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Aboard Schooner Virginia, waiting out the storm

Nov 17, 2009
Ocean Navigator editor Tim Queeney is aboard the schooner Virginia, en route to Bermuda on an offshore celestial navigation seminar. The following are his comments from Friday, November 13th. We will post Tim's latest reports as he sends them in, so be sure to check back frequently.

In the age of sail, strict schedules were not part of a mariner's life. Sailing vessels would often wait, sometimes weeks, for the wind to change and provide a favorable breeze to make a journey. This is particularly appropriate for those of us now aboard the schooner Virginia in Charleston, S.C. We were scheduled to depart Charleston for Bermuda on Thursday but here it is Friday and we have not yet left the dock. The reason is weather. The remnants of tropical storm Ida passed over Charleston on Wednesday. That was according to plan. But weather doesn't always act according to the forecasts. Instead of sweeping away to the east, the low pressure system decided to sit down and stay awhile. A high pressure over New England was acting the part of a steadfast offensive lineman and blocking the low. This set up a static circulation pattern that kept things wet and blustery in Charleston; which pelted and flooded Norfolk, Va., with rain and storm surge; and which kicked up big seas and powerful winds offshore.

The result was Virginia Captain Stefan Edick decided to hold us here in Charleston Harbor as we waited for the wind and the seas to lay down before shoving off for the Onion Patch. For the six adult students who are aboard Virginia to learn celestial navigation, the holdover has proven fruitful. With the big black-hulled schooner tied up alongside the schooner Spirit of Massachusetts at the Charleston Maritime Center, the students have had a stable platform for the initial classroom segment of our celestial navigation learning trip and are now well ahead of were they might be had we been bashing into 18-foot seas amid torrential rain.

Waiting out the weather not only fits the age of sail provenance of schooner Virginia, it also had the added benefit of getting our students up to speed on celestial navigation theory and sight reduction practice. Such are some of the unexpected benefits of a parked low pressure and a flexible schedule.