Cheshire Cat in Bermuda

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Safe in Bermuda after our very first sea passage

Everyone arriving in Bermuda knows of boats and crews making the passage from the east coast of the US or Canada and often the SSB radio becomes a focal point each day – especially when there is the promise of dirty weather around.
The day after we arrived we were still at the custom’s dock and lots of people came by us to say hello –news of our notoriety had spread! We and Pearl 1 were first up on the ‘Herb show” every day, and everyone has to wait their turn to be called by Herb. Consequently most people had heard of us before we arrived. Sue and John from Saltscar, John and Aukwa from China Moon and Caroline and Charles from Itza Purla, our Torontonian friends, were the first to welcome us on our arrival.

So nice to be made to feel part of the community and to be welcomed so very thoroughly!!
A fleet of very up market and brutally sailed Swan yachts arrived in port shortly after us – almost all with damage. One had lost all the side rails, another a boom, many sails had gone, a brand new Alden lost steering. Very unpalatable when one considers the effect of the high seas on these very new and extremely expensive boats. On the other hand – there was a little 28-ft yacht that by choice has no engine and was doing just fine on its voyage.

We soon found out that we were not alone with tall stories to tell – big winds, huge waves, fighting conditions. It certainly gave everyone in Bermuda something in common to talk about! The busiest places in St George’s Harbour were the laundry and the sail maker! Wet clothes and damaged sails were the norm. Like everybody else we had cushions and clothes hanging to dry in the sun from every available spot on the boat. And also like everybody else – we gathered in the various waterfront bars to recount our tall tales! The drink of choice on the island was "Dark and Stormy" made with rum and ginger beer. Very apt!

The island of Bermuda is just a low hill, almost surrounded by treacherous reefs. Getting in is quite a trick and boats have to be very carefull to follow a marked channel Bermuda Harbour radio is percehed at the top of the only hill. The station is manned by a bunch of chaps who are very laid back and friendly, courteous and extremely helpful. Everyone complimented them on their easy manner. They call each and every boat as it approaches the island, verifying boat information and condition.

Looking down on St. George's Bay the hillside is covered with lovely houses – painted different colours and many with balconies. All the roofs are painted white, and they have guttering built which spirals around so that it catches rainwater efficiently. Water has to be imported if not saved, so it’s a fairly precious commodity. There are all kinds of trees – olive, coconut and banana, and colourful flowers everywhere. Streets are narrow, often without pavements (or sidewalks), and almost everyone seems to travel on scooters – which they drive at breakneck speed with great honkings and tootings. Cars are tiny, but much safer! In the harbour itself there are sailboats arriving and departing all the time. The water is pristine and even the fishing is good!

Shops here are quite dazzling – very expensive perfumes, tartans and china available as well as the usual touristy stuff. We didn’t visit many places but did go by water bus to Nelson’s Dockyard, where we enjoyed the history of the old Naval station and the very interesting and extensive museum. We also watched the dolphin show, sampled the wonderful cake that is made locally, and saw some pretty clever glass blowing in the artisan building.

Dolphin at Nelson's Dockyard
As time went by we cleaned up, packed all those wonderful cozy woolly sweaters, down filled jackets and thermal underwear for future use, and broke out the t-shirts and swimsuits.

The water pump on our diesel engine quit as we arrived on the dock, so we had no engine. There was great fun getting from the free dock by the restaurants around to Captain Smokes Marina - we were pushed from our spot on the harbour wall and around the corner to the marina by a couple of little rubber dinghies! Accompanied by many shouted directions and screams of “No, no! Too near that boat” “Go BACK.” “NO! Go FORWARD!” “Let the anchor down NOW. NOW!!!” Wonderful entertainment for the more experienced cruisers around us. Let’s hop e this sort of thing doesn't get to be a habit.

