The town of Marsh Harbour is the 3rd largest in the Bahamas (after Nassau and Freeport). That may be, but we only saw the quarter around the northernmost point. There is a marina and a supermarket there. We didn’t go into the marina because the water there is only about 2 m deep. The supermarket was easy to reach. There is a large public jetty from which you can easily walk to the supermarket. The facility is very close to the immigration office or customs building. There is not much going on in this harbour area. Many houses were in ruins, surely a consequence of the hurricane 2019. Some houses had already been nicely restored, but the whole area gave a rather sleepy impression. We did not venture further into the interior of the island or the city. Another strong wind area had been forecasted.
We sat out the strong wind at anchor. As beautiful as the Bahamas are, the weather here can be very uncomfortable. It rained cats and dogs for a whole day, the waves were fortunately not very high in our sheltered spot, but the gusts blew over us at up to 40 knots.
The weather forecast was observed and we looked for a weather window for the trip to Bermuda. We made shore excursions by dinghy and visited the supermarket several times to replenish our supplies. The supermarket here was not quite as expensive as the one in Nassau. I was surprised to see that some of the foodstuffs on offer had long since expired, such as soy milk, which had been out of date since February. It was only on my penultimate visit that I realised there had been a mistake. The date was 6.2., but the goods came from the US market, so the date meant June the second 😉 I was able to buy it after all.
In order that we didn’t get bored, the strong wind gave us new tasks. Several zips tore at the seam of the bimini tent. At first we thought it could be mended by hand sewing, but there were too many spots. Besides, it had been bothering me for quite a while that the seams had all not been properly done and were now gradually threatening to unravel. As soon as the weather was a bit calmer again, I took off the bimini roof and started to sew with the machine. The whole thing was so disastrous that I had to resew every single seam. This time the edges got a zigzag stitch. It almost looked as if the threads used were not UV-resistant. In any case, the skylight had already become totally discoloured and brittle. Without further ado, we cut it out and sewed the flap shut. Somehow I had expected better quality. I was busy for three days, always threading 4 bobbin rolls at a time and using up a whole spool of thread. Then I had resewn all the seams on the canopy and the front cover and at least mended the broken parts on the other parts. There was no time for more before we wanted to sail.
Mathias made several trips with the dinghy and our diesel canisters to refuel because we couldn’t go to the petrol station because of the draft. He paid by credit card until we decided to reduce our dollar cash. It was much cheaper if we paid cash. We should have known that beforehand. US dollars can still be used in Bermuda, but the Azores already belong to Portugal and we will be in the Eurozone. We’re going home 😉
On Monday, 8 May, we were ready. The weather window looked ok, the provisioning could last until the Azores. We boarded the dinghy and went ashore for a last purchase of fresh vegetables and to take care of the formalities. The official formalities were again no problem at all. We didn’t need our passports at all, only the boat had to be exported again. If I understood correctly, the cruising permit also includes the residence permit for 2 people on board. Anyway, everything went very easily and the official was really nice again. Quite different from the rest of the Caribbean.
The crossing brought many calm areas and then the wind came directly from Bermuda and we had to tack. Only slowly did the distance to the island decrease. We had hoped to be there in 5 days. But since the headwind came earlier than announced, nothing came of it. Headwinds alternated with lulls, and the engine had to be used far too often. We were slow to get used to the watch rhythms. We didn’t have a new AIS, but the radio also shows the AIS ships around us. But first you have to enter your own position. This makes sense anyway, because the device starts beeping after 4 hours without an update and because you want the position to be more or less correct when a distress call with automatic position information is sent by the device. So we could see that 3 other sailing boats, which had left Marsh Harbour shortly before us, were obviously also heading for Bermuda. In general, the route is well frequented by freighters and tankers, every few days there was one in sight. I radioed one at night and asked if he could see us. He checked his radar and confirmed that he could maintain his course.
One morning Mathias woke up, sniffed and was surprised to smell goulash. He feared that something had leaked somewhere. But that was not the case. The crew had warmed up the rest of the rest of goulash during the night watch. The crew has an advantage here because, on the one hand, they are initiated into the secrets of operating the microwave and, on the other hand, they have an overview of the contents of the cans in the fridge 😉 So the crew can prepare a hot meal at night. When you’re awake at night, you get hungry at night. I will call this meal “two-o’clock-sies”.
Once we saw something white appear in front of us. On closer inspection it turned out to be a fender. It was in a light wind phase, so we did a buoy-overboard-manoeuvre and collected the fender. It’s a good quality piece. The growth was scraped off and we were pleased with our find and that we could prevent it from becoming plastic waste in the sea just yet.
For days it looked like we were going to collide with an Atlantic observation buoy. In the end, we passed it a few miles away and could only see its light on the horizon very faintly in the dark.
We have discovered a new sleeping corner: on a camping mat between the cupboards. There you feel the ship’s movements even less than on the couch and I can put my head in the dark corner when it’s still light at 6 or 7 in the evening but I need to sleep. Here, even in the dark, the bright light for our fellow-passenger-plants is not so disturbing. That light turns off when I have to get up again. Maybe I should reprogram it….
