Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Sun. May 30, 1999
Mon. May 31, 1999
Voice mail message from Tom this morning - the weather is beautiful but
the winds have been light, so they've been forced to do alot of
motoring.......they are approximately 250 miles from Bermuda and should
arrive there on Wednesday.
Wed. June 2, 1999
For the Bermuda crew.....first priority is showers, then drinks and
From the Maryland School office, Nancy placed calls to all 18 contacts to inform them of the safe passage.
A full trip summary will be placed here via email from Bermuda.
Please stop back to read more about ocean sailing.
Thursday, June 3rd, 1999
Aboard Dream Catcher in Saint Georges Harbour, Bermuda.
Ahead of us are Teal Monday alongside in front of the Wharf Tavern with its outdoor tables and inquisitive tourists; and Sitoa is moored to seaward on her port side. Altogether, we make a happy and attractive group of yachts with our offshore equipment, salty crews and ubiquitous school signs.
Our new students began arriving on June 5th and offshore preparation training began in earnest the next day. On Dream Catcher they included Cheryl & Jim Jarrett, Tony Martin and Keith (KC) Charles. All have sailed extensively in coastal waters and the Caribbean; some are yacht owners; some have taken lower level courses with us; and all have a dream of long distance cruising. They’ve come to us for help with that first, tentative step offshore when you point your bow perpendicular to the shoreline and trust in your skills, knowledge and equipment.
On June 6th & 7th we conducted intensive pre-departure preparations and training including such topics as yacht inspections, personal gear requirements, watch duties & daily routine, food provisioning and meal preparations, sleeping arrangements, gear stowage, water, fuel & electrical conservation, seasickness, deck safety, hatch opening guidelines, navigation & logkeeping procedures, weather reports and analysis, man-overboard rescue procedures, fire, watertight integrity, abandon ship procedures, distress signals, collision avoidance, sail handling including reefing & storm sails, sea anchor deployment, and much, much more.
On June 7th we gave a rousing send off to Sitoa when Curt and Eva Chapman departed for the Azores and a tour of the Atlantic Ocean islands. It was sad to see them go, but they plan to return to Saint Thomas in January to resume conducting basic level sailing courses for The Maryland School during the winter of 2000.
We completed food provisioning at Somers Food Market including gigantic blocks of ice, topped up water and fuel at Dowling’s Shell Station, checked the weather reports at the Customs Office and prepared to set sail on the morning of June 8th. Bermuda Meteorological Office issues daily weather forecasts including printed copies of the forecast surface maps for 4 days, Gulf Stream charts, and severe weather bulletins, if any. We also checked weather reports from the US Coast Guard Master Station NMN at Portsmouth, VA via SSB radio, reviewed our NAVTEX weather summaries, and called the US National Hurricane Center’s voice recording at 305-229-4483 to verify the absence of tropical storms. All look good for departure so we cleared out with Bermuda Customs and called Bermuda Harbour Radio on VHF 16 for outbound clearance. As it worked out, Enchantment was cleared to depart through Town Cut Channel, but 5 minutes later both Dream Catcher and Teal Monday were held back for an hour while a cruise ship approached and transited Town Cut almost scraping both sides along the cliffs as she did.
Finally, by mid morning on June 8th we passed out through Town Cut and were on our way back to the US and Norfolk. But, for 2 days we encountered head winds of 10 to 20 knots causing us to slant off and tack periodically, which is a slow way to go when you have a long distance to travel. By late on June 10th the winds grudgingly clocked to the North, but then fell light and variable necessitating that we motor-sail in order to maintain some reasonable speed. Then, the evening weather report forecast a Low several hundred miles NE of us which would travel SW and intersect our westbound course and then turn WNW on a track for Hatteras. Herb of Southbound II, the forecaster in Canada, applied the key word "intensifying" when describing this Low and recommended a prudent course to avoid it. We took this advice and headed SSW for that evening in order to get south of its predicted turning point between 33 degree and 35degree North latitude. The Low behaved as advertised and made its turn to WNW at about 34degree N and we avoided a stormy, wet and miserable encounter. One of our student crew said "Gosh, I didn’t know that you could maneuver like that to avoid a storm." Well, live and learn.
