We received this letter from Tom Hamilton who sailed with us aboard HALIMEDA, IP45 from Norfolk to Bermuda in June 2002:
crew for the trip consisted of the Captain, 1st Mate, Joe Kliment, a
coastal cruising instructor with the Maryland School, and four students of
varying sailing and life experience. We
had one physician, two PhD's (one economics and one finance), and a senior
investor/investment analyst. Only
one had made an extended offshore passage before.
However, three of us owned our own sailboats and all had completed the
equivalent of American Sailing Association's Advanced Coastal Cruising (106)
certification and two of us had completed the Celestial Navigation (107)
certification. We would try to
complete the practical demonstration portion of the Off Shore Passage Making
(108) certification on this cruise.
is an Island Packet 45, cutter-rigged, sailing yacht.
It has a fiberglass hull with a full keel, which provides good protection
to the balanced rudder. It is
designed for open-ocean cruising. The
low placed ballast provides stability and seaworthiness.
Halimeda proved to be a very dry boat.
On the cruise to Bermuda, rarely did we take water over the deck and
never into the cockpit. The boat
has a complete electronic suite including navigation package, radar, GPS, and
autopilot steering. The autopilot
is accurate but draws significant electric power.
Alternative self-steering systems are wind vanes and lock down systems.
The wind vanes are not reliable in light following winds and the lock
down systems are only good for small boats for short periods of time or in very
is equipped with a diesel engine and auxiliary diesel generator.
It has 140-gallon fuel capacity, which gives it approximately 230 hours
of operation at between 1500-1800 rpm. It
has fresh water carrying capacity of 240 gallons, which provides a crew of six
with four gallons each for seven days. However,
I soon learned that water conservation methods would be one of the primary
learning objectives on the cruise. Minimum
use of fresh water was the watchword: no fresh water showers; only salt water
washes with a spray bottle of half fresh water and half rubbing alcohol to rinse
off. We washed dishes in seawater
and did a quick rinse in fresh.
interior design of Halimeda provides a double bunk forward, and in the main
salon it has settees both port and starboard which make good sea berths when lee
cloths are rigged to the overhead handholds.
There is also a 3/4 bunk in an aft, portside cabin, providing four berths
for six crewmembers. The galley is
on the starboard side aft of the navigation station.
It is "L" shaped at the base of the companionway ladder.
The refrigerator is beneath the counter aft of the stove.
The galley has handrails in front of the stove and provisions for a waist
strap to allow the cook to use both hands to cook and still maintain balance and
stay clear of the burners and hot pots.
that first afternoon, the other students had completed taking inventory and
inspecting all the boat's sails, standing and running rigging, and all of the
emergency equipment. That included
fire extinguishers, first aid kit, the aft pulpit mounted MOB beacon, lifelines,
Lifesling, two EPIRB's, the lifeboat canister, emergency water jerry cans,
abandon-ship jugs and dry bags, their contents, individual harnesses with strobe
lights, whistles, and tethers. They
had also rigged the cockpit and deck jack lines, all done following instructions
from, and under the watchful eye of, Captain Appleton.
By the time I had stowed my gear, everyone was ready for a beer, a swim
in the marina pool, a shower and dinner. Great
seafood and wine were consumed in a local restaurant.
We were on our own for sleeping arrangements that night.
The 1st Mate and two of us chose to sleep on board.
It was a hot, sticky night so I dozed on cushions in the cockpit.
was given a copy of the ship's manuals and told to carefully check all systems
according to the checklist in the MSSS Offshore Training Cruises manual.
I started with the plumbing system.
I was to insure that all the through hull and inter-tank waste and water
valves were correctly positioned. Of
particular concern was that, while in inshore waters, the head valves were set
to feed into the holding tank and not to the macerator. I also needed to check all intake water filters and clean as
needed. Some of the through hulls
for extra added equipment such as the water maker system were difficult to
locate as they were hidden beneath the deck boards under the galley sink cabinet
but I finally found and checked the last one.
engines: the main, and an aux-generator, which was stuffed down inside the
starboard lazarette were next on my schedule of inspections.
