Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 6 - Bermuda to Ireland

Weather: Colder, gray, overcast, big but smooth seas

General Comments: Still no seasickness, so hopefully we are good for the crossing (who am I kidding?).  We found stowaways aboard yesterday - weevils (?) in the pasta.  I'd purchased a couple of different large 8lb bags of pasta in the BVI (when I had a car) and re-bagged them into separate smaller portion "baggies" once I got them home. One of those giant bags of pasta must have come from the store with extra protein, as now the insects had all hatched out and were having a jolly time (until we threw them overboard, that is).  Luckily, we have plenty of other pastas to last the journey and all have been thoroughly inspected and reported clear of infestation.

We've had a chain plate leak for some time. I re-bed it before we left, but the leak is now worse than ever and we've determined that it is NOT coming from the chain plate, but from the hatch beside it, and trickling down via the ceiling and then the chain plate.  Kyle won't let me remove the hatch while we are at sea so I guess we're stuck with it for the next few weeks - we are working hard to make sure that the wood of the bulkhead doesn't get (or stay) wet. Grrr.

It is clear that my book supplies will NOT last the journey, I've already completed 4 books, and am half way through a 200 Suduko puzzle book.  It turns out that I'm sloppy at Suduko and keep finding a box or line with 2 of the same number in.... plenty of time to practice.  To entertain myself and try and stretch my books to last a bit longer, I've tried singing sea shanties and folk songs learned in my youth - but it turns out I can hardly remember anything except a line or two of the odd chorus, so even I'm getting fed up of asking "what shall we do with a drunken sailor?"

One of the books I finally got to reading was "Do Dolphins Ever Sleep?" a book of ocean facts that our friend JD lent us.  Here, I learned that in the open ocean it is almost impossible to be struck by lightning (whew), but that (although figures are NOT published) there are estimated between 2000 and 10000 containers lost from container ships each year... many take 6 months to sink, and some never sink due to the insulation included in them.  I think I preferred the dolphin facts! (Apparently they sleep with half their brain at a time).

We send mail AND download the weather at the same time, so when I write this we have yet to see our latest weather report.  The last two days though have mentioned TROPICAL STORM 1 (downgraded to depression) to the North of us.  Although we are "in the box" we are expecting it to pass well (150 miles) to the North of us, and even it we get it, winds are reported to be gusts up to 30 kt - so not terrible.  At the same time we want to push north to avoid the calmer winds forecast in our current latitudes, and help keep us moving.  We like to get at least 5kt (120 miles a day) and with light winds, this won't be possible, so we want to pick up some better winds for the most of the passage.

[Kyle] We've just past north of the latitude of Ocean Marine in Norfolk VA - where we spent nearly 5 years planning and saving for this trip - ah the memories!  Our nearest land at the moment is Sable Island off the coast of Newfoundland (more of a shoal).  Halifax (Canada) is probably our nearest "real" land - 540nm.  The strange thing is that although we are so far away from anything much, since we brought our home with us, and are used to passages with no land in sight, we just don't feel like we are out in the middle of nowhere.  Everything is the same, same sheets, dishes, sails, same walk to the bathroom as we've been used to for a long time.  Only the instruments and the lack of any traffic or radio chatter betrays that we are so remote. I suppose if we had crewed on someone else's boat, while normally living in an apartment, the entire environment would seem unusual and there would be more of a sense of something special going on.  I suspect for us it is really going to be more like flying through the clouds; the full realization of where we are will hit us once we are walking around in Ireland and soaking up some of that Irishness.  For now, it seems strangely like we could be sailing anywhere just out of sight of land, and lets hope it stays that way, we are not looking for too much adventure here.

Food:  Pasta (the non-infested kind) for dinner last night, just fruit for lunch yesterday, after a simple breakfast of toast... Getting dull.  I started some sprouts going yesterday so they should be ready tomorrow.

Progress: Yesterday we made 110 nm (sigh), So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 585 nm, and have 2148 nm (straight line) to go.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 5 - Bermuda to Ireland

Weather: Rain stopped, still overcast but looks like it should be a nice day.  Seas also calmed to around 2-3', nice sail, wing on wing.

General Comments:  Yesterday was quite miserable with heavy rain, no sunshine for the solar panel, and rough seas (10' waves).  This morning the world has changed again and all is gentle, we've been sailing with the light wind screacher since sunset.  Since Kyle returned from work last, he has developed what he tells me in a neuroma (something like a trapped nerve, in his foot, and from time to time as he puts weight on it, his whole leg collapses to release the pain in his foot and he follows with yelps).  Of course, being no Florence Nightingale, I simply laugh, as I have misheard his foot has "A Neuroma" as "An Aroma", so I'm acting like a 7 year old and holding my nose around him (poor Kyle).   Kyle wants to stress for the record his feet DO NOT STINK, but I'm having fun.