During the cruise, we made daily radio contact with the other two yachts. Teal Monday decided to stay on the rhumbline to Norfolk and she encountered some heavy going with strong winds and rain squalls. Enchantment went south of the rhumbline, but not as far as we did, and her weather encounters were less severe. But they each traveled a significantly shorter distance the we did in reaching Norfolk.
The rest of the cruise was uneventful, although our path was crossed by 2 more Lows but these were not a significant threat. At 7 pm on June 14th we docked at Taylor’s Landing Marina to join Teal Monday and Enchantment who had arrived the previous evening. Our new ocean sailors found the strength to tip a few beers and spin a few yarns on the finer points of ocean sailing and thus continued the development of the ageless sea story.
Tuesday, June 15th, 1999
Dream Catcher is now in Norfolk, VA after having completed our first round-trip Bermuda Ocean Training Cruise. Captain Jack Morton and First Mate Mike McGovern came aboard to replace the departing crewmembers Guy Grant and Tom Tursi.
On June 16th, our student crewmembers arrived in preparation for our next Ocean Training Cruise to Bermuda. They included Mike Holt, Jim Larkey, Dr. Joe Mele and Ken Price. Mike was assigned as Ship’s Engineer, Jim and Ken as Bos’ns, and Joe as Emergency Coordinator. These assignments are made to facilitate pre-departure training and inspections, and to distribute workload and ensure that all crewmembers actively participate in operation of the yacht. Each member verifies conditions found and standard and emergency procedures against checklists in our Offshore Training Cruises Workbook.
Assignments were also made for the Abandon Ship Emergency Bill and the Watch Bill. Joe & Mike Holt were assigned to Watch Section #1 (00-04 hours & 12-16 hours); Mike McGovern & Jim to Watch Section #2 (04-08 hours & 16-20 hours); and Jack & Ken to Watch Section #3 (08-12 hours & 20-24 hours).
After 2 days of intensive pre-departure preparations, we were ready to undertake the offshore passage to Bermuda. We left Little Creek Harbor, Norfolk, VA on Saturday, June 19th with ENE winds of 15-20 knots, and we double reefed the main before clearing the channel. We crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and encountered 25 knot winds and waves to 3 feet which gave crewmembers the opportunity to get their sea legs before entering the Big Blue.
The weather forecast predicted a wind shift from NE to S, and we decided on a port tack to head south of our rhumbline toward Diamond Shoal. This would avoid NE winds in the NE setting Gulf Stream, allow us to cross the Stream at its narrowest point, and also compensate for its NE set. The weather forecast was right, and as we were abeam of Pamlico Sound the winds clocked to SE and we tacked over to starboard and headed for the Gulf Stream. Later, we saw the sea water temperature jump 7 degrees in a 30 minute period and we knew that we were entering the Gulf Stream.
A Low pressure system forming over the southeastern US was predicted to move to the NE and bring a change to our conditions. Initially, as it approached, we encountered rain squalls with very little wind; this break enabled us to repair our stove which had not worked right since departure from Norfolk. Soon, winds picked up from the SSE with calm seas, and we were able to maintain a 7 knot average speed; by June 22nd, Bermuda was only 200 miles away.
Another Low, SW of Bermuda, was predicted to converge with our track. On June 23rd, in rain squalls and favorable winds of 15 to 20 knots, we made good speed and, by 1600 hours, we were only 75 miles from Bermuda. By midnight, winds increased to 25 knots with seas to 6 feet. With reefed mainsail and genoa we charged on through the night toward our destination; an exhilarating night of sailing! By dawn, winds were gusting 35 to 40 knots with waves to 12 feet, and we sailed with reefed main and staysail toward Bermuda’s Town Cut Channel arriving at the Customs Dock by noon on June 24th.
