Bermuda to Tortola: Love A’Fayre

Let’s face it, Bermuda is a cool place. A crossover culture between early British colonial and conservative modernization, Bermuda seems to move more thoughtfully. Perhaps it’s the year-round dress shorts or gushing politeness that first envelopes you as you humbly apply for entry via Customs and Immigration. Addressing new visitors as “My Love”, Officer Hadley asks that you call him (prefers to be called Harrington) for anything you might need on the island. At first his overly friendly behavior seems so bizarre, that you’re wondering if a scam is in the works. But rest assured, he’s genuine, and you are the one harboring residual stress and paranoia. While perhaps leaning a bit more on the gregarious side of Bermuda personalities, Harrington is closer to the average personality that you can expect here on the island.

George Somers, Island Namesake.

From reading my prior post you would realize we didn’t intend on stopping, and a coincidence to stop a second time in as many years for the same reason: nasty weather. With the decline of seasonal hurricane-prone turbulence, our North Atlantic seems to tease us sailors into venturing off to warmer climes. But even if weather forecasters suggest a positive 7 (or 10) day outlook, we seasoned sailors know that weather can change with the drop of a wide-brimmed Bahamian hat. And so only after four days we reached consensus to make a stop.

From more than thirty nautical miles out to the northeast our normally silent VHF radio started cracking with accented voices. Bermuda Radio screens all ships approaching, passing and leaving Bahamian waters. Prior to Covid-19 no advance arrangements were required to enter Bermuda. You would approach the island, review your vessel’s details with the friendly radio operator, and find your way around the reefs to the Customs dock. But now anyone planning a trip to Bermuda is to submit a $75 Travel Authorization application in advance, mainly dedicated toward addressing COVID issues. But we weren’t planning on being in Bermuda and so why would we do this?. Oops. Fortunately, Bermuda is historically known and valued by weary sailors seeking refuge, and made us feel welcome anyway, allowing us to follow the new protocols and pay for testing upon arrival.

Ken’s A 10 (lovely nose-art) was our rafting boat at Captain Smokes Marina while we waited for improved weather.

Our next weather window was due to open in four days. And seemingly dozens of other boats had the same idea. As the optimal departure day approached, and seemed inevitable, with promises not to wreak havoc as illegal aliens, we approached our friend “My Love” Officer Harrington to beg for an early clearing out. And he gave it to us! Jumping ahead and past the finer points of all Bermuda has to offer adventurous sailors, four days flashed by, and our rafted neighbors on A-10 threw us our dock lines just after sunrise, and we motored around several boats waiting in line to clear out of the country.

Sailboats take advantage of exiting Bermuda during an optimal weather window. We’re all heading for distant southern islands.

Please take our advice: no matter how frustrating, idiotic and bureaucratic the entry process is, always exude patience and smile, and perhaps you’ll be rewarded with a gift of an easy clearing out!

We are thrilled after receiving departure documents early from St. George’s, Bermuda. Let’s have lunch at The White Horse!

Outside of St George’s harbor, the northeast swell increased quickly as we left the southern protected end of the island. Fortunately, a warm 15 knots was on our stern and we spent the next two days surfing down countless 12 to 15 foot waves. Sea legs quickly acclimated and our 3-hour watch routine resumed.

Passing the time off-watch, crew playing afternoon cribbage.

Having failed to catch anything but sargasso weed, we retired our homemade lures for newly purchased deadly fishing weapons. Before long we caught a beautiful mahi-mahi and Gail whipped up fixings for a grand lunch of fish tacos. But more fish wasn’t in the cards, as the lures were lost one by one to fish not willing to be landed.

Captain catches deep-water lunch somewhere south of Bermuda.

We left St George’s harbor at 0700 on Wednesday and the forecast looked like this:

  • Wednesday through Friday: NNW wind 15-20 knots turning N, with occasional 25 knot gusts
  • Saturday through Sunday: N wind 15-20 knots, with occasional 25 knot gusts, clocking to SSE
  • Sunday evening through Monday: Wind clocked to SE 15-20 knots, with occasional 25 knot gusts
  • Monday evening into Tuesday: ESE wind 15-20 knots, with occasional 25 knot gusts, clocking back toward ENE
Above: Initial NNW wind would give a boost south from Bermuda, but with a hook to the SE in preparation for another oncoming front emanating from Florida, delivering strong opposing S winds.

Our course took us SSE for about the first 300 nautical miles, and then as the wind clocked back to the south and east we tacked and beat close-hauled for another 350 nm, and then on the last 200 nm we could finally break off the wind for a beam reach, and go screaming in at 8+ knots, surfing with the swells for our glide-path west of Anegada and around Tortola to arrive in Road Town.

Absolutely gorgeous 20+kt beam reach, double-reefed as we approached our landfall. How apropos it was to crank Iron Butterfly with the sun rising over the island of Anegada, our initial BVI land sighting to the east. (Sorry if you don’t get this one 🙂

Kelly and I were lucky to be asked to help deliver this beautiful boat to the islands, and spend so much quality time with two more wonderful people who are passionate about sailing.

Selected stats:

  • 1,730 nautical miles traveled by water
  • 85 gallons of fuel consumed
  • 154 average nautical miles traveled per day
  • 3 countries
  • 3 Covid-19 tests
  • 3 pounds of bold Vermont-roasted coffee
  • 3 movies on laptop
  • 1 case of Carlsberg Elephant beer
  • 1 bottle of Sangiovese
  • 1 bottle of Diplomatico Especial Rum
  • 1 card game: cribbage
  • 4 days: Time spent in Bermuda
  • 18 hours: Time spent in Tortola
  • Qty of Painkillers consumed in Tortola: We can’t remember.

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