Beaufort to Bermuda

Heading East, Across the Atlantic...
 First Stop: Bermuda!

crew photo 102

Ty, Suzanne, Rudy, Grant, Doug, and Travis

If there’s one thing we learned in our first two years of cruising, it’s to be patient. Our plan was to depart Beaufort June 1st on our Atlantic crossing. Alas, the weather failed to cooperate. Our crew, pictured here on the left, arrived in Beaufort on May 31st, rarin’ to go, but the forecast called for three days of high seas and winds off of Cape Hatteras. Affectionately known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” that was one area we weren’t about to mess around with. So we spent Wednesday through Friday hanging out. We conducted crew training, did a few last minute tasks, and relaxed before departing.

Conditions seemed pretty tame at the Beaufort Docks, so when several large vessels pulled in due to the rough seas offshore, we felt vindicated.

Saturday, June 4th, we departed at 0820. Morale could not have been higher as we headed out Beaufort inlet to the sea. We had the sails up within minutes. Here’s Grant, on the right, looking mighty sailor-like as he trims the jib. Doug, who could only get enough time off for the first leg of this passage, took the first watch. Travis stood the watch with him, soaking up all the things he needed to learn so he could assume Doug’s watches once we reach Bermuda. We quickly settled into our rotating watch schedule. All really liked the four-hour day

Grant on deck

watches and three-hour night watches. This way, the same person didn’t get to see every sunrise or sunset. Having four watch standers gives us 9-10 hours off between watches -- an unimaginable luxury for Suzanne and Ty who have stood 3-4 hour port and starboard watches aboard Liberty since they began cruising, never getting more than 3 hours of sleep at a time.

mahi

Day one took us straight to the Gulf Stream. To us, that didn’t just mean higher seas and higher speeds, but the chance to catch FISH! Sure enough, by mid-day the guys had landed not just one, but TWO beautiful mahi mahi! Look at that beauty in the photo on the left. Doug and Travis had just finished fileting the 38-incher, when the line sang out again, this time with a 42-incher that gave Grant quite a fight. The fridge and freezer quickly filled with six bags of delicious fish, which meant no more fishing until we ate quite a bit!

(Just in case you’re curious, we caught them on a green and yellow skirt that Ty bought at Walmart!)

The first two days we had several large ships within our radar’s range and visually. We had to maneuver around no less than three of them to keep from coming too close. Only one of the three answered our calls on the VHF. Makes you wonder who’s manning the bridge! After day two, however, we didn’t see a single contact until we were just off Bermuda. It’s a big ocean out there! Nevertheless, the crew kept an eagle eye on the radar and the horizon to avoid surprises. Here’s Doug on the right keeping Liberty safe and on track. You’ll notice the harness and tether that we all wear when on deck.

doug on deck02

After the excitement of catching the mahi mahi on the first day, we wondered what the second day would bring. Note that we like GOOD excitement, otherwise, we prefer to be bored to tears!

whales 1

The forward half of three sperm whales

Well, Day Two found us smack dab in the middle of a pod of sperm whales! We had no less than seven huge suckers within a hundred yards of the beam as Ty slowly maneuvered the boat among them. Several more were off in the distance. These were your classic Moby Dick/whaling types with the blunt head, and they were in no hurry to scurry off when we came on the scene. Instead, they lolled on the surface like a bunch of enormous redwood tree logs, spouting off every once in a while for show. Two hours later we came upon a SECOND pod. This time three of them swam toward us in formation, then dove. Neither the whales, nor Liberty, cared to get too close!

Day three brought a pod of playful porpoises who leapt straight out of the water, then zipped under and in front of Liberty’s hull for a great show.

While hundreds of miles from land, Suzanne noticed a strange thumping vibration under the floorboards. Ty checked the bilges, and thankfully, they were dry. In three years of sailing Liberty, however, we’d never noticed this, and were rather concerned there might be a problem with the hull. We were about to put a swimmer in the water to check when crew member Travis came to the rescue. A videographer by trade, he put one of his video cameras in a waterproof bag, attached it to a pole, and walked the camera all the way around the hull from the deck. We immediately uploaded the footage onto our

Hull 1

computer. The photo from the rudder forward shows you the quality of the view that we had. Visually siting all the through-hulls, the shaft, prop, and even the zincs was as good as having a marine survey. Sure gave us tremendous peace of mind. As for that thumping, Ty determined it was the result of 100 gallons of water sloshing back and forth in the water tank under the floorboard. We’d never stood in that exact spot over the tank while underway before.