No boats sighted, nor radio traffic heard.  Yesterday, despite the rough seas, there were plenty of sea birds (Petrels) and they were managing to look remarkably graceful and comfortable as they swept low, adjusting their height with the ever changing waves - they are magical to watch. This morning we seem to be alone with the sea.

Food: For lunch we had the last of a curry Lentil Spread/dip that I had made from a recipe from a fellow Gemini Owner (thanks Penny on TailWinds & SunSets) - Yummy. By dinnertime Kyle decided he was not hungry, so we just had some cheese and crackers, but I suspect he simply didn't want to wash up as I've woken up to his request for a "big breakfast"

Progress: Yesterday we made 149 nm, So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 466 nm, and have 2242 nm (straight line) to go.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 4 - Bermuda to Ireland

Weather: Drizzly, overcast, cooler.  Enclosure is invaluable

General Comments:  Wind and waves have built (6-8').  We are currently travelling between 7-8 kts.  We have reefs in both sails now.  Ride now quite choppy and we need to ensure we keep a hand for the boat.  So far no sign of seasickness (and long may that last).  Kyle's first breakfast was lost in the cockpit as the boat rolled unexpectedly, we are expecting these conditions to last for another few days.  Yesterday we saw dolphins again in the early afternoon; you just can't help but be excited.  We still get regular visits from storm petrels.  We are keeping a good course just where we want to go, so no tacking or gybing required so far.

Food: Kyle has put a moratorium on my using the pressure cooker for a day at least..  He does the washing up and it does not fit well in the sink, making washing up much more difficult.  I need to keep him sweet, so it will be pasta for a couple of days now.  Yesterday we had an egg and turkey bacon wrap for lunch, and a nice "fried" free-range chicken dinner with lots of our fresh vegetables from Bermuda.

Progress: Yesterday we made 149 nm, So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 335.3 nm, and have 2375 nm (straight line) to go.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 3 - Bermuda to Ireland

Weather: Cooler, but still dry, wind increased (as expected), and expecting a wind shift to SW today (looking forward to that) -
currently more S, SSE.

General Comments: With the wind speed increase we are now moving at more suitable speeds (5-7kt). Chop is also starting to build,
but so far we are both fine. We are sailing on a beam reach. Yesterday was hazy but with a clear night. Today already overcast.
2 boats sighted overnight, and we still have seabirds visiting from time to time. We are no longer hearing Bermuda Radio, so it
feels like we are a lot further along now. Sunrises both mornings have been stunning

Food: Open sandwiches of cheese, tomatoes and salad for lunch, a chicken curry (Rogan Josh) for dinner. The last of the brownies
have vanished (thanks Mary)

Progress: Yesterday we made 103 nm, So far on this trip we have travelled (through the water) 182 nm, and have 2510 nm (straight
line) to go.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 2 - Bermuda to Eire

Leaving Bermuda Via Town Cut, Maryanne at the Helm.

Weather: Clear, Fine, Warm, low winds (3-7kt)

General Comments: We set off around 11:00am Bermuda time, a little delayed by some (welcome) last minute visitors to the boat. The boat however, is running on GMT so by log we left at 14:01, making for a 10 hour day. The winds were light, as expected, and the sea has a very low, with long swell. In some ways, the sailing is more comfortable than being at anchor... Oh my, now I know why there is a book titled "Gentlemen don't sail to weather". Very soon into our passage we had a pod of Dolphins come to inspect us. They didn't stay long as we were going so slowly, but Kyle and I hadn't sighted dolphins in months (since just before Antigua, 6 months ago) and it was wonderful to see them again. The winds have been between 3 and 7kt and we are sailing between 60 and 120 degrees apparent, moving along between 1 and 4 kt with screacher and full main sail - very slowly, but as expected and (so far) not concerned. It WAS a little frustrating to have a seabird SWIM past us, and then take off, return and do it again.. Interestingly, the seabird was seeking out and eating the smaller Portuguese Men o'war. 

This is the first time we can recall being on  passage without being seasick the first day.  So far with the light conditions it is very comfortable.  There was a lot of traffic as we left Bermuda - the Cruise ship Norwegian Majesty inbound, a few fishing boats just off Bermuda and a couple of sail boats headed over the horizon in the same direction. Since yesterday afternoon we've not seen any other vessels. Our last sighting of Bermuda was just before sunset, but we can still hear Bermuda Radio.  The new moon was just a couple of days ago. so the starts and the bioluminescence have been brilliant.

Progress: Yesterday (in our 10 hour day) we made 24.7 nm, So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 52 nm, and have 2634 nm (straight line) to go.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Off to the Emerald Isle

[Maryanne]OK - we are off at 10am local time today, and both excited to be starting our longest journey yet. Winds are going to be relatively light for the start, which should (possibly) ensure no seasickness (Yay!). We'll try to update our daily position on Yotreps and provided the technology all works and we don't drop a phone overboard or anything breaks, you should be able to see our progress across. Thanks for all the good wishes by email and more, and we understand a certain little girl is now getting an real life bedtime story - we hope we can keep her interested.

