Friday 5th May – Monday 15th May
Having arrived at 0500 on Friday I slept for most of the rest of the morning and then set about tidying up the boat a little above and below decks. Once things were reasonably ship-shape I blew up the dinghy in preparation for going ashore. There was already quite a strong wind from the South which was creating a significant chop in the harbour and the dinghy was bouncing up and down alongside the boat. I thought twice about going ashore but in the end decided to do so. I didn’t bother with the outboard motor being anchored only a hundred or so metres from the town quay I reckoned I would be able to row back against the wind and would probably not get as wet as I would under engine.
I left about 1630. The short trip ashore was easy – just blown in on the wind within 5 minutes and didn’t get wet. I had a look around the centre of the small attractive town with a number of historical buildings which I looked forward to investigating in more detail later. I bought a loaf of bread to take back and despite having been warned of Bermuda’s prices, I was shocked to have to pay $6 dollars for a cotton wool sliced loaf – albeit apparently wholemeal. I later found the town’s main store where bread was a dollar cheaper but still…
Next up was to find an internet connection so that I could ring Sharon via WhatsApp. My phone had no signal and so I couldn’t use the mobile network (although later I discovered I was able to manually select Digicel and get a connection). The local pub – the White Horse – had wifi and internet so I settled in there with half a pint of beer – another $6 – and got online and spoke to Sharon. I then caught up on my other email and WhatsApp messages, and filed the company’s NIL VAT return with two days to spare before the deadline.
Whilst on the phone to Sharon I moaned about the prices and said I might splash out the $16 required for a Burger and Chips but lovely lady, she encouraged me to treat myself to a steak. So I did – it was gorgeous – the first steak I had had since the British Virgin Islands many weeks ago. With a glass of red wine the meal cost $50!
As I was tucking in, the Swedes – Andreas, Mimi and Maria from the two boats next to me at anchor sat at the next table and we got chatting. One was another single hander who had been particularly friendly when he anchored next to me earlier in the day. To my great embarrassment it turned out that we had met before at Hemingway marina, Havana and had – albeit only briefly chatted about what turned out to be our common passage plan to sail to Bermuda via the Bahamas! Rolph kindly excused me offering his cleanly shaven appearance as my excuse – he had previously sported a splendid beard. In fact he had already shaved it off by the time of our conversation in Havana! The other a couple in their thirties and a friend who had recently joined them in the Bahamas were aboard a boat about the same size as Arctic Smoke. They were on their way home having explored many of the same islands as us during the season. We had probably been in the same places at the same time on occasions but had never previously met. They had spent the last few weeks in the Bahamas whilst I had spent most of that time in Cuba. They all ordered their food and we spent a very enjoyable evening together. Rolph was on his way back after some years away having spent time in the Mediterranean as well as the Caribbean with his wife and others joining him now and again. The others had taken in Morocco before crossing to the Caribbean. Like me they now had to get home to replenish their coffers! Rolph was semi-retired and ran his own cutting tools supply business in Sweden and had left his son in charge whilst he was off sailing.
Saturday - the bad weather continued - I had decided it was now too bouncy to make a trip ashore worthwhile and I spent the morning reading and cleaning up a little more. By the afternoon although still very windy it was pleasant enough to read in the cockpit. Around lunch-time Rolph came by in his super RIB and offered me a trip ashore which I gratefully accepted. We explored the town a little more found the chandlers which was well stocked and would probably have most boaty things I might need albeit it at very inflated prices. I asked about getting my gas cylinders re-filled but the balance of opinion amongst the staff there was that their supplier would only be able to re-fill cylinders with American style connectors. This was a bit of a blow because I was pretty sure that I would have to connect the last of my three cylinders any day now and that we would need more gas to get me and Tom to the Azores. At the time of writing the issue is still unresolved.
