We had planned to leave Norfolk Saturday, so anchored in Hampton, just north of Norfolk, and the rest of the crew arrived
Friday. I phoned U.S.
immigration to say we were leaving with 6 crew for Bermuda, and the man, Bob, said "We don't care what you do
when you leave, only when you arrive. Enjoy your trip." Ok, so that makes 6
crew: Roland, Consie, Gilbert, Peter, Keir and Jack.
I am probably not the person to tell you about our
crossing, BUT as the cook, I was glad I had 2 frozen lasagnas in reserve. I have
decided to log in crew member Keir’s version of the trip:
one day in Hampton (near Norfolk) until the snow
had passed, so finally set off on Easter Sunday 8 April at 1300 with the
outgoing tide. Sunny but cold as the cold front had not passed yet. So with wind
behind us we left Chesapeake and out to sea.
was 3 watches of 2 people - with 2 hour watches starting at 1800, and 3 hour
watches starting at 0600 until 1500 when the 2 hour watches started again, with
a break for happy hour at 1700. Except we were mostly a dry boat as other
matters had our attention.
Goose winging (or wing to wing) is when the
wind is behind you, the main is on one side and the genoa on a pole on the
other. Not always the most comfortable way to sail because as well as going up
and down the waves, the yacht also tends to wallow from side to side. Wind on
the nose is worse because you are not steering for your destination and heeled
over. Also the occupants of the bow cabin have to sleep somewhere else because
the bow is banging on the waves and the noise of water rushing past is like
being in a washing machine. So mostly we hot bunked and had crew sleeping in the
saloon and 3 in the twin cabin. Nobody washed much - it was too cold to take
your clothes off.
Easter Sunday: did I mention it was cold: water temp
was 11.2 degrees, cabin temperature 8 degrees, air temp before wind chill was
5!! Long johns, woolly hats and multi layers, topped with life jackets and
Monday: We saw a school of porpoises. Crossed
into the Gulfstream which was fascinating as you can actually see the dividing
line caused by the friction of the water flows, now we are being swept north at
1/2 knot - it is like being on elevator. We fished at the cold/warm water
boundary with a 100lb line out and caught something quickly but which
immediately broke the line and took the lure - a very big fish that got
away. Over the day the water temp changed from 11.2 to 18.6 (air temp 8)
to 24.2 at 1600 with airtemp now a warmer 13 degrees. Sorry to labour the point
but I thought the gulfstream experience a bit of an eye opener.
Roland's 60th birthday so for happy hour we sung happy birthday, shared a bottle
of champagne, and he opened presents: all a cheerful distraction from the
Unfortunately at 2340 there was a problem with the steering in that
there was none. So we hove to, fitted the emergency tiller to the rudder but as
the boat is 50 ft and 20 tons you can only move the rudder with a pulley
system. I managed to sleep though most of this excitement (not my watch so
I ignored the noises) but when roused at 1230 was put on the steering sheets
while others went to sleep. Gilbert stayed up as well so until 0500 we changed
places every 30 minutes. It was gusting up to 31 knots so a bit like riding a
mildly bucking bronco, only with cleated reins, in pitch black, with blinkers as
we stuck to a compass bearing. We were goose winged with a reefed mainsail.
Feelings were a mixture of "exhilaration" as this was hardcore fun of challenge
and surfing down the waves, and "what on earth am I doing in the middle of an
ocean" (well some 250 miles from nearest terra firm and 400 from
Tuesday: went to my bunk exhausted so slept through the repair
of the steering at 0900/0940: well done Roland and why you should only make
ocean passages with experienced skippers, as most would not have a clue as to
what to do. Winds still gusting 28 knots in the morning, a lot but less
challenging in daylight. At 1630 we radioed Herb the weatherman in Toronto who said a gale was coming and we should head south
from ESE to minimise the storm and hopefully get favourable winds for Bermuda.
But at 2030 (dark obviously) a large
aircraft flew around us at low altitude, and 10 mins later a helicopter flew
over us and asked us to change course to ESE again for 60 miles to avoid a US
Navy exercise. Consie had thought she heard explosions previously. We
subsequently discovered they wanted exclusivity over 30,000 sq miles. Anyway we
were in the middle of it.
Wednesday: No wind so engine on. At 0810 a
pod of dolphins paid a visit and surfed off the bow wave then jumped out of the
water for about 15 minutes - obviously having a good time. Cheering. At 1000 we
had 252 miles to go. At 1100 the US Coastguard helicopter came again
and complained we were still in the area and to stay on our course ie south, as
we were looking for wind.
1200 we tidied up the foredeck and cabin ready for
the forecast storm. The barometer steadily dropped from 1019 at noon to 1003 at
Wind SE ie from Bermuda which we do not want,
so sail all night 30 degrees off course. Fortunately at 0600 the barometer
rises so worst is over? Winds still gusting over 20 knots. Morning showers and
some sunshine. At 1400 tacked but still off course although a better angle and
engine was on. Beer at happy hour as we were having curry - any
excuse. And at 2000 finally on a direct course to Bermuda at 7.5 knots.
Friday: Good speed in
morning: Warm sunny today and everyone is obviously more cheerful. Consie
cut my sideburns - she and I were on watch together for the trip and eventually
we got to telling jokes telepathically. Gilbert, Peter and I donned safety
harnesses, stood on the transom in our underwear and showered. Very nice.
At 2200 wind speed 20 kts + again and sea choppy.
Saturday 14 April: 0400
sailing around SW Bermuda, 0830 Cleared customs and immigration in St Georges
and then motored to Hamilton and moored safely at
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. My mate Richard from
HSBC generously welcomed us with a bottle of champagne: then a few beers, hot
shower, shave, clean clothes and a big steak at the Hog and Penny. Good
stuff. Got to go….. Keir”
Now we are enjoying another gale tied alongside the
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, a short run across the breakwater in breaking waves to
town. Roland and Gil will be racing in the Bermuda Etchell regatta and preparing
for the Atlantic crossing. Livi and James arrive on 26 April, Pat on 1 May,
Oliver and Jane on 4 May. The 5 crew will be assembled for the Atlantic
crossing: Roland, Gilbert, Pat, Oliver and James, they hope to set off about 7
May. Livi and Consie will fly to Beijing, to be joined by Feyona and Anna for a
few weeks touring together.
Restless will hopefully arrive in Ireland early June, before going to Cowes 20 June for the Etchell Worlds, and on to some
cruising in Scotland, including the Classic Malts
Cruise, beginning 16 July.
Now we are waiting for some weather to go snorkelling
at Bermuda's famous pink beaches.