Bermuda Day Fitted Dinghy races

[Kyle]One last thing before we go. I wanted to mention the Fitted Dinghy races. It was hard to tell if we were just watching a practice or a real race (I suspect the real race was on Monday). This looks like loads of fun. The Fitted Dinghies race has a few interesting rules that make it especially entertaining: Each boat is allowed to carry up to 1000 square feet of sail, which is about half again what Footprint carries for working sail. Each of these sails is quite a bit bigger than our beloved Screacher. This makes the dinghies obscenely overpowered in all but the lightest winds. They compensate for this by hiking out large crews on planks that are moved from side to side as necessary. The most amusing rule, I think, is that, in order to win, the Captain AND the boat must cross the finish line (there is actually a race in the Caribbean where only the boat must cross). This means that, in desperate circumstances, crews will jump (or be pushed) overboard to lighten the load. I suppose it also has the added benefit, popular in movies, of creating obstructions for your opponent so you can make a clean getaway.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Honoured guests in Bermuda

[Maryanne]After our amazing welcome from Geoffrey and Mary (owners of the Gemini Happy Cat) on our arrival, we were invited for dinner and a sail. Along the way Geoffrey and Mary also gifted us freshly baked brownies for the trip, Bermuda Onions right out of their garden for our provisioning, and a million helpful hints and friendly smiles – we could not have been treated better.

Dinner on Friday evening at their beautiful home was delicious fresh wahoo (Geoffrey had read my blog and my frustrations at finding good fish in the islands, so it was an extra special treat). We ate on their patio, raised on a hill, with a view of the bay below and the Gibbs Hill light in the background – stunning! Also invited was one of their friends and neighbours – Paulina, who had just sailed up from the Caribbean recently herself. Mary and Paulina are heavily involved in the Tall Ships Race which is very soon to descend upon Bermuda, and will (eventually) end in Ireland (although they won’t take the direct route we are planning). Kyle and Geoffrey started the evening with a walk down to the beach for a swim amidst some nice coral and a few serving platter sized fish with the dog, while I lazed around the patio reading magazines (tough life), we ended the evening with Ti Punches, and slept well in a real bed.

The following morning Mary took me to the farmers market where I was guaranteed some really fresh, organic, locally grown produce (including free range chicken – a real treat). I picked up a number of good looking vegetables and some locally made honey too. We also swung by a marine store for one last item I’d been looking for – oh how easy shopping is with a car and someone who knows where everything is.

Eventually we were all ready to go sailing, and Geoffrey’s friend and college Ross joined us (visiting Bermuda from Toronto). Happy cat is out on a mooring, so we drove to the boat club, climbed in the large dingy (actually tied in its own dock) and pottered over to Happy Cat with our provisions and picnic for the day. Happy Cat has empty lockers, and floats much higher in the water than Footprint, – it seemed so much more spacious and we took the chance to have a good tour. Unfortunately, it had also been recently serviced, and it appears that insufficient (if any) oil was returned to the drive leg – Happy Cat was not going anywhere, but at least we did get to see her. We felt terrible for Geoffrey, but he seemed to take it in pretty good stride.

Quick change of plan! Geoffrey wanted to know all the places we’d intended to visit by bus later, and decided to drive us all over the island to ensure we got to see them.

We left Mary at the house as she still had some work to do – the tall ships are on their way here as we speak, and the four of us went for a drive along the beautiful south shore of Hamilton Island, the main island of Bermuda. Bermuda has done a wonderful job of protecting the beauty of its south shore beaches. There is about a half mile barrier of hilly parkland that abuts the actual beaches themselves, which gives the beaches a much more quiet and rural feeling than you would expect from being only a couple of miles from town. Geoffrey stopped at a few different places that gave us stunning views of the cliffs and the beaches behind. We made a special stop at Horseshoe Bay, with its stunning wide fine pink sand beach and surrounding rock formations. Kate, you’re right, it is a very pretty beach. Kyle had his usual crazy scramble up and down rocks and into caves looking for good photo opportunities while the rest of us walked along the soft pink sand and talked.

Horseshoe Bay, unfortunately we didn't get a good shot of the huge, beautiful beach, but these give a hint of the fantastic bay

After that, we went to the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the first sight most visiting sailors see of Bermuda - including us. The repeater station on the top also provided our first contact with Bermuda Radio. We climbed the stairs to the top. At 108M (354 ft), we had views of the entire country. The light was built out of cast iron as the local limestone was not considered strong enough to support such a tall structure. It has been operating continuously since May 1846.

