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~ A Cut Above ~

 

 

We received this letter from Tom Hamilton who sailed with us aboard HALIMEDA, IP45 from Norfolk to Bermuda in June 2002:

Norfolk to Bermuda
June 2000

Day One
When the taxi pulled up to the entrance of Taylor's Landing Marina in Little Creek Harbor (Norfolk, Virginia), I was already late.  We had been told to report aboard the sailing yacht Halimeda in the afternoon of June 16th.  I did, but it was really late afternoon and Captain Dave Appleton had been working the other crew members/students to prepare the boat for passage to Bermuda since noon.  We were participating in the Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship's (MSSS) Ocean Training Cruise 2000 scheduled to depart Norfolk on June 19 and arrive St. George's Harbour, Bermuda in about 5 to 6 days, depending on wind and weather. 

The 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. 

Halimeda 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 steady winds. 

Halimeda 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. 

The 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. 

During 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. 

Day Two
The next day, the 17th, was devoted to completing the inventory and inspection of the ship's mechanical components, radio and navigation equipment and foul weather sails and rigging equipment.  The crew duties for the cruise were assigned.  Two students were assigned as boatswain's mates to be responsible for all equipment on deck as well as the sails and rigging.  Another student was assigned as navigator to be responsible for monitoring weather, planning the route to Bermuda, tracking the ship's position, establishing radio communications, and maintaining the ship's log.  I was assigned as engineer responsible for inspecting, monitoring and maintaining all of the ship's mechanical systems, electrical, plumbing, and propulsion. 

I 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. 

The 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. 

All 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? 

After 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.   

While 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 he did. 

The 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. 

By 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. 

Day Three
The morning was devoted to each crewmember presenting a review of his area of responsibility to the other members of the crew.  The boatswains went over the emergency equipment on deck, MOB beacon, Lifesling, EPIRB'S, personal flotation devices, block and tackle, and spare lines for retrieval.  They also pointed out the location of all sail handling lines, blocks and winches and noted likely points of chafe. Leather, canvas, and garden hose make good chafe protection covers.  The boatswains then discussed the ground tackle, where it was stowed and how it was secured for the passage.  It was during this explanation that we discovered that the steel bar, which acts as the handle to manually operate the electric windlass, was missing.  We sailed without it.  The boatswains pointed out all of the inspections and checks that should be done during each watch to detect problems with the rigging and sails. 

The 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. 

I, 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. 

Following 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 night.  

The 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:

1. Maintain required course & speed.
2. Watch for other vessels & obstructions.
3.  Monitor sails, rigging, engine, steering gear, deck equipment & nav lights.
4.  Hourly safety checks of bilges, heads, stove, interior lights & battery voltage.
5.  Hourly complete logbook tabular data. (listed later)
6.  Make logbook entries of significant events & times.
7.  Make VHF radio contact (Channel 16) with ship sightings to assure safe passage.
8.  Notify Captain if:
     a.  Passing ship comes within 3 miles.
     b.  Barometer drops 5MB or more in one hour.
     c.  A significant change occurs in wing direction or strength, cloud cover, or sea state.
     d.  Bilge water level increases.
     e.  Any mechanical, electrical or rigging problems occur.
     f.  Unable to hold course as ordered.
     g.  Unable to maintain 4 knots boat speed.
     h.  If you are in doubt about anything.
9.  Obtain weather Reports on HF radio at 0500, 1100, 1700 and 2300 EST. Record on tape and make notes in logbook. 

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: 

1.       Hourly ship's time at end of hour observed.
2.       Course steered during past hour.
3.       Distance log reading at end of hour.
4.       Wind direction & speed during past hour.
5.       Wave direction & height during past hour.
6.       Number of waves passing boat per minute.
7.       Seawater temperature at end of hour.
8.       Cloud percent coverage & type at end of hour.
9.       Barometer reading at end of hour.
10.   Number of bilge pump strokes with water flowing.
11.   Boat Checker initials. 

The 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. 

The 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 patterns. 

The 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:

  1. Avoid foods to which a crewmember has allergies.
  2. Plan to have some quick fix foods in case of bad weather and rough seas.
  3. If in cold climates, plan to have soup and hot drinks available for the crew on-watch.
  4. Provide plenty of snack type food for the night watches.
  5. Provide variety in the meal plan.
  6. Sample menus were provided on page VII-1 of the MSSS manual.

For 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. 

When 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. 

Finally 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. 

