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Course: Offshore Passage Making; Bermuda to Norfolk
Date May 26-June 3, 2018
Students: Naomi Emmerson, John Hall, Alan Kronish, Doug Smith
First Mate: Captain Jerry Nigro
Captain Captain Tom Tursi

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Online crew meeting to review cruise plans, route, personal gear and preparations.

Friday, 5/25
S/V NAVIGATOR, our Island Packet IP40 ocean sailing yacht was berthed at Vinings Landing Marina in Little Creek Harbor near the US Navy's Amphibious Warfare Base not far from Norfolk, VA. Captain Tom Tursi and First Mate Jerry Nigro were onboard and had prepared the yacht for crew arrival and our forthcoming ocean cruise to Bermuda, a distance of 700 miles in the open ocean. I had previously completed the basic food menue and provisioning for the cruise, all except for the fresh items to be procured on the last inport day. 

By mid-afternoon our ocean crew began arriving on board including: Naomi Emmerson, John Hall, Alan Kronish and Doug Smith. After introductions, they proceeded to stow their personal gear in the limited space available for six people who would spend the next week together on a 40-foot sailing yacht at sea. Gear stowage completed, we all adjourned to a local restaurant, Captain Groovy's, for dinner and to get to know each other and to discuss goals for the cruise. After dinner, we all proceeded early to bed as tomorrow would be a busy day with pre-departure preparations and training for the ocean cruise and the beginning of molding a group of adult sailors, all strangers to each other except Jerry and I, into a competent working team. Some of the crew judiciously elected to sleep ashore in nearby hotels to maximize their rest prior to going offshore. 

Saturday, 5/26
At 0800 we started work with the entire crew onboard NAVIGATOR with pre-departure training, explaining and demonstrating deployment of all sails including the mainsail, staysail, genoa and storm trisail; also the associated rigging and deck hardware including winches, cleats, line stoppers and the whisker pole used for running broad-off the wind wing on wing with the mainsail and genoa. Then also we demonstrated rigging the sea anchor used for heaving-to in storm conditions, inspected the entire yacht on-deck and below deck, reviewed safety procedures and emergency procedures as described in detail in our Ocean Training Cruises Preparation Guide (Blue Book) developed over the past 25 years based on the more than 250 ocean training cruises that we have conducted in that time. By evening, we were all sweaty, hot and hungry, so we drove to Bubba's Restaurant at the Lynnhaven Rhodes Inlet in Virginia Beach, VA for dinner and refreshments before retiring for the night in preparation for tomorrow's busy day... 

Sunday, 5/27
The Blue Book contains a series of equipment and safety checklists that need to be verified prior to departing for sea, and these were allocated to each of the crewmembers for completion working under the direction of First mate Jerry, while I went to the Food Lion supermarket and completed the fresh food procurement and stowed it in the refrigerator, which was very cold indeed having run for several days now on shore-based power. This morning's work was completed by noon, so we all went to the Captain's Galley Restaurant at Vinings Landing Marina for lunch, and returned to NAVIGATOR to undertake the all-important navigation preparations, watchkeeping procedures, and weather review for the cruise. 

Navigation preps were conducted as an all-hands team effort so that everyone onboard would be familiar with the route strategy and navigation details, as well as the charts, reference books, logbooks, and electronic nav instruments. NAVIGATOR has a modern suite of navigation and communications equipment including: GPS-based charts plotters, AIS automated information system, Sirius satellite-based weather data and graphics, Radar, VHF radio, NAVTEXT information system, SSB radio, and Email for text and graphic communications. In addition to these electronics, our ocean navigation procedures will be based in large part on classic paper and pencil navigation based on the ship's steering compass and the distance-measuring log plus the celestial LOP lines of position that we are able to acquire with Sextant shots of the Sun and other celestial bodies. This information will be integrated into a meaningful navigation procedure based on regular observations entered into the Deck Logbook and the DR dead reckoning plot. So... it takes quite a bit of time for new crewmembers to become familiar with this range of equipment to enable effective and efficient use while underway at sea, and we spent considerable time doing that training. 

We also needed to review the current weather forecasts and couple this information with our route strategy and departure plans. We did this first by reviewing our onboard and internet resources, and second by the supporting forecasts provided by Bradley Mabe, a Maryland School graduate and professional meteorologist who provided the following forecast on Sunday 

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
5/27 - Winds SW 10 - 15 increasing 15 - 20 afternoon and evening.
Increased chance of showers & T-storms off coastal Carolina
5/28 - Winds S 10 - 15 becoming light and variable in the afternoon and evening
5/29 - Winds continue light and variable - mainly S to SW 5 to 10
Increased chance of showers & T-storms as outflow from tropical storm (TS) Alberto adds moisture to the weather pattern
Tropical Storm Alberto expected to make landfall around 2 PM Monday on the Florida panhandle. Forecast track still suggests tracking N and no issues on your course. 

