Currently, a group of students is preparing to embark on a voyage from Bermuda to the British Virgin Islands. On that voyage, students will earn their ASA 108 and ASA 117 certifications while instructors will earn ASA 208 and ASA 217.
ASA 108, Offshore Passagemaking Learn to skipper a sailing vessel on extended offshore passages requiring celestial navigation. Knowledge of long-term passage planning, offshore vessel selection, sail repair, offshore first aid, watch-keeping, emergency procedures, abandon ship protocols, safety and seamanship.
ASA 117, Basic Celestial Endorsement Learn to apply basic celestial navigation theory and practice to determine latitude and longitude at sea using a sextant and Nautical Almanac.
Instructor Evaluator, Captain David Renoll of R & R Charter and Sail School is leading the courses and shared his thoughts on the first leg of this voyage.
The British Virgin Islands are a famously popular spot for bareboat charters in the Caribbean. In fact, more ASA students choose the BVI as their destination of choice than any other charter destination.
After you have obtained your ASA 104 certification and you want to head to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, how are you going to fill your itinerary? We have a few ideas of things to do in the British Virgin Islands on your sailing vacation.
If the special person in your life has an affinity for the ocean, is an avid sailor or has just expressed an interest in sailboats, let this be your guide to giving the gift of sailing this holiday season.
Our goal is pretty simple at ASA. We want to help you find the perfect gift for the sailor in your life. Below are our picks.
While you are at it; buy yourself something nice, too.
Beyond Gruel is author and sailor, Bob Witty’s first book. He describes his love of cooking and sailing and how he could not eat bad food while out on the water. The book centers around the idea of less is more, understanding that the less that is required to achieve the more you want, communicated through sailing and food.
“I grew up in South Florida and sailed an 11 foot Snark sailboat on a lake in the back of my home. I had wanted to take sailing lessons for years; unfortunately, family, work, and other priorities always got in the way.” Witty laments his lack of sailing education, much like so many stories we have heard from others who have always wanted to sail but have still not taken a course.
Bob Witty decided he would change that. He would take sailing lessons and fulfill a lifelong goal. While living in Monterey, CA, from 2017-2019, the author made the time to take the entire series of classes ASA 101 through ASA 104. He is interested in the sailboat itself as much as the sailing. The point of sailing a boat, for the author, is to spend as much time on the boat as possible. While taking ASA 103 he found that the boat would come into port for lunch. He understood the need for that from an instructor’s point of view, but for a sailor, he would much rather have spent the time out on the water.
“In ASA 103, we did have lunch on the boat one day, when we did our anchoring lessons. Everyone had a prepared, bagged lunch, which to me seems like a waste when you have a perfectly good galley to try out.” Witty explains, “The captain instructors all told me that few sailors knew how to cook and that galleys were rarely used, and that if I could, I would easily get work as a crew member for voyages from the west coast to Hawaii.”
It was a mixture of curiosity about cooking in a sailboat galley and an observed need that spurred on Bob Witty’s creative juices. “When we prepared for ASA 104 provisioning, the discussion began as having packaged food on the boat and eating breakfast and dinner at a restaurant while in port. I wanted no part of that. I wanted to seize the opportunity to cook in the galley, while in motion and while in port. I wanted to try baking bread using the famous airborne yeast of the west coast. I knew I could fulfill another lifelong dream of writing a book with all of these experiences.”
Beyond Gruel: Adventures in the Galley and Clear Sailing to Simplicity and Happiness is about how to identify the less that will help you achieve the more you want out of life, told through the medium of sailing and cooking in the galley of a sailboat.
Bob Witty on Writing Beyond Gruel: We live in an age full of distractions, to the point that people now study mindfulness. I believe you make the most out of every experience. If I am taking sailing courses I want to learn everything I can about the boat and how to sail it. I want to learn as much as I can in the short time I have to spend on the boat. I turned my cell phone off during the journey, and when I found myself sitting on deck, close hauled, with little happening, it was an opportunity to check out the galley, the electronics, the plumbing systems, living and sleeping areas, and to make the absolute most out of the experience. And since I knew I was going to write a cookbook, I wanted to see what ideas would be practical – what would, and wouldn’t work.
Celestial Navigation seems to be something that only the old salts talk about as necessary. Why do we need to seek out the sun and the stars to helps us navigate? These days with GPS systems on our mobile devices we feel as if we can find our way with ease. Well, navigation has become more convenient; but what would you do if your electronics failed?
Celestial Navigation is not at all complicated considering all you need is the sun, a watch, a sextant, and a nautical almanac. Get a reading at noon of your location using the sun, a watch to note the time, and a sextant. You’ll need a nautical almanac to get some more information, and you’ll be able to plot your location on your chart.