Gibbs Hill Light - In the photo from the top, you can see Kyle's shadow as he leans over the rail for the shot - Yikes

From the lighthouse, we headed for the Dockyard on the tip of Ireland Island, the westernmost island of Bermuda. On the way, we passed the Somerset Bridge – with the smallest drawbridge in the world, allowing small (unstayed – no wires) sailboat masts to pass between Somerset Island and Hamilton Island. It must have been a real time saver back in the days before most boats had motors that could take them the long way around.

Somerset Bridge with its tiny draw bridge (so small you just lift it up by hand!)

At The Dockyard (on Ireland Island) , we were lucky for two reasons. The first was that there were NO cruise ships in the entire country that day. The evening before, as our ferry stopped at the Dockyard on the way to Hamilton, two huge cruise ships with over 5000 passengers were berthed there. They were both leaving that evening and it looked like closing time at Disneyland with crowds and crowds of people all walking in the same direction. This day, we had the place virtually to ourselves, maybe a few hundred people total. The other reason we were lucky was that we were with Geoffrey. He grew up in Bermuda and he seemed to know everybody as well as everything about Bermuda. For him, the history of Bermuda is also his history. He knew it very well and we couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide.

A few scenes from this expansive Naval Dockyard - plenty of spare anchors just laying around

The Dockyard is a major fortified British Naval complex from the early 1800’s, protecting the whole West end of Bermuda. It served as both an armed fort and a prisoner of war camp for English, Bermudian, Canadian and American forces until just recently. Geoffrey had a little fun with Ross by explaining to us that the Canadians tried to convince their government that Bermuda was a hardship posting so they would be ‘forced’ to stay.

All this followed by a drive along the various coastal roads we’d otherwise missed gave us a complete view of the island through windy, stone wall-edged roads and past Bermudian houses that all look like big, over-sweet wedding cakes that you could slice a corner off and eat. We still can’t help but be in love with Bermuda, and honestly can’t thank Geoffrey and Mary enough for their wonderful hospitality.

On return, we saw our friends on My Tina at the customs dock. We thought perhaps they were checking out, but it turned out they were returning after a day at sea and discovering a problem with their roller furling. We have the same make (different, newer model) with manuals aboard Footprint, and told them once they were anchored safely to just pop over and they could take a look. They were in surprising good spirits after an aborted crossing, and we were happy to help them in any way we could. We were amused at their surprise when we cut them a disc of the manual, AND photocopied some of the more relevant pages for them. The next day, with the help of the manual, they found the problem, a broken part. They seemed happy to finally know what was wrong even though they’re going to have to wait for the end of the holiday for the part. They also are going to have to remove their forestay to install it but they swear they’ll only be a couple of hours behind us.

My Tina Crew visit Footprint

The following day we were back to chores – final preparation for the next passage. We topped up fuel and water, setup the boat ready for off shore (jack lines, tethers, etc) and later in the day Kyle collected Geoffrey and Mary on our little Portland pudgy and rowed them back to Footprint for a quick tour. Since Footprint is fully loaded for the next passage, she is not in her best show condition, but Geoffrey and Mary were great company and were keen to see all the little additions we’d made to the boat.

Geoffrey and Mary visit Footprint

After that, we went and got tokens for one last shower and load of laundry before we set off. In the afternoon, there’s the big 400th Bermuda Day parade to see. We figure we really shouldn’t miss that. We’re not likely to be around for the 500th.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bermuda Caves

[Kyle]One of Bermuda's major attractions is its caves, particularly Fantasy and Crystal caves (you can access both with a single entrance fee). We decided to get up early and take the bus in order to arrive before it got too crowded. We were the first to arrive and were part of the first group for the guided tours of the day. Bermuda is rich in limestone, and this makes for some amazing formations. We had a different guide for each cave, but each was entertaining, and the caves were spectacular.

Crystal and Fantasy Caves

Both caves are below sea level in some places, and so are partly underwater. Crystal caves had most of the walkways on floating pontoons (the caves have a tidal range). The seawater, however, is perfectly clear and has no obvious life (fish, plankton, etc), which makes the depth heard to judge (appearing shallower than it is) and for some wonderful reflections.

Both caves had giant (and smaller) caverns filled with all sorts of interesting formations including soda straws, curtains and chandeliers along with the expected stalactites and stalagmites.

The caves were discovered relatively recently (1940's) by a couple of kids playing cricket when they tried to locate a lost ball. The kids entered via a rope and a very narrow hole, now there is a much more tourist friendly entrance with stairs and electric lighting. The grounds around the cave are beautifully manicured, and resemble a botanical garden; we were very glad we went.

After our tour and our wander around the garden were complete, we still had time to spare, so we decided to walk around a nearby park before meeting the bus to return to Footprint. Blue Hole Park we assumed would be a quick and easy stroll around a relatively small park. However, it is criss-crossed with lots of trails, some of which offer beautiful views of Castle Harbour with its jagged rocks typical of the area. Others went inland to several small "ponds" and more heavily wooded and jungled areas, but what really got our attention were the caves. Blue hole is riddled with caves.

