Friday, 24 April 2015

Passage to Bermuda


I took a pleasant walk down a long track marked private, past signs warning of rapid security responses to suspicious behaviour (the trick is to walk through as if you own the place, or at least as if you might be invited to such a place). Well, it might be the last walk for a while, and people who put up such signs are usually protecting the nicest places. There were many fancy houses, and hammocks under the palms, and volley ball courts and curly tailed lizards and woodpeckers. I took amusing photographs of it all and thought up witty and wonderful captions to go along with them and loaded the photos onto my laptop.

Tom from Triad called by to give me a giant can of grapefruit juice to mix half and half with the rum or to ward off the scurvy. I can't remember which. Anyway, thanks Tom, and I'm so glad we met and you were able to keep up.
I sailed off in the afternoon on a light breeze.



Wind died slowly and I've been becalmed for the last 3-4 hours.

The laptop died. I can't fix it. Nothing shows on the screen. (That's why there are none of those final photographs of Georgetown, with all the witty captions.)

I have my little crappy spare laptop working but the keyboard is half bust and it has old versions of my navigation software. Still, it shows a chart and my position and connects to the AIS. So long as that one stays alive, I'm OK.
I've sailed 100 miles so far, 630 to go.

It's going to be a long night. It was a very hot day, and I snoozed through quite a bit of it, so not tired. There'll be no moon.



At midnight, a light breeze arrived. Dead against, but I started tacking into it at 2.5 knots. 30 degrees off the desired course, but something!

Dawn. Wind steady force 1 all night, now turned another 5 degrees against me. So it's now coming almost directly from Bermuda. The forecast had been for beam winds coming more and more astern. Done 21 miles through the night, 17 closer to Bermuda. This is hardly progress.

The wind picked up later and I'm doing 5 knots close to wind across flat water. There are tall thick clouds to the north east. I think the low I was waiting to pass by has come further south than forecast. That's why I'm getting NE winds. And I remember a patch of calm before the NE winds came. So I'm getting the right pattern, but the pattern is further south. Not worried though. I'm too far south to be affected by the strong winds, and there were several days of decent wind from the S and SW forecast.


The wind increased and gradually I've been able to aim closer and closer to Bermuda, and eventually, free the sheets. It had been a lot of work adjusting the sails so frequently, so I set about making myself a nice lunch. Chick peas etc. I held off, spuds or pasta, in case I caught a fish. Water was boiling for pasta when a dorado struck, and emptied the fishing reel of line. I slowed the boat and reeled in the biggest one yet. The last one had provided two meals for 5 people. I didn't put a lot of potatoes in the pan.

The fish was just cooked when I noticed a water spout forming under a black cloud.


Unfortunately I stood watching it open mouthed rather than look for my camera, but you can still make out the top and bottom of the spout on the right of the picture (it became disconnected in the middle).
I decided to evade that one, but a line of black cloud formed across my path and it seems unlikely I'll find my way through a gap.


Phew. What a day. Squalls. Mostly flat seas, then the wind comes and I'm doing 8 knots steady and hold that for as long as I dare, then reef the mainsail and swap jibs, then when the wind dies again, put a bit more sail up, but not as much as before cos now the sea is all lumpy and after a while the boat starts to wallow, and more sail is needed. Then it's a bumpy 5 knots or so till the sea flattens or the next squall comes.

The wind turned dead against and increased. I reduced sail and was still going 4.5 knots through rough water and at only 10-20 degrees. So I was basically sailing north, and I know that further north there's a strong east wind, so I gave up and hove to, for the first time with this boat. It's nowhere near a gale, but parking this way is easy and comfortable. I just left the reefed mainsail up and tied the tiller to leeward. The boat sits pointing close to the wind, going nowhere. I should be able to get some sleep though there was lightning upwind, so maybe a thunderstorm is coming. No moon, pitch black, so hard to tell.


17/4/2015 06:23

I awoke to the sound of the bathroom floor floating about, banging on the hull sides. It had rained so much in the night that the rain catching system had caused the giant green bucket to overflow. The collecting tank in the kitchen had also overflowed, but not enough to float the floors.

More urgent than dealing with that though was my own need for a bucket. Yesterday's large lunch of fish made me feel a little queasy all day, but there was so much fish to eat and it would have been such a waste that I had the same again for dinner. Not so good. Sadly, the rest will have to go overboard later, and I won't fish again unless I get desperately sick of beans. It's such a waste to kill such a big beautiful fish.... This one had a companion that swam alongside it till it was lifted into the boat.

I drifted just two miles to the east through the night, and now there is light wind and large messy swells and large clumps of black clouds in every direction. I'm not sure if it would be worth the bother of putting up sail to try to make some progress through the slop, or just leave it and wait for kinder steadier weather.
Why did I collect rain water anyway? My tanks are full enough. I had a vague idea of doing dinner laundry, but I have only two items that need washing.


