The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - The Trip South, 2009, Part II, Nantucket to Bermuda
Updated January 20, 2010

No Shortage of Opportunities for Photos

Nantucket Street

As forecast, it rained all day the Saturday before we left Nantucket, and we hunkered down in the boat, which was nice and warm. We did venture over to our neighbor, the schooner Alabama, for a cup of hot chowder and a sandwich in the company of a group of young people in town for the "Stroll."

By late afternoon the rain let up and we went out to the "Rose and Crown," the pub we had adopted, as is our usual custom (or perhaps they had adopted us).
Sunday dawned fair with a blustery northwest wind, and we waited a little for the storm to move further away and for the wind to knock the southerly sea

Nantucket is Full of Beautiful Old Houses

down. We left the harbor at noon with 20 knots of northwest wind gusting to 30 knots, and started on the circuitous route to clear Nantucket Shoals again.

We made pretty good time, and by Monday evening we were well into the Gulf Stream. Later that evening we slowed down a little, as the wind was west-southwest and gusting to 40 knots. The cause of the wind and seas was another low moving down the coast, and we decided Tuesday evening to get south as fast as we could, by-passing Bermuda, to get as far away from the low as possible.

Main Street, Nantucket

We had southeast winds, veering to southwest, and all was fine until Wednesday afternoon, when as I was napping I was brought to my feet by the screech of machinery in torment. I quickly shut down all the systems, then brought them up again, when all seemed normal. When we got underway, however, we discovered that we had no steering. A quick check confirmed that the steering system was working correctly, so the only possible conclusion was that we had somehow lost the rudder!

Fortunately, it was about time for our daily weather check with Herb Hilgenberg, and he reminded us about steering with a drogue, which I had done before, but not with a boat this size or in these conditions. I rigged a drogue out of a folding chair and a piece of plywood (With its 4-legged bridle it looked like a tiny trawl door.), and we were able to make way under control. We could not steer far enough south of east to get to Bermuda, however, so we hove to in order to wait for a wind shift after the front we were under went by. Herb was very helpful and made radio contact with us every 3 hours. He also reported our situation regularly to the Coast Guard at Norfolk and to Bermuda Radio.

The Improvised Drogue - Just Like a Tiny Trawl Door
We hove to, lying to the drogue as a sea anchor, and waited for better conditions. By 6:30 Thursday morning the wind had veered to southwest, 25-30 knots, and when we got underway we could make about 120 degrees, which was enough to move us toward Bermuda. We did not want to go too far south, however, because of the extensive reefs north of the islands. By Thursday evening we were about 35 miles north of Bermuda and we decided to heave to again and wait for the wind to go northwest after the front passed, so we could go straight south to the entrance to St. George's Harbor. By this time we were in contact with Bermuda Radio, and they informed us that if we could make it to the "Spit" buoy off the entrance to St. George's they would arrange for a small tug to tow us in through the Town Cut. The course we needed to steer was 185° magnetic, and by 6:00 on Friday morning the wind was northwest, about 16 knots, and we could make good 190° and calculate a reasonably accurate ETA for Bermuda Radio.By 12:30 Bermuda Time we were passing the Kitchen Shoal light, at 13:30 we picked up a towline from the little line-handling tug Line1, and by 14:00 on December 11th we were anchored in St. George's harbor.

Mark, of Bermuda Yacht Services, invited us to their Christmas party that very evening, so we had a very pleasant and social introduction to St. George's.

Under Tow

The Town of St. George

Once in St. George's harbor, with the boat secure, the first order of business was to catch up with our old friend Steve Hollis, who runs Ocean Sails. We have been friends since 1985, when I spent 3 weeks in St. George's baby-sitting American Promise. Monday morning Steve and I checked with two shops that had the capability of building a new rudder for Barbara, but we found they were both too busy and did not want to undertake such a large project with the Christmas holiday coming up.

Fortunately, a Skype call to Dave Wyllie at Lyman-Morse established that they would be happy to make a new rudder and could get right on it, so with a flurry of emailed drawings and questions that was settled.

