Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
GOD BLESS OUR GLORIOUS GENNAKER
by Captain David Appleton
Our first voyage to the fabled "onion patch" aboard TEAL MONDAY was a study in light air, the value of the cruising chute and careful fuel management. While the light air and quiet seas gave us some unusual views of the Gulf Stream currents, we would have gladly exchanged these for a 15 to 18 knot southwesterly breeze. But this wasn’t to be. That’s life in the Horse Latitudes, as they say! However, we were spared a 620 mile motor boat ride by the grace of TEAL MONDAY’s beautiful gennaker.
On Saturday May 22nd this adventure began early for crew members Steven Crane of Milwaukee, WI and Edward Kalinka of Detroit, MI when they joined me in Gwynn Island, VA to enjoy a little added cruise helping me take the boat down Chesapeake Bay about 35 miles to Little Creek. At Gwynn we met TEAL MONDAY’s owner, Pete Ashby, who acquainted us with this Island Packet 38’s charms and idiosyncrasies. These included a rather elaborate and efficient 12 volt refrigeration system and a cruising gennaker. Before the cruise was over, we grew quite fond of both. Pete had sailed her in the Caribbean 1500 a couple of years back and cruised with her in the Bahamas and Florida Keys as well. And he’d also made passages to Bermuda. So this boat was extremely well tested and equipped for our ocean passage.
After loading aboard the School’s special offshore gear, we got under way early Sunday morning timing our departure with high tide to enabled us to negotiate the creek behind Gwynn Island just off the Piankatank River. Once out in Chesapeake Bay we were treated to a westerly wind which enabled us to sail and fully check out the rig. That afternoon we cruised up the Elizabeth River to downtown Norfolk touring past the majority of the US Navy docks. Impressive!
On Monday we sailed down the Elizabeth River and back out into the bay heading East to Little Creek on 25 to 30 knot southwesterly breezes. TEAL MONDAY performed well, taking these strong winds off her quarter in stride. This gave us further opportunity to check out the rig, reefing system and sailing characteristics, as well as confidence in the overall soundness of the vessel. Steve, with experience racing scows on midwestern lakes, proved a knowledgeable boson for our crew, checking out all the lines and sails in the rig. That afternoon we pulled into Taylor’s Landing Marina in Little Creek where we met Jeffrey Papps, Captain of the just arrived Island Packet 40, ENCHANTMENT, and Tom Tursi, head of The Maryland School, who had just delivered DREAM CATCHER, the other IP 40, down the bay from Rock Hall. The fleet was in!
Tuesday, May 25th, saw the rest of our TEAL MONDAY crew arrive. Lee Geiger came in from West Chester, PA and assumed the Engineer position, and Tom Whitaker flew in from Southern Shores, NC and agreed to work with Steve as the second Boson. Ed was assigned Student Navigator duties. Mate Jerry Nigro, a veteran of several voyages to Bermuda with The Maryland School and also with his own boat, arrived from Long Island that evening to serve as First Mate completing our crew.
On Wednesday and Thursday there was a flurry of activity around the three boats as all three crews immersed themselves in preparations for the voyage. Each Captain and mate conducted seminars covering safety and emergency procedures as well as navigation techniques, Gulf Stream crossing strategies, and heavy weather sailing techniques and procedures. Each crew got familiar with special offshore devices such as the life raft, sea anchor, harnesses, jacklines and so forth. Special drills on procedures such as preparing and deploying the sea anchor gear and drogue were discussed and practiced.
Each crew member used the The Maryland School’s Offshore Training Cruises Manual as a guide to checking out the equipment associated with their assignment. The Engineer is responsible for all ships systems, plumbing, electric, engine, water, fuel and so forth and for damage control in the event of some catastrophe. The Mate performed as Emergency Coordinator and is responsible for all safety equipment and abandon ship procedures and assignments, and for overseeing the Student Navigator’s work. The Student Navigator is responsible for all navigation related equipment including charts, Nav tools, and electronic navigation gear such as GPS, loran, and radar and communications equipment such as VHF and SSB radios. And the Bosons are in charge of all the deck gear including the rig, sails and so forth. As Captain, I’m required to oversee the whole affair to ensure all is done right and that our students learn in the process of doing.
The Island Packet 38, while a truly fine vessel, is challenged in the fuel capacity department. It carries only 57 gallons in the tank, not nearly enough to make the 620 mile voyage to Bermuda under power. And we know these Horse Latitudes are capable of sustained calms this time of year, and us with a schedule to keep! So we prepared for this by carrying and additional 18 gallons of fuel on deck in 3 six gallon gerry jugs. This provided our Engineer and Bosons an additional chore, lashing these jugs securely to the deck, since these latitudes and the Gulf Stream can assert gales and mountainous seas at times. Thus, Steve, Tom and Lee were charged with learning what they did not know about lashing techniques and putting these to practice securing our deck fuel.
Going over the vessel thoroughly according the checklists in the Offshore Training Cruises Manual, each student crewmember was responsible for discovering equipment discrepancies and notifying Mate Jerry or Captain David about them. An alert Steve noted some suspicious plastic pieces on the foredeck of our boat and brought them to my attention. We concluded they were part of the genoa roller furling system, and beyond our ability to repair, so we secured the services of a rigger to fix it; no sense going to sea with vital gear inoperative!
Once all gear has been checked out each crew member did a little "show and tell" routine familiarizing the rest of the crew with the equipment in his charge. While our Mate Jerry oversaw this aspect of our preparations on Thursday, I shopped for the remainder of the needed provisions. Our commodious freezer enabled us to freeze some meats and other food not only for ourselves but for the other boats.
By Thursday evening we were provisioned, prepared and ready to go! We joined the crews of DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT for a final meal ashore at the Blue Crab, a fine local restaurant in Little Creek. And a fine and rousing feast it was!
On Friday morning, May 28th, we were ready to leave at dawn, but agreed to stay for a photo session with the rest of the crews. The three boats berthed together with all three crews attending them at the dock made for some impressive photo opportunities. We seized them with a bevy of cameras!
By 0930 all shutterbugs had been satisfied and we were able to pull away from the dock at 1010 with ENCHANTMENT close behind and DREAM CATHER, needing to pump out, moving to the fuel dock and finally out not long after. At 1110 we passed over the tunnel at Thimble Shoal Channel and headed for open water. Winds were northerly at 3 to 9 knots and we proceeded under power and sail. As the day progressed the clear skies, light and variable winds, and high barometric pressure readings indicated we were near the center of a high pressure system that would not likely yield good winds for us in the near future. Monitoring the USCG’s NMN weather reports confirmed this suspicion.