I sailed through the slop, making the best of it, but it was hard work. An unpleasant motion and I frequently needed to adjust the sails and then stop the main boom bashing about. When the mainsail flaps about it puts a great strain on the gooseneck fitting, which I've had doubts about since the day it was fitted.

The gooseneck attaches the boom to the mast, allowing articulation up and down and from side to side. But when the mainsail bangs about, there is a rotational force on the fitting too, which causes a creaking and groaning I don't like at all. It is the only source of creaking on the boat, although there is one other source of groaning. I'd mentioned this problem to Tom and he showed me the gooseneck on Triad, which does allow the boom to rotate, the first design I've seen like that. When I mentioned that this might be a problem to the rigger that fitted the gooseneck, he said yeah, they break - keep the old one as a spare. Hmm, not so clever. I keep the gooseneck wet with WD40, and tie a preventer to the boom too, but this means there's an extra rope to undo and refasten every time I adjust the mainsail. Maybe I'm being over cautious.

Large black clouds in front and behind.

I hear loud thunder from behind and I'm beginning to think I'm doomed, but instead of being overtaken by a squall, the clouds spread out to fill the sky, and now I'm left sailing in grey gloom with lots of rain. The rain flattens the waves generated by the nearby wind, but great swells remain, coming from the east, and sailing over it at 6-7 knots is a bit roller coasterish. However, it's nice to be making decent speed directly to Bermuda for once, so no complaints.

I dumped the fish, and I'm feeling better now. I'm feeding on bananas, as it turns out the yellow, green and really green ones I bought are all ripening at the same time again, despite even going to the trouble of putting some hard green ones in the other cabin so they're not affected by the ether released by the ripening ones.
The crap little laptop warns me of a ship nearby. It proves the AIS is working. Actually, the phone is better for navigating, but the laptop is necessary for AIS. It uses quite a bit more electricity though, and there was little sun yesterday, and none at all today.

I've been drifting about often at 2 knots or less. I've decided even 2 knots is better than nothing. Nearly fifty miles a day. It's a struggle to minimise wear on the sails and to keep changing the sails about with every wind shift, bit what else to do? Sit and wait?

I seem to be in the middle of a low. I haven't seen the sun all day, and it has been raining half the time. I just wear a rain jacket and no trousers - it's too much, too hot, too much hassle to find waterproof trousers as well, and I now have 3 wet pairs of trousers, so I've given up.

At the last sail change I saw a great tuna jump out very close to the boat, leaping like a dolphin. The tail was vertical, not horizontal, but I wasn't sure if I could believe my eyes, so I hoped it would jump again. It did, one more time, right beside the cockpit where I was looking for it, a magnificent tuna. :)


18/4/2015 00:40

I awoke to find the boat doing 3 knots under a starry sky. Much relieved! Perhaps steady winds at last, so I raised the main and I'm now doing 4.5-5 knots on target. Worth getting up for, and still a steady motion to go to back to sleep with.


Only two major sail changes in the night, and I slept solid the rest of the time. I'd expect to feel totally refreshed, but I'm not. Still the wind is benevolent, light and from astern. I was surprised not to see the sun - there is thick cloud all about again, especially from behind. I'm doing my best to run away from it. It's nice to be able to sit about without having to keep out of the sun, but the batteries could really do with charging more now. I think they've had 3 days of thick cloud.

The black clouds don't bring heavy wind. Not squalls. Just rain. So I stay indoors with all windows and doors shut. This allows me to keep my trousers on. I feel more civilised with trousers on.


Halfway to Bermuda. It's been pretty slow so far with one night hove to and another becalmed, and then light headwinds.

Today, all day since dawn, the boat has sailed at 6 knots or more with the genoa and jib together on the forestay. Wind dead steady, and perfect speed. I'd get bored, but I'd gladly go all the way like this. The black clouds brought only a little rain. All day, the cloud everywhere I can see has gradually lifted higher and higher and they are no longer gloomy and menacing. Hopefully, tomorrow, after three very dark days unlike any I've seen in the Caribbean ( I guess I'm not in the Caribbean any more) there might be sunshine. I do my best to catch whatever sunshine is available.

I'm actually a bit cold, late afternoon. Guess I'd better get used to that.


19/4/2015 04:36

Becalmed. The wind has been constant in direction, from behind, for 36 hours, which has been great, but it started to slow at dusk and now progress isn't worth having the sails flapped about by the sails. 312 to Bermuda, 394 from Bahamas. Quite a bit of cloud about which is a shame. The batteries really need some sunshine. This crappy laptop uses twice as much power as my bust one did.

I've worn a jumper all night. It's been necessary!


A light westerly came at dawn, and I got the boat going at 1-2 knots. I was wondering if the amount of electricity used by the autopilot was worth the progress, and decided I should alter the autopilot settings so that it is less sensitive. That helped a lot. I think I have reduced the power consumption and wear and tear by at least a third. It's something I should have done a long time ago.

