To Bermuda

Thu 11 May 2023 23:35

Wednesday 10th May

Well, this leg started out slowly and that turned out to be the pattern for the entire trip. It was 900 miles and it took eight and bit days, an average speed of 4.5 nautical miles per hour.  I had passage planned at an estimated speed of 6 knots (miles per hour) which would have been 6 and a bit days.  On Sunday 7th, the day we arrived in St Georges 32:22.70N 64:40.50W, we had rice and bean salad with the last tomato chopped into it for lunch; we had eaten all the fresh fresh food on board apart from two potatoes and a piece of a cabbage that was past its ‘sell by’.  We did still have plenty of dry and tinned food so no one was going to starve.

We knew from the forecast when we set off that the wind would be light but useable and that there should be no really strong winds.    We motored on and off for a bit to start with but with limited fuel, 250 litres, we couldn’t do that for long.  The first day was so lacking in wind that at 4:30pm, we stopped the engine and swam around the boat.  The wind filled in lightly at 10pm and we sailed at 4-5 knots with the Hydrovane steering the boat. The sea was calm and there was almost a full moon that provided good light.  By Monday the 1st of May, the wind had changed to a direction slightly behind us and we set the asymmetric spinnaker which worked well pulling us steadily at 4 to 5 knots but on the first night we changed it for the Genoa fearing that it would be too much to handle if it had to be taken down in the dark. The following day we reset the asymmetric and getting more confident, or less cautious, left it up overnight. On the 3rd, the wind pulled forward of the beam and we set the Genoa and our logbook notes speeds of 7 and 8 knots for a few hours and we reefed the sails overnight. 

We can get wind information via the satellite phone through the Mailasail service when we are at sea (away from wifi) and this arrives in a format called Grib Files, Grib being short for Gridded Binary which is a compact way to transmit weather data.   We define the area we are interested in by latitude and longitude in an email message to Mailasail and we get data for 12 hour intervals out to 72 hours by return   These proved mostly very accurate in terms of wind strength and direction for the bigger picture – but didn’t indicate the gusts and radical, local, wind shifts associated with thunder storms!

By the afternoon of the 4th, the wind had died again, and we motored for a few hours until the wind filled in and we reefed the main overnight.  The following day we had torrential rain and very (too) close lightning and thunderclaps – I put the small computers, handheld GPS and phones in the oven in case we got struck.  After the storm, the wind was light and the direction changed frustratingly so that we seemed to be headed on every tack, that is, pushed away from the course we wanted.  The conventional wisdom is that if you are headed when sailing to windward, the other tack should be more advantageous, but each time we tacked the wind direction changed again.  The final 36 hours turned into a frustrating dead beat and finally, although the wind direction was more constant, it got lighter as the weather improved bringing blue sky again.  With the wind going light and from ahead as we raised Bermuda, we opted to motor the last 30 miles to get in on Sunday afternoon in daylight.  The ‘Town Cut’ between reefs and through a gap in the islands to St Georges is very narrow and tricky in the dark.

Then I had a crisis of confidence over the amount of diesel left in the tank.  The gauge was reading around half, or just under but had seemed to have been reading the same for a long time. Previously at half full, it has required 150 litres to fill, so there should have been 100 litres left – which would be 50 hours motoring (with no reserve) at 2 litres per hour.  But what if the gauge was stuck at half full? I had never run it lower than that before. So then followed an analysis of the logbook engine and generator on/off notes (the engine running hours meter has never worked) from the previous fill up in Le Marin, and the answer suggested we should still have a 100 litres to play with. Just to be safe we transferred one of our 20 litre cans to the tank which should be another 10 hours running if required.  We can check all this out when we refill before leaving Bermuda.

Approaching St Georges, we had to inform Bermuda Radio of our arrival at 30 miles distance and at almost the same time heard our old friends on Koka Chin do the same.  Tying up on the customs quay we were met by a customs officer before we stepped ashore who quizzed us whether we had animals on board, firearms or suitcases of money but we were able to answer, sadly in the case of money, no to all questions.  From then on, we had the friendliest welcome of any country we have visited with the most charming and humorous lady customs officer helping us through the health and immigration forms.  She also noted from his passport that it was Brian’s birthday and this set her off on another theme of good-humoured birthday wishes and hints about celebrating ashore later in the evening – which we did.  With the formalities completed, the first customs officer took a few minutes to orientate us with information about shops and fuel, etc. – it really was a very friendly welcome.   After anchoring in Convicts Bay, close to town, we inflated the dinghy to get ashore for a birthday beer or two, wifi comms with family and dinner cooked by someone else.

Monday 8th was a bank holiday for the coronation, so most establishments were closed. The supermarket was open as were many of the hospitality venues.  Approaching Bermuda we had found a small tear in the luff of the mainsail, and having ascertained that the local sail maker would be able to look at it, we took the sail off the spars and folded it on the deck in conditions which would have been judged too windy, if it wasn’t completely necessary. It looks like we have fresh south westerly weather (ideal for the leg to the Azores) for a few days now but then the direction goes north easterly for four days so I don’t think we will be leaving before the westerly winds return, possibly around the 14th.   Tomorrow we will take the sail ashore for repair in the dinghy, deal with laundry, and do some shopping as we have invited the Koka Chins over for supper in the evening.  Eating (and drinking) out in Bermuda is eye wateringly expensive. Bermuda was also on the expensive side ($80 US) to clear through customs but Antigua was more expensive whereas the French islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe, cost nothing. 

St Georges is a chocolate-box-beautiful collection of buildings in Wedgewood pastel colours trimmed in white and all with blindingly white roofs - more in the next installment. It looks like we are here for a few days.

All best, Tony, Brian and Keith

One of our Grib files: arrows show  wind direction and the tail feathers show  wind strength
The town hall in St George's
One of Keith's whale pictures:  the whale about to dive.
Diving with tail in the air.