About The Trip
Captain Louise talks about what you can expect in her ASA 108 Offshore passage trips and why our courses are different below. Your sail passage will be on her well equipped Hylas 47’ as she sails the Carribean. This class includes the extensive preperation to insure you and the boat are ready to go to sea, route planning, cestial navigation along with a 415 mile passage between St Thomas and Grenada.
“There are few Offshore instructors within the ASA faculty, and still fewer sailing schools who actually offer the level on a regular basis. The schools that do offer ASA 108 usually do so twice a year when they need to move their boats back and forth between the tropics and the northern latitudes in the fall and spring. But on Blue Planet, as a full time cruiser, offshore runs are just a fact of life and business as usual, and so we are able to offer ASA 108 on a regular basis throughout the year.
When I look back, I can count a dozen offshore passages of a thousand miles or more which I completed in the last eight years or so on half a dozen boats, as delivery crew or skipper, in the Atlantic and the Pacific. I’ve been fortunate to make landfall in destinations that seem to jump right out of the glossy travel mags: San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, Hawaii, Marquesas, Tahiti, New York, New England, the Chesapeake, Bermuda, Bahamas, Virgin islands, Eastern Caribbean. And when you’re at sea for 10 days or more, landfall is always memorable. Earlier in my career I plied the Eastern North Atlantic: Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Azores, Spain and Portugal, Gibraltar and all the rest of it. The point: I actually enjoy offshore sailing and I am delighted to share the passion and the skills with those who feel the call of the open sea.
Once while on passage as a paid driver with lots of time on my hands, I added up that I had gone to sea for over seven days with something like 23 men and 3 women. And currently, the vast majority of ASA 108 students are male. What’s wrong with this picture? After all, surveys consistently show that over 80% of the cruising boats engaged in long range/long duration cruising are crewed by couples – the rest being solo sailors and unrelated crews. The women ARE out there doing passages with their partners. So I resolved to give more of them of an opportunity to acquire the skills if they are interested. And to welcome on Blue Planet couples who are eager to share the offshore experience.
An offshore passage which departs from Norfolk at the bottom of the Chesapeake or from any points North must by necessity await the official, if not actual, end of the hurricane season on November 1st, and must scurry South before the winter gales start marching through the mid latitudes. Such a passage is almost guaranteed big seas, high winds, some rain and plenty of salt spray. Translation: wet, cold and miserable.
The same can be said of a departure from San Francisco or points North, even in summer, where one must contend with the strong westerlies, waves that have traveled unimpeded for 3000 miles, and the marine layer fog which blankets the coast for the first one hundred miles or more. I well recall getting all five of my pairs of gloves wet within the first 24 hours after departure on a June passage. So perhaps for US sailors, offshore passage making IS associated with being wet, cold and miserable until they can fight their way South to the trade winds and the tropical latitudes.
But again, what’s wrong with THAT picture? Most long range/long duration cruisers, even those engaged in a circumnavigation, choose to sail only in the tropics. Sure, they may drop down to New Zealand or go up the US East Coast to avoid the hurricane seasons. And high latitude sailors increasingly will venture to South Africa on the way around, or will explore the canals of Chile. But on the whole, it’s mostly downwind sailing in the trade wind belts. My point: it’s perfectly fine to learn offshore sailing in an easy trade wind run.
The ASA standard states that the student must “act as skipper and crew on an offshore passage of no less than 72 hours and 100 nautical miles without touching land”. That’s certainly a minimum. Schools often get the student to commit to a two or three week passage, to deliver their boats where they need to go, but that’s rather more for the convenience of the school than the need of the student. My experience is that it’s necessary but sufficient to allow at least one week to take the course. First, the offshore preparation will require at least two full days. These are a very valuable part of the learning process, for it is preparation that makes a passage successful. This is where the sailor will make his or her own luck, setting and learning systems, reduncancies and procedures that will foster safety at sea. Meanwhile, there might be a wait for the optimum weather window, also a very important part of the process of going to sea.
Then it takes even an experienced sailor some 24-48 hours to get adjusted to life at sea. There is the movement, the challenges of food preps, the watch schedules and altered sleep patterns, learning the boat, the watch keeping routines and all the rest of it. Anyone fighting seasickness almost always gets their sea legs within this time frame.
By then somehow the boat and the crew get into a groove and it becomes a pleasant, memorable experience. The starry nights, the surises and sunsets, the dinners taken on deck with the shipmates, perhaps catching and eating a fish, the learning, the navigation, the fun of sailing the boat. It’s all there, once you get accustomed to the offshore environment.