The next job was to arrange our trip back to the US for our big family Christmas. We had intended to be in the BVI by this time and to fly back from Tortola, but we managed to get about the last two seats on a flight to New York on December 24th and a return a few days later. With that arranged, all we had to do was wait, explore St. George's, and keep the boat safe in the procession of gales that swept over Bermuda. The weather was a matter of some concern, as we had no steering, of course, and we had winds pretty steadily in the 30-knot range, with gusts to 40 or 50, but our anchors (with a lot of scope) held well and we stayed right where we were.

A Typical Alley in St. George

Prospero summons Ariel back from the "still-vex'd Bermoothes," and while I know there is a consensus that Shakespeare did not really mean Bermuda (to him it was surely just an unimaginably far-off place, only just discovered), his description is still apt.

It was a pleasure to walk around St. George's again and show its tiny alleys and old houses to Barbara. It is a town I know well, but I didn't quite realize how thoroughly it shuts down in the winter, with carols booming out from the Town Hall over the empty square. It was nice to see the preparations for Christmas at St. Peters, with the crèche set up and evergreens hung about the old cedar walls.

Once a Patrician House, Now Preserved

Many of the houses date from the 18th century and most are painted in bright pastel colors. All have gleaming whitewashed roofs with a stepped pattern that leads rain water to a cistern. There are no (or very few) wells on Bermuda, and each household collects and saves its own water supply.

On the 23rd we moved the boat for safe-keeping to one of Steve Hollis's moorings, and early in the morning of the 24th we were off to the airport and our flight to New York. We spent a very pleasant time with family members both in New York City and Connecticut, and on the 29th we flew back to Bermuda.

Saint Peter's Church

St. Peter's Cemetery

The Unfinished Cathedral

Two More Walled Lanes, This One Almost Tropical in its Lushness

We had a good time in St. George's and met some good people: Ky and Hannah were sailing Beatrice to Europe when they were dismasted and limped back to Bermuda under a jury rig. When we arrived, they were almost finished with their repairs and ready to set out for the Caribbean. Another boat, Rights of Man, had been towed in from way offshore with steering problems but Jack and Marcia had her about ready to go again too.
The "Bridge House"

We did some chores on the boat (always there are chores), walked a good deal, and twice went into Hamilton, the capitol and "big city" of Bermuda, once for some paperwork having to do with leaving the boat over Christmas, and once to buy a new computer keyboard and just sightsee a little.

We tried to take different bus routes each time, and in that way saw quite a lot of the island. The bus rides themselves were fun, with the little busses whipping around corners and different people getting on and off.

Another Shot of the Cemetery

Unlike the Town of St. George, Hamilton is a formally laid-out city, with rectangular blocks, big buildings (many banks), and even several traffic lights.

There are many good restaurants, and we had lunch out each trip. We even spent part of one afternoon watching some of the European soccer championship on television.

After Christmas the weather improved a little, and one day we had a call on the radio from Bermuda Yacht Services. It appeared that the next day, Tuesday, January 5, a break in the weather was expected, and that would be a good day to tow us to the other end of Bermuda, where there was a yard with a travel lift large enough for us.

Barbara Anchored in St. George's Harbor

So it was that we were again under tow, this time in sheltered waters and on a good day. The tow took about an hour and a half, and by 13:30 we were tied alongside a wharf in the old Royal Navy Dockyard at the extreme northwest end of Bermuda.

The Dockyard is an amazing place. It is a collection of stone buildings laid out like a fortress, built by Britain after the American Revolution deprived them of a strong presence on the west coast of the Atlantic.

Front Street in Hamilton

The buildings are made of local stone, and the work of quarrying and building was carried out by untold armies of convicts in the first quarter of the 19th century.

The idea was to create a Gibraltar-like base not vulnerable to attack from land or sea where ships could be repaired and provisioned (and later coaled). there are huge halls where all parts of a ship, from spars to flags, were made and stored. There are huge gunpowder magazines in the inner fortress, along with storage buildings for ships' cannon and other armaments.

Rock Formations in Hamilton

There is the enormous "Victualling Yard," a walled and gated quadrangle of buildings where food was prepared for naval ships, primarily, of course, by salting. The former cooperage, where casks were made to hold the food aboard ship, is now a bar, resataurant, and micro-brewery, a very fitting use, we think,.
The Forbidding East Wall of the Former Naval Dockyard/Fortress

The Sweep of the Dockyard From the Commissioner's House

The whole Dockyard is surrounded by massive walls, topped by cannon of various generations. I believe it was never very seriously attacked.