Saturday night was very windy. I found a pay for access wifi/internet connection available on the boat that evening and signed up for a week’s service for $30 and managed to upload the passage log to the Bahamas. Today however I’ve only been able to get an internet connection for a few minutes and have not been able to upload the passage log to Bermuda. If the service continues to be unavailable I’m going to want to get my money back – although quite how I have no idea. I was going to watch one of the films that Laurent had given me copies of (by the way Laurent – if you read this I have tried to email you but the email address you gave me does not work) but I got immersed in reading Webb Chiles’ latest passage log from St Helena to St Lucia. Webb’s ocean wanderings make my sailing seem like an outing on the Serpentine. For a while it looked like we might meet up (he’s now heading for Key West) but my inability to get an American Visa and my need to link up with Tom, has put paid to that. I did scoff half of the very expensive chocolate I bought earlier however!
During the night I had an unpleasant dream that the anchor was dragging!
Sunday continued wet and windy and I took the opportunity to stay in bed until 1000 having treated myself to Tea and toast and marmalade in bed. I’d bought the marmalade yesterday as well as the bar of chocolate.
I took the opportunity provided by a slight improvement in the weather to sort out the stern light. I discovered a spare navigation light fitting amongst my spares and although I didn’t have everything required to make a permanent job of it I think it should now get us back to the UK. It needs an appropriate means of properly attaching the flat back plate to the round section vertical tube section to which it is now attached using a cable tie and a piece of kitchen sponge, with hopefully enough silicone plastered around to keep the water out.
Earlier I got around to tackling the leaky galley sink pump. It was squirting a stream of water out of the back with every pump stroke and this was seeping into the fridge which was, as a consequence filling up slowly with water. To my pleasant surprise the simple addition of an O ring over the pump-hand shaft and nipped up did the trick.
I’m still left with a very annoying issue with the water system though which is that neither the galley nor the head water pumps (both manual) are pumping properly even though there is plenty of water in the tank. It’s as if there’s an air lock in the tank/pipes but I’ve repeatedly forced all the air out by filling the tank to over flowing to no avail. I think a pipe must be squashed somewhere and fear I’m going to have to empty the tank completely in order to find out what’s happened.
Tonight, I think I will watch a film once I have sorted out some food. Hopefully the weather will have improved tomorrow so that I can get ashore.
Monday – Rolph and I explored St George’s further and I bought a couple of small propane gas cylinders and a single burner to use on the boat in Harbour in the hope that there will enough gas left in the last gas cylinder – connected yesterday so virtually full – to get us to the Azores where I know I can get my Camping Gaz cylinders exchanged. We also treated ourselves to a decent lunch in one of the local restaurants – expensive again.
Tuesday – Again with Rolph we took the bus to Hamilton and then on to the Naval Dockyard at the other end of the island. We bought a card of 15 tickets from the local Post Office for $47. One ticket each took us to Hamilton then another each to a stop-over in Somerset Island and then another to Hamilton. We then used two more each to get the Ferry to Hamilton and then the bus back to St George’s at the end of the day. Our stop-over on Somerset Island was to try and track down the first owner of Rolph’s boat who at the time of purchase lived there. We found the house but he had long since moved, the current occupant having lived there since 2006 I think. That was a shame – it would have been fun to have surprised him. However, we enjoyed a walk alongside the very attractive coastline that we would not otherwise have undertaken. We also stopped off for lunch in Somerset Village and had a very goof Fish Chowder. Given we economised on the main course we both treated ourselves to a large slab of chocolate cake with coffee for desert. After lunch we continued our journey by bus to the old Naval Dockyard/Cruise ship terminal. Nearby was the base for the America’s Cup Fleet and we saw a couple of the incredible machines practice racing on the water. It would have been great to have stayed on for the racing proper in a few weeks’ time but my time-table didn’t permit. It would also no doubt be an extremely expensive way of spending the time!
We looked around the Dockyard and I decided to return later in the week when more time was available go round the museum. The Dockyard was very extensive and was originally built by the Brits in the immediate aftermath of the war of independence with the , which we of course, lost. The Empire needed a new North Atlantic base with the loss of Halifax and Bermuda was ideally situated and had the necessary protected deep, if hazardous, waters needed by the fleet.
We tried to get close to the America’s cup crews with no luck but discovered later that our Swedish friends did manage to get into the Swedish compound where they had some sort of open day underway.