To check the oil level on the aux-generator demanded contortionist
maneuvers but I got it done. The
main engine compartment was immaculate. The
fuel filters and belts were easily accessible.
The drive shaft packing gland was not dripping.
Fortunately there was no sign of any leakage in the aft compartment
because the crew's individual duffle was stowed on the access panel in the aft
port cabin. Visual inspection was
okay. The engine oil and cooling
water filters were clean and all fluid levels were at the proper mark.
The main fuel tank levels were verified full.
Propane tanks in their own external stowage compartment were checked by
weight. One propane tank was empty and was refilled.
Cook stove operation and shutoff valves, both manual and solenoid, were
checked. Standard Operating
Procedure (SOP) was established that the manual shutoff valve on each propane
tank would be closed when the stove was not in operation.
bilge pumps were checked and found operational.
That included the emergency high capacity pump stowed in the chain
locker. It was taken out, tested
and re-stowed. One problem here was
that the zipper on the bag stowing the flexible piping for that pump had
corroded shut and needed replacement. Capt.
Dave verified each valve and filter that I checked that morning.
What does a finance professor know about mechanical stuff, even if he was
an army helicopter pilot for twenty plus years?
a break for lunch, great crab cake sandwich at the marina restaurant, I
inventoried and inspected the maintenance supplies, repair parts and tools.
There was an over abundance of engine oil and filters. A good selection of tools was stowed beneath the port settee.
They were in good shape but not well organized.
I separated carpenter tools (hammers, saws, duct tape, chisels, wood
screws, etc.) into one bag, mechanic tools (crescent wrenches, socket sets,
screw drivers, pipe wrenches, a great variety of nuts, bolts, screws, etc.) into
another bag, and sail repair kits with needles, palms, threads and patches into
a third bag. The collision mat, a
triangular piece of heavy nylon canvas six feet on each side with lines at each
point to allow positioning over hull damage to slow the inflow of water, was
placed on top to insure accessibility.
I was doing all that taking inventory and sorting, the deck crew was inspecting
and making test deployments of the ground tackle, dock lines and fenders,
rerouting the jack lines to assure security and unimpeded movement from the
stern to the bow, checking the furling gear, reefing systems, storm staysail,
and parachute-anchor. A major
foul-up occurred when one student untied and pulled a line when he didn't know
what its purpose was. It was the
aft furling line routed through a car in the boom.
The Captain went boom when he was told.
It took almost two hours of concerted effort by the deck crew and Captain
to reroute the line. Thanks to an
unbent coat hanger that could just reach the car and pull it to the aft end of
the boom they were able to reroute the line.
Even I learned some new "nautical" terms from the Captain that
day. The boatswain's mates also did
another full inventory and reorganized the abandon-ship jugs and tested the
access to, and deployability of, the lifeboat canister stowed in the aft port
cabin. Our MD, who was one of the
boatswain's mates, was put in charge of inventorying the first aid kits, which
navigator was busy making communications checks on each of the radios and
gathering weather information and forecasts along our proposed route as well as
plotting a preliminary route to Bermuda. The
1st Mate is a licensed "ham" operator and brought along his
SSB radio. He and the navigator
were able to talk to route advisors to gather the latest information concerning
conditions along our route. The
Captain brought in a printout of a satellite IR photo of the Gulf Stream and its
eddies. This played a major part of
our route planning. The rhumbline
from Norfolk to Bermuda is roughly 115 degrees true.
After standing well out from Cape Henry, we would hold a heading well
south of that to offset the Stream's north setting 2.5 knot current and to get
into position to take advantage of an eddy on the east side of the Steam.