While on the main trail we tended to take every side trail available, hoping not to miss anything good, and kept finding ourselves "discovering" beautiful and elaborate cave systems and grottos. There were no restrictions on access, and some had exits far from the entrance (oh, I wish we'd taken our flashlights). Every time we'd crawl out of a cave and back into the sunlight we'd only walk a short way further along the path before discovering another hidden entrance.

We spent hours getting grubby and lost, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. When we finally emerged from our last cave, of maybe a dozen, Maryanne reminded me of our need to get back to Footprint. We took a few non-productive detours into the jungle, but eventually found a road (although not the one we were expecting). It took us a while to figure out even which way to walk to find a bus stop and for a long time we felt completely lost, but honestly how lost can you get on such a small island?

Eventually, we came up on the back side of the Crystal Caves site, and thus knew where we were again. From there it was a short walk to the best bus stop to return to St Georges and Footprint.

Blue Hole Park and its caves - with free entry, and no map, Kyle loved discovering the many caverns here


[Kyle]Upon my arrival back in Bermuda from work, we reviewed the list of jobs we wanted to be completed on the boat before we left. Only then could we set aside time for sightseeing with a clear conscience.

The day was basically horrible, it was a bit too hot outside. I started off by going up the mast to check over the rigging, the view was nice and the rigging was in good shape (whew). This job was followed by several other nasty, grimy, sweaty, greasy jobs, the most irritating of which was dismantling the gear shift lever, complete with little spring loaded pieces that went zinging past my ear into the bay. Fortunately Maryanne was able to find the necessary replacements at the local amazing (and friendly) hardware store. What was most frustrating was all we discovered was there was nothing wrong with the gear shifter after all, but at least now we know how it works (and which springs to look out for).

My next project is to figure out how much electricity a toaster uses - using ordinary household utensils; Maryanne reminds me I'm well insured if I want to test it with a fork.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rain Catchers

[Maryanne]Bermuda is waaaay distant from any other land source, so historically it has had to be very self sufficient. I doubt that it could achieve that full self sufficiency now without a regular supply of cargo ships and planes. But they may well be doing a good job of it when it comes to water.

There are no springs to use as a water supply, and if you dig a well, by the time you are down to the water table, you've reached sea water (almost every time). So here in Bermuda, they have to catch the rain water, and they've done this since they arrived in 1609.

This has led to a very distinctive architecture of their roofs. Nealy every roof (not just on the houses, but almost any structure) has several catching stone lips that wind a path of rain water around the roof and into a vertical gutter, which drops it down into a water holder (normally the basement). I've yet to find out how they purify the water of any dust etc, but I assume they must do somehow.

Elsewhere, just to stop the water splashing over the windows and doorways, a simple sloped roof would direct the water to the eves where a horizontal gutter would direct it to a vertical gutter, and in some cases down into a water barrel (normally for watering the garden). But here, the roofs are stone. I guess slate and alternative roofing materials were scarce(?), so the roof top view of Bermuda is just as interesting as every other aspect of this time capsule.

I'm particularly impressed since we've only just had our (material) water catcher made and working for the last few weeks aboard Footprint.

I guess nowadays drinking water can be produced in desalination plants, slate and other materials can be imported, but even the newer homes continue to be built with the same very Bermudian roof tops - pretty AND functional, I love it.

Bermuda - St George

Ordnance Island, just off St George's - where customs and immigration procedures are completed for all private boats arriving in Bermuda

WARNING - this is a very long post - don't even think of starting unless you have an hour to spare.. OK - you were warned!

[Kyle] Bermuda is one of the few places that I have ever been that I had almost no preconceived notions about before I got there. I had almost gone out there for a few days on a whim many years ago, but at the last minute, the flights filled up and I ended up going somewhere else. At that time, I went to the library and skimmed a guidebook on Bermuda, mostly for entry requirements, etc. I was able to get the general gist that it was a pleasant enough place. There were a few pictures of sandy beaches and palm trees – the stuff you see in guidebooks for almost any island in a warm climate. This last point of advertising may explain why a lot of people I meet think that Bermuda is a tropical island in the Caribbean. Not so. Of course, Bermuda is a series of islands in the Atlantic almost 400 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer. The nearest point of land is Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Technically, it is a temperate island whose climate is moderated significantly by the warm waters east of the Gulf Stream.

With all of this in mind, I tended to avoid making any mental association between Bermuda and tropical islands. Maryanne and I had not originally planned to stop in Bermuda except as a contingency stop for emergencies/repairs until a couple of months ago. Once we were safely in the BVI, I realized I could bid a large block of days off in May for the passage to Bermuda. This would allow me to push my three month leave back a month and allow more time for the passage to Ireland/Scotland, which would also simplify my commute once we got there. Once we decided to make the stop in Bermuda, Maryanne and I were pretty busy with passage planning and preparation to worry too much about what Bermuda was like. We were going anyway, so it didn’t seem to matter much. We studied up enough to know what the entry requirements were and then it was time to leave.

