08 November 2016

Bermuda


Captain Linda Perry Riera

Bermuda is an improbable outcrop barely peaking its head out of the ocean, hundreds of miles from any other land, surrounded by ocean water thousands of feet deep. Bermuda is a geological anomaly; part of an archipelago string of volcanoes along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Most people think of one island as being the country of Bermuda, but it collectively consists of a whopping 181 islands (many quite tiny with the same names causing confusion), as well as more than 60 miles of coastline; but it long and narrow totaling only 20 square miles of land with a moderately dense population of just over 60,000.

Bermuda is partially surrounded by a ring of coral reefs along the western and norther sides providing partial protection from the seas and thriving environment for sea life, but also navigational challenges, especially in the days before modern GPS. The sea depths drop off as one sails away from the island quickly plunging from 70 feet to more than 10,000 feet.

Anchored in St. George, A Nautical Rest Stop

After a thrilling and successful off shore passage from the east coast of the US, we spent a couple of days tied to the sea wall but then moved out to the anchorage where Argon could swing and dance with the water and wind as she is meant to. Initially we were accompanied by only a couple of other sailboats in this anchorage near the town center. Each subsequent day brought an increasing number of yachts all proceeding directly to the customs and immigration dock for check in per procedure, followed by the crews celebrating the accomplishment of their major transit from Newport, or Martha's Vineyard, or Nova Scotia or Virginia. The harbor filled with sailing yachts all tricked out for off shore, and then the handful of restaurants filled with sailors. Conversations often start similarly... "How was your passage? What were your conditions". "Where did you depart from?", "Where and when do you go next." No one stays here; it is an elaborate, subtropical, nautical rest stop.

Argon in the sparse anchorage as seen from Barracks Hill. Each day brought several more sailing yachts as the yearly migration from Nova Scotia, Newport, and Virginia got in to full swing. Within a week there were about 20 other sailboats in this anchorage.

The harbor town of St. George. The tower on the hill is part of Bermuda Maritime Operations (aka Bermuda Radio) that monitors all of the boat traffic approaching Bermuda starting more than 100 hundred miles away.

Peaceful westward view at the end of a day.

Two weeks of our island layover have provided plenty of wonderful experiences including:
  • Visit from two of our sons
  • Ferry to Navy Dock Yard and Hamilton (with Lance before he returned to Boston)
  • Snorkeling and climbing rocks at Tobacco Bay
  • Exploring Fort St. Catherine Fort and St. Catherine Beach
  • Cave tour
  • Swimming, bathing, and paddle boarding off of Argon
  • Walking the streets of St. George
  • Meeting lots of other sailors, hearing their stories, checking out their vessels

Exploring the Island


Enjoy some photos below!

Evening dinghy ride from Argon to shore with Christian and Jon.

On the road to Tobacco Bay for some snorkeling.

Rock climbing.

Cave tour

When not out in the anchorage, we tied up to the sea wall in town.
Finding boat parts is a bit challenging. When inquiring at a shipyard in the Navy Dock Yard section of the island, we were brought to the a trailer at the back of their lot, behind various debris, and offered to see if their workbench area had anything we needed. Not West Marine for sure but very generous to offer up their goods in this informal setting.

Ventured to the Navy Dock Yard and Hamilton by ferry one day. Navy Dock Yard is home port for the big cruise ships. Hamilton is the main city on the island.
Fort St. Catherine is a coastal artillery embankment situated on a rise at the northeast corner of the island. The initial structure was built in the early 1600's and expanded several times over the ensuing couple of hundred years. One can now wander the myriad of expansive passages and peer out in the direction of the many canons as the entire fort is preserved as a national landmark.

Secluded and beautiful St. Catherine Beach adjacent to Fort St. Catherine on the north western part of the island.


St. Peter's Church in St. George is 400 years old.

 
The rafters of the interior of the church were made with local Bermudian cedar trees 400 years ago.

 
We hired a local rigger, Steve Hollis, to inspect the rig to be doubly sure we are ready for the next, longer off shore leg. All looks strong and ready for the trip.


Christian relaxing in the bow hammock.

Jon napping in the cockpit after an afternoon of swimming.

 
Jon paddle boarding.

Bermudian Peculiarities


It is always interesting to discover unique cultural differences in new places. Some of what I noticed on this isolated, volcanic island include:
  • Friendly toots of of automobile horns are prevalent clearly for saying hello to other drivers and pedestrians, not to express dismay. The general friendliness level on this island is very high with many smiles and salutations among strangers and acquaintances alike.
  • Dusk brings a cacophony of chirps from Bermuda Tree Frogs that are only the size of a thumbnail. Although there are thousands within ear shot, I tried several times to find one but they are tiny and elusive.
  • Experiencing public transportation buses driving fast along the very narrow roads is as thrilling as a modern amusement park ride.
  • We quick assimilated to Bermuda as we started to feel like a regulars in St. George and beyond after only a couple of weeks.

Bermudian Challenges

A few difficult or frustrating experiences include:
  • Unreliable and/or expensive WiFi.
  • General high cost of items including groceries and restaurants as virtually everything has to be imported from very far away to this remote island. Burn rate of our cruising caddy has accelerated beyond plan while here.
  • Difficulty securing a third crew person for our next leg and confirming a good weather window for a safe transit.

Weather and Crew


Now we are preoccupied with weather... and it has been complicated, we start to plan for our long off shore southward to Antigua (almost 1000nm, 6-7 day trip). A series of low pressure systems in close succession have provided narrow windows with gale winds and very high seas outside the protection of our large harbor, as well as very windy conditions even in the harbor. In addition, winds are forecasted to be somewhat southerly at lower latitudes for a spell in the near future. All of this is causing us to sit and wait for more favorable conditions, hopefully later this week. We were finally able to confirm a third crew person which was no easy task. I have combed the docks putting the work out locally that Argon is in need of crew. We after a couple of days, we ended up with a few options and just secured a local, very experienced Captain from the island to join us. We will stay in regular communication with our trusted weather router so that we select a safe departure date but Friday 11 November is looking likely as of now.

Argon and crew will sail about 950nm from Bermuda to Antigua departing at an upcoming favorable weather window. The  next update will be from the Caribbean! Until then, We ARe GONe!!

2 comments:

  1. This sounds so thrilling! Let me know if you can't find crew. I'll fly down for the leg, if you want me. Feeling the need to get away for a while :)

    ReplyDelete