Not long after departing we realized that our SSB radio was defective. Repeated radio checks with the other boats revealed that we were able to receive but unable to send. I had previously attributed our inability to get a signal out to my unfamiliarity with this non-user-friendly ICOM radio, and that all we needed was to spend some time with the tech manual. Extensive reading of the manual by Ed, Jerry and myself, as well as the rest of the crew, showed that this was not the case. So we resolved to listen to conversations between ENCHANTMENT and DREAM CATCHER on SSB once we were out of VHF range. This posed no real safety issue since we had excellent VHF range with which to hail a passing ship should we have a problem. And of course we were equipped with a registered 406 EPIRB should we have a serious problem. I frequently make deliveries to the Caribbean over these waters on charter boats not equipped with an SSB radio. On these well traveled routes you are seldom out of the VHF range of other vessels, particularly freighters with their antennas mounted high above the bridge deck. We later found out from a radio technician back in Little Creek that the cause of our problem was a defective SSB microphone.
We reviewed procedures for rescuing a man overboard (MOB) at sea, and at 1600 we executed a practice drill which was a comedy of errors. The crew failed to deploy the horseshoe, strobe and pole rig. Also the recovery took nearly 10 minutes due to confusion and indecisiveness. We again reviewed the procedures and did it again with much better results. Many sailors have read the MOB procedures but few have actually practiced it; practice is a definite necessity here!
At twilight, about 2000 hours, we were able to observe evening stars in the very clear skies. Planets Venus and Mars were bright and clearly visible in early twilight, and we took the opportunity to practice our techniques for bringing down stars with the sextant.
May 29th- At 0700 We enjoy a large breakfast featuring the Captain’s special cheese omelets with bacon, home fries with onions and peppers and a bit of Texas Pete for those so inclined. At least the calm seas are favorable for such fare!
At 0830 we notice disturbances on the placid water ahead of us and noted the water temperature rising and falling. The temperature had been 60 to 62 degrees throughout the night according to our hourly log entries, and by morning it was up to 70 degrees. By noon it rose to 80 degrees and we noted swirls and ripples in the calm waters. We’re entering "the Stream" for sure. I can’t recall ever having seen the Gulf Stream so placid and the currents and eddies so clearly defined. This was a new experience for me; a truly fascinating sight.
May 30th, Sunday- At about 2300 or so the wind had picked up sufficiently for Tom and I, the 2000-2400 watch, to set sails; and at just after midnight the midwatch, Jerry and Lee, was able to secure the engine. Finally we were sailing! After Breakfast and cleanup we tried another MOB drill, this one under sail, and the crew was much more efficient in this recovery. We also practiced a heave-to maneuver and used it to launch a discussion of heavy weather sailing techniques. We noted the slick of turbulent water left to windward of TEAL MONDAY as she drifted downwind hove to, and we discussed how this would reduce the tendency of waves to break directly to windward of us..
After these discussions the crew enthusiastically launched the gennaker at 1010 and we began to make some good speed on a course of about 130 degrees with winds out of the SSW at 10-12 knots. We realized we were enjoying a sail probably denied the other two boats since they were not carrying cruising chutes. Each crew member got a chance to steer under the chute with Steve providing expert coaching based on his experience with spinnakers on scows. We enjoyed boat speeds of over 6 knots on an exhilarating close reach.
May 31st- Thus far we had motored or motorsailed more than we’d like and fuel was becoming a concern. Engineer Lee Geiger was carefully monitoring our fuel supply by not only looking at fuel gauges and engine hours, but actually dipping the tank using a dowel to measure the height of the fuel. He also marked it before and after dumping one of our 6 gallon jugs into the main fuel tank. He computed that we had burned 6 gallons in 21 hours of motoring, or about 3/10 gallons per hour while running at 1200 to 1600 rpm. This was excellent fuel consumption and will serve us well should we have to continue motoring. This gives us a range of over 300 miles with what fuel we have on board, more than enough to reach Bermuda.
June 1st- At 1030 we staged a damage control drill with the following scenario: While monitoring the bilges for our hourly checks and log entries, we note excessive water accumulation. We turn on the electric fuel pump but find it is unable to keep up with the water. The source of the water is found to be a leaking through-hull fitting, and the Engineer and Captain determine it is not repairable, so we go to Abandon Ship stations. At 1115 we secured from this drill and discussed the procedures followed and the crew performance.
During most of the day we were able to do some sailing using the gennaker, but by 1500 the winds subsided. A low pressure system in the area which had provided what little wind we did have, moved out to the east leaving us with only lumpy, confused seas and light westerlies. We gave up on the Gennaker, and by 1845 dropped the main and furled the staysail and genoa as well. As we closed in on Bermuda, we again picked up radio contact with DREAM CATCHER. They were fairly close, within 5 miles at our 1845 radio meeting time, and we could overhear their SSB conversation with ENCHANTMENT as well. ENCHANTMENT had taken a far more northerly route than we had, attempting to take advantage of the Gulf Stream eddies and meanders that they had observed in the Gulf Stream Report.
June 2nd- At 0400 Lee noted that we had just a shade over half-full on our fuel gauge. In the predawn darkness we could see navigation lights of both ENCHANTMENT and DREAM CATCHER to our north and northeast; both were moving quite swiftly under engine power. We chose to continue conserving fuel by motoring at only 1600 rpm. I appointed Lee and Steve as Captain and Navigator for the approach to Bermuda and they set about pouring over the charts and reviewing the check-in protocol. At about 1000 we listened in as DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT checked in with Bermuda Harbor Radio; then we did the same at 1130 as we passed Northeast Breakers and headed for Kitchen Shoals.
As we passed through Town Cut Channel into Bermuda, we hoisted our yellow "Q" flag and headed for the Customs dock on Ordinance Island. Then we noticed that ENCHANTMENT and DREAM CATCHER were joined by SITOA, an Island Packet 38 used by The Maryland School for sailing classes in Saint Thomas, with owners Curt and Eva Chapman aboard. They’re headed across the Atlantic for the Azores! Once we fueled and watered at Dowlings, they docked breasted out alongside us and we were pleased to have the chance to visit with them.
We were also pleased and thankful, after comparing notes with the other crews, that we had that gennaker aboard. With it we were able to sail much more than either of the other boats. While we motored more than we would have liked, we also got a chance to practice some light air sailing with decent speed for about a day and a half worth of gennaker work. Not all bad.
Captain David Appleton
LESSONS IN LOWS
by Captain David Appleton
June 3rd, 1999
In stark contrast to the last, on this voyage we often had more than enough wind. It turned out to be a memorable exercise in weather monitoring and storm avoidance tactics. On TEAL MONDAY we also got a sobering dose of heavy weather sailing! In many ways, this was our most interesting voyage of the summer.
Mate Jerry Nigro and I got a chance to catch our breath and cleanup TEAL MONDAY a bit on Wednesday and Thursday after refueling and topping off fresh water at the fuel dock then berthing nearby at Trimmingham’s next to the restaurant. We even had time to take a day off Friday and tour the island with a one day bus/ferry pass, one of the best deals on the island for $10 and far less stressful than the scooters! We also tried to find a radio technician who could fix our SSB radio problem, but none was available at that time in Bermuda due to the large number of visiting yachts.
Saturday, June 5: It was back to work for Jerry and I as our new student crew was due to arrive. We de-rigged most of what preparations we had done in Norfolk so that this crew would have the experience of starting from scratch, or nearly so.