While the southern route added miles to our distance traveled, it allowed
us to catch a ride on the eddy that added 2-3.5 knots to our velocity over
ground for almost ten hours. This
was a planning lesson that we all greatly appreciated as the winds were light
during that time. All of us student
crew would take morning, noon and evening sun, star and moon sights with our
sextants and calculate LOP's each day during the trip to plot our position. Comparing our accuracy of plot with the 1st Mate
and Captain was a fun part of the trip. Of
course, the Captain had access to a GPS to verify our calculations.
the time we had finished all of the assigned chores, we were ready for a beer, a
swim, a shower and dinner again. Another
night on board but in my assigned bunk with fans on full blast.
Thankfully, my bunkmate had a motel room on shore.
With six crew and four bunks we would be hot bunking on the passage.
navigator went over his route-planning processes.
He presented the charts and references that were available, (required
charts and navigation aids are listed in Appendix 1). He then gave a weather
report obtained from NMN Portsmouth, which was favorable for us leaving early
the next morning. He also reviewed
radio procedures during an emergency. He
discussed the criteria and procedure for PAN-PAN-PAN calls and MAYDAY calls on
VHF channel 16. The 1st
Mate pointed out the location of each fire extinguisher and how to operate each
one. The ship's surgeon reviewed
the first-aid kits and their location.
as engineer, pointed out each valve in the plumbing system and the proper
positions, where wooden plugs and hammer were located and how to employ them to
stop leaks in through hulls. I
pointed out how to check the bilge for water level and how to check the primary
intake water filter, where the bilge pump switches were located and how to
operate the manual bilge pump each hour of each watch.
I demonstrated the proper procedure for checking the engine fluid levels,
filters, and belts and where the engine hour log was located.
I also showed the crew where the collision mat, tools, spare parts, and
emergency water pump were stowed.
an early lunch, the Captain spent the afternoon reviewing and having us practice
emergency procedures. We walked
through reducing sails by furling the jib and reefing the main.
We talked through deploying and setting the genniker with assigned tasks
for each crewmember. We also
deployed the storm staysail and rigged the boat with a bridle for the
parachute-anchor and did everything except actually deploy it overboard. We did deploy it on the dock, inspected it and then repacked
it. We walked through fire-fighting
drills, man over board recovery drills, collision repair drills and, finally,
abandon-ship drills. Each
crewmember was assigned specific tasks during each emergency drill and the
drills were repeated until everyone knew exactly what was expected of him.
All personal flotation devices, strobe lights, whistles, harnesses and
tethers were inspected again. The
Captain reviewed the instructions for safety at sea.
Zero tolerance for illegal drugs. No
smoking below decks. No alcohol
consumption until we were at anchor. All
crew would wear safety harness and engage tethers to jack lines in the cockpit
and on deck. The helmsman would be
informed and acknowledge any crewmember leaving the cockpit to go forward day or
Captain instructed us on the duties for the watch and off-watch crew.
He followed the instructions set down in Section III of the MSSS manual
for Offshore Training Cruises and reviewed the requirements for
maintaining the log. The manual
lists the following watch duties:
Maintain required course & speed.
Each hour one of the watch crew would visually count the crew members on board, check appropriate through hull valves closed, hatches closed, electric fixtures off and battery charge levels in the satisfactory range, fresh water pressure switch and butane solenoid switch off, bilge water level (pump out as needed and count the strokes on the manual bilge pump to monitor inflow), inspect engine fluid levels and filters. Once the safety checks were done, the watch would enter the necessary tabular data in the logbook. The logbook was a spiral notebook opened flat so that two pages were available for each day's entries. The required data were:
Hourly ship's time at end of hour observed.
page center was at item number 8 and there was space to the right of item 10 for
the navigator to record his work and estimated positions.
Captain presented the watch list after he had finished going over the watch
duties. He used a four-hour on, eight off watch bill.
I got my desired watches, midnight-four and noon-four, and my watch mate
was the 1st Mate. Meal
preparation and clean up were the major added off-watch shift duties; but, we
each had our regular daily duties to perform.
