After 4 days at sea, Boundless checked into Bermuda shortly after sunset on Wed, Nov 8 and stayed for 15 days before heading to Antigua. We spent that time regrouping, exploring Bermuda, doing chores, and waiting on weather.
Given their unique place of refuge in the middle of the Atlantic and the narrow channel through treacherous reefs to get to land, Bermuda takes check-in and communications with yachts in transit very seriously. I haven’t been to another island or country that follows such a proactive process. Per the prescribed protocol, before leaving the US, Doug registered the boat, crew and anticipated arrival information with the Bermuda authorities. Then when we were about 20 miles offshore, he called Bermuda Harbour Radio on the VHF radio to begin the check-in process. BHR is an amazingly well-run operation. They keep track of all vessels coming in, out, and around Bermuda and coordinate passage through the narrow channel through the reefs where only one boat can pass at a time. They also coordinate emergency rescues as we heard one afternoon when a boat headed to the BVI’s lost their propeller and then their mast and had to seek refuge in Bermuda. Yikes! But BHR juggled it all with no fuss and always a kind word – “have a safe voyage”, “welcome to Bermuda”, “cheers”.
BHR had our information on hand when Doug called and only asked a few questions before asking us to call them back as we approached the outside sea buoy. When we reached the buoy, Doug called again and we were given permission to enter into St. George’s town cut. They had also communicated with Customs and Immigration such that they were expecting our arrival at the Customs Dock.
We tied up to the dock and jumped ashore, only to realize that all of us but Andy had “the swells”. The swells occur when your body has become so accustomed to the nonstop movement of the boat that when you’re on solid ground, you still feel like you’re moving. It’s like sea sickness, only opposite. Walking straight is a little tricky and standing still without swaying is almost impossible.
After checking in, we picked through the dark anchorage and found a good place to drop anchor. Then we ate and dropped into deep sleep. Unfortunately, we all woke up every few hours thinking we were late for our next watch! Our bodies would take a few days before we could successfully sleep through the night.
We spent our first week in St. George’s, the former capital of Bermuda and the much smaller of its two main towns. In addition to the kids getting caught up with school and Doug and I doing various boat chores, we enjoyed the St. George’s area. We hiked through the scrub and along the shore to Fort St. Catherine, constructed in 1614 and Bermuda’s largest fort. It has beautiful views of the ocean and exhibits throughout a labyrinth of rooms and hallways.
We also caught up on our Bermuda history visiting some of the historical sites in St. George’s. Who knew than Bermuda was a major supplier of artillery and supplies to the Confederacy during the US Civil War?
After a week in St. George’s, we called BHR on the VHF and got permission to transit The Narrows, the narrow channel through the reef. We left St. George’s and made the 3 hour transit along the north side of the island to Hamilton, Bermuda’s major town. We found a snug anchor spot behind White’s Island across from Hamilton. Our protected spot was important as waves of storms passed over Bermuda for the next week. Only one day was a total washout, but many days included strong winds and rain for a period of time. We were happy to have a snug spot.
While in Hamilton, we took the bus to Church Bay for a great day of snorkeling on a deserted beach. Highly recommended.
We indulged Andy’s Marvel Comics obsession and went to see the Thor movie in town. Erin and I had tea with a woman I met via the Women Who Sail Facebook group. Always fun to meet fellow women sailors. We took the ferry to The Dockyard, on the Northwestern tip of Bermuda. The Dockyard is a former British Navy base that has been restored into a mix of museum, marina and retail space. The walking tour gave us lots of information on Bermuda history as well as the history of the Dockyard. And the Dockyard mini-golf, perched on a ledge at the very corner of the island overlooking the ocean, is by far the most gorgeous mini-golf venue I’ve seen.
For Doug and me, a highlight of our time in Hamilton was our date night to celebrate Doug’s birthday and our anniversary. If you know Doug, you know that one of his favorite things is watching live music. After going out to dinner, we headed to a local bar to catch a great band. A local Bermudian who now lives in Jackson, WY was back in town and joined his old band for the night. He was a great saxophone player and it looked like a large number of their old school buddies came out to watch the band. The bar was rocking, everyone was having a ball and the music was amazing. Super fun!
Finding a good weather window to leave Bermuda proved challenging. We originally planned to leave the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then the forecast shifted and we planned on leaving Thanksgiving Day, which this year was also Doug’s birthday. In the end, we decided to leave first thing Friday morning to allow the seas to settle on Thursday, but to hopefully get ahead of the next set of weather coming Friday afternoon (wait for our next blog post on our Antigua crossing to see if we were successful).
On Wednesday afternoon, we did a grocery run in Hamilton to get food for the passage and I finished up cooking a number of dinners that we could re-heat on passage. It’s always nice to have a hearty dinner at sea, but not too fun to cook anything complicated when the boat is heeled over. After weather blew through Thursday morning, we left Hamilton in the afternoon to return to St. George’s. We re-anchored in St. George’s and had a fun Thanksgiving/Birthday/Good-bye dinner ashore at the classic White Horse Tavern.
As I think back on Bermuda, one of the things that sticks most in my mind is how friendly the Bermudian people are. This is exemplified by their habit of giving a little horn honk as greeting or thanks. When a car passed us walking on an empty street, they tapped their horn and waved. When someone pulled over to allow another car to get by, there was always a little thank you honk. And one time, someone laid on the horn in a regular annoyed honk. The local woman behind me in line said, “where do they think they are, America?!”