After exploring the Dockyard area we took the Ferry back to Hamilton and had a look around. We found Goslings – the main booze suppliers on the island who also sold apparel. Rolph’s boat is named “Dark and Stormy” after the famous Bermudan Rum cocktail – Dark rum mixed with Ginger Ale or beer. Rolph took the opportunity to buy a Dark and Stormy T-Shirt and Baseball cap! We also considered ordering some duty free booze but decided we’d come back later in the week. We had good quality burger meal at one of the local eateries and then took the bus back to St George’s where we arrived just as darkness was enveloping the town. The full moon lit up a most impressive navy blue sky as we returned to the boats.
Wednesday was a boat work day. Having tried and failed to re-reeve the reefing pennant that had pulled through the boom, I finally plucked up the courage to try and remove the fitting at the end of the boom that held the three pulley blocks in place through which ran the pennants. I had avoided doing so until now because I was half expecting the four screws that held it in place to be corroded and or seized in place. They were very firmly screwed in but they did eventually unscrew and to my great surprise the whole assembly then easily came off the boom. I had expected that to be corroded in place too. With the aid of the powerful spotlight that Mick had got working some months ago I was now able to look up the inside of the boom and establish where the end of the plastic reeving got to when inserted from the mast end of the boom. With a great deal of fiddling about I could get it about three quarters of the way down the inside of the boom – too far away to reach by hand, but at least now I could see it and with the end fitting off should be able to get some sort of hook device far enough in to grab it. I still had the length of copper plumbing tube that I had bought in Gran Canaria with the intention of making a lightening conductor (which I never did) and was able to jam a small hand held hook tool into one end. After numerous attempts at inserting this up the inside of the boom and twisting it around I was finally able to pull the end of the reeving tool through. Then I attached a length of this cord to it and pulled the cord through the boom. Next I needed to attach the pennant to the cord and pull that through the boom. I whipped the cord onto the end of the pennant and hoped that the two lines would not part company once under load which they would be when being pulled through the pulleys. Everything worked fine and to my great satisfaction I was able to complete the job.
Next I rigged up an additional kicking strap for the boom. The existing kicking strap is a traditional one – a block and tackle with the fixed end secured on the boom about a quarter of its length from the mast and the other adjustable end secured to the base of the mast where one can tighten or loosen the ‘strap’. The purpose of it is to stop the boom from lifting when one is sailing down-wind (it’s not needed when sailing up-wind because the main sheet pulls the boom down). There are two problems with the existing kicking strap. One is that I’ve damaged the friction jaws on the adjustable end and so it keeps working lose. The other is that whilst the location of the adjustable end at the foot of the mast means that it work equally well on either tack and looks after itself, it doesn’t work particularly well – the angle of the strap to the boom is so acute that even when the strap is as tight as one can get it, the boom still lifts. The second strap will be secured on the lee rail at the shrouds and will therefore be more at right angles to the boom and so pull down more effectively. It will also help prevent the boom from crashing from one side of the boat to the other in the event of an accidental jibe. That’s when the wind gets around the back of the sail and pushes it over from one side to the other. In high winds that can be dangerous, with a real risk of injury and/or gear breakage. An accidental jibe can easily be induced when sailing downwind with a high swell running (the stern gets pushed from one side to the other by the swell), or simply by poor helmsmanship. Of course, most of the time Angus will be steering and there’s not much point in blaming him!
Thursday – Rolph and I went to the Dockyard and Hamilton again. We took the Ferry to the Dockyard and once there I went around the museum situated in the impressive Commissionaire’s House. The museum charted the history of Bermuda from the initial settlement by the British in 1609 (when a two ship expedition to reinforce the British colonies in New England foundered on the Bermudan reefs and the resulting enforced stopover - during which time the crews built two new ships to continue their rescue mission – resulted in the creation of the first settlement on Bermuda) through the slave trade era and the building of the Dockyard using convict labour to the second d world war and beyond. Interestingly in addition to the British colonisers there was significant immigration from the Azores and Madeira when their skills in Agriculture were much sort after. Today a quarter of the island’s population has Azorean ancestry. Bermuda suddenly became pivotal to the continued success of the British Empire after the United States gained their independence. Prior to then Halifax was the home of the North Atlantic fleet. Once lost a new base was needed and Bermuda was ideally situated. With slavery abolished the Brits thought up a great wheeze to get the new base built quickly and cheaply – convict labour!