I've found also that I can put the little laptop to sleep and just check it every now and again for ships. That saves a lot of power too. Obvious, but if I'd put the other laptop to sleep, it wouldn't wake up, so I'd forgotten about that facility.

The sun came out, so I've hung the solar panels over the bow and the batteries are slurping up the power. Phew.
It's quite cool outside. Clear though, and that is much pleasanter than the overcast gloom and rain I've had the last few days. I saw a large dolphin and I see lots of Portuguese man-of-wars, or is it Portuguese men-of-war? Jelly fish with sails. Yeah, really. Did I mention the fish that fly already?


The wind is now from the east, coming from Bermuda. I'm close-hauled again, making just 3 knots. Approaching Bermuda at 1.5 miles per hour.


A little yellow bird called by.

It doesn't eat rice. I know this because I scattered rice over the deck wherever it landed. It looks like an insect eater, so I had nothing better to offer.

It got fed up with having rice thrown at it after a flight of at least 350 miles so it went indoors and studied French.

At last the wind has changed a little. I'm only 30 degrees off course now, but it seems to have settled on that. Hmmm, all I can do is use whatever wind I find to take the course that will bring me closest to the target. At least the batteries are now well charged.


20/4/15 07:06

232 miles to Bermuda. The wind very gradually turned more southerly and every hour or so through the night I'd adjust course a bit and finally at 4:30 I was able to point the boat directly at Bermuda. I've now also been able to loosen the sheets a little, and I'm making 4.5 knots. The wind is light, but I have a reef in the main and just the little jib up. The waves are all over the place but mostly I'm bashing into them so I keep it slow till the seas even out a bit.

Cloudy again. This isn't the tropics any more. This is the sub tropics. I've had a jumper on the last 24 hours and I slept under a duvet.


I've had headwinds all day, but at least I didn't have to tack. The wind got up and I had to put a second reef in the mainsail. I'd had waves over the roof occasionally, but it was just waves the windward bow dug into and flipped up. They are not that big at all really. The waves are hardly breaking even, but they're messy. Putting the second reef in stopped the but digging in, and it didn't show the boat much at all.

Dark cloud ahead again, so I'm guessing the wind will go round the clock, becoming southerly then westerly which would suit me fine. I'm thinking I could do with a day or two at anchor to get my bearings. It feels like I've been inside a washing machine for a few days. I'd certainly like to leave Bermuda with a following wind for at least a few days. Far pleasanter and easier than this bashing to windward palaver.


21/4/15 06:40 

134 miles to Bermuda.

Tuesday already! I've been out nearly a week. I feel overdue.

The wind did what I told it and it is now from just east of south. It was quite strong in the night, so I  made good but bouncy progress. Wind lighter this morning, but still bouncy! Doing 4.5 knots and there are no breaking waves. I should be able to set more sail and get going but the waves are all over the place and the bows dig in quite often even at this speed. I guess the seas are a result of the fact that the wind coming from so many directions.
I was sitting on the bucket in the cockpit thinking about raising more sail anyway when a wave came over the bow, bounced on the bridgedeck roof and went down my back. I left the sails as they were.

Another day so grey it doesn't matter where I put the solar panels. Which is OK as I'd probably get wet moving them. The sea is quite a bit colder than the Bahamas and it occurred to me in the night that I should find a thicker duvet.

I'm quite wobbly on the legs in the morning. But it's hard to tell, the boat being so wobbly. I would very much like to take a walk. I've decided to definitely stop in Bermuda, whatever the wind is doing. For a rest, and to walk awhile before the next stage of my confinement.

I might have to temporarily seal up the kitchen hatch too. Waves keep getting in there, and it's not good for the cooker, and I'd be no good without a cooker.


I did put full sail up at last and have spent most of the day sailing at 6-7 knots. I can't help it, but progress or the lack of it affects the mood greatly. Half an hour ago, black cloud came from behind and I put a couple of reefs in the main so I wouldn't have to do it in the rain. The rain came, and the wind has become more westerly as expected. There's a pattern to this weather.

61 miles to go to the nearest edge of Bermuda. It's a week now to do 730 miles. That's a bit pathetic.




It's dawn sort of. Low dark grey cloud all around. And chilly. But at least there is a light and favourable wind that has had me going a good speed through the night with just one sail change. The miles I've been measuring to Bermuda were to the closest corner.

The harbour is on the opposite corner, and I've had to sail round some shallow areas that are full of fish traps. So, 20 miles to go to the island and 15 or so, up the coast to the harbour.
Here's the harbour entrance at last.

And Scrumpy anchored finally. Just in front of the cannon.

Easy eh?

Here's the route a tired man makes looking for a spot to anchor. I'm early in the season. There are only a few yachts here. There's lots of room! It's just that I can't think straight!

At anchor, Neil from a neighbouring catamaran came over to invite me to a barbeque (too tired) and to ask if he might borrow some tools. His boat was robbed 3 times in Luperon and he has very few tools left. He needs to replace his gooseneck.

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