So, based on this we concluded that an on-schedule departure tomorrow Monday was in order since there were no adverse weather concerns, and we made plans for a mid-morning departure. Pursuant to that departure, the following watch bill was established: 

  • 12-4 Watch (midnight to 0400 and noon to 1600): Alan and John
  • 4-8 Watch (0400 to 0800 and 1600 to 2000): Tom and Naomi
  • 8-12 Watch (0800 to noon and 2000 to Midnight): Jerry and Doug

Monday, 5/28
We received the following weather update from Bradley, which promised no adverse conditions to our plans, but it did imply that we would have lots of cloudy and rainy weather due to tropical storm Alberto's predicted path:

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
5/28 - Winds SW 15 to 20 becoming S 20 to 22 South of the NC/VA line
5/29 - Winds Variable due to short wave passage SW to NW 10 to 15
5/30 - Winds W 15 to 20 continuing NW to W 10 to 15
Increased chance of showers and T-storms due to outflow moisture from TS Alberto
TS Alberto continues N track with landfall near Pensacola and continued N track into Alabama. 

We left Vinings Landing Marina at 0950 on Monday. At noon we set the 12-4 watch of Alan and John. By 1245 we were past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, proceeding down the eastbound auxiliary channel of Thimble Shoal Ship Channel, and were approaching Cape Henry by which time we had completed lunch of turkey, cheese and tomato sandwiches prepared on organic whole-grain sandwich bread. Allen is serving as student skipper for today. Light rain and mist have started. Winds are from the east at 8 to 10 knots and slowly veer to the south through the afternoon. 

As we round Cape Henry leaving the Chesapeake Bay and entering the Atlantic Ocean, we begin our ocean route strategy. The straight line (rhumbline) connecting Cape Henry and Bermuda bears in a direction of 115ºTrue, but we cannot attempt to sail along this line for two reasons: One, we need to stay south of the ship exit lane from Chesapeake Bay, which bears 140ºTrue and then 123ºTrue for a distance of 10 miles from Cape Henry, so our 115ºTrue rhumbline would cross that ship lane. And second, we want to sail to a point about 10 miles east of Diamond Shoal off of Cape Hatteras where we normally expect to enter the 2 to 3 knot northeast flowing Gulf Stream, which can push us to the northeast and back toward our rhumbline by the time we get across. So the first leg of our route we will sail along the Virginia coast about 10 miles offshore until reaching the point east of Diamond Shoal; then turn east to our second leg toward Bermuda. 

After passing the ship exit lanes along the Virginia coast we will encounter a number of physical objects 10 to 30 miles offshore that we need to remain cognizant of, including five US Navy fixed towers, a significant number of yellow lighted buoys and the red lighted sea buoys that ring to US Coast. These are all shown on NOAA Chart 12200 and are included in the USCG Light List enabling us to know their locations and status, which is important when passing this area at nighttime or in limited visibility. On the second leg, after passing Diamond Shoal, there is the Gulf Stream and the large coral area on the north side of Bermuda, and in between there is 500 miles of open ocean with little in it except commercial ships and tugs. 

Tuesday, 5/29
Overnight the winds backed to the southeast at 8 to 10 knots continuing to oppose our direction of travel, so we motored through the night in rain and fog, which was a real challenge requiring extreme vigilance in our watchkeeping and radar/AIS tracking of potential collisions. By 0500 the winds veered to the southwest and the rain eased off for a few hours only to return on and off throughout the day. By evening, winds veered further to the west but remained in the 5 to 8 knot range, so we motored or motor-sailed throughout the day and night. For dinner we had beef stew a la Dinty Moore enhanced with frozen veggies. At 1840 we reached our waypoint 10 miles E of Diamond Shoal and turned east toward Bermuda. Winds filled in from the southwest and we had a very nice reaching sail overnight in flat waters, but with lightening squalls threatening. 

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
5/29 afternoon - winds SW 12 - 15 Increased chance of showers and thunderstorms
5/30 winds becoming W 10 to 12 becoming 5 to 10 in the afternoon and evening
5/31 winds variable 5 to 10 in a line from NC / VA border SE toward Bermuda due to shortwave trough. High pressure building to the South of your position 

Wednesday, 5/30
Winds remained pretty much from the west or southwest at 10 to 15 knots overnight and in the early morning hours, and the rain held off, and we had some nice sailing on a starboard broad reach. By 0800 the wind dropped to less than 5 knots and the rain and squalls returned, so we motored on. Now, after two full days of motoring or motor-sailing we became concerned with our fuel reserves which showed a little over half a tank with about 500 miles yet to go to Bermuda. I was concerned that if the winds continued to be light as indicated by the forecasts, and we continued to motor those 500 miles, that we could be in a precarious situation as we approached the extensive reefs near Bermuda. If we ran out of fuel there and had no wind with which to sail, we could conceivable be set upon the reefs.