The advantages of the four-on and eight-off schedule are that it is
simple and consistent, it is easy for the crew to become accustomed to it, it
gives sufficient time for other activities, and the crew can quickly get into a
reasonable work/sleep pattern. The
disadvantages are that it is routine. I
had to stay awake to take navigation sights at sunset, usually missed the
morning sights and had to take the noon sights quickly to go on watch.
Alternative watch arrangements are to offset crew watch assignments to
provide rotating watch mates, different watch lengths, three-on and six-off,
which provides changing start times each day and doesn't repeat until the start
of the fourth day, use a shortened or dog watch each day to provide changing
watch times. Each of these has the
sole advantage of providing variety to the crew.
However, their disadvantages are the advantages of the four-on and
eight-off system. It is neither
simple consistent, nor easy for the crew to adapt to changing work/sleep
last training we did that afternoon was to review the requirements for food and
water for the cruise. The Captain
guided us through these calculations. Several
considerations for planning were stressed:
calculating water needs, most resources recommend at least five quarts of
potable water or fluids, including soft drinks, per person per day.
British references say one gallon but they refer to the Imperial gallon
that is five US quarts. At any
rate, we were advised to plan for our estimated number of cruising days plus
fifty percent for both food and water. When
we completed that exercise, the Captain went to start provisioning for the
cruise. We used the time to sort
out our personal gear.
the Captain returned, we went to work stowing the food for six people for twelve
to fourteen days. There were
provisions that would be used by the new student crew on the return trip from
Bermuda. We stowed food in every available space.
Breads, crackers, cookies, and dry cereals were stored in the cabinets
above the settees where they would most likely remain dry.
Fresh fruits, oranges and apples, were stored in cabinets near or below
the waterline where they would remain cooler.
Potatoes, onions, lettuce, and other fresh vegetable were stored in
cabinets that were dark and dry with good air circulation.
Canned products were stored in lowest lockers due to their weight.
Soft drinks, fruit juices and some bottled water were also stored low.
The refrigerator was jammed full of meats, eggs, and dairy products.
This made meal preparation difficult during the first two days as we had
to dig down to get to the meats, cheeses and perishable vegetables stowed lower
to keep cooler.
the tasks and drills were done and everyone cleaned up and went to dinner,
Captain's treat. Again, we enjoyed
good seafood and wine. The Captain
had announced the day before that we would be leaving early in the morning so
everyone would need to be on board this night.
Sleeping arrangements were set so that the Captain used the starboard
settee berth, the 1st Mate had the port settee, the boatswains shared
the forward berth, and the navigator and I shared the aft quarter cabin berth.
Occasionally there were times of musical berths due to off-watch overlaps
where both claimants to a berth needed to sleep at the same time.
However, there was always someplace to achieve the horizontal position
and sleep. We all stretched out to
grab some rest before the 0300 planned departure time.
crew practiced coastal navigation techniques until we were out of sight of land.
The rest of the day was devoted to checking systems, cleaning the ship,
reporting sighting of ships, preparing food, and drinking Gatorade.
We motor-sailed to the southeast due to light contrary winds.
We began to settle into a routine at sea. Nothing really unusual occurred
until we entered the Gulf Stream late that afternoon.
We could tell that the sea became a bit bumpier, but the confirmation
came with the change in seawater temperature.
Stream, while a bit rougher than the coastal waters, was not uncomfortable to
me. However, the fellows trying to
sleep in the forward cabin berth disagreed with me. One came into the cockpit
and the other used the port settee while the 1st Mate was on watch.
We all suffered a bit from sleep deprivation until we learned to grab
sleep whenever we could. The
sailing was great and we caught the eddy as planned.
The Captain seemed to be pleased. It
was just another great day on the open ocean.
There is an awful lot of water out there.
day started as just another day of routine.
We practiced our celestial navigation techniques during the day.
We took star and moon shots early. Then
took sun shots at mid morning and at noon and again in late afternoon.
And finally, we took star shots in the evening.