The crew arrived, and an enthusiastic bunch they were, led by Burt Ovrut of Penn Valley, PA and John Wolfe, of Philadelphia. As it happened, the two had never met before but had been colleagues on the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School Faculty for years... must be a big place! As if this was not coincidence enough, another U of P Graduate School Faculty member, a friend of mine and a graduate of the Maryland School, Reuben Mezrich, who was in Bermuda on business and who plans to join us on a Bermuda 2000 voyage, stopped by to say "Hi!." While none of these three knew the others before, I enjoy visions of them meeting on campus for coffee at the faculty club and sharing salty sea stories next winter...A nice warm image!
Anyway, Ali Albayrak of Ankara by way of Orlando, FL arrived. Ali brought considerable sailing experience, too, having grown up sailing the waters in and off Turkey on various sailing craft. Shortly after Kelly Wright, of Texas arrived. He too had considerable experience sailing over the years having, among other adventures, sailed around Tasmania as crew on a vessel entered in the Royal Tasmanian Yacht Club’s Circumnavigation Race. So we had a fine crew, and were glad to have them for the challenges we were to about face.
Sunday, June 6: Preparations went much as they had in Norfolk for the first voyage out. Burt was extremely interested in celestial navigation. He brought a sextant and had taught himself the basics, so was a natural choice for Student Navigator. Kelly was interested in this as well, so with his excellent experience, he became Watch Captain of the "navigator’s watch," the 4-8 watches (0400-0800 & 1600-1800). John, seeking to improve his technical skills, agreed to be Engineer for the voyage, and Ali would enhance his seamanship skills serving as a Bos’n with Kelly, and joining Jerry on the mid watches. John would join me on the 8-12 watches.
The crew worked well together and preparations went very smoothly. Kelly shared his marlinespike seamanship skills to help John lash the deck fuel jugs securely. Burt, the lightest, most enthusiastic and in other lives an accomplished mountaineer, gladly took the "inspect rigging aloft" assignment. Ali launched him in the bos’n chair and he sped aloft and, monkey-like, swung out to re-secure the radar reflector lashed between the backstays. John familiarized himself with the plumbing, electric and engine departments, then briefed the rest of the crew on these. Jerry, overseeing everything, also prepared the schematic charts of the stowage plan and reviewed and briefed the crew on the inventory, stowage and use of all emergency equipment.
Monday, June 7: Plans and preparations continue. Today all three boat crews focus on what could be one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in a really severe blow: the sea anchor rig. Each ocean boat of The Maryland School carries one; TEAL MONDAY has a Para-Tech sea anchor, as does ENCHANTMENT; DREAM CATCHER has a Shewmon sea anchor. All three crews work together under the direction of the Captains and Mates and ‘Admiral’ Tom Tursi to learn how each device works and the proper deployment and retrieval methods. And we practice rigging and deployment of these devices at the dock so that if and when the time comes to launch, we’ll know exactly what each crew member should do. On TEAL MONDAY we also carry a Seabrake drogue to be used when running off before the wind and seas. We show this to demonstrate it’s rigging and discuss its use, but it is not an item we care to use at sea.
These three crews are fortunate to see yet another heavy weather survival device: the Jordan Series Drogue. Curt and Eva Chapman aboard SITOA, the Island Packet 35 used by The Maryland School for sailing classes in Saint Thomas, are breasted out next to TEAL MONDAY here in Bermuda and are on their way to the Azores. They carry a Jordon Series Drogue and graciously show it to us and explain its use and deployment techniques. Thus we have an excellent seminar on a variety of heavy weather devices and tactics.
Tuesday, June 8: Preparations complete and we’re ready to go. We top off fuel and water at Dowlings and head for the Customs dock. We clear Customs at 0830 and start to head for Town Cut, contacting Bermuda Harbour Radio to request clearance to go through this narrow channel. We’re denied permission! Cruise ships NORWEGIAN MAJESTY and NORWEGIAN PRINCESS are about to enter the cut, so we and DREAM CATCHER await there passage. It’s almost worth the hour long wait to be able to witness this spectacle. Town Cut is a very narrow channel cut between two rocky hills. Watching these behemoths negotiate this keyhole is awe inspiring; they appear to need lubrication on their bulwarks to slide between the steep cliffs that boarder the channel. And later, we check to see if they left paint scrapes on the rocks, but none is found. DREAM CATCHER joins us in the wait and the watch, but ENCHANTMENT had squeezed out earlier, just ahead of the of the cruise ships. Thus, she gets an appreciable head start on us.
By 1030 both cruise vessels are through the Cut and clear of the channel. Harbour Radio give us permission to exit which we do with DREAM CATCHER right behind. Close proximity allows for several "photo opportunities" as we transit the Cut.
At 1100 we get our first fix near Kitchen Shoals and begin our DR plot. As the NNW breeze freshens, we settle in for the long haul. By 1400, after briefings on MOB procedures and general discussion of safety practices, we’re able to secure the engine and enjoy the sail.
Wednesday, June 9: The lumpy seas produce several cases of mal de mere among the crew so we start with a light breakfast today. The 0530 NMN weather broadcast is not readable and the noon broadcast is equally garbled. After morning cleanup we review abandon ship equipment , procedures and assignments. At 1600 we note a sailboat heading SSW and thought it might be headed for Bermuda, but it turned out to be none other than DREAM CATCHER on a starboard tack!
At 1830 we make VHF radio contact with DREAM CATCHER as our SSB remains unable to transmit. They tell us they have copied NMN weather and of the low forming to our NE and due to track SW toward us. This is puzzling: it is predicted to track SW contrary to the usual path of these of lows, which is to the NE rolling off the front and the prevailing westerlies. DREAM CATCHER tells us they have elected to head SW to elude it, but I’m reluctant to head too far south given the northerly component of the general wind patterns.
Jerry and I discuss the situation and review our position and that of the low and the high to our NW. Given these and the desired course of about 330 degrees magnetic to stay near our rhumb line, we elect to continue NW, in effect crossing the predicted path of the low. This will put us on the wrong side, ie, the more severe side with more intense winds, but we hope to get far enough north to enjoy the influence of the high pressure system to our NW. We call DREAM CATCHER on VHF to advise them of our decision, but they are now out of range. We’d had our last contact with the rest of the flotilla for this voyage!
At 2200 we observe an impressive cloud bank to our North featuring some towering cumulus and occasional lightning flashes. We interpret these as associated with the low and, hopefully, the high pressure system we expect to meet. Throughout the night we make good speed averaging 6 knots or better on a course of 320 degrees M.
Thursday, June 10: At 0630 we copy the SSB radio conversation between DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT. Their reported positions put them about 50 nm to our South. Of course our faulty SSB makes it impossible for us to join the gam. The weather report has another low forming at 34 degrees N which is near us. Judging from the low clouds and moist air surrounding us, we are in the midst of the formation of this low; we hope it doesn’t deepen too severely.
