Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
||Offshore Passagemaking; Norfolk to St Thomas
||November 2-16, 2008
Carlson, Paul Kidd, Tom Kopcik, Larry Weld
Nov 1 Saturday, Preparation for Sea
Captain Jochen Hoffmann and First Mate Captain Louise Orion who has
agreed to chronicle this cruise, team up to carry out essential
preparations under a crystal clear blue sky. Indeed, the Captain has been
doing maintenance since Thursday afternoon, installing a new satellite
weather transceiver and many other essential tasks. Today the rig is fine
tuned, and the outboard motor is moved from the stern to the side to
prevent chafe against the dinghy. Students arrive and settle in. Tom
Kopcik, an IT professional from upstate NY, arrives first and helps out
with the outboard evolution. Matt
Carlson, a Marketing Manager from PA is next, followed by Larry Weld, a
retired IT Manager also from NY.
Nov 2 Sunday
Paul Kidd, a Law Enforcement Officer from MD joins us in the morning,
completing our crew. After
stowing their personal gear and a round of introductions, all aboard are
soon ready to get on with cruise preparations and training.
Every sail is deployed and inspected, including setting up the
storm trysail. The sea anchor is inspected, rigged, and deployed on the
dock. A thorough interior
walkthrough familiarizes the crew with the boat’s systems and amenities.
Weather checks indicate that a substantial front is moving in, and
the sky is already covering up.
Nov 3 Monday
Crew assignments are made. Tom will be Bosun, Paul will serve as Radio
Operator and Emergency Coordinator, Larry is Engineer, and Matt is
Electrician and Assistant Bosun. The
Captain encourages everyone to take an interest in all crew functions.
Preps continue in earnest. The
crew hoists the Captain up the mast for routine inspections and
maintenance. A provisioning
list is made and existing food and cleaning supplies are inventoried, as
are all tools and spare parts. The emergency gear is inspected and stowed
for sea: liferaft, abandon ship containers, collision mat, emergency
steering, emergency rudder, crew overboard gear. The sky is fully overcast with forecast gale conditions in
the path of our course, so it is decided to delay departure.
Nov 4 Tuesday
Provisioning and stowing food, supplies and spare parts is the major
event of the day, along with a considerable amount of deck work.
Among other tasks, the dinghy, storm trysail and emergency water
jugs are secured on deck. The
evening finds us watching election results aboard on the ship’s TV!
We are continuing to watch the weather closely and elect to delay
departure another day to await passage of a strong front which is sitting
offshore on our intended track. It
is raining on and off all day with gusts above 25 knots at the dock.
Nov 5 Wednesday
There is still plenty to do in expectation of our departure.
The Captain goes over the watch assignments and the watch routines.
A weather and navigation briefing gets us all on the same page, and
the crew then prepares the charts and plotting sheets necessary for our
pilotage out of the Chesapeake, our crossing of the Gulf Stream, and
subsequent intended track South. Familiarization with the engine, the
generator, the electrical panel and the vessel’s various pumps and
through hulls rounds out our preps. Weather
continues foul at our dock location.
Meanwhile we are also tracking tropical storm Paloma which has
developed over Nicaragua. We are gaining much practice in the fine art of
marine weather acquisition and analysis from various sources including
internet, HF radio, navtex and VHF.
Nov 6 Thursday: Day 1 at Sea
Finally the long awaited day has come! CELESTIAL pulls
away from the dock at 11:30 AM under leaden skies and 15-20 knot winds.
Our progress is swift under engine and double reefed main, so that
by 1445 we have cleared Cape Charles and are sailing under reefed main and
genoa in steady 20 knot winds on our starboard quarter.
The ride is smooth and every one is settling in nicely to the
ship’s routine. The watch system goes into operation, and we make our way
South fairly close to the coast, as our immediate goal is to reach 35ºN
75ºW, just South of Cape Hatteras, where we have planned to cross the
Gulf Stream at its narrowest point. The skies are still overcast but
thankfully without rain, and we continue to broad reach under sail alone
all through the night.
Nov 7 Friday Day 2
Daybreak finds us at our intended position to cross the Stream, still
broad reaching on starboard tack. Although the skies cleared for a short
while, we are again under full overcast skies. At 0930 we execute our
planned gybe to tackle the Gulf Stream crossing at right angle.
We anticipate a 36 mile northerly set during the crossing. The seas
are lumpy but manageable and we are fascinated to log a water temperature
increase from 65 degrees to 82 degrees in the space of 4 hours. We make a
fast right angle crossing, executing our next gibe around 2100 to start
heading South. We are taking
a conservative route with possible ports of refuge in case hurricane
Paloma, now located in the Caymans, veers significantly towards our
Nov 8 Saturday Day 3
Finally, clearing skies greet us this day, along with splendid news
that Paloma is forecast to dissipate after crossing Cuba.
Perfect winds of 15-20 knots clocking around West and North as we
plan to sail East and South over the next few days should make for happy
sailing. The Captain gives a training session on weather in the morning,
and explains the sextant to those new to this instrument of traditional
navigation. Out come the
sextants – trained at the sun, daytime moon, and Jupiter. But the
overcast returns and we are unable to get a fix.