Approaching from the south, the archipelago doesn’t honestly look like much. The islands are low and are not visible as much more than smudges on the horizon until within 15 miles or so, quite a contrast to the towering mountains of the Caribbean that were visible for 50 miles or so.

Our first real contact with Bermuda came about 150 miles south when we started picking up Bermuda Radio’s half of its conversations with arriving boats. They were always patient and helpful, even when they had to repeat themselves several times. They seemed to understand that every one of us out there had been sailing for days just to get that far and were probably tired and worn out and that a little understanding through the radio could be a big reassurance on a vast and indifferent sea. When they went to the trouble to forward Happy Cat’s welcome to us just as the weather turned cold and nasty, it really made the day seem better.

Once we cleared in (again, super nice people), we took Footprint to the anchorage and after several tries, we found a place we liked and settled in for a good long sleep and a lazy morning the next day. Eventually we got moving and took the dinghy out of life boat mode and made the row ashore to run some errands and have a look at the town of St. George.

As I was getting ready, a Norwegian named Lars came over from the boat "My Tina" to say hi and to tell me how impressed he was with my wife. He had seen us making our many anchoring attempts the night before and was just sure he was about to witness me getting chewed out for making her crank up all of that chain over and over again, which never happened. He was very friendly and we talked a bit before he left. He had said that he had gone into town to try to buy some Norwegian Aquavit to toast their arrival and to make an offering to Neptune for the safe passage, but they had none so he had to settle for Vodka instead.

The other cruisers also seemed very friendly. Most have waved or exchanged greetings as we pass. Maryanne thinks it has something to do with there being no charter boats here. Charter really wouldn’t work here as there are only a limited number of places to go. This eliminates the crowd of people who want to party hard until their week is up and don’t care much about the boat because it’s not theirs. Plus, a long passage tends to cause people to unwind from the insular behavior that exists in short term charter when it’s all about them and their week - to hell with everybody else. Everybody here is in the same boat, so to speak. We are all in the middle of at least two long passages and so have a real empathy for one another.

Once we got the dinghy to shore, we walked from the dinghy dock through a little passageway into the town square and were both just stunned. The place is so beautiful. Everything was trim and tidy and coated with fresh brightly colored paint. Maryanne later remarked that it seemed kind of like Nantucket, only less forced. In front of the Town Hall were old cannons that were just gleaming, brightly varnished stocks (used for loafing, not punishment) and a dunking chair, which from the state of the varnish on it, looked like they were still doing occasional demonstrations.

Maryanne got to witness a reenactment of the town gossip and nag being punished - on her way back from dropping me off at the airport.

Replica of the Deliverance - the boat built in Bermuda from the broken remains of the Sea Venture - One of the boats sent from England to resupply the new settlement of Jamestown in Virginia. Unfortunately the Sea Venture was wrecked on route but undeterred, the Admiral (Sir George Somers) landed all passengers and crew safely, and went on to build 2 new ships (one being the Deliverance), and then still take supplies to Virginia. When he finally reached Jamestown, there he found the population decimated with starvation and Indian attacks - they were in terrible urgent need of supplies - so Somers promptly returned to Bermuda for more supplies. Cruising has been a great history lesson for us.

We made our way up one of the picturesque streets to a mobile phone place to try to sort out some local communication. The guy there was warm and friendly and very helpful, as if we were cherished friends. He was that way with the other people in the store as well. From there, we headed to the local hardware store, which we eventually left empty-handed, but not after being treated again like valued customers that they actually wanted to help.

The Barque - Picton Castle, at the dock in Bermuda

After the hardware store, we took a walk down to the waterfront to see the Picton Castle, a tall ship that does square rigger training while delivering supplies to schools in remote places of the world. Apparently there’s a show about them on the Discovery Channel, which we didn’t know since we have no TV. I had heard them calling in the night before we arrived. They had only been in port a few hours longer than we had and had just left the customs dock as we were pulling in. That ship is all business with all of its purposeful rigging crisscrossing this way and that and yet it is also a thing of such beauty. How does that quote go: “A ship is the closest thing to the physical embodiment of a man’s dreams?” Something like that.

From there, we went back into town along the waterfront. We stopped in at the Tourist Information Centre and were treated to yet more Bermudian hospitality. Everybody keeps telling us to enjoy our stay on the islands. We went to a grocery store and bought a couple of cakes and some refreshments and headed for a local park to enjoy them. The park (of course!) was very well kept and looked more like a botanic garden, complete with little signs so you would know what the plants were.

Somers' Gardens - Admiral Somers so loved Bermuda that his heart is buried here (while his body was returned to England in a barrel of whisky. Note the stone ring/arch, it's called a moongate and these are found all over Bermuda, most commonly as entrances form the street to the garden of a house.

