A brush with Hurricane Marilyn

March/April 2006

The trip to Bermuda from Norfolk, Va., aboard Ocean Star didn’t feel right from the beginning. It was mid-September, relatively early in the hurricane season to make a passage across the 700 miles of ocean that separated Bermuda from the east coast.

We departed Cape Henry and headed south of east on a direct line to Bermuda. A day out, we heard that Tropical Depression 15 was making its way north and west from the Caribbean and was increasing in strength. The weather at our location was fine, the seas a bit lumpy, as could be expected in the proximity of the Gulf Stream, but nothing out of the ordinary. Capt. Deborah Hayes thought we should use the engine – just to give us an edge, should the weather turn nasty. So we pushed along at perhaps 7 knots, bound for the 65th meridian.

Everything was well for a couple of days, until the impeller blades on the water pump broke, and we had to shut down the main engine to replace the impeller. The job took only a few hours, but in that short time we unknowingly put ourselves at risk.

When we cranked up the main engine again, the news about Tropical Storm 15 had changed. It was now called Hurricane Marilyn and was wobbling in a direction that would take it west of us – although how far west, we weren’t sure.

We actually thought we would get into Bermuda and were only 10 miles off the island when it became painfully clear we wouldn’t be able to make Town Cut for another four or five hours. The weather had deteriorated, and Ocean Star was making more distance in a vertical direction than a horizontal one. By this time, Hurricane Marilyn’s closet point of approach of was about 150 miles to the west, and we felt the effects.

Hayes decided wisely to head northeast, downwind and heave-to until the storm blew itself out. We remained thus through the night and into the first half of the following morning. Although the seas were still lumpy, we set sail and worked our way back to Bermuda. By our reckoning we had been set about 50 miles downwind during the storm.

Let’s join Ocean Star for a sun line after the hurricane. We are at 33° 50′ N by 64° 10′ W. The height of eye is 10 feet. There is an index error of 2′ on the arc and no chronometer error. We are doing a lower limb shot of the sun, We will be using the 2006 Nautical Almanac, and the day in question is Sept. 20. The Hs of the sun is 28° 58.6′. Shot time is 12 hours 30 minutes 15 seconds GMT

  1. What is the reduced sextant altitude Ho?

  2. 2. What is the intercept?

  3. 3. Plot: How does the sun line match up with the DR?

By Ocean Navigator