I own a Davis Mark 25 plastic sextant.
It is adequate to learn on and reasonably priced.
I was able to achieve good results and accurate plots. However, the star shots were definitely more difficult with
my sextant. I borrowed one of my
crewmate's Astra IIIB - Deluxe sextant and was impressed with the difference.
The major difference was in the optics.
The weight was heavier which added stability during shots but the
sharpness of the star images allowed for much greater accuracy.
Just finding the desired star was much more difficult with my sextant.
I won't get rid of my plastic sextant but before I go cruising again, I
will own a better quality sextant. The
Astra IIIB - Deluxe is the most sextant for the money in my opinion.
other piece of navigation equipment that I intend to own before going on another
open ocean cruise is the Celesticomp V Navigation Computer.
While I agree with those who say that all of us who venture out in small
boats on blue water need to practice and hone our skills in the use of the
Nautical Almanac and Sight Reduction Tables, the Celesticomp takes all of the
drudgery out of calculating a LOP. One
can always impose some self-discipline and require the first few positions for
each cruise to be manually calculated by use of tables to maintain competency.
I would suggest that checking the results with the Celesticomp V would
even increase the skill level.
the late morning watch of this day, as I recall, there was some excitement.
We were on a port tack and the starboard jib sheet parted with a crack
that sounded like a rifle. The
Captain, who had been sleeping below, was on deck in a flash. The jib was flogging like a wild thing. We held our course and brought the windward (port) jib sheet
over to the starboard side main winch to bring the jib under control.
The problem was that the snatch block, which was mounted on a track on
deck, had failed and we needed to rig another block.
We never determined if the block failed and caused the sheet to part or
if the sheet had parted and caused the block to fail. The block sheaves were in
place but the roller had gone overboard.
we needed to rig another snatch block as well as replace the jib sheet.
We attached a spare block to the toe rail with a double shackle adjacent
to the old block's position. We
took a length of dock line and tied a rolling hitch to the single old sheet,
passed the dock line to the secondary winch and took the strain off the lower
end of the sheet. We were then able
to pass the tail of the old sheet through the new block.
As long as we remained on a port tack, that would be fine.
However, there was still work to do.
We had a spare line on board that was twice as long as the original jib
sheets. Where there were two
separate jib sheets originally rigged we would install the new line as a doubled
sheet by simply passing a loop through the jib's clew grommet and passing both
ends of the new sheet through its own loop.
Once the new sheet was in place, we used the same rolling hitch method to
route the new jib sheet through the new snatch block.
students learned several important lessons.
The major lesson was that one should solve the immediate problems first.
Get the flogging sail under control before it destroys itself, rigging,
and other things on deck. Once the
emergency has been handled, one can take the time to study the remaining
problems and develop practical solutions. When
planning a cruise, anticipate some failures and carry critical spares.
Sheets and blocks take a terrible strain on a larger boat.
Study working knots, hitches and bends and learn when to use each of
them. Inspect those items of
equipment that are under the greatest strain with the greatest frequency and
care. After we had solved the
parted jib sheet problem we inspected all of the deck hardware and found that
the main sail traveler port side adjustment line had come out of its stop and
pulled through two blocks. It was
jammed in place on the third block by its stop knot.
The problem was traced to a locking device stop screw that had vibrated
loose. Repairs were affected that
unusual event of the day was one that we didn't recognize at the time.
We sighted a cargo ship at about 1400 hours. That was the last ship or boat that we sighted until two days
later at 1000 hours as we neared Bermuda. There
really is a lot of empty water out there.
we finally deployed the Genniker we accelerated and at times hit twelve knots.
It was two full days of great sailing from early morning until late
evening. To be on the safe side,
the Captain had us take down the Genniker before dark each day.
expanse of fabulously blue water.
this had all been accomplished, the Captain announced that the water was
continuing to rise and we would have to prepare to abandon-ship.
