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Bermuda and to Sea

Picton Castle sailed into Bermuda from Jost Van Dyke, 850 nautical miles to the south, just ahead of tropical storm Andrea. We got secured at Ordnance Island at noon before shifting over to Penno’s Wharf. We were very graciously allowed to stay here for the duration of our visit. Once there at
8:30 in the evening the gang got the ship all snugly tied up with extra hawsers and chafe gear on. And then we relaxed. This was on Tuesday evening.

I had hoped to get back to sea north bound by Thursday or Friday but the forecast was calling for a few days of very strong northerlies with seas to match. Had we been planning on heading head back to the Caribbean this would have been fine. But we are bound for Nova Scotia. Spending a few extra days at lovely Bermuda is no ill fate. We went on to two watches to be able to shift the ship if the harbour authorities needed it for a cruise ship as could be the case. And also this was a good and highly appropriate time to do some things in preparation for the 725 nautical mile passage to Lunenburg, through the North Atlantic. And the Gulf Stream. The ship came into port ready to sail, but this is the North Atlantic, not the balmy tradewinds coming up.

But meanwhile, no reason not to enjoy Bermuda, eh? St George’s is a beautiful old town rich in architecture and is a cross-roads of Atlantic history. A cross-roads between England and empire, America, Canada, the West Indies and of course, at the very centre, Bermuda itself. Walking along the narrow streets lined with 1700s and 1800s buildings all nicely painted, none over three stories and only a couple of those. The old armory is one. No shortage of small eateries and watering holes. Wahoos, The Wharf and the White Horse Tavern have been welcoming mariners for a century or more. Last chance for conch fritters, wahoo steaks and the special Bermuda fish chowder, much different than our Nova Scotia/New England variety. Only in Bermuda could it be figured out that fish chowder would be better with black rum in it. And it has to be Goslings Black Rum.

What else? Dirk and Tammy cleared in at Customs & Immigration – very smooth and friendly. The Bermuda Pilots under Captain Mario Thompson could not have been better or more friendly. Malcolm’s Barber Shop, clipping hair for ever, saw some custom. Steve and Suzanne Hollis at Ocean Sails sail loft made us feel very welcome. Ocean Sails does all kinds or repairs on yachts headed north and south. Everyone who sails the Atlantic knows Steve and Suzanne and it seems they know everyone too. Shipmates from voyages past came by to welcome us, as well as friends and family of young former trainees now advancing in their marine careers here and in the UK.

The East End Mini Yacht Club might be the friendliest yacht club anywhere.

On the weekend we saw parades and races between the “fitted dinghies” of Bermuda. These are small boats, a century old in some cases, with wild high rigs, so tall that four or more people must be in the boat just for ballast or they will capsize just sitting there. Tom Gallant (and Jimmy The Cat) in Schooner Avenger of Lunenburg sailed in from Antigua just in time to raft up with us for the coming blow – and it blew plenty.

Laundry got done. Topsides painted. Decks sanded and oiled. Cutter Ann got moved up to the galley deck house. Spot painting on deck. Some sail repairs.

A final food shopping for Donald. Tom Wadson, the famous farmer of Bermuda and friend of the ship, sorted us out with some fine Bermuda grown provisions. Got all our customs declarations off to Customs Canada for our planned arrival. A general and thorough check throughout the ship with much stowing and lashing. Lots of checking lists both for the upcoming passage but also for the summer trip coming up.

On Sunday the winds and weather were fair, but seas outside were still plenty large – no call to go out into that and slam around under power if we did not have to. Big seas and light winds is a recipe for breaking things.

We would sail Monday.

Monday cam in fair and clear. A beautiful morning to sail. Dirk and Tammy got us cleared out. Pastel blue skies, small cotton ball clouds scudding overhead from the west. Yards braced just so, sails loosed. Singled up and gangway in, engine warmed up and pilots aboard, we backed down on a stern spring and the crew of the Picton Castle sailed their barque off the dock, through Town Cut with all sail set and yards squared. A big cruise ship (Grandeur of the Seas, in which Donald was cook when she sailed from where she was built in St Nazaire, France, the same port where Picton Castle visited in 1942 an 2009) was coming up channel bound for Hamilton. They had some speed up, a bone in her teeth, can’t be late. At almost 1,000 feet long quite an imposing sight. Just before the sea buoy off the channel the pilot boat St. David came alongside and took our pilots off, veered away with a long pull on the horn and we were off. Bound for Nova Scotia and her sea-bound coast.

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