ASA asked Author and Sailing instructor, Tom Tursi of The Maryland School of Sailing & Seamanship to tell us about his book, Celestial Navigation for Sailors, and the importance of Celestial Navigation.
Celestial Navigation in this Age of Super Electronics
I am often asked the question: “Why are you still doing celestial navigation when you could just punch a few GPS buttons and have your answer? Presto!” One answer to that question is “In case the GPS fails.” But the real answer goes a lot deeper than that, something along the lines of “Why are we sailing this slow boat to Bermuda when we could fly commercially faster, cheaper, safer…”
We could fly, but we chose to sail. And why did we do that? Well, there are many answers to this question, but having sailed offshore with many different sailors for the past 30 years, I think the answer for most lies in the desire to escape from the high-octane world in which we live and work today. Get back to some basics. Use your hands to do things and your brains and good judgment to unravel mysteries. Overcome challenges. Marvel at the open sea. Meet a storm on terms dictated by Mother Nature.
It’s uncomfortable and intimidating at sea a lot of the time, but what a fantastic experience; what challenges; what memories! Sailing day and night, day after day, an entire week! Porpoise, whales, flying fish, Portuguese men of war, tuna, shark, Bermuda longtails… Beautiful sunsets, billions of stars, storm clouds, lightning, howling winds, brilliant sun, ponderous waves… Navigational challenges, passing ship lights, fishing trawlers, weather forecasts, distant radio emergencies, sonic booms… The Gulf Stream, uninterrupted sailing, miles deep, Sargasso weed, tropical waves, deepening low… Rhumb line, magnetic variation, landfall, rage sea, peace at last…
Celestial navigation at sea is an integral part of this experience. Back to basics. Pull it out from deep within. Remember your youngster days of learning something new and difficult and marveling that it actually works when given the time and patience to delve into details? A simple optical telescope, a clock and some reference tables. Focus on a star at the outer limits of the universe billions of light-years away; capture its now dim light and measure its angle above the earth’s horizon. From this, you determine your position on this seemingly endless sea using the methods of our forebears.
Celestial Navigation for Sailors, written by Captain Tom Tursi, a USCG Licensed Ocean Master with over 70,000 miles of blue water ocean sailing throughout the world in sailboats under 50 feet. This is a step-by-step instructional text, specifically directed at ocean sailors, covering the celestial theory, calculations and procedures needed for hands-on practical navigation at sea. It covers the Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars and the 2102D Star Finder in detail, plus the Log entries and Dead Reckoning (DR) procedures used to assemble the celestial lines of position (LOPs) into a useable ocean navigation process. It also includes sample calculations for all of the celestial bodies used for navigation, homework exercises and extracts from the Nautical Almanac and Sight Reduction Tables needed for these calculations.
Solutions to Celestial Navigation Questions is a companion book, also by Captain Tursi, showing detailed, step-by-step solutions to the homework exercises in Celestial Navigation for Sailors.
Captain Ivan fell in love with sailing as a youth at a summer camp in Wisconsin. The quiet magic of harnessing the breeze to sail across the lake was superior to paddling or the racket of a motor. The love of sailing has drawn him to the water from Maine to the Caribbean and the freshwater paradise of the Great Lakes. Ivan is the quintessential racer-cruiser, from winning the Mac to cruising the Caribbean, he is at home on the water. He holds a USCG 50 ton master’s license.
Aboard S/V ENCHANTMENT Island Packet 40 enroute from Bermuda to Norfolk, VA…
At precisely twelve midnight local time I shackled my safety harness onto the jackline and assumed the helm. I could barely make out Jim’s watch report as he hollered over the screeching gale which drove us so rudely on the port quarter: “Twenty-five knots, gusting to thirty-eight with ten to fifteen feet running on the port beam”. The ship’s bow plunged and shouldered ahead making sloppy seas tower above us before slicing off rivers of green water and spray which crashed aft into the pitching cockpit. The black night shrieked over the black sea and all that I could make out was Jim’s penlight as he struggled over the Nav table recording our progress. We were running in the Gulf Stream across a steep-to, chaotic chop courtesy of three fast approaching tropical lows that were massing on our stern. Our Island Packet 40 lurched and rolled as it ricocheted off one green mogul to the next in constant danger of crash-gybing. The inky, foaming frenzy into which we drove gave no clue as to our next surprise; resulting in an uncertainty which was only briefly alarming and thoroughly challenging.