Unfortunately, the trip was not without problems. Mathias was alone shaking out the reefs of the mainsail. In the process, he pulled a little too hard on the mainsail halyard with the electric winch and the cover over the dyneema core of the halyard tore. In the next calm phase, Mathias set about putting on a new cover at the same spot. To do this, the main halyard had to be temporarily held under tension in a different way. At the next anchorage, it still has to be shortened at the top so that the spot with the cover does not have to run through the cleat.
On the penultimate day of our crossing, the wind freshened and shifted so that we could set a spinnaker. This gave us a speed of 8-12 knots (max. 14.7) and we were speeding almost straight for Bermuda. (When we were tacking, we had only been moving towards our destination at about 4 knots.) In the evening, everything was still going smoothly when I went to lie down. In the night I was woken up by a sound of the sail, Mathias was dozing. The wind was meanwhile moving around 20 knots. That’s too exciting for me with the Spi up. So Mathias had to stay awake through the night (could have woken me up to take the thing down). The following morning we took down the spinnaker when the wind was supposed to get even stronger and the direction was no longer favourable for us. In the process, the sail briefly wrapped itself around the genoa. Afterwards I saw that it was torn at the leach – a new sewing job. In a lot of wind, you have to be strong to pull the recovery sock over the spinnaker. We now have a snap pulley, which I hang on the line loop and attach to the deck. This helps because I have a different pulling angle and also resistance for my hand when the sail pulls. Nevertheless, Mathias had to come to the front to help – I should have gone to the gym with James after all.
The last stretch to Bermuda was relatively relaxed, the island shielded the waves. Once we swapped the jib for the genoa because the heeling was annoying, but that didn’t last long. Shortly before the entrance to the lagoon, the sails came down and we motored through.
We had already registered with Bermuda Radio. They asked for everything, even the Epirb number and our satellite phone number. This was done in the finest British English and with politeness: “Would you please change to my working Channel 27”.
At first we were surprised, but then realised that Bermuda belongs to the United Kingdom. In the supermarket one can buy scones and tikka masala curry sauce, digestive biscuits – yammy!
Before we got to the supermarket, we had to clear in, of course. Bermuda Radio instructed us to moor at the customs jetty. We wanted to anchor first and then come in with the dinghy. All right, we got the fenders out with our last ounce of strength. We were already close to the jetty, so I dashed across the deck and handled the fenders. There was no help at the jetty either, but I managed to climb over and moored the SAN. The officer in charge continued the courtesy, welcoming us while we filled out various forms. I have to say that we had not made use of the internet registration in advance because the mobile phone connection was not sufficient for webpages when we arrived. The official had taken a fancy to Mathias’ doctorate. First she asked me if I was a nurse, then she asked what kind of doctorate it was. In the case of physics, she was duly impressed. 🙂 From then on he was just called “Doctor”, but she still told him what his priorities are: “Doctor! You take your wife out for dinner! Wahoo is a very good seafood restaurant, you take her there!” Together we laughed about the length of the SAN in the German papers (15.99 m), which was accurate to the centimetre. On this arrival day, we just went back on board, cast off again and anchored. Then the fenders were collected and we lay down. There was a lot of sleep to catch up on. The crossing had taken almost exactly 7 days. If you look at the track, it doesn’t look so bad. On the way, it felt at times as if we weren’t making much progress. Looking back, everything is good and we are happy to have reached yet another goal.
We anchored here in the usual way at the edge of the anchorage. There remained a gap into which another boat could probably fit. The next day we looked out and suddenly three Danish boats arrived, all three of them squeezing into the gap. 🙂
Bermuda was an important British military base for a long time, now the dock facilities serve as a jetty for cruise ships. Smaller yachts, however, sail to another place: St. George Town. The town has brightly painted houses, some in pastel colours, some in bright colours, blue, turquoise, orange, red. Most of the roofs are white and have special tiles to catch the water. Otherwise, it looks British and mostly well-kept. This pleasant appearance combined with the well-protected anchorage makes for a relaxed atmosphere, almost a pity we don’t want to stay longer.
In addition to the cruisers, the island is also visited by many private yachts that stop over here, as we did. When we arrived, the boats of the “ARC Europe” were present. This is a rally that follows the ARC across the Atlantic as a return event. Due to the many yachts, the dinghy jetty here was hopelessly overcrowded. Sometimes you had to tie up in the third row. In the meantime, the ARC boats have left for the Azores. Let’s see if we can catch up with some of them. With a sailing time of about 3 weeks, that can happen. The rally start had a fixed date, we will leave after a strong wind area has passed.
I found a few souvenirs. Otherwise, it is very expensive here. We did not visit the restaurant recommended by the customs officer. The menu was not impressive, but the prices were. We cooked ourselves a nice meal on board where we also can sit right by the water. 🙂
A guided tour of the town is planned, which promises an interesting history. Then it’s off on the long beat to the Azores. That’s about 1900 nm, for us the longest distance to sail so far. We expect it to take about 3 weeks. So the next blog will take a while, but will certainly be interesting. In the meantime, follow us on our satellite tracker.