After the Dockyard was no longer useful to the Royal Navy (in the 50s, I think) it was more-or-less abandoned, except for a former barracks that was used as a prison. Now, however, its development has been contracted to a private company and the place is a hive of activity, with a shopping mall, restaurants, artisans' workshops and studios, and even a movie theater.

Barbara Alongside at the Former Naval Dockyard

While we waited for the new rudder we lay alongside a wharf in the old "Camber," a slipway where naval ships would be hauled out altogether or careened for bottom work. The marine railway and associated workshops are now the center of activities for the Department of Marine and Ports Services.

Here all Bermudian government vessels, pilot boats, police boats, tugs and ferries, are maintained, and in a separate shop navigational buoys are painted and repaired. It is a busy place.

The Camber is also the location of the travel lift belonging to West End Yachts, yet another business in the old buildings. There we would be hauled out so I could bolt on the new rudder, but let's not get ahead of the story.

The guys in the fab shop at Lyman-Morse finished the rudder ahead of schedule, but the freight service they (L-M) used has serious delusions of adequacy. Instead of simply trucking the rudder to Logan and putting it on a direct flight, they sent it via Philadelphia, where it spent 2 days. Then came the most frustrating part; the rudder was on Bermuda, but not available to us through some paperwork mixup, for three more days!

Meanwhile, we enjoyed life in the Dockyard, where there is a vibrant live-aboard community, a good pub, and several good restaurants. I found I was always a little on edge, however. It is difficult to relax when one's boat is crippled, unable to react if there is some kind of emergency.

Another View

Finally the rudder arrived, picked up from St. George's by Doug Sutherland, the manager of West End Yachts, about whom not enough good can be said. He is a member of a long line of Scottish shipwrights, apprenticed on the Clyde and supremely capable. Before coming to Bermuda he worked in Nigeria, managing a shipyard that built boats to support the offshore oil industry. On top of that, he is just a downright good person.

We uncrated the rudder and Doug gave me a corner of his shop to paint it. The epoxy primer and barrier coat we used have 4-hour recoat times, so every 4 hours, there I was again, in a white Tyvek suit, daubing away.

The Victualing Yard, 30 Steps from Our Starboard Bow

The third coat went on at 6:00 in the evening, so the next would be at 10:30. In between we all went to the pub and watched soccer. When we went back to paint, Doug disappeared, and a few minutes later came back with a bottle of whisky! It sure made the painting go easier, and when I looked at it the next day I was a little surprised that the job really looked all right.

After two days of painting the rudder was ready to go, and on the third day (Friday, the 15th) we worked the boat across the Camber into the travel lift slip and Doug hauled us out.

The Busy "Camber" Where Yachts Share Space With the Dept. of Marine and Ports

The job seemed to be straightforward at first, but we soon discovered a complication; the flange on the rudder stock was not made originally in accordance with the drawings and so did not fit the new rudder. Doug to the rescue! A phone call established that "Chicken," the machinist for the Marine & Ports department, was not too busy. So we dropped the stock out of the boat and took it across to his well-equipped machine shop. In a couple of hours the holes were re-drilled as required, and then the job was easy. By 4:30 we were back in the water and I took Barbara back across the Camber under her own power for the first time in a month.

As usual, the wind was at gale force, so we waited through the weekend and were not sorry. We liked Dockyard and weren't in a hurry to leave, but we did want to get south. On Monday night Doug came aboard for a last round of drinks, and on Tuesday we set out for St. George's. That night we had a wonderful dinner with Steve and Suzanne Hollis, great food and great talk, and at first light on Wednesday we hoisted the dinghy and blew our horn for departure.

At 08:15 on Jaunary 20th we took our departure from the sea buoy off St. George's and started on the 5-day run to Tortola, with a light northerly wind and swell, ideal conditions.

An Abandoned Hall in the Victualling Yard

The New Rudder After its First Coat of Primer

Part I
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII