Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bermuda Day, May 24, 2017

Bermuda Day, May 24, 2016
In Bermuda their national day is celebrated on the anniversary of the Queen's Birthday.  We had a saying in Canada when I was a kid. 

The 24th of May
Is the Queen's Birthday
If we don't get a holiday
We'll all run away 

In Canada, it has morphed into May long weekend, we have a holiday on the closest Monday to the 24, and it signifies the beginning of summer for most Canadians. Here in Bermuda they celebrate the holiday on the 24th no matter what day of the week it is. We went into Hamilton the capital to watch the Bermuda day parade.  We found out that the day was not so much about the parade as being there.  As you can see in the picture everyone had put up tent tops and brought chairs.  They came down the night before to set up and on the day the family showed up with enough food to last all day.  
These were the folks that we stood beside for most of the parade. I was dying to have some of that tasty looking potato salad. There were tables set up at the back of the chairs for the food and later in the day the bar was set up. These people were kind enough to lend us a very large umbrella when it sprinkled for about half an hour.
 People strutted their good clothes, especially the young crowd. 
The parade www very spread out but there were some great floats and the dance groups were very co-ordinated. 

These are the "Gombeys" a way of celebrating their African heritage.  We first saw these type of costumes in Saba at the St.Patrick Day's parade.  The Gombey's are known for their wild dancing and they don't say a word and their faces are hidden, so they a quite mysterious. I am quite fascinated with them. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Out and about in Bermuda

We went to visit Fort St. Catherine, that was built on the northeast coast of Bermuda. It was built right next to the beach where the first settlers came ashore in 1609 when their boat was shipwrecked.  The settlers were bound for Jamestown, Virginia, the leader Sir George Somers claimed the island for Britain and it was settled permanently three years later. 
There are lots of forts built around the island to ward off the Spanish and French. The guns at St. Catherine's were never fired in anger! Throughout the centuries regiments of British soldiers toiled endlessly, doing drills, firing, cleaning and moving cannons, eating very bad food. At one time the island was known for yellow fever and many died of dysentery. 
Walking around in the keep, where the munitions were stored was quite the experience. In this dark place one small spark could set off and explosion.  There were special lanterns constructed so that no one would get blown up and the floors were covered in wood so that no sparks would be set off by boots on the stone floor. 

Barry lined up this fast ferry in his sights!!
    This battery guards the main entrance into St. George's Harbour, where we are anchored. 

Yesterday we took the bus down to the other end of the island to "The Dockyard". This is where the British navy worked to repair it's warships through the centuries. The Dockyard was built first by slaves and then by prisoners. Once the jails in England were full in the 19th century, (you could be jailed for minor thefts, such as stealing a loaf of bread, or just for being Irish), they shipped the prisoners out of the country and one of the places they ended up was Bermuda. It was often a stopping place before being sent to Australia. ANYWAY, these prisoners constructed the Dockyard. They lived on rotting hulks of old slavers. These boats were no longer seaworthy but sat in the harbour with no masts or sails on them and were used to house the prisoners. 
It is quite an impressive place, and where 200 years ago the wooden caravels would have been docked the cruise ship stop. The Governor General's house stood atop the hill overlooking the yard and it now houses a very comprenhensive museum. 
I just loved some of the beautiful furniture that remains in the house. The tables are made out of mahogany and the richness of the wood just shone. Notice the watercolours of ships hung around the room, the beautiful chandelier, and the wonderful carpet. 
Today we are staying put on the boat.  There is a big blow out there and it is raining off and on. There was a near miss this morning as a boat dragged her anchor and got very close to one of our neighbours, always very worrying. Another boat came in from the ocean with their yellow quarantine flag flying, being pushed around by a tow boat, obviously their motor was out of commssion. There was a boat that came in yesterday in the same condition, no motor, but because of the different wind conditions, she was able to sail in and set anchor while under sail, always a pleasure to watch that being done well.  In the last few days we have met two groups of people and invited them onboard, it is always great to hear other's stories and share our home with them. 