So I prefer to give the ASA 108 with a passage in the 350-500 mile range. At a conservative 5 knots an hour speed made good or 120 miles a day, this requires four days offshore or 96 hours and exceeds the ASA standard but gives the student an opportunity to “get it” – to really experience what it’s about. And it’s long enough for weather conditions to change so the student can experience a variety of situations.
On Blue Planet our winter destinations are always in the tropics, so far centered on the Caribbean playground. There are offshore passages built in our cruising itinerary. For instance last season we did offshore runs from Grenada to Bonaire, from Bonaire to Santo Domingo, and from there to Florida. This season we will run from the Virgins through the South coast of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, and later from there to the Caymans, then a hop to Belize and so on. Students can join us for a one way offshore passage at any of these locations, and get an opportunity to acquire their ASA 108 level in the contest of a real cruising event.
But there are also opportunities for students to do the ASA 108 as a round trip on those weeks where Blue Planet is not booked with a local or coastal cruise. For instance, why not depart from St Thomas and do a fun five day offshore passage to one of the Eastern Caribbean islands and back? Contact us to see where we are and where we’re headed next, or to ask for a specific date or destination that works for you.
Harry Munns, the ASA guru with whom I shared some of my thoughts above, had this to say in response.
“I especially liked her comment that it wasn’t necessary for students to be wet, cold and miserable to learn. I’d add that if they don’t have that experience, it’s the instructor’s responsibility to spend lots of time telling them tales of her/his cold, wet and miserable days and nights at sea and convince them of how lucky they are to be on this particular warm, dry, pleasant voyage.”
‘Works for me!”
Advanced Sail Training for Offshore Passages on Cross Caribbean Offshore Passages
We will run three offshore cruises for our passagemaking students this winter season, with celestial navigation and ASA certification, both optional:
Jan 16 – Jan 31: “Cross Caribe Southbound 1″. One-way offshore instructional cruise St Thomas to Grenada via the BVIs. Students can join us either in St Thomas on Jan 16 or in Tortola on Jan 22 before we jump off for the 415 mile offshore leg. 16 days total including welcome and goodbye dates, both of which are always offered FREE on Blue Planet.
Feb 5 – Feb 14: “Cross Caribe Northbound”. One-way offshore instructional cruise from Grenada to St Thomas. We plan to linger for 2-3 days cruising up the Grenadines before jumping offshore, both to give us an improved sailing angle and to visit a few of these unique islands. 10 days including arrival and departure days. Good choice if you only have one week off.
Feb 27 – March 13: “Cross Caribe Southbound 2″: One-way offshore instructional cruise St Thomas to Grenada via the BVIs. Students can join us either in St Thomas on Feb 27 or in Tortola on March 4 before we jump off for the 415 mile offshore leg. 16 days total including welcome and goodbye dates.
Liveaboard Rates and Lessons
Captain Louise is certified to teach both ASA 107 Celestial Navigation and 108 Offshore Passagemaking. All trips Includes provisioning, meal preparation, lessons, books. Guest cabin has a head and shower, linens provided.
Arrival and Departure days are free
Single -$370 per day
Couple - $630 per day total for 2
After 8 days each succeeding day is ½ price!
ASA Certification included and along with the cost of books.
The choice of any intermediate stop overs will be determined as part of your cruising instruction. Factors to be considered will include weather, wind direction and sailing angles, facilities available ashore, time available, any course load you have selected, and of course crew interests.
You will join the yacht at a marina in your port of departure, the 1st night is at no charge. We will spend the next two days doing an intensive hands-on offshore preparation exercise. We will cover such topics as weather acquisition and routing, navigation, celestial sight acquisition and reduction, safety and emergency systems and procedures, abandon ship bag, heavy weather tactics, medical kit, watch standing, provisioning, customs formalities. We will inspect and prepare all major boat systems: safety, electronics, communication, bilge pumps, engine, mechanical, rigging and sails, autopilot and much more.
When we’re ready and the weather is right, we will cast off and sail directly across the Caribbean sea. This is a 415 nautical mile offshore passage as the crow flies, that will require three to four days of round the clock navigation, during which we will stand watches and navigate the vessel using celestial navigation as well as our state of the art electronics. This itinerary was chosen as it generally provides a pleasant reach across in both directions as well as delightful facilities and interesting sights at both ends. We will make landfall in Grenada or in St Thomas, Virgin Islands, where we will complete entry formalities and end the passage will a well deserved rest and visit ashore.
We warmly encourage couples to enjoy this offshore cruise together. Both partners will learn to stand night watches in a supportive environment under expert supervision and in a tropical setting. One or both of you may choose to take the ASA certification.