We found a nice quiet picnic table and got to try a Bermudian favorite, a Dark and Stormy. I’m sure most of the bars around do their own special versions. The one I bought was sold in a can like a beer. It was a blend of local dark rum and ginger beer. It tasted almost but not quite like a rum and coke. I washed it down with an A&W ([Maryanne]For Brits Reading, an A&W is an American brand of root beer.)

From there, we headed uphill toward the middle of the island past yet more breathtaking scenes of picturesque beauty. The houses were all pretty pastels with the unique Bermudian rain catchment roofs and tidy, freshly painted walls around them in the English style. We stopped at a church that was never finished. Only the brickwork remained. We both thought it reminded us of the Cathedral ruins in St. Andrews.

Unfinished Church - after years of infighting and division among the congregation this unfinished church was left to the elements

We had intended to start making our way back home to Footprint, but we heard what we thought were either cow or goat noises coming over the hill and decided to investigate. It turned out to be both. We got distracted by one thing after another and ended up taking the long way back via a gorgeous coastal road that started with a tiny little beach and then kept opening up to the most stunning views of the rocks on the coast and the crashing surf. The road itself had either wooden beam fences or stone walls that ran the whole way – very English, very pretty.

Bermuda Lanes - note the trees that look as though they have autumn foliage - in May! Apparently Bermudian soil has many patches very poor in magnesium which is required for plants to produce the Chlorophyll that makes them green

Our poor camera, it started complaining about low batteries early on. We forgot to bring spares but that thing would not die. It was as if it knew we needed just one more picture, just one more. In the end, we took over 250 pictures that day. I don’t think I have ever said ‘wow’ more in one day in my whole life. It was gorgeous everywhere!

Gates Fort - St Georges - Guarding the Cut into St George's Harbour

We walked back into town past a little fort that has excellent views of the narrow Town Cut onto the harbour. Town Cut is so narrow that clearance is required from Harbour Radio to transit in order to avoid conflict with cruise ships. There isn’t room for a cruise ship and a sailing yacht. It’s one way only at a time.

We passed by the yacht club that was hosting the ARC fleet. The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers is a whole group of boats that sail in company from Ft. Lauderdale or Tortola to Bermuda, then to the Azores, then to either Plymouth or Gibraltar. We’d seen a couple of them on the way up and wanted to put names to faces. The boats were mostly huge, million dollar affairs. The crews were all friendly and excited about their arrival in beautiful Bermuda and their upcoming passage to the Azores. We spent some time experiencing the buzz in the atmosphere and then started the walk back.

On the way out, we saw a thing ‘flying’ in the water like a bat. Some strange kinda thing. What the hell is that thing? After much trying to photograph it and squint at it, I jumped and waded over to it and herded it back to my marine biologist wife. She didn’t know exactly what it was either, but decided it was some kind of a sea slug. We found out later that it was a Sea Hare, a kind of sea slug. Nice going, Maryanne!

This Sea Hare we found "swimming" in a local marina.. It is about 14cm long (about the length of you hand). It has a skirt that it uses like a batman cape to flap/fly through the water - just amazing to watch. We think the species must be Aplysia fasciata. Sea slugs are related to garden snails, and many species have a residual shell embedded in their body still

We were starting to think that we didn’t have it in us to cook/clean up after dinner so we started trolling menus. On the way, we came across the roughest bar in town. We could hear raucous shouting, mostly about the card game, coming out of the windows before we were even near, too rowdy for us. We decided to stay away from the Mini Boat Club. That’s right, the Mini Boat Club. Hilarious! We eventually settled on a much quieter place by the dinghy where we were, again, treated like their favorite customer. [Maryanne]We finally ate at the White Horse Tavern, overlooking the bridge from St George's to Ordnance Island. I had a fantastic salad (Asian influenced, with mango salsa), and Kyle had pizza - Yummy food, in a great setting (although we had to retire inside for desert as the evening chilled.

[Kyle]Our second full day in Bermuda, we decided to start off with a long run on the beautiful coastal road from the day before and go out as far as Fort St Catherine and Tobacco Bay on the North side of the island. On the way, I noticed that even the radio towers had shiny, fresh orange and white paint. This place is so well kept. Maryanne finished early and waited for me at the fort while I did another lap.

Fort St Catherine - Bermuda is rich in Forts, and showcase a full range of British Military eras - 1610 through to the 1940's. Fort St Catherine is from the early 1800's

The fort, as with everything else we’ve seen here, was in very good condition, with lots of interesting displays showing how everything was done and the history of the islands. The British spent a fortune fortifying the hell out of Bermuda over the years. As far as we could tell the only “battle” that ever occurred was when a Spanish ship got too close in the 18th century. The British fired two cannon shots at them and scared them away, sparing them from using their third and last shot. Whew! Some of their later guns are the biggest cannons I have ever seen, though. I can understand why nobody would want to get too close.