One of the most interesting moments came just after dinner one evening. Grant was at the helm when the depth alarm went off, showing 8.4 feet of water. Being far out at sea, Grant joked, “Must be a whale!” Ha ha. Ty glanced out the galley port and shouted, “Whale! Starboard side at 100 feet!” It really WAS a whale swimming under us! The guy surfaced right beside us, then rolled over and looked back at us as if to say, “What the heck just swam over me?”

Incredible. 

Travis Doug sunset

Things settled down after that as we continued on in fair seas and, alas, headwinds, not the following winds everyone wished for us. With the wind on the nose for almost the entire trip, we ended up motor sailing more than we would have liked, but that made it all the more sweet when we turned off the noise-maker and raised the sails. The final night’s sail with the loom of Bermuda’s lights off the starboard bow was magical. Liberty sliced through the water at 6-7 knots in 12 knots of wind, with only the sound of the waves as all but the helmsman slept below.

We took down the sails at sunrise and motored in through the narrow Town Cut into St. George’s Harbour at 0640, Atlantic Standard Time on Thursday, June 8th. We tied up at the Custom’s Wharf and cleared in, then went to anchor next to our cruising buddies on Concerto, who had arrived from Antigua a week earlier.

Within an hour of anchoring, Liberty’s crew disappeared, taking their swim trunks and toothbrushes with them. The term “mass exodus” comes to mind. You see, Grant has a close friend, Rob, who lives in Bermuda. Rob has a beautiful house with a swimming pool, hot showers, and it doesn’t rock back and forth like Liberty. Gee, can’t imagine why we haven’t seen the guys since we got here!

Ty repairs

As all cruisers know, cruising has been defined as “fixing your boat in exotic places.” So while in exotic Bermuda, Ty spent an entire day fixing a leak in one of the seals on the water maker. The next day our outboard engine decided to act up, taking another chunk of time to diagnose. Here’s Ty on the left, making repairs. Sigh.

Refueling the boat will also be a major evolution. The local fuel dock charges $5 a gallon and we need 120 gallons. Yikes! But we found out a fuel truck will come to another pier if a couple of boats will refuel at the same time. The fuel from the truck is $2 a gallon. Gee, that’s a no-brainer. We have another boat that needs fuel, but will have to Med-moor for the first time. That’s where you drop an anchor a little ways out and back into the pier. We did this with a chartered boat on the French Riviera, but this will be the first of many times that we do it with Liberty. (We’re headed for the Mediterranean, where almost all marinas require boats to Med-moor).

The only down side to being in Bermuda is that Rudy is not permitted to go ashore. We made all the preparations for “importing” him, including a health checkup within ten days of our arrival, only to find out he’s too young to have had two consecutive Rabies shots. So, he must remain afloat. We’re running him ragged chasing his toys around the boat, giving him lots of love, and for a change of scenery, he gets to go for a kayak ride around the harbor.

Rudy kayaks03

A few thoughts on being here:

  • Suddenly we feel like we’re part of the world cruising community. At anchor we’re surrounded by boats from many different countries, and from now on our US flag will be the minority.
  • Suzanne wants to know, “Where are all the women passage makers?” She made the passage with four men and a male dog. We met up with our buddy boat, Concerto, which had a crew of 3 men. We were joined for dinner aboard Concerto by the crew of another boat that had just completed the same passage... again, two men, and every other boat in the harbor has male crews. It makes her proud to be doing this, but longing for a little girl talk!
  • Bermuda is incredible. After five days of nothing but blue/gray water and sky, the colors are mind boggling. The streets are extremely narrow, though. Cars nearly clip each others’ mirrors when passing, and there’s no sidewalk nor place for pedestrians unless they want to take their life in their hands. Pastel buildings, bright flowers, and a festive atmosphere make us want to spend more time on the island, but alas, we have many miles yet to travel.

The weather forecast calls for the persistent easterly winds to finally shift in a few days. We hope to take advantage of a favorable wind direction and set sail for the Azores. With 1800 miles to cover, we can’t count on motoring for that leg!

And so, the adventure continues. Check back later in the month for the next update.