At 0700, after assessing the situation, we tack to starboard expecting the winds to veer on the interface between the high and low pressure systems in our area. They do, and we are able to make a course of 240 to 245 degrees M at 0840 and by 1000 we are on a course of 265 degrees with breezes freshening to 18-22 knots. This provides an excellent opportunity to stage a Crew Overboard drill which we do. We execute a quickstop maneuver and recover the gear and COB dummy in under 6 minutes- not bad! This maneuver, which simply requires the helmsman to throw the helm hard-a-lee and shout "MAN OVERBOARD!! READY ABOUT!! QUICKSTOP!! HARD-A-LEE!!"
In this exercise, sheets remain secured and the backwinded headsail stops the boat immediately; the wind spins it around through a gibe and back to a stalled (slow) configuration hopefully just to windward of the victim and nearly dead in the water. From here, the remaining crew can figure out the recovery phase of the operation. It’s an excellent tactic for the shorthanded crewed vessel in nearly any wind & sea condition. We finish off our exercise with a heave-to configuration and take a moment to observe TEAL MONDAY’s behavior in this set up, making barely 1.2 knots in the 18 knot breeze, and we discuss this tactic’s virtues in heavy weather.
By 1300 winds have veered enough NE to enable us to make a course of 270°M and speeds of 6.5 knots. And, at 1400 "THAR SHE BLOWS!!!"... a whale, about a mile and a half off, appearing to feed on fish near a large piece of flotsam. Unfortunately, she’s too far off to allow a suitable "photo op."
At 1800, after a delightful teriyaki steak stir fry dinner, we clean up and have a weather report discussion covering the US Coast Guard’s NMN broadcasting format and how to take notes on the broadcasts. We also discuss our low, now reported at 34N x 70W, and our tactics for avoiding it, which is to stay North. At 1830 we copy DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT conversing on SSB and their discussion of Herb’s (of SOUTHBOUND II Weather Monitoring Net) prognostication saying the other low is at 37N x 68W now heading for 34N x 69W Friday night. We resolve to make all possible speed out of its way and start the engine as we note some ominous clouds to our north. We turn 2000 rpms on the engine to make 6.5+ knots. This is a break from our rule to keep rpms below 1800 to conserve fuel, but our fuel status is good since we’ve enjoyed ample winds, so we’re not concerned about spending a little fuel now to get out from under this low.
Friday, June 11: At 0100 we copy the NMN weather report placing the low at about 36N x 68W still to our Northeast but tracking SW toward us which is contrary to my understanding of normal low behavior. In this area, they usually track from SW to NE along frontal systems. But we continue to put our faith in the High to our NW in hope it pushes this maverick out of the way and give us shelter. But the 0530 NMN broadcast reveals this low is heading right for us still, and is predicted to be at our 0630 position of 35N x 70W at about 1800. We resolve to continue our NW track toward our High with all possible speed to get out of its way ASAP. Turning South to get on the low’s "good" or "navigable" side as DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT had done just didn’t seem feasible for us at this point. If hit with it we’ll just have to take our lumps and learn from the experience.
At 0630 we copy the scheduled conversation between the other two boats. Their positions are far to the SW of us: DREAM CATCHER is 170 nm away, and ENCHANTMENT is 110 nm away. Wow! They have really been chased by the tiger, but it, in the end, it did pay off for them (see DREAM CATCHER’s Report #2).
Through the day we continue running NW hoping to dodge the bullet. But by 1600 it looks like we will be hit with something. We monitor Herb’s weather net and this bears out our fears. It was interesting to hear DREAM CATCHER participating in the discussion today!
At 1800 with the weather threatening and the ominous reports from Herb and "November Mike" we elect to set the storm trisail. It looks like it will be a rough night. The lazy jacks on the main pose a bit of a problem in getting our trisail rigged, but bosons Kelly and Ali with a lot of help from their friends are able to get it rigged and the mainsail and boom secured, and the storm trisail flying.
Then, at 1900, the winds die! Died dead! There we are with storm trisail set and limp in a doldrums calm! It’s like being all dressed up and stood up at the church! Nevertheless, we decided to keep it rigged just in case this proves to be the proverbial calm before the storm. Through our 2000-2400 watch, John and I motor while watching lightning strikes in the ominous clouds to our north and feeling only slightly ridiculous under the limp storm trisail, rigged and ready.
Saturday, June 12: Through the night we motor maintaining our 330° M course at least, but not doing much sailing. At 0630 we monitor the scheduled SSB conversation between DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT. They give their positions, still well to our southwest, but apparently ENCHANTMENT has abandoned the southing strategy and was heading NW. DREAM CATCHER expressed her intention to remain south of the low, taking Herb’s advice to let the low pass before entering the Gulf stream. Both vessels expressed concern or just curiosity regarding TEAL MONDAY’s whereabouts; this amused us somewhat. But Jim Bortnem, ENCHANTMENT’s Mate (who had sailed with us last year aboard IT’S ABOUT TIME, and again with me on a voyage from Florida to St. Thomas in March on TAINUI, a new Island Packet 380) dispelled any concern by quipping, "knowing David, TEAL MONDAY is probably tied up at the fuel dock by now!" We laugh! Not quite yet!
At 0730 Engineer John takes advantage of the relatively calm conditions to dump 2 jugs of deck fuel into the main tank, and thus reduce the vulnerable gear on deck in preparation for the blow that we’re expecting. And Mate Jerry treats us all to delicious egg sandwiches for breakfast.
But the light NW winds continue, and at 0830 we finally decide to douse the storm trisail and reset the main, staysail and genoa of our normal sail plan. We’re approaching the Gulf Stream and want to cross it swiftly, especially if the Northerly component in the winds remains, so we motor sail. Shortly thereafter, to our great pleasure, the winds veer to the South and freshen to 15 knots. This is beautiful timing for us because at 1000 we enter the Gulf Stream under ideal conditions with the wind out of the Southwest making the seas as smooth as we could hope for. Still, we continue to motorsail making 7+ knots to get across this potential monster as quickly as possible in this unstable weather.
At noon we monitor "November Mike" and note that the larger low had passed behind us and was now heading for Cape Hatteras, somewhere near where we estimate DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT to be. It is then predicred to head North after making land fall and track North toward the Chesapeake Bay, to arrive at Cape Charles just about the same time we expect to get there. It just won’t go away!
But we have a more immediate low to deal with, one that seems to be literally forming around us. At 1300, judging from the 82° water temperature, we estimate our position to be at or near the axis of the Gulf stream. The Southerly winds freshen to 20 knots, providing us with excellent conditions to try some heavy weather tactics and techniques. We practice double reefing the main and also reefing the genny. A useful technique for roller reefing the genoa when caught with it out in a sudden blow is to bear off and ease the main out to blanket the genoa in the main’s shadow. By doing this we take the pressure off the genny and thus are able to furl it with minimal effort. As we all know, just letting the sail luff in 18+ knots and attempting to muscle it in is next to impossible. And using the winch to power it in these conditions will probably strain the sail damaging its seams and perhaps its fabric as well.