We all yelled and cheered like a bunch of school kids at this very exciting offshore passage. This was a challenging cruise with a great crew and a solid blue water boat. Our only disappointment was that we never saw the sky and were thus unable to get any celestial shots- a small price to pay for learning a lot about real seamanship.
Mike McGovern, First Mate
Captain Jack Morton added the following comments regarding this cruise:
“The initial northeast wind was favorable for reaching south on the west side of the Gulf Stream the first day out, and this is what we did making good speed. Not only did this keep us out of the Gulf Stream "rocks" that build when wind and sea oppose, but it bought us valuable southing that was in the bank when the wind clocked south before dawn the second day, when we headed across the stream on the starboard tack which we expected to be on for the next four days. Seas were higher inside the stream, but less than they would have been with the north wind, and while a few people were finding ocean waves and swells more upsetting than the bay chop they were more accustomed to, the crew kept the boat moving well as we turned east.
“On the east side of the stream, seas were a bit easier, spirits improved, and appetites returned, though the winds stayed generally in the force five to six range, and we were regularly reefed. Among the lessons of sailing in challenging weather is learning that meals can be tasty, and served pretty much when people expect them, and that with preparation, offshore life is busy, mostly predictable, and frequently exhilarating, and we nailed those lessons down.
“The low that had followed us finally overtook us with Bermuda in sight, with winds that topped 30 knots, and seas that made tacking into Bermuda a series of boat stopping jolts from which we would recover, and charge ahead under double reefed main and the stays'l. As the wind and skies lightened following the passage of the low, we broke out the genny, shook out reefs, and took the first sun sights of the trip. Within hours we were safely secure at the St. George Customs dock, ready to develop our land legs.”
Captain Jack Morton
June 25th 1999
Captain Jack Morton and First Mate Mike McGovern, who will continue as the return trip crewmembers, set about preparing Dream Catcher for our next group of student crew who began arriving today. They included Mike & Suchinda Heavener, Dr. Larry Munch, and Bill Siegendorf.
The initial days of preparation took place at Town Dock in St. George, with daily interruptions to watch while a "drunk" from the tourist crowd was placed in the stocks, and the perennial "town gossip and nag" got dunked in the harbor, with the encouragement and manpower from the crowd. Under the fair skies of the Bermuda High, we toiled at checking fittings, rigging, and the gear new to our students - sea anchors, trisails, life raft, 406 epirb, and for some, barometers, single sideband radios, and NAVTEX receiver. And, on June 29th, under that same Bermuda high with it's fair skies and winds, we set sail for America.
As the outbound trip was mostly on starboard tack, the return trip was all on port tack, virtually all the way from Bermuda to Little Creek. Winds stayed nearly ideal, generally in the force four range, with just enough variation to let us exercise different sail combinations, and the 20 foot long whisker pole rig that let us sail wing and wing for a day. Captains of all boats agreed, it was the most rollicking good sail they could recall for such a long period on the Bermuda trip.
As absent as the sun and stars were on the way out, they were constant on the return leg, and the crew, who had all expressed a desire to become more competent as celestial navigators, had all the opportunity they sought. Sun, stars, planet and moon all had lines with their names falling across the Ded reckoning plots, crowding the space around our positions.
Among cruise high points that can't always be guaranteed, we saw whales on two occasions, but don't ask what kind - they were big, and dark gray... and did I mention big? Also, a pod of spotted dolphins that numbered conservatively in the hundreds, and may easily have been a thousand or more. Of the other kind of dolphins, the mahi mahi, we saw only one, but it was soon on deck, and shortly after that in our bellies. As captain, it was my duty to do in the last of it when all other crew begged off. Noblesse oblige.
A quick cell phone call to the US Customs duty officer on the 4th of July, as we approached the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel, took care of entrance formalities; this was facilitated by the fact that we had pre-registered Dream Catcher for foreign travel and had the appropriate “Customs Decal” on board. Happy Birthday America, we're home!
Captain Jack Morton