2009 Caribbean Cruises
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Monday February 23, 2009:
Following our menu planning, we experienced the
provisioning process in a tropical port at the local market, Pueblo. Groceries
stowed, the captain assigned crew positions for the day: Todd and Scott,
boatswains; Rina safety and emergency coordinator; Aiji navigator and Sharon as
engineer. Their respective review of the ships systems was followed by group
seminar and discussion, lasting well into the evening.
An inoperative foredeck light caused us to send Todd up the
mast to retrieve the blown bulb, which was replaced the next morning by Scott,
following a quick trip to a hardware store. By days end, we had a much clearer
understanding of CELESTIAL's operating systems as well as sails
Tuesday February 24, 2009:
We were sailing into 25 to 27 knots of apparent wind from
due East. We set the staysail for an added boost and to moderate weather helm.
After two hours, we transited Current Cut to enter Pillsbury Sound, estimating
water depth by color. We sailed past St John, up the windward passage then set
our course directly for Jost Van Dyke. Once there, our anchor finally held on
the 3rd attempt and at 3:00 PM we went ashore to clear BVI customs and
immigration. We then walked down the beach to Foxy's bar/restaurant where the
captain led the crew in a group discussion of ASA 106 curriculum topics. We
stayed on for dinner ashore returning to CELESTIAL by 8:00 PM.
Before retiring, Aiji put the finishing touches on his DR plot and bearing
Wednesday, February 25, 2009:
We chose to try to make Gorda Sound by 16:00 in order to
position us for a reach to Anegada the following morning. After departing our
anchorage heading east, the day was full of practical navigational challenges.
Each crewmember, in rotation, followed Todd's lead in obtaining 2 and 3 bearing
fixes, continually updating our position and Todd's DR plot.
Nearing Guana and Great Camanoe Islands, our crew practiced
a series of running fixes. To the Northeast, the turquoise-bottomed cumulus
clouds marked the location of the Anageda Reef, although the island itself was
not visible. We updated our position in preparation for entering Gorda Sound
with several 2-bearing fixes. We entered the narrow channel between Colquhoun
reef and Cactus Reef with full main and staysail on a beam reach at 15:30.
Overall, the day's weather had moderated with wind 15 to 18
kts and seas, mostly protected by Tortola, to a maximum of 5 feet. We anchored
in the lee of Prickly Pear Island in 15 feet on a sandy bottom in the company of
several loggerhead turtles. After the captain led a group discussion of marine
weather topics relevant to temperate and tropical climates, Sharon and Aiji
prepared a fabulous dinner of sauteed chicken parmesan in a tomato-based garlic
sauce. We celebrated Sharon's birthday with a surprise birthday cake and a
rousing chorus of "happy birthday". Then some of the crew opted for a
swim and discovered the bioluminescence occasionally present in Gorda Sound.
Thursday, February 26, 2009:
After all crew successfully rescued our "victim",
our navigator Rina plotted a rhumb lone to Anegada at 005 deg magnetic. Sharon
steered a perfect course as we trimmed our full main, staysail and genoa for
speed, topping 7.5 knots in about 15 knots of wind from the beam. We overtook
several large catamarans and soon spotted the red and green nav aids marking the
entrance to the Anegada anchorage.
At anchor, the Captain conducted a 2 hour review of marine
weather and seamanship topics. The crew went ashore for a dinner of the famous
Anegada lobster on the beach under a brilliant starry sky. Returning to CELESTIAL,
our crew prepared for the voyage ahead as Scott and Sharon plotted rhumb lines
for our next destination, Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands.
Saturday, February 28, 2009, Day 6:
The scene could not fail to impress--brilliant turquoise
water fringed with reefs against a cumulus dotted sky. Our co-navigators, Sharon
and Scott planned our route through the shallow (8-10ft) channel from the
anchorage west then north, around the west end of Anegada. From there we entered
the Anegada Passage dividing St Martin from the Virgin Islands. We aggressively
sailed north and east against an impressive east swell of gentle eight-foot
waves. We soon lost sight of Anegada and with only the horizon to our west,
north and east, the only landmass still visible was distant Virgin Peak above
Todd and Scott shared the first watch of four hours. Later
watches were rotated among our entire crew every four hours. We sailed well
under full main and genoa working our way across the north coast of Anegada and
her dangerous reefs which extend for some distance east and south. The sun set
and we continued our watch rotations, updating our DR plot every hour and
refining it whenever the opportunity arose to take a magnetic bearing on a
charted land mass.
A 600ft tanker on a collision course with us was contacted
at 02:30hrs and we agreed on a port to port passing, doing so with 0.4 nm
At 0400 hours the captain contacted a cruise ship bound for
St John, 6nm distant at the time, to alert them that we would be conducting
nighttime crew overboard exercises in the vicinity and to not be concerned in
the event they spotted a strobe on the water in our direction.
With all hands on deck, we commenced crew overboard
recoveries under sail power alone with full main and genoa in open waters of the
Caribbean Sea, 20 miles north of St Croix and 15 miles south of St Thomas. The
night suddenly appeared very dark and alone on this moonless night as each crew
in turn rotated at helm, spotter and sail management positions. We continued our
exercises until all had the taste of success, and then thanked our off-watch
crew so they could get some rest.
At this moment we are approaching the outer aids to
navigation at Canal del Oeste to enter Ensenada Honda and Dewey, Culebra to
clear Customs and Immigration back into the United States and Puerto Rico.
Sunday, March 1, Day 7:
This captain is always impressed with the professionalism
and courteous way business is conducted by Culebra Customs and Border
Protection. Once cleared, we lowered our yellow quarantine flag, had lunch and
motor sailed from Ensenada Honda along the east coast of Culebra, inside of the
reefs to the west coast of Culebrita.
There, we selected a mooring and settled in with water so
clear, the details of coral heads were easily distinguished 35 feet below. The
crew went for a refreshing swim while Scott took a quick nap and the intrepid
Aiji discovered a nurse shark while snorkeling on the reef below. After Todd and
Rina prepared an East Indian dish of curried chicken on rice, we continued our
topical review of ASA 106 curriculum with group discussion of engineering and
The last few days have challenged this crew and they have
risen to the task of sailing the vessel non-stop 25+ hours day and night,
building on navigational skills acquired before this course and refined over the
span of a week and a couple of hundred coastal sailing miles. The overall
feeling now was one of confidence and a desire for a good night's sleep, which
we had under the stars of a moonless night in the quiet lee of Culebrita.
Sunday morning we rose early and Aiji created a nav plan to
take us to Lindbergh Bay on the south coast of St Thomas. We arrived at 15:00
and set two anchors off the bow for practice under the watchful eye of some very
large sea turtles. After a full day following a full week, at 16:00 our crew
decided it was time to take their ASA 106 written examinations. Stay tuned for
the exciting conclusion to our sailing saga!
Monday, March 2, 2009:
This morning with Sharon at the helm, our bow crew raised
our 2 anchors and we motored into the West Gregorie Channel to Crown Bay. After
the captain obtained port clearance, we landed at the fuel dock and topped off
our diesel. With each crew member briefed on docking procedures of our 32,000
pound ship, we demonstrated solid teamwork as we glided into our slip without
touching a piling.
With lines secure, we washed her down and exchanged sincere
wishes to sail again together. Knowing this crew as I do, we probably will for
the fun of it, but there can be no doubt each are qualified to do so
independently and will enjoy a lifetime of confident coastal sailing.
Captain F. Lee Tucker