Slavery in Bermuda was amongst the earliest development of that practice across the whole empire and was initially an insidious process of the white land-owners disenfranchising the existing population of often highly skilled black sugar cane and tobacco farmers and associate craftsmen and then enslaving them. It was of course little comfort for the slaves themselves but after the island’s tobacco farming boom collapsed in the late 17th Century and the island’s economy turned to commerce, may slaves occupied highly skilled positions in the booming maritime trades. It appears that these economic changes were therefore also indirectly responsible for the early abolition of slavery in Bermuda. On August the 1st1834, slavery was abolished on Bermuda. Full political franchise and equality before the law did of course take a great deal longer to come about. Today, Bermuda’s black population appears from casual observation to have a significant middle class element but as elsewhere, black people also seem to be over represented amongst the poorer.
In contrast to with most of the Caribbean islands we visited, Bermuda today seems an affluent and well run economy and society. I’ve seen no slums or outright poverty, indeed the island compares favourably with the more well-to-do elements of American and European society. The contrast with Cuba, couldn’t be more stark! I don’t know whether the island’s wealth is all self-made or if it gets a heavy subsidy from the UK, of which it’s an overseas territory. The closest comparison I can make is with the French Caribbean islands such as Martinique and Guadalupe which are fully French. Unlike those islands however, which seem French from top to bottom and appear to benefit from central funding just like any other part of France, Bermuda quite clearly has its own unique identity. The extraordinary high prices of everything on the island must mean there is no subsidy from the UK. I must find out more!
After the Dockyard we took the Ferry to Hamilton. First stop was the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (Bermuda is most definitely a Royal island) because Rolph had arranged to have a package shipped to him care of the Club – a service the apparently provide for free to any visiting Yachtsman requiring it. After that we returned to Goslings to order our duty-free liquor! Then on to the town’s main supermarket to (part) provision for the passages ahead – Rolph plans on leaving on Saturday and I plan on leaving on Monday after my American friend from Boston – Tom Feeney, arrives on Sunday. Then it was the bus back to St George’s heavily laden with probably the most very expensive shopping I’ve ever done.
On our return to the boats, Rolph hosted drinks on board Dark and Stormy, for his fellow Swedes, Andreas, Mimi and Maria who were leaving for the Azores on Saturday. We had yet another very enjoyable evening.
Friday – a full gale hit St Georges building from about 0730 and peaking around 1000. The anchorage was a wild scene for a couple of hours. A number of boats dragged their anchors and at least one on the other side of the harbour ran hard aground when the wind veered from the south west to the north. Some of the boats near to Arctic Smoke were pitching wildly up and down and dinghies were being tossed into the air all over the place. Fortunately Arctic Smoke’s Anchor did its job well and we stayed put. AS seemed to be much more stable than many of her neighbours, some of which were significantly bigger.
St George’s is the first Anchorage where AS has had the company of a significant number of boats of a similar or smaller size. There must be a dozen or so in the immediate neighbourhood below 35 feet. First prize goes to the Ausie boat next to me. She’s all of 27 feet and has sailed here via The Cape of Good Hope with a crew of 2. That’s pretty impressive! We’re nearly all bound for the Azores over the next few days and so hopefully we’ll meet up again then.
Saturday – Monday – sorry not finished and got to go. Quick Summary…
Saturday I spent working on the boat. Checked the rigging and discovered the radar reflector bracket had split and that a block at the top of the mast for the spare halyards was about to break up. Lashed up the radar reflector and replaces the block. Also, set up emergency rope backstays.
Sunday morning prepared the boat for Tom’s arrival and met him at the Airport. We then took a bus and ferry trip up to the Dockyard in the hope of seeing some of the America’s Cup boats but we were too late. A quick look around Hamilton then back to St George’s just in time to get a good dinner at the local restaurant then back to the boat.
We now need to get going after some last-minute provisioning, fuel and water and clearing out. ETD 1400 local on Monday 15th.