We practiced this technique, and at 1530 we’re very glad we did. To our Southeast we see a well-formed squall bearing down on us. Contemplating it, Burt suggests we might want to reef. I concur. When asked, "When should I reef?" I always respond with one of my mantras, ".... as soon as the thought occurs to you!" So we do and promptly the rain comes pouring down. The off-watch goes below leaving the cockpit and the deluge to the on-watch crew, Jerry and Ali. Below, we double-check watertight integrity.
This squall prove to be our comeupance! The winds freshen and begin howling. Below I look at the instruments and see the wind speed climb to 35 then 40 knots. We have the double reefed main and staysail out, all hatches and ports closed and dogged tightly, so we should be able to handle it with little difficulty. But I wish I had the storm trisail up at this point; it would be a fine opportunity to heave-too under it. But no chance for these tactics now. All we can do is hang on and maintain control until this monster passes.
I put on my foul weather jacket and head topside to see if I can help the watch, but Jerry and Ali seemed to have matters well in hand. I watch from the shelter of the companionway as they battle the helm and sheets. "Bear off and run with it...." I shout to Jerry over the howl, thinking this would reduce the strain on the rig. He did so and it seemed to help. But checking the anemometer, I see the wind gusting to an eye-popping 50+ knots with steady winds of 38. With these powerful gusts TEAL MONDAY just rounds up and rolls with the punches like a veteran heavyweight champ, seeming unfazed by wind’s fury or the sea’s blows. We were all glad to experience this impressive display of Mother Nature’s power on such a stout, seaworthy vessel.
The faces on Ali and Jerry are a sight to behold. Jerry, at the helm, seems the picture of endurance as he hangs on to the wheel straining against the overwhelming weather helm, the wind and rain of the port quarter now and then off the beam as she rounds up, looking like some monstrous fire hose is trained on him. Ali, a bit more free to look around at this awesome display, observes the proceedings with wide-eyed, gaping wonder. I wish I had my camera! No time for that now. I just hope it passes soon as these quick-hitters usually do.
And pass it did! The whole thing lasted only 20 minutes or so, but not before offering us an impressive sustained gust of 64 knots on our anemometer. The edge of the cell moves off, and things are almost dead calm. And the persistent deluge flattened the seas like a steamroller.
This calm gives us an opportunity to review the experience and the multitude of lessons it provided in relative tranquillity. We were all thoroughly impressed with this storm’s power and the value of preparedness, and we reviewed the particulars of the necessary preparation. This was a truly rich experience.
At 1845 we monitor the DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT conversation on SSB. Apparently their southing strategy has not enabled them to completely escape the primary low’s influence. ENCHANTMENT particularly, having worked farther north, was now in the Gulf Stream and evidently getting pasted with a deluge of her own. (See letter from Bill Batchelor). So I need not regret our decision to continue North when they had gone South. Everyone got wet and wind-blown to some extent, and we were considerably closer to port. The other boats continue to wonder how we are faring. We really wanted to share experiences and weather data with them at this point but could not do so because of our inoperative SSB transmitter.
Our own turbulent system was not through with us yet. By 1700 the winds are backing to the East; not a good sign! Through the evening we run wing on wing before 6 to 8 foot seas with two reefs in the main and variable reefs in the genoa. This gives us a good prolonged experience running with substantial following seas and a properly rigged preventer on the main, run from the end of the boom to a bow cleat, and back to the cockpit. Thus rigged, we are protected from the dangers of an accidental gybe.
Sunday, June 13. And the night’s veering and backing winds, shifting from south to northeast and back again with the passage of various cells, give us ample opportunity to practice both the intentional and accidental gybes, and we blessed our preventer several times during the night. We are making excellent speed, averaging between 6 and 8 knots with double reefed main and bang on course most of the time for "CBJ!" But it is grueling work. Jerry and Ali are exhausted after their midwatch, and I join Burt and Kelly on the 0400-0800 to help with the maneuvers required to keep up with the shifting winds. The three of us have our hands full!
During the whole voyage, Burt has done a truly remarkable job as Navigator. Through all this turbulence he maintains his DR plot with diligence, up dating our position with celestial fixes whenever a break in the clouds makes observations possible. His tenacity has been inspiring for us all. He keeps us on or near the rhumbline the entire time. So we are on schedule for making port today!
Through the night into the early morning the winds have been from the northeast to east, and by mid morning they have clocked around to the south, and by afternoon they come around to a fairly steady southwesterly 12 to 15 knots, giving us a more leisurely sail. By 1700 they go to a steady S to SSW at 15 to 20 knots and we are able to sail past Chesapeake Light at 7.5 knots. Flying!
Well, not really. A couple of US Navy Aegis Destroyers show us flying, overtaking and passing us at breakneck speed heading for the barn at something well over 25 knots. Kelly and Ali, who are performing approach navigation, carefully guide us well clear of the inbound Traffic Separations Zone where these haze gray hot rods are bound.
At 1900 we pass through the Thimble Shoals Channel opening in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on a 6.8 knot reach and head for the Little Creek entrance at the Southernmost point of Chesapeake Bay. By 2030 we’re at the fuel dock at Taylor’s Landing Marina securing the vessel, making travel plans for home, and wondering when the other two boats will arrive. At around midnight, ENCHANTMENT pulls up to the dock. DREAM CATCHER is still a day away! The crews of the two boats have a chance to get together on the fuel dock and exchange tales of their experiences over the last 6 days. All had an enriched understanding and enhanced respect for low pressure systems and Neptune’s power.
And this evening "November Mike" speaks of yet another low forming, this one a major depression set to deepen into Tropical Storm ARLENE some 200 nm southeast of Bermuda, the first named storm of this season’s expected 14. We are glad to hear of her formation so far to our east, and no threat to us, but we are concerned for the island we’ve just left. And I’m considering how this system will affect our next voyage in a week’s time!
SAILING A SUNLESS SEA
by Captain David Appleton
Aboard S/V TEAL MONDAY
This cruise proved to be all about clouds and dead reckoning, with a little bit of plumbing work thrown in for seasoning. While still in sight of land off Virginia Beach shortly after our departure, the sky clouded over and neither Sun nor Moon and nary a star nor planet graced our sky the entire voyage until we sighted land 5 days later- Bermuda, exactly where it was supposed to be!
TEAL MONDAY’s mate for this and the next voyage was Dr. Bud Holmes, a retired surgeon from Fort Smith, Arkansas who aspires to single hand his own boat in the near future. Bud is a graduate of The Maryland School’s Ocean Training Cruises program having made a voyage from Norfolk to Abaco, Bahamas, and then on to Jacksonville, FL. He did well on that voyage and we were pleased to have him aboard again to teach some of what he knew.
On Wednesday, June 16th the rest of the crew joined us. Dr. Jose Campione-Piccardo arrived from Ottawa, Ontario leading the pack, and close on his heals came Mark Howard of Bentlyville, Ohio. Rick Grabis from Brick, NJ, and David Searles out of Florence, SC. On Thursday we began offshore preparation training with a general orientation to the charts and the voyage we were about to undertake. Crew assignments were made with Rick and Mark becoming the Boatswain Mates, David Searles the Engineer and Jose, intent on building on his already substantial ASA/CSA Instructor credentials, was pleased to become Student Navigator under Bud’s guidance. Billets assigned, we set about inspecting the boat and gear according to the checklists in the The Maryland School’s Offshore Training Cruises Manual. We made an important repair to TEAL MONDAY’s SSB radio by replacing the defective microphone. So, on this voyage, we’ll be able join DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT in the twice daily radio conversations. We prepared safety gear and provisioned on Friday, and by that evening we were ready to go.
