Farewell Bermuda

We are reluctantly tearing ourselves away from this beautiful island. We have a good forecast for the next three days or so and are anxious to use the promised strong winds to get off to a good start, knowing they are likely to become fickle or even non existent as we approach the Azores high.

This picture was taken by the most lovely dock master at Pier 41 marina in Dockyard as we steamed out at 7.30am.

A quick visit to Customs back in St George’s and then we will head East for the first time, starting our homeward journey. Quite exciting!

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle stretches from Bermuda to Miami then to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The triangle is a scalene triangle. The water inside is uncharted meaning no boat has drawn a chart in the area. The Bermuda Triangle is a whopping 500,000 square miles! The first reports of strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle were seen by Christopher Columbus when he reported seeing a huge fiery flame crash into the ocean when he was passing through on his way to discover America. The fireball was likely to be a meteor. In March 1918, the Bermuda Triangle got a lot of attention when a navel cargo ship called the USS Cyclops sank in the area. The weird thing about the sinking was the USS Cyclops had the ability to send out an SOS signal however no signal was sent. In 1941, 2 ships with the same design as the USS Cyclops went missing in the same area. Strange.

One of the most famous stories about the Bermuda Triangle is Flight 19. Flight 19 was a group of 5 Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers. When they were flying over the Bermuda Triangle they lost contact with the US navy and all 14 pilots and 13 crew were lost and no one knew where in the Bermuda Triangle they went down. Flight 19 took place on the 5th of December 1945 only 74 years ago and today people still wonder where they are and what happened to the planes of flight 19?

Sadly for us, nothing out of the ordinary has happened in the triangle. The only thing that went missing was Daddy’s sense of humour when there was no wind. Tomorrow we set sail for the Azores and we’re on our way home!

A map of the Bermuda Triangle

The USS Cyclops before it went missing.

The crew and pilots of flight 19 this is the last picture of them.

Post script. Ed. The author with her first hair cut in 4 months.

Welcome to Bermuda

About 30 miles short of Bermuda, yachts are required to call up Bermuda Radio and advise them of their approach. Bermuda radio is not a broadcast station that you tune into but, given the island’s exceptionally hazardous navigational situation, the early warning piloting system/welcoming committee. Bermuda is a rocky outcrop surrounded by the most enormous fringing reef, much of which remains uncharted because it is simply too difficult to survey. I’m told there are more than 300 wrecks off the coast of Bermuda, which isn’t surprising. Fortunately now there is very little excuse for adding to that number.

We had a delightful chat with the Bermuda Radio night shift who took an inventory of our safety equipment, checked we were properly charted, weren’t in need of any medical assistance and weren’t planning on cutting any corners on our approach. We were asked to stand by on listening on Channel 16 on the VHF conveniently situated next to our passage bunk where I’d hoped to sneak a last hour’s kip in before our final approach. My dozing was interrupted by Bermuda Radio gently discussing the pilot arrangements with the two cruise ships that were due to arrive around the same time as us, then giving them instructions on how long to leave their canapés in the oven and tips on the best hikes on the island (I think the latter two exchanges, though very vivid at the time, were my own lapses into unconsciousness but it would have been the kind of helpful information he might well have supplied).

This is the entrance channel to St George’s harbour, the Town Cut. I took this picture from the shore and you can see how narrow it is. Apparently the cruise ships used to come in this way before they got so big!

We found our way safely into St George’s harbour and once we had been so very warmly welcomed by immigration (who insisted we all came into the office so she could shake all our hands), we found a lovely spot to anchor in this immense calm anchorage. We breathed a sigh of relief, and turned in for some sleep, as the wind slowly turned north and piped up to 20 knots. There is no deeper sleep than that on a sound anchor when you’ve dodged a bullet.

Gate’s Fort at the entrance to the town cut. Looking East.

The nurturing welcome certainly boded well and we found this extended to all those we met on shore. Bermuda is very different from the Caribbean. For a start it is geographically a long way away, climatically much cooler, economically more sophisticated and very densely populated. The people, a melting pot of all professions, heavily influenced by Bermuda’s role as a trading nation, yet very much with their own identity. This does not feel like an outpost of its large US neighbour or its historical mother, Britain.

