Throwback Thursday – sailing to Bermuda

Every Thursday I share a little bit (in sequence) about a wonderful year I spent back in 2010/2011 sailing across the Atlantic (twice) and up through the Caribbean. All the posts are tagged together here if you want to read back! Last week we were in Provo, exploring the Turks & Caicos as we waited for the weather to improve so we could sail to Bermuda….

We eventually had to leave the Turks and Caicos  as we had a friend coming to Bermuda to visit us and couldn’t wait out the weather much longer. It was so, so rough. The winds were around 15-20 knots, gusting higher, from an angle of 90 degrees to 60 degrees to the nose of the boat. The wind at that angle is always uncomfortable when sailing, exacerbated when you add in huge seas of maybe 5m high waves, hitting Triple D on the side.

We all felt a bit seasick, including me! Which was quite unusual as I didn’t tend to get seasick at all throughout the trip. Jilli felt awful and spent the whole trip sleeping, other than when she was on watch. Mum also had to be either sleeping, or outside in the fresh air – meaning all cooking and washing up was down to me!

Doing anything on the boat was really difficult in those circumstances, even reading, as the boat was moving around so constantly, and there was so much spray outside that a book would get soaked. Even sleeping was no rest as you had to brace yourself against the sides of the bunk, you couldn’t relax your body at any time, and would wake up stiff and sore. Whenever I went to get something out of the fridge, all of its contents would threaten to fall out on top of me and I narrowly missed emptying a carton of six eggs all over myself. I was so pleased I had cooked three meals in advance that just needed heating up for our dinners, and we just ate cup-a-coup or pot noodles for lunch. Imagine trying to ride a bucking bronco and having to make a cup of tea…….

There was no repetitive motion as no two waves were the same. We were being rocked in all directions, and occasionally stopped abruptly as Triple D slammed into a wave, sending its spray all over the boat. As a result of the spray, all of the hatches into the inside of the boat had to be closed, meaning it was really hot inside on top of everything else.

The first time I felt actually scared all year came on this trip. I was on night watch by myself one night with strong winds of 20-25 knots,and it was pitch black, with no moon. I could occasionally see the white crests of huge waves as they rolled in towards the boat. Although there were stars directly above Triple D, gigantic storm clouds surrounded us, showing up as huge yellow blobs on the radar.

From these storm clouds came huge flashes of lightning, brightening the whole sky and not helping my night vision! There were at least 4 different sources for the lightning – we were truly surrounded by storms. The one that was scaring me was just off to windward, and rather than just lighting up the clouds, I could clearly see the jagged line of the lightning bolt as it tore a hole in the cloud and occasionally looked as if it would reach to the sea. I had no idea when this would become a dangerous situation, and what, if anything, could be done about it – that’s what scared me (plus the fact that we were right in the centre of the Bermuda Triangle at this point!)

We had a few rough days and nights, where it really was about just getting through the trip rather than actually enjoying it, and then finally the sun rose on a calmer day.We were able to put our full sail up and enjoy the sunshine, with a much smoother motion of the boat and no huge waves which meant I could read outside! Jilli was still suffering the seasickness though.

While we sailing along, not hugely enjoying ourselves, we had an email saying that there was a potential buyer for Triple D in the Bahamas – meaning that we wouldn’t be sailing back across the Atlantic. We didn’t think it would really happen as we had quite a short time frame before we had to leave for the Azores, and didn’t think that would be enough time for the sale to go through. But on the other hand, selling the boat was going to be a huge weight off mum’s mind, and both Jilli and mum were dreading the idea of more ocean sailing after feeling so rubbish during the sail to Bermuda. It was very conflicting, as I knew all of this, but also really wanted to sail home – and it just seemed so sudden that Triple D would stop being our home and we would be back in England, back to normal life. It was difficult as it would have been a good thing to get the boat sold, we had no idea how hard (or easy) it would be to sell back in the UK, but I just really did not want to. I felt I hadn’t had time to say goodbye to the sailing properly, so secretly had my fingers crossed the sale wouldn’t happen! (And it didn’t, so I was happy!)

Four days after we had left the Turks & Caicos we spotted the first shadows of land on the horizon, around 6pm in the evening. The wind had shifted round to behind us and had died so we had had a perfect day – I had even showered for the first time in four days and felt so good to be clean!

We arrived in St. Georges Harbour, Bermuda, around midnight, sailing up the outer edge of the islands as the sun set, and then entering the harbour in the pitch black. It was a tricky entrance due to the reef and islands, with extremely narrow channels, but lots of buoys and lights. The purpose of these was obviously to help but they were actually quite confusing, especially when you also take into account all the lights on shore, lighthouses, and the lightning over the shore! Mum and I had a confusing moment when we saw a light we thought at first was a star. It was quite orange and low in the sky so then we thought it might be a boat. It seemed to be getting lower in the sky and we finally realised it was a plane!

Bermuda had a 24hr harbour watch to help arriving yachties, which was amazing. We radio’ed in when we were about 10 miles out and they could already see our exact position from their powerful radar. The guy then talked us in on the radio which made us feel very safe as we knew if we went wrong he would tell us immediately! Mum was steering, I was with the torch looking out for unlit buoys at the front of the boat, and Jilli was on the radio and checking the chart. The guy on the radio was very friendly but very proper. He told Jilli that “communications would be much improved” if she would hold the radio further away, speak more quietly, and “calm down”. We all ended up having a good giggle at his expense, especially when Jilli mentioned a sailing rule known worldwide as the “Red Light Returning” rule and he said “yes, that is the colloquial term” in a very prim and proper voice!

Finally we were anchored, the engine was off, the boat was still, and we were able to fall into a deep, deep, wonderful sleep. It is impossible to describe just how wonderful it is to fall into bed after a few days at sea with actual silence and stillness.

(The weather was so awful that I took no pictures whatsoever on that whole trip – but you can’t have a post with no pictures! So here is one of Bermuda, a very welcome sight for us!)

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2 comments

  1. Reading through your series, I find it amazing that your mom took you on such an awesome adventure. The closest I ever came to that was a fishing excursion on Lake Michigan (in August).

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