Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Captives in Bermuda

Two days ago we moved Moondancer over to a safer anchorage having spent the first night of winds gusting to 40 knots blowing right down the middle of St. George's bay producing quite a fetch to go with the gusts. This is the 3rd day of that now, but the weather report has been downgraded from gale warnings to small craft warnings until Thursday afternoon. Pretty much all of the boats in the anchorage moved over. Its still very gusty but we are getting used to it and are looking forward to a good night's sleep.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 20th - Still in Bermuda

As I said before, sometimes its best to write this blog after the fact.
We are still in Bermuda. The weather is still not in our favour to leave, even though the winds are pretty much in the right direction there is just too much whipping the seas up to more than we want to start this trip on.
This situation reminds me of Coos Bay, where 7 boats were all gathering and sharing information until we basically pushed ourselves out of that marina - way too soon - and into very bad, big seas.
We don't want a repeat of that, so we'll wait a bit longer. This is a nice place and the anchorage is free. We just have to try not to eat up all of the provisions we bought for the trip.
The Bermuda Dinghy and Sports Club is quite empty now, as the Newport/Bermuda racers did leave yesterday, and maybe because they are heading back to Newport, will avoid the BIG system which is predicted to come through in the next couple of days. It was quite the race start, they had their start line right in the middle of the bay, and were quite a spectacle charging out of the Town Cut (channel) under full sail - all way too much sail actually - but I guess they had to look good. And they did. Sorry no pictures.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We're really leaving Bermuda today - 18th June

The trouble with writing this blog ahead of time is that what we say we'll do and what we actually do are not always the same.

I'm glad we hung around for a few more days. Instead of being out on the water on Monday during the 'Black Only' club's comet race and the start of the Tall Ship race back to Boston, we walked further around the point of land north of St. George's Bay and found a dairy farm, a couple more forts and some lovely lawns and beautiful little coves with really big parrot fish swimming about. Monday was a public holiday and thousands of people were out in lawn chairs and big picnic tables with umbrellas enjoying the day's events. The weather held until the end of the day when a really nasty squall came through the bay and made life very difficult for an incoming yacht to end tie up to the yacht club dock; he actually managed to hook onto the anchor rodes of the boats already tied up, and then after about 20 minutes of trying to get unhooked, with all of the other boat crews protecting their boats, he completely lost it and started gunning his engine in all directions only to successfully hook his prop around a mooring buoy a little further out. This buoy was marking a permanent anchor which was to be avoided at all cost. Poor guy, so glad it wasn't us. It took alot of people to help him out of this mess, and then he disappeared. Probably wished to God he was drowned after that public spectacle.

The day before - Sunday, we met Karen and Irvin. Karen is the cousin of an old friend of mine, Carol. Karen moved to Bermuda a year ago, when she decided she wanted change once her 2 sons were grown up. She lives in a lovely little house right on the water with sundecks and her own beach to swim in. Her friend Irvin is Bermudian and drives a 1981 Toyota Corolla in perfect condition. They very kindly took us into Hamilton to do our provision shopping for the next month. That's alot of shopping - $500 worth. It was nice to have them out to the boat afterwards. When we get to tell non boaters what we are doing and how we leave it reinforces us having made a good choice.

Monday evening we spent with Sue and Robbie from Barbarossa, our new friends from England who are on their way home. It looks like we'll leave together today and perhaps will travel at about the same speed to the Azores.

We have quite a bit in common with them, they are from Benfleet Essex and they know Dartford, Gravesend and a few other places I have lived in England well. Sue also has some Maltese blood on her grandfather's side. They have lived on the water for 35 years and Robbie has worked commercially on tugs and deliveries etc. As they have already travelled to many parts of the world we wish to go to it has been a real education getting to know them.

Yesterday we watched a tradition unfold in the town square. The town gossip getting dunked in the water. The town crier in his loud booming voice recruits a bunch of strong men from the audience, and then brings the 'accused' woman into the circle. They shout out their lines for the next 15 minutes or so and then the woman is found guilty of being a gossip, but worse than that, she nags her husband. She really was a mouthy little woman and much as I didn't like the glee with which all of the men watched her being doused, I kinda wishes she would shut up. If she were my wife I'd gag her and then dunk her.

So all we have to do today is buy fuel - $10 per gallon for deisel. Unbelievable - they changed the price yesterday as they know that most of the boats in the harbour are leaving today. Then we check out.