I continued to pump and the Navigator continued to make simulated radio
calls except that he changed to MAYDAY. The
rest of the crew brought the liferaft canister into the cockpit along with the
abandon-ship jugs and dry bags, in which we all put our passports, wallets, and
personal medications. One
boatswain's mate had to retrieve a five-gallon jug of emergency water from where
it was lashed to the port shrouds. The
emergency water and abandon-ship jugs are heavy and unwieldy but the boatswains
were able to bring them off the foredeck and up the companion way quickly and
have them ready for deployment without too much trouble.
Captain gave the order to simulate deployment of the liferaft and for everyone
who had not already done so to don PFD's and to grab his personal abandon-ship
gear, which should have included a hat, long sleeve shirt, long pants, sun
protection lotion, and any other small creature comfort items we might need.
After we all assembled in the cockpit with our crew and personal gear,
the Captain called a halt to the exercise.
He was pleased with out efforts in that we knew what we were supposed to
do and entered into the spirit of the exercise with enthusiasm.
course, after a review of what we had done we had to secure and re-stow
everything where it was supposed to be. When
that was done, we deployed the Genniker and enjoyed another fine day of sailing.
The Captain said that we should sight Bermuda that afternoon and
announced that the first one to announce sighting Gibb's Hill lighthouse would
buy a case of beer for the crew in Saint George's Harbour.
That seemed to keep everyone from constantly scanning the horizon to be
able to shout, "land ho." We
contacted Bermuda approach control at sixteen miles out as required.
They cleared us to enter Bermudan waters and procede to St. George's
Harbour. We raised the Q flag as
sighted numerous large ships and some sailing yachts so we knew that we were
getting closer to Bermuda as our plots told us.
At 1813 hours I noted that what I had thought was a bare mast of a large
sailboat had not moved or swayed. I
was not about to say anything and buy the beer.
I pointed it out to one of the other students and he wasn't about to say
anything either. We waited and
waited and waited but no one was going to say, "land ho."
I finally went below and woke the Captain to announce that Bermuda was in
were southwest of the island, as planned, so the Captain continued to sail
around the south end and up the east coast to Town Cut into Saint George's
Harbour. This avoided the coral
strewn shallows north of the island. After
watching the island approaching for a while I decided to turn-in.
I got a few hours sleep and missed the night's trip up the east coast of
Bermuda. However, at midnight I
took the helm and motored through the approaches to the channel and through Town
Cut. We anchored in Saint George's
Harbour at 0100 hours of Day Nine. We
had completed a very successful passage in two hours less than five days.
Good planning, navigation, and sailing a steady course helped to make the
passage pleasant and without stress. The Captain broke out two six packs of beer
that he had hidden in the refrigerator and we had a very quiet celebration of
our successful cruise.
stores were open at that early hour but we got our bearings and obtained a place
to stay for the night. I was way
past ready for a shower and a shave and didn't want to stay on board that night.
The only criticism of the entire cruise and training program that I had
was what I considered an over-emphasis on water conservation.
Maybe I had already spent too many years in the U.S. Army practicing
being miserable to appreciate the lesson. The
Navigator and I found great accommodations in a private home for the night. After we had made ourselves presentable with an abundance of
hot water and soap, the owner made us welcome and shared some of his wealth of
knowledge about Bermuda. I enjoyed
talking with him while we sat around his swimming pool.
went our separate ways for the rest of the day and evening.
I enjoyed shopping, eating and drinking the good beer in Saint George's
that day. I regret that I didn't
plan ahead and stay a couple of days in Bermuda as a tourist. Three of us would
fly out the next day, Sunday, so we had made plans to meet at the boat in the
morning and share a taxi to the airport.
The Bermuda airport is modern and very efficiently arranged. I went through the whole process of getting boarding passes and being cleared through United States Customs before leaving Bermuda which eliminated any hassle or wait in Atlanta. I arrived home, in San Antonio, Texas, tired but satisfied with my own performance and my choice of sailing schools. I would recommend the Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship without reservation.