Monday, May 16, 2016


We arrived safe and sound in Bermuda, motoring the last two days to get here. That was not so much fun but way better than getting beat up with big winds and waves. It is lovely here, warm and sunny and a gorgeous little town with winding lanes and everything clean and tidy. We have not had much of a chance to explore as we have decided to have new sails made and have been waiting around for the sail maker.  Our fridge has also decided it did not want to work anymore so we have been anxiously awaiting a technician, but have been unable to get a time frame from them so we are stuck hanging about close to the boat in case they call. We will be here for over a month waiting for the sails, there are worse places to wait, I guess. The only thing is that it will put our timing for crossing the Atlantic about 4 weeks behind. We wanted to spend some time in the Azores as they are supposed to be wonderful but I guess we will have to see.  It will be hard sitting here watching all the other boats leave, but on the positive side, we will get to know this area quite well. 
Yesterday I balked at the enforced wait and headed off on my own.  I discovered this wonderful little beach of the northern part of this island.  Bermuda is a series of small islands connected by bridges, it is about 20 miles long and only about a mile and a half wide at any point.  We are. In St. George's Harbour which is where the custom's and immigration is and where most sailing vessels seem to hang out.  There is a bigger, deeper harbour down at the main town, Hamilton, where the cruise ships dock. We have not been down there yet so I will leave that for a different blog. 
The graveyard at one of the churches, notice how neat it is and the different types of markers. There re quite a few that were for people that had died aboard ships. 
The first night we got in we headed down to the main dock here and the were two tall ships in town, one from France and the other from the Netherlands. 
A view of the harbour, notice all the whitewashed roofs. 
There was a house like this on one side of the street and on the other this is what I saw. 
Strange they would let this place remain on such a nice property.  I wonder if it was just never finished or what??  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

