reefed the main in preparation for the blow we expected later.
Saturday, July 1- John and Joe had a hectic time of it in fierce squalls during the mid watch. The SW winds built to the high 20s, gusting to 35, demanding 2 reefs in the main and furling in the genoa. A couple of the off watch crew mustered on deck to help with these sail changes. It was a rough, wet, but speedy ride as we averaged over 7.6 knots through the watch. At 0400, the winds begin to veer and, by 0600, they had clocked to NW and NNW and diminished to a more manageable 17 to 25 knots. So, by 0700, we tacked and settled on a course of 275 to 285 for a while. This took us south of our desired track, but we expected that cold eddy to set us north considerably. The Gulf Stream will set us north as well, so a little southing is desirable.
During both our voyages on HALIMEDA (MDSS BDA #3 & #4) our Mate, Joe, has been able to use his portable Ham radio unit to contact the daily Ham marine net. Through one of the Ham volunteers, he developed a phone patch to his wife, Ruth, back in Delaware. This has proven a great resource for us since Ruth can then contact the Maryland School office and Nancy can email our crewmembers’ families, updating our position almost daily. Joe managed to make this connection this morning and communicated our 0800 position, 34-37.3N by 69-01W, to the folks back home.
This is an accurate position obtained by GPS. While we do our navigation at sea by DR plot refined through celestial fixes whenever possible, we maintain a series of GPS fixes as well for safety sake. I usually check the GPS two or three times a day and plot it right on our DMA position plotting sheet on which we keep the DR plot. The crew ignores these little triangles as they update our DR plot after each 4 hour watch, but it is interesting to note how close that plot is to our actual position as revealed by the GPS fixes.
Keeping our home base notified of our position is an important safety consideration. Should the worst occur, forcing us to activate our EPIRB, the SARSAT people would call our contact person, Nancy Sulomon, at the Maryland School Office. They would need the most current information on our position possible in order to put together an efficient rescue effort. A position update less than 24 hours old could save many hours in search time, and hence get us whatever help we need quickly, within hours instead of days. We take comfort in knowing this.
Rough seas and cloud cover conspired to thwart attempts at celestial fixes and we had to depend on our DR plot for our position. But at sunset Mark was able to get a bearing to the sun of 310M using the ship’s compass. From this, using the tables, he computed our compass deviation at 1.4 East. We applied this to our DR computations to improve the accuracy of our plots.
Sunday, July 2- At 0600, we reefed the main as the winds strengthened out of the NE. It was a smooth sail, enabling us to prepare a nice Sunday breakfast of bacon and cheese omelets with home fries. Delicious. All the crew suffering from mal de mer have recovered and enjoyed this nutritious dose of cholesterol and starch!
During the night, we had lost our fresh water pressure. This was no problem since we customarily use the hand pump at sea as a fresh water conservation measure. But it was a nuisance. Our morning cleanup and maintenance checks revealed the pump belt had failed. Engineer John easily fixed this with a spare from our ample parts kit.
We discussed our planned rendezvous with "Cool Fast Eddy" at our morning meeting at 1000. Conditions continued to frustrate our efforts to get a celestial fix, but our DR plot (confirmed by my daily GPS fix) showed we were right on course to meet it as scheduled. Checking our DR with the GPS revealed it to be only 15 nm away from our actual position. The faithfully maintained and updated DR plot can be amazingly accurate, even after days without a decent fix.
As the day progressed, the north to NNE Winds diminished somewhat. At 1330, conditions were right for setting the genniker for a nice reach off the NNE 10 - 12 knot winds. Everyone took a turn at the helm, steering with the genniker set. This was a little tricky, reaching off with this big sail set, and it took some practice and coaching to keep everything on an even keel.
By 1630, the breezes continued to lighten, so we doused the chute and started the engine. It was been a very nice sail for these few hours under the chute. We set the genoa and motor sailed for a while, but, by 1800, the winds died to 3-6 and we furled the headsails and motor sailed under main alone.
The cold front had cleared the skies and, at 2045, Tracy and Bill Fay successfully brought down Vega, Spica and Antares. By 2100, Tracy plotted his 3 LOPs and we finally had a celestial fix. Checking Tracy’s fix with the GPS, we found he was within 8nm of our actual position, not bad for his first celestial fix at sea!
At 2200, the seawater temperature was 82.5 and we surmised we are near the axis of the Gulf Stream, which is near the NW wall of this current. The winds were light under the high pressure and we enjoyed a rather smooth passage over this potentially violent piece of ocean. While we’d rather not have been motor sailing, we were at least spared the boiling turmoil of a wind whipped stream.
Monday, July 3- At just about 0400, we noted a dramatic drop in seawater temperature indicating we had crossed the northwest wall and exited the Gulf Stream. The water color changed as well, going from the tropical turquoise of the Stream to the murky green of the shelf water. At 0500, Tracy got another fix using Jupiter and Fomalhaut.
At 0700, the winds began to build to 10 and, by 0900, we were able to secure the engine and sail at 7 to 8 knots in the 12 to 15 knots of breeze which as also backed to the SW, allowing us to get back on a good course for making landfall at Norfolk. And by noon, the winds had increased to 17-19 knots and we were "Smokin’!"
1535 "Land Ho!" comes the cry from Joe who saw land off to Port! We began to make out the buildings at Virginia Beach on the horizon. At 1650, we contacted US Customs by cell phone, reporting ourselves inbound just off Virginia Beach. Since we had all US Nationals aboard and our Customs decal number and vessel documentation number were in order, the customs officer cleared us by phone. This saved us having to call in after hours since our E.T.A. at the marina was about 1930.
At 1800, we had Cape Henry Light abeam just over a half mile off. At 1910, we passed through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel at Thimble Shoals Channel, officially entering the Chesapeake Bay with an elapsed time of 4 days and a shade over 4 hours from our exit through Town Cut at St. Georges. This had been a very good run.
Entering Little Creek, we made our way west up the Creek for the marina. As we approached, we saw an Island Packet 350 tied up at Taylor’s Landing Marina. It’s UNFAZED, Bill Fay’s boat. His wife and some friends had sailed it down from Rock Hall. By 2030, we had secured HALIMEDA to the Taylor’s Landing fuel dock. We were greeted by Vickie Fay & company, who witnessed our arrival while having dinner at the adjacent dockside restaurant. We enjoyed their welcome and indulged ourselves with a celebratory libation. We then adjourned to the Blue Crab, where we exchanged sea stories over a scrumptious dinner, our homecoming feast! Some crewmembers disembarked for shore side accommodations for the night.
Tuesday, July 4- We reunited this morning and said our good-byes. Most of the crew able to conveniently change their travel reservations, made necessary by our early arrival. All were happy to be on land again! Our ocean experience had been exhilarating, rich and rewarding, but we recognize our true status as land mammals after all, and we were pleased to reunite with the dirt! Looking at this crew, Bill, Tracy, John, Mark and Joe, I was again amazed by how well this collection of disparate individuals, strangers to each other only 6 days ago, had come together to function as an efficient team to guide HALIMEDA home.
Captain David Appleton