North to Bermuda
Tue 19 May 2009 15:04
St. George’s Harbour, Bermuda.
Another epistle from Dave:
The longest single passage I had sailed before this trip was about 100 miles, and the longest time spent on a single passage before leaving a boat for terra firma was approximately 24 hours. I was now setting out to travel some 800+ miles which would take about 7 days and once started there would be no turning back. There were lots of un answered questions passing through my mind as we set off for Bermuda. Would I suffer sea sickness? I never had in the past. How would I mentally/physically cope with being restricted to an area the size of my lounge that was constantly moving? Would I need to undertake regular exercises? Would I find such a long single voyage as pleasurable as much shorter ones where excursions ashore breaki up the day? Would the three of us get on or would we get on each others nerves? (I have never spent so much time locked up with two men before in such a confined space!). Would the limitations on water rationing for washing etc be too irksome and spoil an otherwise enjoyable venture? The same questions that other crew members must have considered.
It was with some excitement therefore that the voyage started at 1700 hours on Wednesday 6 May from Anegada.
The wind was reasonably strong for the first two days (and nights). A force 5, 18 to 22 knots, occasionally nudging Force 6. The sea was moderate, about 8 foot between the peak and trough of a wave. Moving about the boat was exercise enough. At least one question answered. Knee joints were working well and holding out. Pete and Phil were Dinner Chefs for these first two days and despite being thrown around the galley, produced excellent meals without damaging either themselves or the boat. The standard of cuisine had not dropped from the high levels obtained when at anchor. The only thing missing was the elixir of life we had been taking with our dinner to aid digestion.
We made good progress over these two days, averaging 140 miles a day, which, given the sea state, was very pleasing. The weather was hot and mostly sunny but with occasional cloud cover, no rain. There was no need to wear any more than a T shirt and shorts and perhaps a light fleece when on night 'watch' duty.
Over the next few days the wind abated and the seas calmed. Now this was cruising, we could just sit back and relax without hanging on for dear life and without things flying away from you as soon as you let go. The answers to all my questions were positive. The sun blazed down during the day but evenings gradually grew a little cooler as we progressed north. More layers at night and thicker fleeces, but still barefoot.
As the days progressed the winds became lighter. Phil obtained daily weather charts from the internet via the Iridium satellite phone. These charts were eagerly poured over to check what was happening to the wind. The wind did on occasions in the later stages of the journey desert us and we had to use the engine. During one of these lulls Phil donned his snorkel mask and disappeared over the stern to inspect the fouling on the prop and on the underside of the boat. He only made the one inspection before giving it up as a bad job as the boat 'rocking' gently' in the swell smacked him on the head following which he then nearly impaled himself on the prop when escaping to safety. Ten tons of boat falling on your head even when afloat is not pleasurable. Also we were lying between the Bermuda Triangle and the Sargasso Sea. Fabled areas of mysterious events and with tales of strange creatures from the deep. We all took the opportunity for a quick dip in the sea followed by the briefest of shower using precious fresh water. Heaven.
We continued under power towards Bermuda. Then at last the winds we had been waiting for arrived and on Wednesday 13 May we started to make good progress under sail and the possibility of covering the last 50 miles or so before nightfall seemed possible. The wind though had a mind of its own and in a matter of less than ten minutes turned 180 degrees and right into our faces. We spent much of the day beating upwind, working hard to make progress. Most of my sailing seems to be spent beating into the wind, rarely in a more favourable direction. Then just as the light began to fail we could see Bermuda. This meant making the final passage into St George's Harbour in the dark which was something we had hoped to avoid. The final few miles took an age and we were foced once more to motor.
Then when ten miles from the Harbour entrance we called up the St George's Harbourmaster on VHF to seek clearance to enter the harbour through the narrow man-made channel cut through the surrounding sandstone rock called Town Cut.
We received clearance to proceed and were given some 'helpful' advice on the channel to follow to Town Cut starting from a buoy some miles from the shore. This was necessary as Bermuda is surrounded by shallow coral reefs ready to ensnare the unwary. (Skipper: And the fact that we didn't have an electronic chart or a large scale chart for Bermuda!). There are some 400 charted wrecks located around the island. We located the outlying Sea Buoy and followed the channel buoy to the Harbour entrance. This can best be described as 'interesting', as in the darkness some of the buoys were not quite so easy to locate, there being an array of other lights on shore and protecting rocky outcrops forming a colourful display!
We passed through The Town Cut, which was very foreboding in the darkness, and dropped anchor for the night at 1.15 am in the quarantine zone of the harbour, brightly lit by lights from a visiting cruise liner. Not at all envious.
During this journey we had seen few other signs of life, about three distant ships, a few birds and some flying fish which, with suicidal tendencies, landed in the boat. Most were small but one was large enough to give us extra protein for breakfast. A very interesting journey but bed in shelter of the harbour was most welcome.
Pics: Plenty of wind at the start. Flying fish for breakfast.
Mid-passage swim - no wind. Dedicated log-keeping at night.