St George’s was the old capital and many of the buildings date back to its early days, warehouses, inns and houses. Most beautifully preserved and painted in the customary pastel colours with the stepped roofs painted white. The brilliant white roofs are not just for decorative effect. There is no natural ground source of drinking water on Bermuda. Each house must collect its own rainwater from the roof which feeds into a tank either at ground level or on newer houses in the basement from where it is pumped inside. The lime put on the roof also acts to purify the water. If you run out of water, you can order a delivery from the government run desalination plant, but it is costly.

St George’s brightly coloured buildings with their white roofs.

We found ourselves at home here more quickly than most islands. Taking advantage of really clean loos in the town square with hooks on the back of the door for your bag (first time we’ve encountered such a civilised touch since we left home!) and the town’s free WiFi, which finds all the sailors sitting on iPads first thing in the morning, checking the weather. For this is the great staging post for those boats returning from the Caribbean to Europe or back up to the New England ports. There are around 30+ boats waiting for a window in the weather so they can set off for the Azores, from where some will head south to the Mediterranean and the rest north to France, the UK or Scandinavia.

It’s a very easy island to explore with the network of pink buses that connect the various parishes. We visited the capital Hamilton on Bermuda Day and caught the end of the Bermuda half marathon and the start of the Bermuda Day Parade. Another outing took in the Aquarium and the old railway track that has been turned into a long distance walking path from where you are accompanied by the incredible turquoise water that the fringing reef supplies. I’ll let the girls fill you in more……

Daisy and Dora contemplating the blue.

All in all, we all loved Bermuda and so glad we made it more than just a stopover on our way back East.

Living in St George’s

I feel like I’ve really got to know this small town on the tip of the Bermuda Triangle, not because I’ve been going around visiting every museum I can find but because I have simply been doing everything I would do if back in Woodbridge. These errands include running, walking dogs, provisioning and even walking through the town square every morning (Evelyn)!

We did go to the town’s heritage museum which was really interesting, we basically learned how the first settlers on the island lived and what things haven’t changed since then…

Peering into the Unfinished Church

English sailors first arrived on Bermuda in 1612 where they began to build settlements. Obviously they needed to build houses for shelter and warmth but they hadn’t bought any architects with them (surprisingly) so the captain instructed the ship’s carpenters and designers to do the job – we can see this because most of the early day houses were built similar to a boat’s hull.

After securing shelter they moved onto to think about water sources, until this point they were collecting rain water but wanted to find fresh water lakes because they were more reliant. They didn’t manage to find any though so decided that the houses being built would need white flat roofs with gutters leading to a water butt where water was stored for each household. They still use this system today!

In the kitchen, quick and efficient ways were needed to be able to cook the extravagant meals they had bought from England. Some of these thrifty inventions made by settlers include:

• Coral sieves – Fan coral has a wide surface area and the perfect sized, naturally woven net made the perfect solution for a sieve while making bread.

• Measuring coconut shell jugs – This obvious solution for measuring out ingredients became very popular with everyone as they served for multiple purposes as well as bowls, cups and even treasure boxes!

• Conch shells – Mainly used as toys, conch shells made great horns for the kids who had joined there parents on the journey to the ‘new world’.

• About everything else – Cedar trees grew in thousands all around the island and as settlers needed to make way for new villages they were cut down and used for thing from bath tubs to dining tables! As the only seemingly never ending supply, cedars were used to create everything on the island and most of this furniture is still being used today because of it’s strength and sturdiness! Sadly, over 90% of the trees got wiped out in the 20th century as ships came in bringing bugs that would kill the roots.

Cedarwood bath tub

Although regularly visited by cruise ship passengers, St.George has managed to stay unspoilt and beautiful. One of my favourite places to be was the town park. Here locals would wander during their lunch breaks and Dora and I would spend the morning cart-wheeling around and doing school. Another one of my favourite places was the coast where we would walk Seaweed (the dog) and her best friend. Every corner you turned another fort would wait for you and the beauty of the water and flora was exquisite.

Daisy at Fort St Catherine. Looking north.

This has been my favourite place to visit throughout this trip and I can’t wait to come back, everyone is so friendly and the island is so beautiful – I really recommend visiting!

By Daisy

The glory of rain

Position: 30°34’N 064°20’W
Course steered: 007
Wind: SW 8-12
Day’s run: 156m

Rainy weather. It’s like being in heaven! We have a proper downpour at least once a day which can be annoying because we have to close all the hatches, put on our oil skins and in some extreme cases, wind in the jib or reef the mainsail, but in my opinion it’s worth it! I love the water pouring down into our hair and faces because it’s so refreshing and it also gives the decks and sails a fresh water wash, which saves us a job in the marina! We are hoping to arrive in Bermuda tomorrow morning, so we need to keep up the pace!