So, keep an eye on our Ship trak to know where we are and we'll get in touch when we reach the Azores.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Preparing to leave Bermuda

Preparing to leave Bermuda – 14th June

Its Sunday morning and we are preparing to leave Bermuda tomorrow for the next leg (long leg) of our journey. We’ll check in with our weather router today and ask his opinion, but our reading of the weather charts looks like we can probably head east for a couple of days while a low moves north east of us, then we can head more north east, in the general direction of the Azores.
Some of the other boats I have mentioned in earlier entries have already gone; Saudade left last Monday, Sheli left Thursday, a new English boat we met a couple of days ago, Wagtail, left yesterday. Our new friends Rob and Sue on Barbarossa are also leaving around the same time, though they don’t have SSB radio and nobody wants to be sailing too close to another boat it will be nice to know that someone else is out there – not too far away.
We’ve enjoyed St. George’s Bay very much, the anchorage has been really pleasant in general. The Dinghy and Sports Club facility close to us has been useful, and quite a source of entertainment. They hosted some of the tall ships which are still here in Hamilton and will leave tomorrow. Plus a race from Newport to Bermuda just finished at the club a couple of days ago, which has put quite a few more race boats at anchor around us.
Yesterday while we were walking around town we walked past a house which had a couple of pretty old mopeds outside – Mobylets, I think that’s the name. They had been put outside the garage which the owner was sweeping, and seemed to be on display for sale. The owner, whose name is Chris told us that these mopeds were used in the movie, The Deep. Anyone who knows Tony probably knows that this is one of his favourite movies. The story is based around scuba diving – treasure hunting and voodoo stuff and was filmed here in Bermuda in the 70’s. The stars were Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset. So Chris looks quite like an older version of Nick Nolte, and at the time of the movie he was a young lad making deliveries to the set for his father’s company.
The casting director thought he was Nick Nolte’s stand in stunt man, so that’s what he became. We actually watched the movie again last night and slowed down the scenes that Chris told us about – sure enough we recognized him and the mopeds.
Our water catcher has been working pretty well over the last couple of days, when we have had periods of torrential rain. It’s a big scoope shaped thing I made out of very good tarp material and it has a hose mounted in the bottom of the scoop which goes directly into one of our tank deck fittings. Because it doesn’t cover a huge area its not catching gallons but it is made to work if we are underway, providing the seas aren’t too high on the high side. We’ve not put water in the tanks since leaving Jamaica, so its been keeping up with our usage. As we’ll probably have some rain during our crossing its nice to know we can use this to augment our water supply. We also have a stock of extra drinking water in the bilge, plus 10 gallons in jerry cans on deck.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bermuda - what a lovely country

We've been in Bermuda 4 days and just love it. What a pleasant experience to be able to leave our dinghy tied up to the wall in downtown St. George's alongside many other dinghies, no guards necessary, and then just walk around town doing as we please, stopping whenever we like to take pictures of all of these beautiful buildings which have been standing here for about 300 years and are in perfect condition. No hassle, no beggars, no hawkers, no bad attitude, just alot of friendly people who love their country.
St. George's bay which is where we are anchored is a small town by Canadian standards, but a decent size town by Bermudan standards - which is only a 20 mile long atoll basically. We spent the day yesterday walking around the town looking at the ruins of a beautiful church, Fort St. Catherine which has been standing,and is kept up beautifully, since the 1700's. We walked into the alleyways which have wonderful simple English names like Spittle Alley and marvelled at how long these buildings have been standing. Being from England I have missed the age of things living in BC, and here on this tiny little island all of this history. 55 forts were built around Bermuda by the British to make sure they didn't lose it to anyone else, who wouldn't want to fight for this jewel.
Today we took a bus into Hamilton which is the capital city of Bermuda. This is a much bigger town, probably equal to maybe Langley, but with some pretty upscale international shops, big lothing designer names, lots of jewellery stores, hundreds of churches on the way. This was a lovely clean civilized bus. And nobody other than the people who paid the fare got on. The driver was a middle aged Bermudan woman who kept up a running commentary on where we were, and how bad all of the other drivers on the road were. She was alot of fun , and she didn't do anything to frighten her passengers.
We've met another boat here who is doing the Atlantic crossing at the same time as us and will probably go at a similar speed, so we are going to meet to compare notes and set up some kind of contact schedule during the passage.
Our friends on Sheli, a boat we met in Jamaica are also leaving about the same time but they are on an Ocaeanis 47, which is much faster than us, so we don't have much hope of keeping up.
There is also a boat in the harbour called Amazon which is owned by Maltese people who are going back to Malta, we have gone over to the boat hopefully to meet them, but nobody has been home so far. Its a beautiful boat built in the 30's I think, its combination sailboat - but no longer has sails and it has a huge chimney stack. Not sure if that is a functioning chimney.
We'll do a little maintenance work on Moondancer tomorrow and laundry etc, then we've got to find a grocery store with decent priced food to do some provisioning for the next few weeks.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Arrived Bermuda - June 7th 2009

We arrived in St. George's Bay yesterday at about 2.30 Bermuda time - which we discovered is about 2 hours ahead of the time we were going by for the past 10 days. The sun rising at 3.45am should have tipped us off, and we kept marvelling at that - funny what 2 tired minds don't work out. It didn't matter anyway.

