Navigating By the Stars


I’ve always wanted to continue my Yachtmaster education by learning celestial navigation. Lindsay and I got our RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certifications in 2009 together in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. It was challenging and very fun to do together.

Yachtmaster training is complete, we passed!
Yachtmaster training is complete, we passed!

It landed us a job in Belize in the end, but that’s a story in the archives now. Anyway, after that I was just sure that we would quickly get certified as RYA OCEAN YACHTMASTERS.

The RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate has three parts:

1) THEORY – The RYA Certificate of completion is given after 40 hours of theory and written exam. This can be done online nowadays!

yachtmaster ocean theory

2) PRACTICE – An 800 nm journey offshore in a specified manner, in control of the vessel, successfully using celestial navigation along the way. Maybe we can incorporate this on a TALLSHIP vacation. Maybe, I’m still researching this.

yachtmaster ocean practical

3) EXAM – The Yachtmaster Ocean exam is an oral and written test of the knowledge of ocean passage making including planning, navigation, worldwide meteorology, crew management, yacht preparation, maintenance and repairs. We will also be questioned on sights taken at sea during an ocean passage.

yachtmaster ocean examination

This part can be pretty tense. The examiner is under no obligation to certify anyone, just because they paid for it and went through the steps. The applicant must instill confidence in the examiner, enough so that they would trust you with their family’s lives. That a lot of trust!

I thought it would be a good idea to put significant pressure on myself and confidently ordered business cards with the RYA Ocean Yachtmaster certification already listed.  But running the dive shop became more important. Three years later we are still not certified. I’m feeling the pressure now!

2014-12-25 10.22.42

So in order to make this thing happen, three years ago I went ahead and ordered a beginners sextant, which is used to “make sightings” but I have no concept of what I am looking for. I needed to study first. That’s what books are supposed to teach us, right?

Tadd’s not sure how to use this sextant thingy.

Here is the book that RYA recommends to read before starting the five day course. I’ve tried to read this book more than five times, with serious intent. I don’t think it’s written in a way that I learn. I THINK I GET IT UNTIL I HAVE TO ACTUALLY SOLVE A PROBLEM. Then I realize I’m crap at it.

photo 2

So I stopped trying. It seems appropriate that most of it has molded and the pages are ruined now.

photo 1

So today, Christmas day, I’m giving myself the gift of renewed enthusiasm and signing up for the online course to getting started again.

Yo ho ho, sextant, azimuth, rhumb.

2014 ARC Summary Report – Monohulls are faster?

All boats have crossed with a “no news is good news” result. No major problems with the fleet have made the headlines of any sailing magazines or blogs that I have seen yet. Well done by all.

Philo Cat Ena

Here you can see that a little catamaran called Philocat Ena has reached the harbor in St. Martin well ahead of most boats. Not until we look at the results, which are corrected for handicaps and MOTORING PENALTIES can we determine the finishing order.


Philocat Ena has finished second, because they used their motor quite a bit they were not first. Still, impressive to take on an Atlantic crossing on a light catamaran and do it faster than it’s taller competitors. But does that prove that catamarans cross the ocean faster than monohulls?

Let’s compare them. They are in two different classes. Here we can see the first and second place catamarans finished their crossing in 16 days.

ARC 2014 Division Results

Blue Waves actually sailed faster on this crossing than all other catamarans. Well done sailing and maintaining a beautiful boat.

Lagoon 45 Blue Waves

And on this table we can see that ten monohulls, some of which are built to go fast, finished before the third place catamaran did, which was in 17 days and a bit.

ARC 2014 Division Results boat 40

Congratulations to the crusing class monohull winner, Arietta.

Arietta 4.2

This disproves my theory that all catamarans make crossings faster that monohulls, in general. Nine other monohulls finished  before the 3rd place catamaran did. I’m sure some catamarans are faster that some monohulls, such as the Philocat Eno and Blue Waves are  faster than most all of the monohulls.

However, if we compare all catamarans to all of the monohulls that made this crossing they are not faster. They cats  were interspersed among the monos. Perhaps it’s the way a catamaran skipper drives his boat, maybe they like to take it easy and don’t like heeling over. It wasn’t a race, after all, it was a RALLY.