At sea

30 degrees 22 minutes north
072 degrees 46 minutes west
If you draw a line directly south of the tip of Long Island NY that intersects with one from the northern border of Florida, that is approx. where we are. 434nm to go to Bermuda. 
Yesterday, I was a very proud sailor! We had overcome a calamity, something  that probably would have made us turn around and limp back to port ten years ago.  
When we left the United States, Barry and I had a discussion about whether or not our sails would get us across the Atlantic.  The genoa was made in New Zealand and we had the main made in Australia. That was approximate twenty five thousand nautical miles ago. Barry uncharacteristically thought they should last while I had my doubts.  There have been numerous rips and tears lately which indicates they are becoming brittle, the sun and the wind have worn them out. 
We had some very squally weather as we left the Bahamas, thunderstorms with big winds, which after their passage left us with big seas and very little wind.  That meant the sails were slatting about ( that is a very salty term which means banging back and forth, inflating as the boat rises over a wave and then deflating with a big slap on the downside of the wave). Well, the main just could not take it and it tore right across the sail about 2 feet from the top. We managed to get it down, luckily the line that runs up the back of the sail was still in one piece so I could pull the detached bit of sail down by the very thin line!  It was at dusk when this happened so we had no chance to repair it right away. We sailed under genoa  alone and at some point we tacked it and Barry noticed a big horizontal rip in it.  OH NO, both of our major sails out of commission at once, YIKES.  The genoa was rolled in and we fired up the iron jenny and motored on. We talked about going back to the States and ordering a new sail, we were about two hundred miles away, and while we were waiting for a new sail our weather window for crossing the Atlantic would slip away, June is hurricane season and we have no desire to tangle with one of those. 
At dawn I rustled Barry out of bed and as we had very little wind we were able to drop the genoa  without a problem. I washed both sides of the sail around the tear to get the salt off and let it dry.  Then we taped it up with our newish sail tape which sticks really well and put the genoa back up.  Sail tape held and we were able to turn off the motor and sail again while we contemplated our decimated main. 
It had separated on a seam across most of the sail, not bad, easily fixed, but then there was a tear which included a part right where one of the slugs was sewed on.  The slugs attach the sail to the track on the mast and are a point of great strain, NOT GOOD! 
We both problem solved for about ten minutes and came up with a good repair plan.  Remember that we are still sailing, the boat is heaving around and we are sitting on the cabin top underneath the boom, with a huge mass of sail jammed around us as we try to maintain our seats while we get tossed back and forth. We taped one side of the vertical seam and Barry sewed it for additional strength, I taped the slug back onto the sail and then reinforced it with 2 inch wide webbing on both sides so that it would not tear off again. We taped the foot long rip and reinforced it with sail material on one side and sewed it as well. 
Sewing by hand through tape, two piece of thick webbing and sail material is a real pain.  There is something called a palm which is a round piece of indented steel which is attached to leather strapping which goes around your hand that is used to push the needle through the material.  I had to push with all my strength to get the needle though all this.  This great force can lead to broken needles if you are not careful so we have a good assortment of various shapes and sizes of needles on hand. 
We finished all this at sunset, we had worked all day on it only taking breaks while two thunderstorms had passed over us. When the threatening clouds got close, we would stop sewing, gather up all our tools and put sail ties in three places on the sail and lash it down to the boom or whatever ropes we could. The first storm was vicious with driving wind and rain, soaking us to the bone, it lasted for well over an hour, living the dream indeed! 
We tussled with raising the main, getting it halfway on and figuring out there was a twist in it. Down she came, we flaked it on the deck and raised it again. When we had it almost up Barry was unable to get it any higher and we discovered the halyard was caught around the stair at the top of the mast.  We had to lower the whole thing for the second time, untangle the halyard and haul it back up.  Barry got his workout for the day. I was so proud and happy when I felt the boat leap ahead as the wind once again filled the main, that I shouted with pure joy. It is 36 hours later and the fix is still holding, YIPPEE! 
Combined, our knowledge gleaned from a sail repair class taken eleven years ago through the Bluewater Cruising Association and our experience in fixing numerous other rips and tears made it possible to turn a calamity into a proud moment. I remember buddies of ours, David and Linda from Toketie, BCA members of the fleet of 2006, described a similar situation, when they crossed from Tonga to New Zealand. Now I truly understand and appreciate their accomplishment in repairing their torn main.  All I can say is YEAH US, sail on!!! 

Sydney the Swallow

Sydney came to visit us our first night at sea on our way to Bermuda. Isn't he lovely. I figure he is a he because of his brightl colours; his lovely russet brown head and hs gleaming almost irredescent back.  We were over a hundred and fifty miles from any land when Sydney decided to have a sojourn aboard Cat's-Paw IV. I was down below sleeping and It was almost shift change time when Barry whispered that a bird was on the main winch and that I had to be careful of him. PARDON! Next I was informed that the netting to cover the entryway was down to prevent Sydney's re-entry below. WHAT!!  Good thing I didn't wake up with a bird fluttering about my face, mayhem would have ensued!
Later as I was about to wind in the winch Sydney had claimed for his perch, I had to touch his tail feathers in order for him to move. After the second light tap he fluttered off to the other side of the dodger where he took up residence on a line. He was still with us at daylight when Barry was once again on deck and we were doing a sail change.  Barry actually lifted him up and deposited him ( with the barest of peeps from Sydney) in the back of the cockpit in hopes that he would fly off and continue on his journey. He continued to perch head tucked under a wing when we were done taking in the sail so Barry moved him back under cover in the cockpit. 
He finally decided to leave mid morning and I was sure we had seen the last of him as he beat up into the sky. Last evening he arrived once again. I had actually seen two or three swallows winging their way across the sky an hour earlier but I was very surprised to see Sydney once again.  I knew it was him by the cock of his head and the proprietary air he assumed as he once again took possession of the main winch. 
                              Out of focus, but shows his colours better. 
Why, who, where, how come?? Where is he headed? Perhaps to his summer quarters in Canada. Who is he? I looked in my bird book and I think he must be a southwest cliff swallow, they summer in Canada to Mexico and winter in south Brazil to central Argentina. Why did he stop? Any port in a storm. How come he allowed us to handle him? At first I thought he must be injured but once he flew away I cannot figure out why he would allow us to touch him.  Any bird experts out there please e-mail me at to let me know the answers to my questions, PLEASE. 