So, in the interest of safety, I called the US Coast Guard using Jerry's satellite phone and apprised them of our situation. They were very helpful and accommodating wanting to know if we had enough food and water, how many persons onboard, was anyone seasick or otherwise incapacitated, what electronics and communications equipment did we have onboard, liferaft, PFDs, and so forth. They said they would contact the Bermuda RCC and apprise them of our situation, and they asked us to call them back every 12 hours to update our status, which we did... 

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
5/30 winds W 10 to 12 becoming more variable during the day. evening and overnight, winds NW 5 to 10. Increased chance of showers & T-storms
5/31 winds returning from S and light becoming SW 10 to 12 as chance of showers and T-storms decrease
6/1 High pressure to your E and S reasserts as wind pattern becomes SW 10 to 15 becoming SW 15 to 20 later in the day. 

At noon our position was at 3506N, 7314W. Raining now. At 1300 we entered the Gulf Stream, which seems unusual as compared with most years past. It seems to be laying offshore about 50 miles from Diamond Shoal, and the max current we saw was in the one knot range as compared with two knots or more normally. Max temperature was about 82F versus 84F normally. It appears that were through the Stream by midnight based on seawater temperatures dropping to 79F. 

All are crew are doing well with the bouts of seasickness passing. Lots of wet foulies and smelly socks hanging around the boat awaiting sunshine to dry out. 

Thursday, 5/31
Overall, we’ve had rain, rain, rain. Lots of rain. We are now heading southeast straight towards Bermuda with about 440 miles to go. For the first 2 days we were heading south and had 12 hours of nice sailing and the rest of the time was rain and motoring with winds directly from the south, and so we were heading right into it.

Everybody is doing fine now. The first day or two is always rough because everyone is getting acclimated and accustomed to the routine on board and the boat motion. There was some seasickness the first day or so but it looks like everyone is pretty much over it now. On Monday afternoon we were heading straight into a 15 to 20 knot wind and we had very, very choppy conditions and there were crew not feeling very well with that, but everyone now has their sea legs and the boat motion is better because we are not pounding into wave action. 

We have not been able to do anything with celestial navigation because we’ve had cloudy weather, but of course we are keeping a DR plot and that will come into play much more when we can get some celestial shots. 

Tonight we had beans and hotdogs and sauerkraut for dinner. All of our meals so far have been real “boy” food. Got a lot of sleep today and we’re all doing fine. 

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
5/31 - Winds WSW 10 to 15 showers and T-storm possibility continues
6/1 - Winds W to SW at 10 to 15 increasing to 15 to 20 in the evening and becoming SW overnight shower and T-storm threat diminishes
6/2 - Winds WSW 10 to 15 becoming SW 15 to 20
High pressure to your S is the main weather feature; expect SW winds for the duration. Showers and T-storm threat continues to diminish through the period. 

Friday, 6/1
There was no rain today. Clear skies allowed us to do some celestial work and everyone participated. Alan has gotten some very good shots with high accuracy of close to one mile. He got three consecutive shots like that. So we've kept busy with that. We had spaghetti and meatballs for supper. Right now there are some black clouds behind us and a few spits of rain. Hopefully some wind will come with it. 

Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
6/1 winds light and variable this morning mainly W to NW 5 - 8 high pressure to your SSW and another to your E make winds light. You're kinda caught between their influences. Later today, high pressure to your E moves S bringing winds back SW 10 - 12
6/2 winds WSW at 10 becoming 15 to 20 in the afternoon
6/3 winds W 10 - 15
There is a slight chance of scattered showers and T-storms throughout the period. 

We've received Brad's forecast and we're getting the predicted winds now. The next couple of days sound great; glad to hear it. But no matter what we have with the winds we won't get in until late Sunday at the best and it may even be Monday morning. We're monitoring the fuel situation because we've had to do so much motoring. Right now we're pretty good because we're sailing and if we keep sailing for at least 24 hours we'll be perfectly fine. And from the weather forecast, it sounds like it will be the case. 

We're all doing fine. We're eating; we're happy. We had a beautiful sunny day today and were able to get more celestial shots and do some running fixes. Naomi also had some pretty good celestial shots. John took some more too. 