Sailing SE at a fast clip, we occasionally see boat speeds up to 10
knots through the water! The
main sail is reefed at sunset, and the genoa is also reefed around 0200
when a weak low passes overhead with gusts above 25 knots.
Nov 9 Sunday Day 4
Overcast skies still, but steady winds in the low twenties allow us to
close reach on our intended course. We are sailing SE toward a way point at 27ºN 65ºW, where we
hope to pick up the trade winds and reach all the way down on the
“I-65” meridian of longitude, the “highway” to the Islands.
Today’s Captain’s briefing is about firefighting strategies.
Later in the day the skies clear, winds drop as the barometer is
rising. A message over satellite link from the Head of the Maryland
School, Tom Tursi brings immense relief and cheers all around:
“Paloma is no more. Sail
November 10 Monday Day 5
Early in the day, the winds continue to lighten up at around 5 knots,
so we are motoring for most of the day, from midnight right on through to
10 PM. This also allows us to
recharge our battery bank which seems to remain lower than we would like
it to be. Although we are
still at 30º North, perhaps this is the beginning of “Horse Latitude”
conditions. The day is uneventful, except for noticing that about a
foot-long section of the mainsail luff has pulled out of its track above
the tack, which is corrected. Overcast
skies preclude celestial shots, but instruction centers on offshore Man
Overboard strategies, and engineering issues.
November 11 Tuesday Day 6
The wind returns, but from the NE where it will stay for the rest of
the passage, and is now building up above 10 knots to our delight.
Training involves an interesting session about world sailing routes
and the pilot charts of the North Atlantic.
We also have an opportunity to practice heaving to, and to take a
closer look at the features of our radar.
November 12 Wednesday Day 7
We are sailing fast under full moon and clear skies.
What a treat! We are now at 27º North and the Trade Winds have come
roaring in at a sustained 20-25 knot from the NE.
With a deeply reefed main, plus traveler down to control her
weather helm, CELESTIAL
thrives in these conditions. She
can carry a lot of headsail, which allows her to punch through the waves
as we make our way South. The
close reaching is not overly comfortable but the boat is sea kindly.
Those of us who are keen on celestial navigation are able to take
and reduce sun shots. We have
been experiencing problems with our holding tank overboard discharge pump,
so we rig an alternate discharge system using the deck discharge fitting
November 13 Thursday Day 8
The NE trades continue to build to sustained 25 knot levels.
By 0800 we have reached our intermediate goal of 65ºW longitude at
25ºN latitude, so that we can now ease our progress with a kindlier, more
southerly course. Today’s technical challenge is unusual. The aft head, a high tech vacuum flush unit, mysteriously
packs it in for a day. The culprit turns out to be a plastic brace from
the toilet seat which had dislodged with the ship’s motion and fallen
into the toilet. Life at sea
is full of surprises. Meanwhile
we are now learning to read the skies even more carefully watching for
tropical weather cells which bring bursts of higher winds and occasional
rain. We adjust our sail plan as needed.
November 14 Friday Day 9
Our 0800 position finds us at 23ºN, 064º30W where tropical cells
continue to pop up on occasion to keep life interesting.
Clear skies in between the clouds allow us to catch a series of sun
shots, from which we derive a “sun-run-sun” position fix. We also use
the sun to calibrate the ship’s compass. Additional training involves
getting better acquainted with our state-of-the-art electronic chart
plotter. Never a day without some form of mechanical challenge.
Today, one of the padeyes which anchors the dinghy hoisting harness
gives out, so we rig a temporary dinghy lifting mechanism to do the job
until we reach port.
November 15 Saturday Day 10
With East winds in the 20 knot range, we are approaching our
destination and our training today involves preparing for landfall and
visual navigation and GPS. Around
dinner time, one of our crew members falls and hits the back of his head,
and a shipmate, a trained first responder, assesses his condition and
recommends “no wheel duty” for the night.
Shipmates step forward to pick up the slack and by next morning our
ailing crewmember is back in action.
November 16 Sunday Day 11
Land ho! At 0530, the
lovely peaks of the Virgin Islands are sighted in the distance, and take
shape as the sun rises. We
cap off this passage with a wonderful downwind sail, running down the
passage between St Thomas and St John, and then heading West to reach
Crown Bay on the southern coast of St Thomas.
Those of us who know this cruising area are delighted to be back,
while the first timers are taking in the beauty of these islands.
By midday, CELESTIAL
is docked at her winter home at Crown Bay Marina.
Showers, a nice meal ashore and phone calls to friends and families
are at the top of our personal to do lists, while laundry and boat clean
up take up the rest of the day.
Since we left at noon on November 6, our passage took
just ten days and one hour. And we soon learn that we have beaten the
school’s record for this passage, which normally takes 11 days.
Now here’s something to celebrate!
We’ve logged a total of 1560 nautical miles, over 150 miles per
day on average, to cover a 1300 mile rhumb line distance.
Paraphrasing Captain and crew: What a voyage to
Captain Louise Orion
First Mate, S/V CELESTIAL IP440
November 16, 2008
St Thomas, USVI
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