Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News from CELESTIAL and Dry Tortugas Crew #1

After a day of preparation, the crew of CELESTIAL set sail Sunday morning March 9th at 07:30. It was a chilly 41 degrees when this photo was taken by Ruth Kliment. Pictured are Captain Joe Kliment and crew: Jeff Scott, Frank Crumb, Ken Stevens, Mike Coyne and Jeff Harper. Captain Joe has been posting positions using his HAM radio, and at last report on Monday March 10th at 13:08 he says "In GULF. Crew and vessel OK." You can follow the ship's progress by going to http://shiptrak.org/� and typing in the call sign W3HZM and selecting "Last 30 days" from the drop down menu. Zoom in and hover over each point, or look at the bottom of the screen for comments associated with the position. I enjoy the "Hybrid" view myself, where you can make out the Dry Tortugas. Further details on the voyage and post cruise input from the crew can be found as comments to this original post. Pictured here is the crew returning to Punta Gorda.


Rita Hanson said...

CELESTIAL arrived in good form at Dry Tortugas and as of late Monday was on her way to Key West. At 23:57 Monday night Captain Joe posted on shiptrak.org: "Traveling under sail to Key West.; Crew and boat OK".

Rita Hanson said...

CELESTAIL arrived back safely at
Punta Gorda Marina at 1330hrs
on 3/14. Boat and crew in great shape. Captain Joe reports that it was a great trip! We'll look forward to comments from captain and crew here ...

Captain Joe Kliment said...

The first Dry Tortugas cruise was an enjoyable success. The students were exposed to a wide variety of experiences fitting for ASA106.

The only change made to the cruise plan was the elimination of the last port of call, because of insufficient time.

The route of the Gulf, Dry Tortugas, Key West, and Florida Bay, was easily handled during the allotted time.

The initial run from Burnt Store Marina to the Dry Tortugas provided considerable off wind sailing with swells on the beam and quarter. This was an easy sail to Fort Jefferson on Garden Key.

We anchored close to the Fort and enjoyed some off the boat experience touring this historical landmark with a little snorkeling on the side.
Our initial anchorage at Bird Key Harbor was less than adequate due to lack of protection from east
swells and wind.
As with the US Virgin Islands National Park, there is a charge to anchor and use the facilities. The buoyage system was adequate and we had no trouble negotiating the course in and out of Garden Key, but it should be done during daylight hours.

Depths were sufficient in the designated channels.
The run from The DT's to Key West was done offshore, south of the barrier reef and provided some great beating into an east wind.
We encountered The Gulf Stream about 10 nm south of the barrier reef near the Key West Main Ship Channel providing for a great ride east.
The stop at Key West was exciting for the students, with a chance to mingle with some larger vessels.
The City of Key West's Bight Marina was our stop for the night. It's reasonable, has good accessibility,and is near the Historic Seaport.
A chance to visit the Historic Seaport, Sloppy Joe's,
Margaritaville, and excellent seafood restaurants kept the crew busy along with continued study for the 106 test.

We departed Key West via the Northwest Channel and motored out into Florida Bay. The channel was
easy to negotiate. A stale high pressure system resulted in light winds on our trip north.

The Navy towers provided some great navigational fixes along the way with a man overboard drill to keep the students alert.
We were accompanied along the way by dolphins, an occasional sea turtle and a great sunset to test some celestial skills. Arriving the next morning at the entrance
buoy at Boca Grande Channel and traversing up Charlotte Harbor, we were met and escorted by a "tagged" manatee at the entrance to Burnt Store Marina.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable cruise with a GREAT student crew. All three testing students handily passed the ASA106 test!

Capt Joe Kliment

Captain Joe Kliment said...

CELESTIAL Burnt Store Marina to the Dry Tortugas March 22-28, 2008

The second Dry Tortugas ASA 106 cruise was as challenging and enjoyable as the first. The crew provisioned on Saturday, March 22, then prepared the boat for departure. No one felt threatened by the heavy rainstorm with serious thunder and lightening overnight, since CELESTIAL was still at the dock.

We departed at 8:30 March 23, Easter Sunday morning, with good winds and beautiful weather, sailing on a great broad reach down the Gulf toward the Dry Tortugas. The students practiced dead reckoning and learned to use the ship's radar, observing traffic along the way. We had previously divided into 3 teams, with a watch schedule of 3 hrs on and 6 hrs off. It was a pleasant overnight sail with a swallow coming aboard the boat for much the night.

We arrived at the Dry Tortugas, after carefully running the course to Ft. Jefferson, where we anchored at 11:30 AM Monday, March 24. The crew toured the Fort and rested after the long sail. Unexpected excitement arose on the dingy trip back to CELESTIAL, when the engine of the dink failed this crew - leaving us adrift without paddles. With wind gusting to 30 knots, one crew member quipped “We're on our way to Cuba!”.

The National Park came to our rescue, when Ranger Jason Olds arrived in a large inflatable patrol boat and towed us back to CELESTIAL. (The dink engine was later found to need a tune up and carburetor adjustment.) The heavy gusting winds caused other boats to drag anchor through the night, but our properly set anchor, with plenty of chain rode held firm.

On Tuesday, March 25, we prepared our main meal at noon and departed the Dry Tortugas at 3 pm for our second overnight sail. With 25 knot east winds on the nose, we motor sailed through 8-10 ft seas. This rough ride, in the blue water south of the barrier reef, was the biggest challenge for this crew thus far. Like true seasoned sailors, this crew took care of each other!

Arriving at the outer mark for Key West at 7:30 AM Wednesday, March 26, we were surprised to see a nuclear submarine and it's tender nearby. Proceeding up the channel we were indeed fortunate to get the last slip available in Conch Harbor Marina. The challenge of docking this large vessel in such a narrow lagoon brought (well deserved) applause from the bystanders. The crew toured Key West and thoroughly enjoyed a meal ashore. Luckily the weather was kind and sleeping conditions comfortable, since the air conditioner on the vessel failed (this was later found to be a cooling water problem).

On Thursday, March 27, we ate an early breakfast before departing Key West via the North West Channel. Setting the genoa, staysail and full main while beating into a 15-20 knot NE wind, the crew was exhilarated to be speeding along at 8 knots. Some time later, we found the autohelm was non-functional, so we manned the wheel for the next 24 hrs. By evening the winds had diminished and we motorsailed through the night. Shortly after sunset, a large osprey circled CELESTIAL, landing on the bow pulpit to accompany us for a 6 hr ride.

A beautiful sunrise off of Captiva Island found us motoring, with no wind for an uneventful return to Burnt Store Marina at 11 AM Friday March 28. We refueled and pumped out, then docked and cleaned Celestial. Since there were no students testing for ASA 106, this cruise was now completed and the crew began to depart. The 5 student crew members had become good friends though this challenging experience and we plan to stay in touch in the future. It was truly a cruise to remember for all of us!
Capt Joe Kliment, March 30, 2008