With motoring for 5 days we were all going a little stir crazy but we all have our sanity back now that we can sail! That whole time it was wet and muggy and motor, motor, motor so it was pretty uncomfortable. It was just boring and hot and sticky. Yesterday it started clearing up and we're all in good spirits and enjoying the sailing. 

Saturday, 6/2
Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
6/2 winds SW 10 - 15 becoming W in the afternoon evening increasing chance of showers and T-storms
6/3 winds W 15 to 20 diminishing to 10 - 12 late morning
6/4 winds SW 10 - 15 becoming 15 to 20 in the afternoon showers and T-storms possible. 

We've had weather as forecast by Brad, and have been sailing since last night and we've made great progress. We've had 10-20 knots today and we've been storming along at a good clip. We've been sailing a straight line, almost downwind. So the wind is from a favorable direction and the perfect wind strength. We expect to get in to Bermuda by the afternoon tomorrow, Sunday. We will talk to you when we get to Bermuda! 

Sunday 6/3
Bradley Mabe sent the following weather forecast:
6/3 winds W 15 to 20 diminishing to 10 to 12 later in the day showers and T-Storms possible
6/4 winds SW 15 to 20 becoming SW 20 to 25 in the evening showers and T-storms possible.
6/5 winds SW 15 to 20
6/6 winds become light and variable primarily from NW due to a frontal passage. 

After days of motoring, on Friday afternoon (June 1) the winds came up and started building. We had about 10-12 knots of wind from the southwest and we could start sailing, which we did at that point. The winds built overnight to about 15-18 knots by morning, still from the southwest. During the overnight period we were on a broad reach sailing a course of about 120 degrees, that is, we were sailing east, towards Bermuda, on a starboard tack, and we continued all that day making very nice progress. The skies began to clear and we got some celestial shots. And then the wind clocked, that is, it went to the right as we were sailing, and it made us go further south than we wanted. So we gybed the boat very nicely in strong winds of 20-25 knots. Once we gybed we were sailing on a port tack and we continued that way for quite awhile. Then we got to a point where the wind was almost straight in back of us and it didn't work at all with our sail combination. So we put up the whisker pole, which is always a really exciting procedure to go through. Once we had the whisker pole up we were able to sail wing on wing on starboard tack…. the whisker poled-out genoa was out on starboard and the mainsail was out on port side. We had a terrific sail with the sails out in this manner. 

We got to a point where we were able to see the first mark at Bermuda; we had a visual on North Rock. As you come in from the sea there are three markers. The one furthest west is North Rock, the one in the middle is North East Breaker and then the one furthest east is called Kitchen Shoal. Once past North Rock, we continued on a heading towards North East Breaker Beacon. It was around North East Breaker that we took down the pole, because our new heading would be more towards the southeast. We put out the genoa and main on a conventional starboard tack. Then we had a beautiful sail for the last 10-15 miles with boat speeds up to 10 knots. It was blowing 18-22 knots and we were really chugging along. It was a nice finish to the cruise. 

It was about this time that we spoke to Bermuda Radio and they said, "Oh yes, NAVIGATOR, how is your fuel situation?" When we were motoring for days on end, we had made the prudent decision to alert the US Coast Guard to a possible fuel shortage situation. It was really interesting how the Coast Guard handled the situation. They were very helpful and they asked us to contact them every 12 hours. So we would call by Satphone every 12 hours and they would say, "Oh yes, NAVIGATOR, how is your fuel situation?" We would have to give them our position, and they would ask how was everyone, did we have enough food, did we have enough water? We went through this daily so we became good friends. They said they were going to pass our information along to the Bermuda RCC, and so when we contacted Bermuda we were able to close that out and continue on. 

Bermuda radio told us to go to the Sea Buoy which is just a mile out of the harbor entrance and at that time we took our sails down and motored in. We got to the customs dock, as we normally do, and we pulled up to dock in front of a French boat. There was a guy on the dock. He grabbed lines for us, and it turns out it was Naomi's husband Jake who had arrived the day before. 

We checked in through customs and everybody cleared their stuff off the boat and went to their respective hotels. We got together with everyone for dinner at the Wahoo Bistro last night and then proceeded to get 12 hours sleep! 

Overall it was a good cruise because we had many different conditions. In the very beginning we had rough seas and sick people, which is not unusual. After two days they got over it and conditions settled down. Then we had calms with no wind, and we did a lot of motoring. We had rain at various time, sun at various times, no wind, some wind, and lots of wind. So, a bit of everything. The crew meshed very well and got along well. 

Right now it's a beautiful day in Bermuda with bright sun and cumulus clouds.

Captain Tom Tursi
St Georges, Bermuda


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