This moment was exhilaration in the extreme – here I was steering a bucking, twelve-ton vessel like a blinded madman on a mission from hell. And the dilemma that immediately became apparent was the classical paradox. With all one’s normal sensory input negated by the sheer wildness of the night, one was forced to step out of an immediate physical world and into a mental state of serenity; faith if you will. Steering was no longer just a matter of chasing some point on the horizon or feeling the pull of sail, it had become a concentrated effort to track this faint green light illuminated before me on the compass dial. I had to ignore the howling wind , the crashing sea and this total sensory overload to trust mightily in a tiny, man-made light at my feet. The trick was to keep the wind safely on the port quarter while surfing down a confused sea which was constantly threatening to throw us off to starboard. It was like playing the ultimate pinball table where tilt meant more than just losing your quarter. And each time the sea tossed us off onto a different heading you had to fight the wheel and allow the wind to pull you back even with that little green light.
I had drawn the twelve to four watch with Jim and our next four hours would prove to be a memorable experience as we fought the fury outside and our fears inside. One moment the ship would shudder and stall as we plowed into a wave while the next it would accelerate off as if launched like a rocket and all the while you had to keep your balance at the helm and wrestle a flailing wheel. What an introduction to the world of blue water sailing. Here we were almost four hundred nautical miles west of Bermuda, on a heading straight towards Cape Hatteras and her treacherous Diamond shoals with a southeast gale blowing us into the mountainous fury of the Gulf Stream and ever faster setting us toward shallow waters.
We had set out some four days earlier from St. Georges, Bermuda bound for Norfolk, Virginia with light winds and a clear weather report. Several days of intermittent motor-sailing found us well-rested and eager for some action. We had sighted whales, run a grid-pattern search for a supposed flare sighting, practiced emergency drills, and told the timeless tales of sailors. And now it was time to batten down. It seemed like forever since we had stood listening to the Bermuda Symphonic Orchestra playing exquisite classical pieces while all the town gathered for free ice cream and dreamed under the clear, tropical night sky. The two days spent in preparation for this journey had been busy and tedious, but the incredible was commonplace as one maritime gem after another formed a steady parade of fantastic interjection. Like the night that Lacota cruised in some forty hours after departing New York to set a new world record for elapsed time. Or the evening that four sailors from Belgium ghosted up in an original sistership of the vessel that Bernard Moitessier single-handed non-stop around the world in 1969. And I could never forget the sailor with one good arm that defied the impossible on a daily basis in navigating his solo vessel better than most crewed vessels, never once in search of a helping hand, but always gracious to the offer. All these instances and others flashed through my mind as I now stood, dancing at the wheel with the wind and the sea challenging my very essence. But like a powerful sedative all these wonders combined to lend a steady hand and gave me the courage to carry on – the night was indeed dark and stormy, but not unlike those that others before me had braved as well. And as I fought to hold our course following that tiny green light a curious thing occurred. The roar of the wind gradually became like a song and the fury of the sea became as if a cradle and the effect was quite astonishing as I look back from today, because the moment became timeless. Everything else that had ever mattered sat idle as we three – the wind, the sea, and myself – danced that ageless dance of sailors, without fear but with awe. It was one incredible Bermuda high. ~
These were Bill Batchelor’s thoughts after completing an ocean training cruise from Bermuda to Norfolk a few years ago with the Maryland School of Sailing & Seamanship (MDSchool) on our ocean sailing yacht at the time, ENCHANTMENT, an Island Packet 40. Since 1993 MDSchool has completed more than 130 Blue Water ocean training cruises of between 700 and 1500 nautical miles, with student sailors earning the ASA 108 Offshore Passagemaking Certification, plus an additional 150 ASA 106 Advanced Coastal Training Cruises of 400 miles each. MDSchool has become a leader in conducting thorough and comprehensive ocean training cruises with their custom-written training manuals, ocean-rated Captains, and serious approach to the very serious business of ocean sailing.
For 2020, MDSchool is offering training on the 700-mile ocean trip between Norfolk, VA and Bermuda and the 400-mile advanced coastal circumnavigation of the Delaware-Maryland Virginia (DELMARVA) peninsula. Student sailors typically come from states throughout the US and from Canada, Europe, and Australia. Many are experienced inland sailors who want to advance to bigger live-aboard cruising boats and possibly sail off into the sunset for a while.
Training is thorough and rigorous, and crew-safety is of primary concern and attention. Celestial navigation is used offshore and provides students with the opportunity to apply and practice these classical techniques during a real-world Blue Water ocean cruise. But also, the boats are equipped with modern electronic plotters, radar, AIS, VHF and SSB radios, satellite weather forecasts and email. Boats also carry an ocean-rated life raft, storm sails, sea anchor, MOB gear and downwind whisker pole for the genoa.
Come and sail with us for a true, real-life sailing experience.
In November of 2018, ASA launched its Veterans Sailing Education Program aimed at getting more veterans out on the water. Since then, ASA has donated over $13,000 to the Veterans Sailing cause and more than 120 schools have offered a discount to military members seeking a sailing education.