We've not seen anything yet, but we already love the place. We are anchored along with about 50 other transient boats, very close to the St. George's Dinghy and Sports Club, who welcome all guests. Our arrival has coincided with the Tall Ships festival and race, hence the picture above of the Bounty as it arrived in the harbour yesterday.

Last night we enjoyed the company of friends Jan and Yolanda from SV Saudade, a boat we have met a few times along the way. They leave tomorrow for Holland. They are not enjoying the long legs much and are looking forward to taking their boat Saudade home. We also enjoyed quite alot of beer and wine, as we don't drink at all during passages this is something we really look forward to.

A comment on the trip here - in general it was the best sailing we have had since leaving Canada. The winds and waves were pretty much always just right. We tried various sail configurations and found that Moondancer was most happy with 15 - 20 knots abeam with double reef main, full genoa, full staysail and mizzen. She just sailed along doing about 6 - 7 knots and seemed to be purring. After what we have been putting her through this made us very happy. Just to know that nothing was hurting her - or us. Times like this need to happen to reinforce why we are doing this thing.

Halfway to Bermuda

Halfway to Bermuda – Tuesday 2nd June

Now this is more like it – we left Port Antonio last Wednesday 22nd May, and have been sailing on-course to Bermuda ever since. We definitely have had very nice conditions, mostly sunny with typical trade wind fluffy clouds which just seem to help keep the wind going at about 10 – 15 kn, sometimes a little less or more. Today is overcast which is nice for a change, helps to keep cooler. We are making between 90 – 100 miles per day, which is close to our expectations, making an average of 4 – 5 kn.

We are very happy with our SSB radio, it is working very well for us. We have subscribed to a weather router, Chris Parker and each morning at about 0600 hrs we go on air, tell him where we are and listen to what we can expect for the rest of our passage. Of course this information can change daily, but so far it has mainly changed for the better, mostly light wind and seas we can handle. We are mostly sailing abeam to a close reach.

Of course this does not give me any drama to report, but that’s fine by me. We have tried fishing each day but no luck so far, we’ve had a couple of bites and have lost a hook, and one of our rubber squid lures almost got ripped in half by something with very sharp teeth, but other than that no dolphins, a couple of birds have circled around us and even though we encourage them to land they have not done so yet.

We have also made contact with the Maritime Mobile net through whom we can log our position daily on Ship Track. I’ll try to make that a link to this blogsite. Then it will be possible to see our position on the google world map. Of course that is only as good as our ability to report in our position. With SSB/Ham there is no guarantee that we will be heard every day so we don’t want this addition to our keeping in touch toolbox to become a cause for worry. We have an EPIRB on board which is an emergency beacon, which will emit a continous signal for about 72 hours in the event of us meeting some disaster. That’s how you’ll know if we’ve sunk. Anticipated arrival times can change drastically when you have no wind, or a bad weather system that we have to get away from might mean going backwards for awhile.

We can also use SSB to make telephone calls via another service, which we are going to try out for Josie’s birthday.

Which brings me to realize that I have not really said anything much about our time together in Jamaica, which was all too short and half of the time we were hiding inside from torrential rain. Who knew it was their rainy month – May is.
It was good for getting to talk with each other, and to play scrabble, which is one of my favourite indoor pastimes with my children, and with anyone else who wants to play.
Walking around town with Josie is quite hard to do as her mother. With her bright blond hair and all around general beauty, the Jamaican men remind me of rabid hyenas. I felt as though I should hold her hand to make sure someone didn’t try to snatch her away.
But I did make it clear by way of body language and full on scowling that they had better back off.

Leaving Josie at Kingston airport departure gate made me very sad. Not knowing for sure when we’ll meet again, in fact I was so sad that I completely forgot that it was our wedding anniversary. So occupied were we with the things we had to do that day neither of us remembered until a couple of days later. After dropping Josie off at the airport – which is about 2-3 hours away from Port Antonio, we then got our driver – Phillip - $100 for the day, to take us to a mega supermarket in Kingston to do our provision shopping and to a chandlery owned by a man called Tony Ducas, who served us cocktails – rum/7 up while we shopped.

Phillip then drove more of a sight-seeing route back from Kingston to Port Antonio. Port Antonio is on the north east side of the island and Kingston on the south east, and there are fairly sizeable mountains in between. Phillip was careful to avoid the nasty parts of Kingston but he told us enough about it, that we didn’t want to be there anyway. We really enjoyed the relative luxury of Phillips car and his commentary. Phillip has traveled extensively in the world working on cruise ships, but he loves his home, Jamaica.
Actually so do a lot of the people who live here, we were happy to hear so many of the local Port Antonians talk with pride about their country. As we do when we talk of our home.