Blue Planet started her Caribbean circuit with one of our students on board. He completed ASA’s 105 and 106 classes on their passage. While not our typical class for 105 and 106 we were happy that he was able to spend so much time aboard learning advanced sailing techniques. Here is a few small parts of Captain Louise’s log, you can read the whole thing at the “where we have been” section of her website.
Our Island Dreamer Sailing guest crew, Wayne from Colorado, arrives on board and turns out to be a fun and capable guy in his mid-forties who is lusting after a Moody 38 (or even a fortysomething?) he’d love to buy and cruise. We like him already. This will be his first offshore experience. He plans to complete his ASA 105 Coastal Navigation and ASA 106 Advanced Coastal Cruising on this cruise.
They prepared the boat for several days as they waited for a weather window;
In the mechanical department, Wayne does the oil change, called for on his ASA 106 course, the skipper does the fuel filters change, and the mate cleans out the water strainer. The engine is ready.
A massive provisioning exercise is completed, yielding menus and a groceries list, and the goodies are purchased and stowed using offshore procedures. The boat is secured for sea, inside and out. Lee cloths are set up on all bunks. The spare rollup dinghy is lashed down on deck. The dive tanks and gas tanks are secured.
Meanwhile crew offshore preps continue. The safety lines are laid out, inflatable PFDs are issued and checked, crew is briefed on the EPIRB, liferaft and offshore PFD locations. The abandon ship bag is inspected and its contents updated. The medical kit is reviewed. Bilge pumps are inspected and tested and crew are briefed on their operation. Offshore safety regularions are reviewed. Watch schedules are agreed upon.
They set sail December 6:
Our first challenge is to cross the Gulf Stream, a 40 mile passage from Miami to the edge of the Bahamas. This formidable body of water sets North at something like an average of 2.5 knots and the general practice is to traverse is at a 90 degree angle to minimize the duration of its effect. Wayne calculates our course to steer at 110° Magnetic, taking into the account the variation and the 010° True set of the Stream.
Day 3 they are off the Bahamas;
By sunrise we are within sight of the Southern tip of Great Abaco Island and we actually alter course toward land a bit so that Wayne can take bearings on the two visible lighthouses, as required for his navigation course. He nails the two-bearing fix and the running fix.
Typical of any sailing trip something has to go wrong;
Around 0100 the autopilot fails for unknown reasons and we steer by hand. At day break we notice that the washdown pump we use for cleaning out the anchor chain is on. Mystery solved. Someone must have hit the switch by accident while trying to turn on the propane switch in the dark to make tea. The pulsating pump has been sucking power away from the autopilot, which resets itself to standby without warning whenever its voltage drops below a threshold, a “feature” I’ve always found objectionable. All is well again.
It’s not part of the 106 course but;
Wayne takes a morning sun shot and another sun shot at local noon. At evening twilight, the Captain takes a nice fix on the waning moon sliver, Jupiter, and Vega.
Day 13, Land Ho!
We arrange our night sailing to reach a waypoint just North of the NW coast of Culebra at day break, because this is an area strewn with unlit rocks which can not be transited at night. We take a pass which leaves these rocks to our port side while to our starboard we have the last rocks of the long, mostly submerged Cordillera range which extends to here from the NE tip of Puerto Rico, with numerous rocks and small islands jutting out of the sea. With the transit of this pass, we transition from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Our first landfall to our port is a deserted but impressive island which looks solid black while backlit by the rising sun.
Wayne uses his now well honed skills in coastal navigation to pilot us through the pass and all the way to our anchorage, which turns out to be a nice free mooring ball set in front of a park and small beach just North of the town. Whereupon a nice nap and a relaxing day and an early night is had by all.
A day of rest (except for Wayne!);
Culebrita is a lovely spot, a favorite of the Captain’s, with a perfect deserted beach, a nice hike to the photogenic lighthouse at the top of the hill, and a collection of boulders which form a lovely bathing area, all of which are enjoyed by the crew.
Before his hike, Wayne takes and passes the challenging ASA 105 Coastal Navigation exam.
Both day and night man overboard drills are part of the class;
In the end we are a little short of time to make St Thomas before nightfall, and so we motorsail the last five miles in yet another 20-25 knot squall on the nose. We reach the west coast of Water Island just in time to perform crew overboard drills for the two mates, who need it for their ASA 101, and for Wayne, who needs it for ASA 106. We then await nightfall while coasting, and once in full darkness, Wayne is able to competently execute his night time crew overboard drill, which wraps up the last of his ASA 106 practical skills. We then proceed to the anchoring spot we had scoped out before dark, just off of Flamingo Bay on Water Island.
Wayne’s last day on board;
Wayne aces his ASA 106 exam, and is off to the airport by noon. Good bye and good luck. We’ve enjoyed sailing with you.
There is lots more info about our advanced sailing classes including ASA 107 Celestial Navigation and ASA 108 Offshore Passagemaking at our advanced sail training page. You can join Captain Louise this spring as she sails around the caribbean next stop Jamaica!