Day Four
We cast off the dock lines and were underway by 0300 June 19, 2000.  It was my watch so I manned the helm while the Captain gave directions and headings.  It felt great to see the channel markers moving past as we motored out.  Quite a few large cargo and tanker ships were sighted.  They really move fast for something that large.  When we cleared the harbor and entered the more open road, the Captain reminded us that Halimeda was a sailboat.  The wind was right so the deck lights were turned on and the boatswains raised the main and deployed the jib and "we be sailing" to Bermuda.  I went off watch at 0400 and hit the berth to get an hour or so of sleep before sunrise. 

The 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. 

Day Five
My first full night watch was mildly exciting and invigorating.  The 1st Mate and I decided to man the helm one hour on, one hour off during our watch.  The member off would perform routine inspections of the ship and the required hourly checks and log entry prior to taking the helm.  Otherwise he could stretch out in the cockpit and read or talk to the helmsman or fetch drinks or snacks as desired as long as a good visual check of the horizon was maintained.  It worked well to pass the time and maintain alertness at the helm.  The hourly checks seemed to sneak-up on us more quickly than I imagined they could. 

The 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. 

The 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. 

The 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. 

During 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.  

Regardless, 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. 

The 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 day. 

Another 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. 

Day Six
This is the day that we deployed the Genniker.  It was a bigger task than we initially thought it would be.  First, we had to retrieve it from the locker beneath the forward berth.  Try lying across a folded mattress, standing on your head, reaching three feet down into a well and grabbing a slippery nylon sack full of sixty pounds of sail and attached lines.  We needed a sewer man to remain below deck to feed the sail through the forward hatch, a halyard man to attach the halyard to the head of the sail and keep the halyard clear of the head stay, shrouds, spreaders and other rigging, a bow man to take the tack line and attach it to the stem fitting being sure to keep it outside the lifelines and pressure off the pulpit.  We also needed a clew man and a dousing sock man.  The clew man had to run the clew line aft from the main winch through a turning block, mounted as far aft as possible, then forward outside of lifelines, furling lines, and shrouds and attach it to the clew.  The sock man was charged with keeping the genniker doused by keeping the sock down as far as possible while the tack and clew men did their jobs.  He also had the task of making sure that the sail was not twisted and all lines were run correctly.  This became the 1st Mate's job.   

When 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. 

Day Seven
It was more of the same great Genniker sailing.  We were able to get the sail up and down much quicker on the second and third effort.  Ships routine followed without any unusual events.  We were all getting a bit ripe due to water conservation lessons.  Gatorade has gotten really boring by this time. 

Great expanse of fabulously blue water. 

Day Eight
The Captain delayed deploying the Genniker on this day.  The students had a suspicion as to why.  We were correct.  The Captain announced in a loud voice that we would have a simulated emergency drill.  We had just struck a semi-submerged cargo container on the port bow and were taking on water at a rapid rate.  The Captain took the helm.  The Emergency Coordinator (1st Mate) directed one boatswain's mate to go forward on deck and assess damage and the other to do the same below deck.  I was to check for water in the bilge and engage all bilge pumps.  The engine was started to keep the batteries charged.  I found a note in the forward bilge that said the water was two feet deep and rising.  The below deck boatswain's mate found a note that said there was a major hole in the hull below the cabin deck and that it was not directly accessible from the cabin.  The boatswain's mates grabbed the collision mat and took it on deck and deployed it over the side and positioned it over the simulated hull damage.  I managed to unlash and extract the emergency water pump from the chain locker, set it up and begin to pump simulated water overboard.  All this time the Navigator was updating his position plot from the morning observations and then making simulated PAN calls giving our identification, position, condition, and plans. 

When 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. 

The 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. 

Of 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 required. 

We 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 sight. 

We 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. 

Day Nine
This day started with getting personal gear packed and then a short motor trip to the custom's dock.  The Captain took our passports and the ship's papers and manifest and called on the custom's officer.  We were cleared to land but we were not cleared to depart ship yet.  We motored to the fueling dock and once refueling was underway the students were released to explore Saint George's for one hour.  We had the unpleasant experience of regaining our land legs after five days at sea.  It is funny to watch sober grown men weave and stagger so early in the morning. 

Few 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. 

We 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. 

Day Ten
The crew met at the boat as planned.  We said our goodbyes and thanked both Captain Dave Appleton and 1st Mate Joe Kliment for what was a learning experience that was jam-packed with details and practical applications.  Hopefully we will all retain most of the lessons learned until we need to use them on another cruise.  I was very favorably impressed with the entire training procedure and the thoroughness of Captain Appleton's training regimen. 

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.

Tom Hamiltom, PhD
aboard S/V HALIMEDA
enroute to Bermuda
June 2000

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