Mike soon established a reputation for himself. He would get up early in the morning to make the rounds of the various docks to find out which boats were newly arrived and to discuss the state of things. In fact we really thought he was bucking for Bernie’s job. Bernie, who rides a little scooter, is the busy and helpful 'honorary' harbourmaster He always seemed to be around to meet and greet new arrivals and help them with all their questions. It even got so that Bernie would tell people to ask Mike for information! Mike arranged a couple of diesel deliveries for the smaller boats. These were boats that couldn't take on huge loads of diesel, so they banded together to make a big order and so qualified for a duty free discount. Mike found out that the trucks delivered large quantities of fuel for the bigger yachts, and as smaller consumers we could also fill up if we had enough boats to make an equivalent decent sized delivery order.

Mike had also became quite a star performer at The St Georges Club – in Karaoke. The first time we went there were four of us. We had such a good time that the next time we gathered a crowd of about 40 people. Mike was up singing time and again, frequently with complete strangers! Quite the evening was had by all and no doubt succeeded by hangovers in many places. The two girls from Itza Purla, Zoe and Sophie had a wonderful time as they are both young and good-looking and consequently found themselves quite a major attraction in the anchorage.

Cheshire Cat, Itza Purla, Boff and China Moon on the wall in St George's Harbour

We arranged a barbeque at Captain Smokes Marina just before we left. Charlie from Perseverance; Tom and Jenny from Annie B came with a guitar. Pearl 1 (Ron and Barb who started out from Halifax at the same time as us and 'enjoyed' the same weather) were there; Larry and Lettie on Samana with their crew Igor and Joe (L & L run a sailing school in the US and in the Caribbean – we met them briefly a couple of years later in Trinidad); Derek Osmond from Port Credit with Carol (new girl crew); Caro & Charles with Itza Purla and Zoe and Sophie. Nick and ourselves of course.
The hero of the evening was a 75 yr old guy called John on Pompano 1V who was in mid ocean when he developed a problem with his engine and started taking on water. Herb had been talking to him, and eventually asked other boats in the area to help out. Bird of Passage waited to help in gale force winds no less!! Anyway – he eventually managed to survive and arrive. He came to dinner and brought Belgian chocolate for everyone. Yummy!!

In the marina I got the sewing machine out and attended to the jib sail, which was a little frayed at the edges.

We went to a delicious turkey Thanksgiving dinner with Jill Outerbridge who is the rep for SSCA. Jill will go to Canada, maybe even Georgian Bay next year in her Flicka (sailboat) to cruise for two months. China Moon (John Aukwa and Julianna is 8,) were there and also another couple who have just bought a 52 ft Monk trawler in Penetang. (Small world?)

The day of my birthday we enjoyed another great feast on Annie B. We were given the biggest Bermudian lobster ever caught by Dave, (which we stored it in a net in the water off the back of the boat until the dinner day). Nick and I had to drag out the huge pressure cooker to boil it in, and couldn't make it fit in. Bof, Annie B, Itza Purla and Dreamweaver were with us.

Bermuda is gorgeous – sufficiently exotic to be charming, and reasonably sophisticated at the same time. Expensive however! St George’s is very picturesque. Nice houses – clean and safe. The sun shines every day – the people – Bermudans and boat people are very friendly and helpful so we are in good hands.

Bermuda street

There is a lively and entertaining public ceremony each Wednesday on the waterfront – dunking the local nagging wife. The Town Crier, dressed in his official regalia announces the event, accompanied by his clanging bell, and a nagging woman is coerced onto the dunking stool, soon to be dipped into the water. The own crier offers to dip other people's nagging partners, but doesn't get a lot of business from the crowd. It's all local colour and costumed theatrics and provides a cheerful interlude. The town crier has the crowd vote on the punishment and often involves people in the audience in the skit.

We stayed in Bermuda for the full three weeks that we were allowed, and set sail for the British Virgin Islands with some trepidation. Others that had left told stories of nasty wind and rain squalls on the way, and after the weather we had experienced we were not in the least bit anxious to encounter any more nastiness.

About Me

Deirdre and Mike have decided, with reluctance that the time has come to sell up and return home to their growing family. Details about the barge are posted on the Apolloduck website ID 335491. Living in France has been a wonderful experience, Sailing the world on Cheshire Cat was an another life changing adventure. Hope you enjoy the blog here and at yachtcheshirecat!