BVI to Bermuda – We have arrived!

After 5 days, 3.5 hours we arrived into St Georges, East End of Bermuda through the narrow Town Cut. Unfortunately we had to motor for 52 hours since the winds dropped off but at least that meant the seas were calm and we could get some rest.

During the trip we fished very little (about 2 hours) and succeeded in catching weed, about every fifteen minutes and nothing else – the chartplotter states we were sailing through the Sargasso sea, so maybe that should have been a clue. However, the boat left to its own devices succeeded in catching half a dozen flying fish of various sizes, including one acrobat who landed on the bimini.

Flying fish, discovered on deck one morning

We were treated to a beautiful display by a pod of dolphins on the last morning which lasted for approximately half an hour just after sunrise.

Later that morning we started to see land. Being fairly low, we were quite close before it came into view, the first visible things being trees then buildings – all with whitewashed roofs, which seems to be a common theme here.

As we closed in on the island we also started to see more boats, as we all converged from different departure points. There being only one place to clear in, everyone heads for St Georges initially.

Arrival and clearance were very easy and the Bermudans are certainly very welcoming.

The customs dock in St Georges

The lagoon is charming and very sheltered and shortly after dropping anchor we were visited by our friend Carl from yacht Nisida and his crew Traci, who had arrived a few hours earlier from Antigua. It was great to catch up and share stories of the past few months since we have last seen him. After a few beers and a bite to eat on board we settled in for our first full, still night in bed for 6 days.  We slept soundly!

Leaving the marina where we left Ocean Blue for a trip home
400 miles from land we were visited by this bird, who did several laps of the boat

Beautiful dolphins in amazingly clear water
One of the dolphins swimming past, taken with our go pro, a present from our Rowlands Castle neighbours.
Entering the Town Cut
The narrow Town Cut

BVI to Bermuda – One more night at sea to go

Yesterday began as another damp day with little wind. It was pretty uneventful until I spotted the bilge pump light on.

The bilges are the underneath area below the floor in the cabin. Our previous boat had very shallow bilges just a few hundred mm deep and they were dry. They were designed to be dry and unless something had got spilt, or some rain or spray had got in they were always dry. However this boat is very different. The bilges extend over a metre and a half down inside the keel and they always have some water in them. The water comes from various places: it can be from the fridge and freezer, which drain into them, from the aircon units which drain into them, from round the mast, which on this boat comes all the way down through a hole in the deck and rests on the keel, or from many other sources of water ingress around the boat. We have an automatic bilge pump, which sits in the bottom of the bilges and is controlled by a float switch – a switch where the activator arm is actually a float, which floats on top of the bilge water. If the water rises the switch closes and a light comes on on the panel and the pump starts. The water drops and the switch opens, stopping the pump and extinguishing the light. And so it goes on, 24 hours a day until yesterday…

Actually it was probably until the day before, because in the last post I mentioned about the navigation lights needing some attention. Whilst tracing the fault in those I noticed the bilge pump circuit breaker had tripped. I reset it and it stayed set and I thought nothing more about it after a quick check of everything. So with the light on on the panel the pump should have been running but it wasn’t. The water level wasn’t worryingly high but just high enough to trigger the switch. A gentle tap to the top of the pump with a long stick did nothing, nor did a slightly harder tap – it seemed that the pump had broken.

The marine environment is very harsh, especially on anything electric, so manual backup systems are generally employed for anything critical. Hence we have a manual bilge pump in the engine room, operated from under the table in the cockpit. It never gets used because we have the electric one, but we serviced it when we got the boat and we cycle the handle every now and again to make sure it works. So finally yesterday the manual one was to get to earn its keep. Unfortunately after 5 minutes pumping ,the water level was still the same. Lesley at this point decides to make lunch and I decide that it’s time to remove and investigate the problem with the manual pump. It’s easy to remove so should only take a couple of minutes. Three bolts, four jubilee clips and out it comes in theory.