But still, I will attest that a catamaran is more comfortable on anchor than a monohull, which is where Lindsay and I intend to spend most of our time.


This is especially true wherever there is motorboat traffic passing the anchorage. Even small boat wakes from outboard engines tend to “rock the boat” more on a monohull than a catamaran.


Tipping over when accidentally going aground will never happen on a catamaran either. What a nightmare that would be!

Monohull sideways aground

We can all agree that the appeal of chartering a cabin on a catamaran is more attractive than on a monohull, so I think our decision is still sound to purchase a catamaran in the 40-foot-range. Don’t you agree?


The Pilgrimage for the Virgin of Guadalupe


The Patron Saint of Mexico is the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is an incredibly important part of the country’s culture, and there are churches and shrines in her name all over the country. Every year, for the week or so leading up to December 12, they are in every corner of Mexico.

The text “Nican Mopohua” tells us about the appearances of the Virgin of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in December 1531, on the hill of Tepeyac (a hill located north of Mexico City, belonging to the mountain range of the Sierra de Guadalupe, which defines the northern edge of the Valley of Mexico). The appearances of Our Lady The Virgin of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, the miraculous imprint of her Holy Image on his humble cloak, and her message of love, has the singular purpose of announcing her beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the people who inhabit the “new world”.


Throughout Mexico and crisscrossing the entire Yucatan Peninsula, during the first 2 weeks of Decemeber, kids (and some not so young) are running or bicycling as a promesa (promise) that they have made to la Virgen sometime during the year. These promises are personal and private, but the worship and sacrifice in the form of pilgrimage are performed in groups.  As we drove around, we saw groups running from Tekit to Sisal in Yucatan, and from home in Puerto Morelos across the state line to Progreso and Sisal to Izamal. Some of them were wearing team-like uniforms, and all of them wore at least a t-shirt that indicated where they were running to and from, and bore an image of la Virgen. Many of them carry lit torches like Olympic runners and are called antorchistas.


What’s the story?

When the Spanish conquistador Cortés arrived, many of the Aztecs and Native Americans from other tribes saw him as Quetzalcoátl, the god of the ancient Nahual traditions, who had returned as predicted. Through a series of misunderstandings and strange luck, Cortés was able to subjugate the tribes who lived in the central valley of Mexico. After a few years of rampant slaughter of their people and of seeing their beliefs and rituals destroyed or proven false, the indians who survived were discouraged and despairing. As Carla puts it, they felt that their gods had abandoned them. After all, they were no longer able to offer sacrifices, yet the sun continued to rise each morning.

They had lost their faith and they needed a miracle to rekindle it. In 1531 there was a solar eclipse. Then Haley’s comet appeared in the sky. And last but not least, a woman appeared who stands “in front of the Sun, steps on the Moon and dresses with the Stars”. She presented herself as an agent of the true God, with a face that had mixed European and Indian features. And not only did she appear in that fateful year, but she asked that her church be built in the same place that Tonantzin, the Native American Goddess Mother – the Earth Goddess – had been worshipped and venerated for years.

There are those who believe that Guadalupe and Tonantzin are one deity… the mother goddess of all the Americas. There are others who think the Catholic Church appropriated Tonantzin in order to bring the indigenous population into the fold.


2014 ARC Halfway Report

All boats are on their way to Saint Lucia, 2,700 nautical miles to the southwest. The weather provided good north-easterly trade winds for the first few days. After slowing a bit, from 0 to 10 knots, the winds are now expected to shift south of east, improving the speed of those boats that are north of the rhumb line as they can now turn a bit more to the port side, rather then having the wind directly behind them.

ARC catamarans halfway

This image above is from the world crusing club’s “fleet tracker”. I have isolated the catamarans from the fleet of 178 boats. If I were to add in the monohulls, it would look like this:

2014 ARC all boats halfway

These boats are all sailing somewhat together and only the racing class can be seen approaching the finish very soon.

You can follow them yourself by visiting this site.

The ARC crossing record is 10 days, 21 hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds, set by Caro a Knierim 65 in ARC 2013. This is likely to be under serious threat from 100 foot super maxi Leopard by Finland. Leopard is sailing with a crew of 23 in ARC 2014, and has a considerable history of conquering Atlantic speed sailing records and is the yellow boat that is shown about to finish the race this evening.