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
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.