Saturday, June 19th: After a good night’s sleep all crewmembers are aboard and ready to sail by 0700. But a few last minute provisions are needed and we have Captains’ and Navigators’ meetings to attend prior to departure. By 0915 all is complete and we are away from the dock at 0938. Exiting the Little Creek Channel we are joined by Norfolk’s famous sailing tug REBEL as she makes for the bay for sea trials after a recent yard period. She overtakes us under power and hoists her sails as she passes out through the jetties. We hoist sails as well, but the strong easterly winds will not allow us to point efficiently toward the Thimble Shoals Channel cut in the bridge/tunnel, so we motorsail on a starboard tack to a point north of the channel to where we can tack over to port and fetch the cut.
Our knot meter mysteriously ceases to function at 1040. Engineer David Searles is right on the case. Assisted by Bud, he removes the transducer unit, cleans it, and replaces it; now functioning properly. This is an important repair because the log function of the knotmeter facilitates our ability to maintain an accurate DR plot, and, on this trip, the DR plot proved to be a most important navigational exercise.
By 1100 we tack over to port, secure the engine and sail out Thimble Shoals Channel smartly at 6 knots in the 20-25 ENE winds under a clear sky. By 1600 the clouds begin to build, and we see what will be the last of the sun for the rest of the voyage. At 1608 we have buoy "4A" abeam to starboard off Virginia Beach, and we have a fix to begin our DR plot. We settle in for the routine of the voyage with Mark and myself on the 8-12 watches, Bud and Rick taking the 12-4 Mid watches, and Jose and David S. take the 4-8 twilight Navigator’s watches.
Sunday, June 20th: At 0530 the sea temperature jumps by 6 degrees to 80.4 degrees F confirming that we have crossed the West Wall of the Gulf Stream. The wind has remained strong between 15 and 25 knots through most of the first day, and we make 155 nm in 24 hours, a fine pace. I consider 120 nm a day about average for most boats, and anything over 135 nm very good. So 155 nm is fine indeed. We run the engine for the refrigeration and to charge batteries, but we certainly don’t need it for propulsion as we are making 6.5 to 7.5 knots with 2 reefs in the main. Cloud cover continues with occasional precipitation and strong winds in squalls. Generally, we’re able to make good speed on courses of 110° to 135° magnetic keeping us close to our rhumb line.
Monday, June 21st: Summer Solstice! Big problems developed this morning. The Head is clogged!! Fortunately, the Island Packet 38 is blessed with two heads, and the other one, the forward head, works fine. But we usually secure the forward head in a seaway because of the motion of waves at the bow, where this head is located, render it very hard and messy to use. The midship head is far more seakindly and user friendly in a sea way, and so this is the head of choice. It’s clogging, given the current fairly rough sea conditions, presents us with a mini crisis. So the morning seminar on damage control and abandon ship procedures is aborted as the entire crew, save the 8-12 watch - Mark and myself - address the plumbing problem. They work throughout the morning but success eludes them. At noon we resign ourselves to riding the bucking bucket in the forward head for the duration of the voyage.
During this plumbing work, we note a water leak weeping around the head discharge through-hull fitting. This is potentially serious and we advise ENCHANTMENT of the problem during our 1845 SSB radio meeting. We diagnose the problem as nothing more than a packing gland leak at the hand pump; none the less, any breach in water tight integrity is a serious problem. We resolve to monitor this leak hourly, and advise ENCHANTMENT of our situation via SSB. They agree to stand by, and I’m glad to have the SSB back in working order.
After cleaning up from the plumbing exercise and fixing lunch, we spend an hour or so in the afternoon discussing heavy weather tactics, crises that might call for abandoning ship, and the assignments and procedures for doing so.
Tuesday, June 22nd: The 0530 NMN Weather broadcast warns of a low forming NW of our position, and predicts that it will move NE and so, should present no danger to us. We share this information with DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT at our 0630 radio meeting. This morning we talked on VHF because we’re clustered fairly close together.
The TEAL MONDAY crew stewed over the clogged head problem throughout the night; all had tried to use the forward head with varying degrees of success. Thus, they awoke this morning bristling with ideas and remedies and were resolved to fix it! So we fix them a hardy breakfast to spur them on to the task and they attack the problem with remarkable vigor. Rick from Brick is particularly industrious as is Bud.
While they are thus employed, Mark and I conn the ship. Mark is particularly good at getting the most speed out of the boat by virtue of his excellent helm work. He has a gift for it, so I let him have the helm most of the watch.
By 1050 the plumbing work party meets with success. They clear the clog by removing several hoses and snaking the system; then reassembl the hoses using some damage control tape to repair damaged lines. Thus they get a lesson in plumbing and damage control all in one. And the head now works! Joy!
While cleaning up we note that the packing nut leak persists and advise the other vessels of this, but resolve to do nothing about it until we reach Bermuda. A manageable minor leak that we can monitor easily is preferred to the gusher we might cause by attempting to fix it.
Wednesday, June 23rd: Clouds continue to thwart any hope of obtaining a celestial fix; Jose and Bud are clearly frustrated by this. However, they carefully maintain the DR plot started near Virginia Beach. But I, as Captain responsible for the safety of the crew and the vessel, continue to monitor and log our GPS position regularly at our morning and evening radio contacts with DREAM CATCHER and ENCHANTMENT, plotting the positions of all three vessels. At 0630 we exchange positions via SSB contact. ENCHANTMENT reports she’s lost instruments due to a leak near the instrument wiring at the Nav station.
We stage a couple of catastrophe drills to enliven the voyage and enhance the learning experience. The first is a mock propane fire in the galley with the stove burning out of control due to a simulated gas line rupture and spilled grease. The crew loses no time smothering the flames and Engineer David S. responds by securing the LP gas with reflex speed.
The second mock drill, at 1445, is a simulated collision with a partially submerged shipping container which cracks our hull on the port side and we immediately began taking on water - also staged, thankfully! At the helm, Rick from Brick is up to the task and would have saved the ship had this been an actual collision; he immediately tacks to a heave-to configuration on port tack bringing the leak above the water line. Other crewmembers lead by Engineer David Searles begin assessing the damage and preparing damage control gear, including pumps, plugs and patching materials. To continue the simulation, I deem the vessel "lost" despite their valiant efforts and we go to abandon ship stations and prepar to deploy the life raft and all the abandon ship gear before securing from the drill.
Thursday, June 24th: We’re moving along well in spite of some course deviations caused by squalls and our attempts to navigate around them. Winds remain southerly and fairly strong; this crew has gotten a lot of experience in reefing. Unfortunately, clouds persist and they do not have many opportunities to practice navigation by celestial observations.
