Virgin Islands to Bermuda
25th April to 5th May
Video doesn’t show the lightning as it was….but it shows it isn’t always sunny!
Henrietta can write this post. I’m tired.
H: Yes, M seems a bit listless and subdued, generally rather frazzled I think. He groans and grunts sometimes too, which I consider a clear and pathetic sign of old age and minor injury. Can’t really see why he makes such a fuss though. He’s lucky to be sailing with me, and the sun has been shining most of the time and he’s been sitting and lying about a lot reading and eating. If he wasn’t pottering about with me, enjoying the fresh air and magnificent ocean, he’d be fretting about the British weather and dirt-dwelling anxieties like the EU referendum or rubbish on telly. Better for him to be at sea, I reckon.
Anyway, once again I’ve done the really hard work of sailing us north – 850 miles north from the British Virgin Isles.
For some reason, M thought Bermuda was close to the Caribbean, just up the road as it were, a kind of geological afterthought to the Caribbean. So it was quite a surprise to see they’re so far apart, not apparently linked geologically in any way; indeed with some ocean chasms over 7,000 metres deep in between. To put it another way, Bermuda from Virgin Islands is half way to Canada, or in a European context, the equivalent of crossing the Bay of Biscay from Land’s End twice. (Enough geography for one day, but it goes to show how unrealistic we are about distances once we are away from our home patch. Here’s a quiz question for British pubs: To the nearest 50 miles, how many miles is it from Barbuda – near Antigua – to Bermuda?)
The start of our trip was fine until the first evening, then fine again till the third evening. On the first and third evenings there were some very alarming thunderstorms. I know M was really scared. If I had human feelings I’d have been scared too. The thing was, these storms were huge and covered the whole horizon with near constant lightning flashes and continuous rumbling and roaring and growling. M suffered a sort of sensory overload: the sight of wild lightning over white-crested waves, endless electric flashing in blue white slashing sizzlers down to the sea and brightening the dark clouds overhead; the sounds of fast sailing splashing coupled with roaring and cracking; and the feel of massed raindrops and hot electrified air on naked skin – all this magnified ten times with the arrival of darkness. M was below trying to distract his fears by washing up dishes when a harsh and deafening crack and flash blinded the sky, an explosion right with us. I cannot believe I was hit and know I wasn’t but, whatever, the windvane electrics have stopped working. (M guesses a cut-out in the transducer has been triggered by proximity of shock. M himself was just a bit shakey. Were he not teetotal at sea, he’d have had a stiff drink to calm his nerves.Instead, he put more clothes on; I think he thinks if you’re going to be struck by lightning, it would be more dignified to be properly dressed. Human beings!)
However rare the occurrence of direct lightning strikes, it does not lessen the sense of powerlessness and, whereas sailors can plan and work to lessen the dangers of storms and ships and fog and rocks, there is almost nothing a boat can do to escape the risk of lightning. Us boats, we just cross our fingers – or we would if we could.
After the thunderstorms there was very little wind and what there was was from ahead; and we wallowed around a lot with sails flipping and flopping; very frustrating times. M has a bit of an aversion to the engine; me too – bad vibes; and also there wasn’t enough diesel for more than two days of engine. So wallowing around it was. We looked at clouds, downloaded some weather charts, tacked this way and that, wallowed a bit more. And I know that for a while M thought of abandoning Bermuda and going straight to the Azores nearly 2,000 miles away (but he didn’t fancy up to three weeks with half a cabbage and one carrot to eat, then tinned stuff and lentils.)
After eight days we got to Bermuda.
Back to M……
Bermuda seems wealthy. The little town of St George’s, where we cleared in, is immaculate with smart pale-painted colonial style buildings, and bevvies of cruise ship wrinklies wandering hither and thither, and a smattering of ocean sailors (though probably less than ten, as I’m here before most). It’s another UNESCO World Heritage Site and, more useful for me, the local supermarket has Waitrose tea bags.
If you happen to sail this way, I should tell you that Bermuda monitors its coasts with big-brotherly diligence. I was called on VHF when at least 20 miles away (told I was being tracked on radar and AIS). I gave them lots of details – even the number of EPIRB (something that took a lot of hunting down as it’s a 16 digit hexadecimal that I don’t carry in my head). Planning to arrive at first light I was asked to delay to let cruise ship through. Anyhow I’ve been such a fine model of maritime good behaviour that the traffic control folk have been helping me ever since: telling me to turn round when they saw I was going the wrong way for customs dock, then suggesting this little narrow creek behind Smith’s Island for sheltered anchorage in the coming gales.
There are some very smart and discreet houses for neighbours, only the sounds of barking guard dogs, and drone of ride-on lawn mowers (and sometimes a jet doing things at the airport nearby). I think we’ll be here a few days as the forecast is not promising. Too early to have seen much of Bermuda, anyway. I’ll head off now to be a wrinkly tourist myself.
OOOHHH! Cockroach bulletin no.2 – None seen. Bait traps all over the place.
EThe answer to that pub quiz question: 900.