A manatee in the marina where we checked into the Bahamas. Barry first saw it when we tied the boat up on the way to take a taxi to get enough money to clear into the country.  I knew we had to pay some funds to get into the Bahamas but I did not realize there would not be an ATM or that the Marina would not be able to advance us the money on our Visa card so we had to take an expensive taxi ride to visit an ATM and pay for a night at the Marina.  We were planning on just checking in and continuing on our merry way until we could find a free anchorage. That one was a lesson learned the hard way.  Once we were in Internet range I very carefully figured out the regulations for checking into Bermuda and the Azores!! ANYWAY, manatees need fresh water and I believe she/he was hanging out under a dripping tap getting her fresh water fix. When Barry first saw her he figured she was dead, but later she proved she was very much alive by swimming about. 
Apparently the Bahamas are just a limestone shelf that was all under water before the last ice age so everything is quite flat and most of the land we walked was made of limestone and was very jaggedy.  We have been slowly sailing across the top of the Bahamas in what is known as the Little Bahamas bank just north of Grand Bahama Island. This area was not hit by the most recent hurricane so there is no damage here. When we left West End, where we checked in we had to wait until high tide to transit Indian Cay Channel. This whole area is very shallow and a lot of the time we are sailing in less than one meter of water and sometimes that is very difficult on the nerves. The charting is very good though so we managed to leave without any damage although we did come to a gentle stop one time when it was just too shallow ( we were gong very slowly and Barry just reversed and we easily back out😳).
The water is such an amazing colour. I wanted to go snorkelling here so we took the dinghy through this narrow pass between very small rocky islands. I got in the water and held on to the dinghy as we were pushed around by the current. There were lots of fish moving about, I saw a skip jack darting about looking for a meal and then on the way back in the dinghy a beautiful spotted eagle ray glided by. A day later Barry pointed out a turtle lolling about in the water with one flipper sticking up, how appropriate, we were headed for Green Turtle Cay. 
The keel of some poor soul's boat! We saw a whole hull high and dry on a reef about 10 feet above the water line. 
We spent five days exploring some unihabited cays, having no contact with other cruisers, making short day hops from place to place.  We had an ear glued to the weather reports, as always, and once we heard that thunderstorms were forecast with possible gust up to 50 knots we headed for shelter.  We managed to get the last available mooring at Green Turtle Cay and are we glad we did.  The predicted thunderstorms appeared with an impressive display of lightening and the boat right in front of us, who had anchored close to a mooring field and whose owner left the boat, dragged her anchor about 50 meters and rehooked right next to us. The owner finally reappeared back at his boat and managed to get his anchor reset, once again directly in front of us. Luckily no other boats dragged during the very windy gusts.

Green Turtle Cay is about 25 miles west of where we left the Bahamas, two years ago.  We sailed up to the Chesapeake that year, this year our goal is somewhat further to the east.  We are going to brave the infamous triangle and head for Bermuda. We were able to check out of the Bahamas in Green Turtle Cay and we found some fresh fruit, veggies and yogurt to top up our provisions for the voyage. 
New Plymouth the main town on GT Cay was a joy to explore. The streets were extremely narrow and everyone drove around in golf carts, I did not see a car. The older homes were very well kept and I loved the gabled windows painted with bright tropical colours and the frangipani and wisteria growing in the yards. We planned to spend more time in the Bahamas but there was a good weather window for our crossing to Bermuda so we left.