Daisy

Are we in the Bermuda Triangle yet?

Position: 28°01’N 063°57’W
Course: 006
Wind: ESE 15-18 knots
Day’s run: 157 miles

Over the last two days we have had a lot of rain and I mean, a lot. At the moment, we have 279 miles until we get to Bermuda! We are not in the Bermuda Triangle yet but it certainly feels like it.

The sea is quite uncomfortable today but we are all managing. Daisy and I have been dangling our feet over board and kicking the water at each other. School so far has been alright. I’ve been doing a lot of maths. We’ve rigged the Genoa, The Main Sail and The Mizzen. Our speed over the ground is averaging 7 knots, which is quite fast for us, considering our average speed is 6 knots! We will keep you updated.

Dora

Plodding along!

Position: 22.48N 063.21W
Day’s Run: 134M
Course: 025M
Boat Speed: 5kts

We had to start motoring just before noon yesterday when the wind dropped to just 2kts. We chugged away until just after supper when the wind piped up to 5-6kts from the SE and we were able to sail again, albeit damn slowly. Leaving the steady, strong trade winds behind after three months we’re skirting round the Azores/Bermuda high in unstable conditions so the wind (when there is any) is swinging between E and S and in strength from 2-3 to 10-12knots. It’s all making for pretty slow progress. Still, with luck, we’ll be half way to Bermuda sometime tomorrow afternoon and thats always good for morale.

Settling back in to life on the ocean waves

Sudoku by Moonlight

Position: 20° 34’N 063° 17’W
Wind: SSE 4-5 knots
Daily run: 145 miles
Course:010

What an incredible 24 hours at sea. So wonderful to get back to the simplicity of life at sea again after two amazing months in the Caribbean. As Dora said, the wind filled in just as we sailed between Anguilla’s Prickly Pear island and Dog island and we reached through calm seas all afternoon and night. Sailing conditions don’t get any better. Now we are heading north the genoa provides shade on the foredeck all afternoon- a welcome respite after the intense heat of Sint Maarten’s concrete. We resumed our pattern of night watches and when I came on at midnight I managed to complete a sudoku by moonlight (whilst keeping a very careful eye out for ships of course!). An uneventful night and peaceful morning but with a dying wind finally abandoning us at noon, when we had to give in and put the engine on. The calm was forecast and we are hoping to be out the other side by tomorrow.

Cherubino leaving St Maarten

Hurricane survival tips from Dora

What to do in a hurricane.
What to always have in your house
If you live in a country or on an island which are hit by hurricanes here is a list if the things that you might need:
A portable radio. This will be useful to find out the force and damage of the hurricane.
Stay inside at all times and keep away from windows, outside doors etc.
Never go outside the protection of your home or shelter until the storm has passed.
Make sure you always have a torch with fully charged batteries, safe drinking water in case your water supply is cut off and lots of food that doesn’t need cooking also don’t use your phone you never know if you are going to need to call the emergency services also have a card if all the important phone numbers in case of an emergency.
If you have a house made out of strong concrete your house will probably be alright but if your house is made of wood or tin you might have a few things to repair. The main thing is make sure your house is sturdy and keep checking the force of the storm on the radio. Make sure you also have a medical kit with things like sterilising cream, bandages, plasters etc. This will all come in helpful if some one gets ill to stop the germs spreading.
What you don’t want to happen
The most important thing to do if you’re an adult is to stay calm so that, if you have children, they will be calm and won’t be so scared. You should also make sure everyone is eating enough so they will calm down. Play games like 20 questions and story games to distract and stop people thinking about what’s happening. If no one is speaking it will scare people and make them panic just relax and read a story book for every one to enjoy. 
Building houses to survive hurricanes
If you are buying a house in a country that can have hurricanes you should buy a house with a square, hexagonal or even octagonal floor plan and a roof with multiple slopes.
Make sure your house is built in a flat surface and that there aren’t any overhangs underneath your house because if there was an overhang your house might be blown down if the overhang shifts from the wind. Concrete and brick are the most trustworthy resources for building a house make sure that you get a house with storm shutters so the windows won’t smash when the wind is blowing. Make sure you live on high ground so your not to close to the beach and won’t be swept away by a tidal surge.