One of the many boats tucked away safely in the seemingly impossible to enter Achilles Bay

From there, we went past a little boat harbour that had such an impossibly tricky entrance that I couldn’t possibly see how anybody could get a boat in. The entrance is very twisty and has no more than about 10 feet between scary, jagged rocks.

Tobacco Bay and nearby coastal rocks - not something you want your boat anywhere near!

Next was Tobacco Bay, a very similar little harbour but with a swimming beach ringed by tall rock formations. The rock is very sharp igneous rock that provides great grip for climbing around trying to get interesting photos. It will also scrape you up pretty good (or worse) if you fall. I tried a little of each. I was having so much fun though, I didn’t care.

Once we got back to Footprint, Maryanne needed my help diagnosing a pesky leak. It involved me pumping water into the boat from the outside with a portable pump. In the process, I lost hold of the pump and it sank. Great! Just what I needed! On went the mask and fins and after 20 minutes of looking in the murky water, I found it. The water is definitely colder up here. It’s okay once you get used to it but that initial dunk is pretty bracing. Once I got in, I also remembered that salt water does not feel good on rock scrapes. Ow! The air is a bit colder here, too. Midday is perfect but the nights are a little chilly. For the first time in months, we pulled out the comforter to sleep.

After dinner, we had a present for Lars. It turns out that we actually had half a bottle of Aquavit on Footprint. My friend Geoffrey (a different one than the one who welcomed us here), who studied in Scandinavia, brought us a bottle as a gift when we lived on Prydwen and we’ve been carrying it around (aging it) for years. We’ve tried to break it out at parties, but the consensus, even among the drunks, is that that stuff is too strong and it tastes like lighter fluid, so we’ve only managed to get rid of half the bottle. The label, except for one corner that says Linie Aquavit, was worn off. We rowed over to the boat and Lars was happy to see us. His Captain, another Norwegian named Pers, Invited us aboard and introduced us to their third crew, a Guyanian woman named Norma. We handed the bottle to Lars.

He untwisted the cap, took a sniff and said “Oh, you like whisky. I’ll get some glasses.”
“No, no, Lars.” Pers said, “that’s not whiskey, it’s aquavit.” There was a brief second for it to register and then his whole face lit up. You’ve never seen somebody so amazed and happy.
“Where did you get this? They don’t have this on the island! I look everywhere for this.” he said.
“Uh,” Maryanne coolly replied “we just had it lyin’ around. It’s for your next toast to Neptune.”

He wouldn’t hear it. Out came four very small shot glasses and a tumbler (for Lars) and soon we were all raising a toast for safe passages. “Cheers! “,”Skol!”
Okay, it’s not actually that bad, like a finely distilled lighter fluid. We stayed up in the dark cockpit talking and laughing for hours about boats, life, politics, Bermuda, everything. We did manage to pull ourselves away at a sensible hour so that I could get a decent night’s sleep and still get up early.

Kyle poses by a bus stop on his walk to work

The next morning, Maryanne and I decided to walk together the four miles to the airport. On the way, we passed five people standing at a bus stop. As we walked by, every one of them wished us a good morning.

[Maryanne]OK, you made it this far... The above posting is from just a couple of afternoons of exploring; so far we have only explored one town and perhaps less than 1/12th of the typical tourist sites - so I guess you can expect a lot more from us.

We have both totally fallen in love with the place. It is beautiful, stunning, and no way we (nor most likey you) could afford to live here. The government actively discourages people from settling (e.g. cost of house to local - $1Million - cost of SAME house to non-local is + 25% - that is quite a mark up!). Oh, and if you are not a citizen, then you can only purchase from the top 5% of priced houses. If you are born on the island you don't by default get citizenship unless at least one of your parents have Bermudian citizenship. If you have 2 Bermudian parents, and are born off island - you also don't get citizenship. You can always marry a Bermudian, and stay married for 10 years and then apply for citizenship which they may or may not grant. Working visas are almost impossible to get, etc... Still, they are very welcoming to tourists, they just don't want you to make it home.

I asked at the local hardware store about propane the other day. In the US, I generally paid around $16 for a 20lb tank. In Antigua $19, in St Martin $20. By the time I made it to the BVI I was shocked at paying $27.... But oh boy - here in Bermuda - $56. And everything else seems to be at least double the price you would expect to pay in the US. Everyone drives small cars. You can't rent a car on the island (only a moped), but the bus and ferry service is excellent, clean and relatively inexpensive. I don't care about any of that it is BEAUTIFUL!

We can't stay here forever as we need to watch our weather window for the next passage, but we will certainly be exploring and sharing much more of Bermuda. Are you still reading? Here follows a few photos from the streets of St George, Enjoy.

Scenes from St George's Town, Bermuda