Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Thursday, October 5- Amy, Chris, Tomand Ed arrived during the late afternoon and evening and settled in, acquainting themselves with HALIMEDA. Amy took distance honors for this crew, coming all the way from Louisville, KY. Chris and Ed are from near by Maryland home bases while Tom and John are nearly local, coming from central and eastern PA.
Friday, October 6- At 0830, Captain David arrived and the crew helped him load on provisions and gear. By 0900, the entire crew is aboard and we began the ASA 106 MDSS DelMarVa orientation and seminar.
After lunch, we set about the vessel survey and pre-sail checklist with billets assigned as noted above. This crew was particularly thorough in their preparation. Since Chris and Amy are both Island Packet owners, they were already familiar with the general plan of the vessel from working on their own, a 40 and a 380. So the checks went smoothly. Ed has many years of sailing experience under his belt and he used this to help Tom, a power boater recently converted to sailing, to understand the cutter rig. John set about planning our voyage to Chesapeake City carefully assessing the tides and currents to use them to best advantage for this first leg.
Saturday, October 7- Stuck in the mud again! We had to delay our departure because HALIMEDA was on the bottom in her berth. Another boat was stuck in the channel just outside the dock, making it impassable. A blow out tide together with spring tide conditions conspired to drain our harbor of much of its water. But this relieved the departure pressure and gave us time to discuss in depth several topics requested by the crew. We reviewed the rig and Chris reviewed safety gear and emergency procedures.
By 1100, the water had returned and we could get out of the berth and underway. John noted we could expect to enjoy some favorable currents going up the bay to Chesapeake City. At 1800, we doused the main and started the engine at Town Point in preparation for entering the canal. By 1930, we reached Engineers Cove and dropped the hook for the night. Navigator John determined we should get underway by 0500 to catch the favorable current through the canal and enjoy a good current "rhythm" for our passage down the Delaware Bay.
Sunday, October 8- Reveille sounded at 0400 and we were up, pre sail checked and off the hook by 0455. The Captain prepared the "C&D Breakfast Special" -- omelets, home fries and bacon, seasoned with a dash of Texas Pete--and the crew ate heartily!
At 0635, we reached Reedy Point and headed for the channel, staying just to starboard of the outbound shipping lanes. At 0900, after breakfast and a shipís clean up "field day," we met to discuss various topics including safety, log keeping, head use procedures, and navigation issues like getting fixes, tidal currents on the bay, and our overall strategy for traversing the tricky stretch of water. We expected to be at Cape Henlopen at 1800.
But we arrived there much earlier with the favorable currents and strong winds, rounding the Harbor of Refuge at 1500 and beginning our DR Plot with a fix at that time. At 1600, we discussed night orders and procedures for the passage down the coast. We also reviewed and practiced reefing and put in one reef for the night.
The strong NE winds persisted and after dinner and cleanup we got another NOAA forecast from the VHF WX. Predictions called for NE winds to strengthen to 25-30, so at 1930 we put the second reef in the main and partially furled the genny.
Monday, October 9- 0000: The winds had picked up considerably and now were sustained at 22 to 25 knots from the NNE. HALIMEDA was handling well it well, making excellent speed, and averaging more than 7 knots.
By 0300, the mid watch was having some difficulty holding the 210M course. Because of over steering, they experienced an accidental gybe, which is much more frightening than damaging because the preventer was set and it saved us from serious problems. Instead of averaging 210M as the navigator had ordered, we were doing more like 230įM, which was bringing us closer to shore. The watch called the Captain and he assessed the situation, determining the course to steer was 210M and this was doable. He gave the watch a few helmsmanship tips. Downwind steering is always tricky, especially with the following seas building. But with a preventer rigged, the helmsman can steer a dead run respecting, but not fearing, the potential for an accidental gybe.
At about 0500 we saw the lights from the bridge section on the N end of the Bridge Tunnel, but we could not find the Cape Charles Light. This was puzzling. Captain for this entry exercise, John, and his Navigator, Tom, looked for it in vain. Finally, they had Amy contact USCG Hampton Roads Group on the VHF and they confirmed our suspicions: it was not operating; down for maintenance. This information enabled us to confirm our position with more assurance.
Entering the bay and Little Creek Channel required planning and teamwork. The winds were now sustained over 25 kts. and gusting over 30. This made for large choppy waves at the bay entrance and in the entrance to Little Creek as well. Amy took the helm with a certain amount of relish as we approached the Thimble Shoals tunnel, and she handled it skillfully. We examined the charts and found a lee area inside in which we could douse the sails with the least difficulty.
John briefed the crew on the sail dousing and harbor entrance plan, assigning each crewmember a specific task. The crew executed the plan efficiently and we sailed into the Little Creek channel on a dead run, blanketing the genoa with the main thus making it easy to furl. Then, once in the harbor, we rounded up in the lee of some buildings and dropped the main with relative ease as well.
Then it was up Little Creek to the marina where we fueled, watered, and cleaned up HALIMEDA. The crew then took showers and naps. They deserved it. It had been a challenging, spirited downwind sail for 28 hours straight (perhaps a record run). That evening, after all were rested, we had a useful post mortem discussion of the experience before retiring to the Blue Crab Restaurant, a favorite MDSS haunt, to celebrate their accomplishments over a couple of beers and the Monday night entree two-fer Special! Most enjoyable.
