When we departed Ft. Lauderdale on April 3 aboard the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry bound for Bermuda, we had a few predictions: that we would have good weather for both sailing and celestial nav sights and that the group of marine weather and celestial navigation students on board would have a great time sailing offshore and learning in their respective seminars.
The weather prediction came from Chris Parker, the founder of Marine Weather Center, voyaging weather expert and a weather router for numerous voyaging boats in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Chris was aboard Perry to teach a course on Marine Weather to a group of eager voyagers. Luckily for his rep with this group, Chris' prediction of good weather proved accurate. We had wind from southerly directions (SW, S, SE) and were able to make good time sailing. Early in the voyage he also informed the captain, crew and students that we were in for a cold front passage that would entail squalls with wind gusts, periods of intense rain and lightning. The front did pass on the night of Thursday, April 6, with the effects Chris forecast. He did miss on one thing, though. He didn't say how spectacular the light show would be. The lightning that sparked at various levels, colors and shapes was truly impressive. A good indication of the amount of energy in those squalls.
The second part of the prediction about having a great time was based on the enthusiasm of the students along with the great crew on board Perry. The tall ship sailors that the OHP HQ in Newport assembled for this trip were a personable, capable bunch. They were impressively led by Captain David Dawes, a transplanted Aussie with a gregarious wit who readily demonstrated his firm control of the complexities of square-rig sail handling and managing a crew.
For his morning weather classes, Chris took over the ship's impressive great cabin, which is equipped with a large flat panel TV that Chris used to display weather diagrams. The students were lucky to receive the benefits of both Chris's extensive practical experience and knowledge in addition to the weather notebook put together by Locus Weather owner and ON contributing editor Ken McKinley based in Camden, Maine.
My celestial navigation classes were held in the Perry's library/classroom, which is equipped with desks and a large whiteboard. This latter teaching device allowed for extensive free hand drawing of large, multicolored diagrams to explain the navigational triangle, Greenwich Hour Angle, declination, Local Hour Angle and the handy noon sight diagram — my students appreciated the enthusiasm if not the dry erase drafting skills! We also got on deck for a demonstration of sextant errors and how to correct them, plus sun sights, noon sights and star, planets and moon sights at twilight time.
On top of it all there were plenty of chances to learn the rig, go aloft and help with sail handling, do boat checks and steer a square rigged ship — not something most sailors get a chance to do every day. Add in plenty of great ship's food and you have a rewarding learning and sailing experience. Join us next time.