The engine had been on pretty much all the time for the last 12 hours so the engine room temperature was about 40 degrees. The two minutes stretched to half an hour before the pump came free and this is where Lesley’s sense of humour came to the fore. Emerging victoriously with pump in hand looking like I had been in a sauna for far too long, I said to Lesley ‘do start your lunch as I just need to get cleaned up before I can eat’. Her response was a very calm ‘oh don’t worry I’ve eaten mine. I figured with two broken pumps we would be sinking soon so I certainly wasn’t going to let my lunch go down with the boat’! (Before anyone gets too concerned, we have various methods of emptying bilges should it be required including a very high capacity portable submersible pump that we put onboard prior to the Atlantic crossing, so sinking was never a real issue)!

A quick pause for lunch then a cleanup in hot water removed all the salt crystals and the very primitive manual pump was as good as new. It worked like a charm, however I have concluded after lifting probably less than 20 litres of water from the bottom of the bilges all the way up to cockpit level and over the side with a manual pump contorted under the cockpit table, electricity is so underrated!

The wind came up in the afternoon and remained throughout last night, so we have been sailing for the last 15 hours. We haven’t seen any ships for 36 hours, we have seen a couple of birds and ended up with a few flying fish on deck, but other that all has been very quiet. The sky cleared last night and the moon didn’t rise until about 1 am so the stars were amazing. Each night has got cooler as we head north, so we are now having to wrap up more overnight, but when the sun comes up it quickly warms up.

We have 193 miles to go, so should arrive somewhere around lunchtime tomorrow. As we close in on the island we expect to start seeing a few other boats because we know several left different parts of the Caribbean at a similar time to us. Other than that, time will tell what will emerge to amuse us over the next 24 hours.

BVI to Bermuda – Halfway

Tuesday was a grey overcast day with rain! There was very little wind, so we motored for much of the day and progress has been a little slow. The seas have been flat so it has been very comfortable but with no sunshine it has been somewhat cooler than we have got accustomed to in the Caribbean.

We have two sets of navigation lights (a set comprises green on the right hand side, red on the left and white at the back). A set at the top of the mast, that we use when sailing and a set at deck level. Being higher up, the ones at the masthead are visible from further away so are the ones we use most of the time, however when motoring the regulations state that we must use the deck level lights in conjunction with a white ‘steaming light’ part way up the mast. It is important for other boats to know whether we are sailing or motoring because the anti-collision rules are different.

Last night we switched to our motoring configuration but noticed shortly afterwards that neither the red or green deck level lights were working. Rather strange since they had been fine when we last used them a few weeks ago. We waited most of the day for a dry spell to investigate the problem but it became obvious it was going to be dark before it got dry! Bizarrely the problem was the same for both lights – corrosion on a hidden wiring joint inside the pulpit (a stainless steel frame at the front of the boat that supports the guard wires that run around the boat to help stop us falling off as we move around). In the drizzle we effected temporary repairs to both wires – permanent solutions will have to wait until a dry day, but at least the lights are working again.

Dinner was a lovely chilli con carne with garlic bread and was followed by watching Oceans 11 in the cockpit to pass the time before we settled into night watches.

The rain has now stopped and the clouds are thinning so we can just make out the moon and a few stars through the haze. Maybe tomorrow will be a return to the sunshine we have got used to and if we are lucky we may get some wind. We found three dead flying fish on deck today and have seen three boats in the distance. We are now over halfway with 391 miles to go.

Derek & Lesley x

BVI to Bermuda – Day 2

Overnight the wind dropped as predicted. In the first 12 hours we covered just under 100 miles – a good distance for us but with the lighter winds for the next 12 hours our 24 hour run was about 185. The wind also freed so out came the Parasailor – our sail of choice for the Atlantic and once again it did us proud gaining us substantial speed and having the added benefit of stabilising the boat considerably.

We had tried to download the Spanish grand prix on catchup before we left but failed, so settled for an episode of Top Gear instead for our evening’s entertainment.

The forecast is for even lighter winds tonight and tomorrow so we are expecting the engine to come on shortly.

Distance to Bermuda is currently 578 miles.

Derek & Lesley.

BVI to Bermuda – Cracking first day

After a relaxed morning, we left Anegada at 11 am, rounded the western end of the island and started heading north for Bermuda. Its been fantastic sailing, in 14-16 knots of easterly wind. The sun shone all day and the boat was loving the conditions, romping along at over 8 knots. At 21.30 we have 733 miles to go, we have had roast pork fillet with roasted vegetables for dinner and are now settling into the night watches. All is well onboard.

Love to everyone, Derek & Lesley x