But, at 0700 the morning skies begin to clear. The crew gives a cheer as the Sun makes itself available for Jose and Bud to get a few sextant shots between the clouds. At 1020 we sight Bermuda to our South and we adopt a more southerly course. We check the DR Plot and calculate our DR position to be 30 nm North of our actual position, and much of this difference is attributable to the influence of the Gulf Stream pushing us to the north - not too bad after 700 miles of sailing!
We relax water conservation discipline and allow everyone to indulge in a real shower - a major treat! David S. and Rick join Mark on the landfall team to handle the task of navigating into Bermuda. By noon the sky is nearly clear as we approach Kitchen Shoals. Mark makes contact with Bermuda Harbour Radio and answers their questions regarding our crew and safety gear. We sail on to the vicinity of Town Cut and finally drop our sails just off the cut at 1300. At 1400 we make fast to the Customs Dock at Ordinance Island and are greeted by Tom Tursi. DREAM CATCHER had arrived an hour earlier and was berthed across from the White Horse Tavern. Most convenient! We are scheduled to breast out next to her. We’re pleased; not too far from the refreshments!
After clearing customs we move to our berth next to DREAM CATCHER,
secure the boat, and saunter over to the tavern to enjoy a taste of the
local beverages and exchange sea stories and a few laughs with the other
crew. Spirits were undaunted by the cloudy skies and clogged heads that
plagued this voyage. In the final analysis, a good time was had by all.
Captain David Appleton
by Captain David Appleton
This was hands down the best sail of the summer, or perhaps any summer for that matter.. The consistent Bermuda High that pumped all that hot air up the East Coast in late June and early July provided The Maryland School Armada with steady 15 to 25 knot winds out of the Southeast to Southwest, with a few gusts of over 30. So once we exited Town Cut in St. George’s, we set sail on a port tack which never changed until, with reluctance, we finally furled and dropped sails at about 2 in the morning just outside the Little Creek Harbor a shade over four and a half days later. For the Bermuda to Mainland leg, that’s pretty quick, friend! It was surely one of the finest sails of this sailor’s life!
The fortunate crew for this near sleigh ride included our stalwart Mate, Dr. Bud Holmes of Fort Smith Arkansas, who had been with us on the last voyage out amid all those clouds and the rain squalls; another licensed captain, Norman Miller of New Jersey, who served as Student Navigator under Bud’s guidance; David Costa of New York City, a relative newcomer to sailing seeking his first offshore adventure, who served a Boatswain; Risa Hall of Maine but now New York City (having just moved), our Engineer; and her husband, Larry Hall, who served admirably as our other Boatswain. Larry and Risa had been with me earlier this Spring on a DELMARVA Circumnavigation cruise on GRAINNE an Island Packet 350 and we were pleased to have them join us again.
The voyage preparation went much as the previous three classes with the exception that we decided to try to get underway a bit early. This simply meant we approached our preparation less leisurely, and started early. As soon as folks arrived and stowed their gear on Sunday, they went to work. Larry and Risa were particularly ready for this given their recent DELMARVA experience, the Maryland School’s "basic training for ocean sailing" course and cruise. Risa was delighted to serve as Engineer, an area of which she knew little, because of the educational promise this job held for her. Norman began preparing the charts and the DR plot while David and Larry sorted out the rig, sails and deck gear, making sure all was ready for the voyage.
JUNE 29 --By dawn Tuesday TEAL MONDAY was nearly ready! At 0900 Norman and Larry attended the Navigator’s meeting with Tom Tursi, The Maryland School’s head instructor, and navigation teams from the other two boats. There they reviewed log keeping and DR maintenance as well as reviewing strategies for crossing the Gulf Stream. While they were thus engaged the rest of the crew made a few minor adjustments in the rigging, reviewed department checklists, and replaced the bulb in the sidelight unit. We then broke away from our position on the dock, breasted out alongside ENCHANTMENT and DREAM CATCHER, and motored to Dowlings fuel dock to top off fuel and water. There Larry and Norman rejoined us and we proceeded to Customs to clear out. At 1053, finished with Customs, we requested, and this time promptly got, our clearance from Bermuda Harbor Radio, and made our way through Town Cut just behind ENCHANTMENT. Our ships knot log read 14,269 nm.
The Weather was ideal. An assessment of the wind conditions as we cleared the Bermuda land mass reveal WSW to SW winds which would be favorable for a gennaker reach, at least for a while. And the weather faxes we obtained from the Customs office promised several days of S to SW winds and fair weather. This crew was not yet familiar with the gennaker so it took a while to sort it out. But this is a relatively easy chute to fly and before long boson’s Larry and David with Norman’s help were able to get it up and full successfully. We sailed North past Kitchen Shoals on a reach and then turned more Westerly toward Northeast Breakers moving well through the water with ENCHANTMENT off our beam to the East, also moving well.
At about 1300 we make radio contact with DREAM CATCHER as she clears Town Cut and heads out to sea well astern of us. Through most of the day we maintain visual contact with ENCHANTMENT, but she is now ahead and moving very nicely, opening the distance between us. At 1400 Bermuda begins to fade into the haze, and we take bearings on Kitchen Shoals light and Northeast Breakers light to establish a terrestrial fix with which to begin our DR plot. At about 1500 we finally decide the gennaker is not helping us that much. So at we douse it and unfurl our 130 genoa. This enables us to point a bit higher into the wind that has clocked more westerly on us.
At 1615 we have a surprise Crew Overboard Drill with Norm at the helm. He executes a racetrack turn with a controlled gybe and proceeds into a heave-to configuration downwind of the "victim." After accessing the situation the crew douses head sails and makes a power approach to the victim. We finally make the recovery in just under 8 minutes; not bad, but we should do a bit better when we see the victim fall off. We then spent some time discussing various reactions and approach techniques for the MOB event. My preference is the "quick stop" which immediately stops the boat in close proximity to the victim.
JUNE 30 -- Throughout this voyage, as with previous ones, we maintained radio contact with the other vessels of our flotilla, meeting early in the morning and just after dinner each evening. So this morning, Wednesday, the three boats met on SSB at our pre-arrange time of 0630 (using EDT for ships time), after we all had copied and interpreted the 0530 NMN weather. This report confirmed the weather fax information we had... a promise of several days, at least 4, of southerly winds powered by a very strong "Bermuda High" well ensconced to our east.
We exchanged GPS positions after deciding to continue our conversations on VHF rather than SSB. These position reports revealed all three boats were within a 20 mile stretch of ocean NW of Bermuda, within VHF range. So we switched to VHF-- no need to burden the worldwide SSB channels with our localized traffic. As before, the Captains, for safety sake, kept a GPS plot in addition to the DR plot maintained by students. Thus each captain was aware of the other vessels’ positions as well as his own at all times.
Celestial observations were remarkably easy though. This voyage yielded consistently clear skies, so Sun shots were available at our whim nearly all the time. And the evenings provided excellent views of Venus in the evening sky to the West and a very clear Mars to the SSE in the vicinity of Spica for the entire trip. Mornings we had the Moon and Jupiter blazing in the person sky. So we were able to establish celestial fixes quite readily. This particular evening we were treated to a marvelous celestial panorama prior to moonrise as crystal clear skies of the high pressure system made for a brilliant view of the Milky Way.