Tuesday, October 10- Captain Tom and Navigator Ed had us up early to latch on to the current so we could make it to Solomons for a night harbor entry by 2200 or so. We were up at 0420 and away from the dock at 0530, enjoying a night departure experience. Again we had good wind, from the NW to WNW building from 7 knots to 12 and more, so Tom got the sails up quickly and secured the engine.
By 0845, we approached the York Channel and had an interesting encounter with a US Navy Destroyer upbound. This warship was in the channel but moving very slowly, and we needed to cross the channel to maintain course to our destinations. We were about to cross in front of the destroyer, but, given the COLREGS rule # 9, the "Narrow Channels" rule, we were the give way vessel in spite of our sailing vessel status. We contacted the destroyer on VHF 13 asking his intentions and came to an agreement that he would proceed and we would take his stern. We requested him to speed up and he complied.
The rest of the day we continued taking advantage of opportunities to find our position by various means using the abundant navigational aids in the bay. We got a good lesson in the value of currents as well. Enjoying a knot or so of favorable current through most of the day enabled us to make better than 7.25 knots over the ground. Ed revised our ETA at the Patuxent River to 2000, a full two hours earlier than he had originally thought.
By noon we were passing Windmill Point off the Rappahannock and by 1500 we were rounding the light at Smith Point, another picturesque structure. Soon after this the winds died and we started the engine and furled the genoa and staysail. Again Ed revised our ETA to 2100 and at 1830, after dinner and cleanup, he and Tom briefed the crew on night entrance procedures and assignments. At 2100, the crew executed the entrance with only minor difficulty (missing one important buoy, but catching it in time to avoid problems), and we found our way to and docked at Spring Cove Marina of Solomons by 2230.
Wednesday, October 11- With only a relatively few miles to cover this day, we took our time getting underway, leaving the dock shortly before 0900 and taking a leisurely cruise through Solomons harbor admiring the wide variety of boats. It was high season for "Snow Birds" and we saw hundreds of boats headed south while we wended our way north toward Rock Hall. Today we only planned to go as far as St. Michaels, with Amy navigating, guiding us there.
We made our way up the bay and into the Choptank River where we conducted a surprise MOB drill, with the further complication of an inoperative engine thrown into the exercise. The crew, under Captain Edís guidance, had to recover the MOB under sail. It took over 20 minutes and more than three passes to recover the victim. All were impressed with the challenge of the exercise and resolved to practice the sailing and seamanship skills required to accomplish such a recovery efficiently.
Securing from this exercise, we made our way out of the Choptank through the Knapps Narrows channel, behind Poplar and Jefferson Islands. Guided by Amyís GPS, we pressed on to a precision anchorage on a high spot, shallow enough to anchor with minimum rode. There, behind Bloody Point, we stopped for a chili dinner prepared by Tom.
Then it was on to night maneuvers, making night approach into the Miles River and up to St. Michaels. The crew was charged with finding 5 unlighted buoys on the way, which they did successfully. Along the way we did another MOB drill, this one at night using the Williamson Turn maneuver to return to a reciprocal course. Each crewmember got a chance at the helm to practice this maneuver. All had ample opportunity to practice night vision techniques to find the object (GC "3" in the Eastern Bay) without benefit of a "power" searchlight, using only their eyes and binoculars. We then proceeded into St. Michaels harbor and docked at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at about 2320. The crew went on "liberty" to celebrate their success.
Thursday, October 12- In port in St. Michaels was a test day for those taking the ASA Certification Exam, and a rest and sight seeing day for the others. But when we awoke to discover the blow out tide combined with the full moon spring tide had again put HALIMEDA hard aground, this time at the CBMM dock next to the Small Craft Exhibit building, it became clear we needed to act on a strategy to get us off and out when the water returned. Chris, Captain du jour, determined this to be about 1630, so we planned around that departure time. Amy calculated our arrival time at Rock Hall to be around 1930 to 2000, which she researched to be near high tide there, which would give us sufficient water to dock. So we had a plan.
Chris got us organized and underway by just after 1600. Light winds required us to motor to Kent Narrows, which we reached in time for the 1800 bascule bridge opening. We then proceeded to Rock Hall enjoying a glorious sunset on the way. By the time we reach Swan Creek, it was dark, albeit with a rising full moon. We felt our way in, demonstrating the value of good local knowledge to navigate in known waters with few lighted navigation aids. By 2030, we were docked at HALIMEDAís home berth in Spring Cove Marina, and we secured her and headed for a late supper at a local restaurant. Itís been another very full day.
Friday, October 13- Since we were already in port and under no time constraints we could sleep in until 0700. Then, after a leisurely breakfast, we did some further docking exercises, taking HALIMEDA to the fuel dock for fuel and pump out. When this was done we returned to Spring Cove Marina and put her in her home berth and proceeded to clean her up. Those who took the ASA exam spent part of the morning reviewing their answers and went over them with the instructor as they were graded. All took this opportunity to reflect on the experience of the voyage, and all were duly impressed with the experience and their growth as sailors. Crewmembers were overheard saying,
Well, maybe "profound" is pushing it a bit, but this had been a solid crew with good experience coming into the cruise. This had enabled them to get the most from it. All had enhanced their understanding of the value of organization, communication, teamwork, basic seamanship and preparedness. It was a worthwhile week.
Captain David Appleton