JULY 1, Thursday-- Mate Bud Holmes showed us an excellent use of the Celesticomp celestial navigation computer. This spunky little hunk of silicon not only saves the drudgery, and risk, of mistakes of reducing celestial observations by almanac & tables, making sense of the sextant observations in seconds, it also shows us where to look for the best stars at both morning and evening twilight. Bud spent the Thursday morning seminar demonstrating this, showing our student crew how to plot the Celesticomp readouts on Universal Plotting sheets. So each student was able to construct his own version of the reference skychart for this voyage... a bit less complex and more personalized than the DMA Star Finder.
As the morning progressed the fair winds persisted but lightened, and our boat speed dropped. By 1100 we decide to pop the gennaker again. This increased our speed, but forced us to make a more southerly course to use the wind efficiently. But we gladly sacrificed the compass to the knotmeter. Speed is truly intoxicating! And the more southerly route should not hurt us. During a brief VHF contact in the early afternoon, DREAM CATCHER asked if we intended to make landfall in Florida! We laugh and speed on. Our overall Gulf Stream strategy calls for us to enter the Stream some 20 miles or so south of the rhumb line. Thus the NE set of the Stream will pop us out fairly close to where we want to be, right next to the rhumb line. Our southing shouldn’t hurt.
At about 1915, just after we finished cleaning up from a tasty chicken stir fry dinner, we had a bon fide emergency. The gennaker tack pennant parted sending this huge sail into an uncontrolled flap out in front of the boat in the 15 knot breeze. Fortunately the crew, lead by Larry, David and Norman, was familiar enough with the rig by now to handle the problem using the dousing sock to get the sail below and stowed with little difficulty. We reviewed the problem: chafe! Chafe is always a sailor’s nemesis in a seaway, and we looked at this particular incident and discussed ways we could have detected and avoided it. There’s never a shortage of learning opportunities at sea, that’s for sure.
At about 2000 hours, as twilight approached, Larry, Norman and David prepared for the evening twilight observations using the sky charts they had made that morning to predict the bearing and elevation of the stars and planets they expected to shoot. And behold, they were pleased to find the bodies they sought right where they were supposed to be. Venus popped out just after sunset like some sort of extraterrestrial headlight, and Mars was not too far behind in time, followed by his neighbor, Spica.
On a more mundane note, our voyage was as beset with mechanical problems as the average voyage can be expected to be... Murphy was a sailor, after all! Being the "reefer ship" of the fleet with the best refrigeration system, was not without its burdens. Along with the need to run the engine in port an inordinate amount of time to keep our 12 volt system adequately charged to accommodate our lovely but power hungry refrigeration system, we found some glitches in the plumbing. A couple of times during the voyage we noticed the freezer cycling on and off several times during a single charging period; much more often than appropriate. We found that we had a raw water line that clogged two or three times. So we once again applied the air-horn trick we learned from Mike McGovern, DREAM CATCHER’s First Mate. We uncoupled the line from the pump and put the business end of the air-horn to it and blew. It cleared quickly. We reattached the hose and the raw water cooling resumed working efficiently. Another lesson in the importance of the kind resourcefulness and self-reliance required of the offshore sailor.
JULY 2 -- Our voyage progresses with remarkable speed, averaging well over 6.3 knots. We’ve remained fairly close to DREAM CATCHER, enjoying visual contact with her several times. Sometimes she’s ahead, sometimes we are. But ENCHANTMENT continues to fly ahead of both of us making truly remarkable time. At about 2030 on July 2nd, we note the rise in sea water temperature from 78 degrees to 80.5 degrees and we check our DR to find we are at North 35 degrees-17 minutes and West 70 degrees-00 minutes and entering the Gulf Stream. The Stream proves to be quite docile in the Southwesterly winds. While the winds are strong, 20 to 25 knots, and the seas are lumpy, they’re nowhere near as violent as they would be were the winds out of the NE opposing the current. We’re grateful for this as we slip along on our reach with no discomfort. And so we pass the night.
JULY 3 -- at about 0400 we experience 82.5 degree sea water temperature, the Axis of the Stream. Just after 0700 a squall overtakes us and the winds increase to 35 knots and more. We are under full sail on a broad reach with Larry at the helm. I jumped up in the cockpit to see how he was doing--- perfectly comfortable as TEAL MONDAY took the 35+ gusts off her beam in stride, and Larry just grinned! I returned below and continued preparing breakfast! By 0900 the waves subside even further and the sea temperature drops to 77 degrees. We’ve crossed the NW wall of the Gulf Stream. We begin to estimate our time of arrival and realize we are making near record time. We expect to arrive between Midnight and 0200 on July 4th. A truly quick westbound passage.
We make radio contact with ENCHANTMENT during our 1845 scheduled meeting; she reveals she is south of the R&W "CB" fair water mark at the beginning of the Chesapeake deep water channel and expects to be in by about 2200 or so. DREAM CATCHER, a bit further back, joins the conversation announcing her intentions to hold off her approach until daylight, and we publish our intention to press on and arrive at about 0200 or so.
At about 2000 we get a clear look at Chesapeake light and begin the coastal approach to Norfolk. I appoint Larry Hall "Approach Skipper," rewarding him for his excellent seamanship on the voyage, with Norm as Navigator. Larry elects to stay south of the main shipping channel and enter the bay just north of Cape Henry, thus avoiding any potential for confrontation with major shipping in the busy Thimble Shoals Channel.
At about 2100 we are treated to the Fourth of July Fireworks display on the barge just off Virginia Beach. It’s still somewhat far away, but none the less spectacular.
JULY 4 -- The wind persists and we are able to enter the Chesapeake Bay under full sail, passing the Bridge Tunnel on the south side of Thimble Shoal Channel under sail at 6.5+ knots. It’s fitting that this marvelous sail should end with a sprint through the bridge. As a matter of fact, we were enjoying the sail so much, we sailed right past Little Creek, adding about 5 miles and nearly an hour to our time. We chastise the Navigator, but not that severely. After all we are still enjoying our sail after over 4 days; and it’s 2 AM!!.
At 0245 we begin dropping sail as we approach the Little Creek channel. We proceed to Taylor’s Landing Marina and at 0315 we make fast to the fuel dock on the inside next to ENCHANTMENT. No one aboard her stirs as we slip in. I call customs and immigration to check in. Fortunately, we are allowed to clear by phone with little red tape. And we quietly crack a cold beer (acquired from the nearby and mercifully open all-night 7-11 just up the road) and drink a toast a really fine voyage. And our over all time of just over 4 and a half days has to be some sort of record!
But Wait! There sits ENCHANTMENT resting quietly on the other side of the fuel dock. She must have pulled in at least 3 hours ahead of us. Wow! So we raise our glasses (cans really) and toast ENCHANTMENT and her crew, Champions all! They slept! .....Soundly!
July 4th, 1999