A Long Night in Bermuda

No rest for the weary. I went to bed last night at 7pm, knowing full well that we’d be up again at 2 the next morning to cover the early morning shift. That’s how it goes when we have boats coming in one after another and have to be there on the dock to greet that. No matter how tired you are though, it’s pretty invigorating greeting crews on the dock who have just completed an ocean passage. They’re always thrilled to be there and provide a little boost of energy with their excitement.

It’s very nice here in Bermuda running these events, thanks to the watchful eye of Bermuda Radio high on Fort George Hill. They ‘tag’ each boat that is approaching the island, sometimes from as far as 50 miles away, and keep close tabs on any vessel traffic around the area. The reefs surrounding Bermuda are notorious – throughout the course of seafaring history, there has been some 500 wrecks on those reefs, and the guys at Bermuda Radio are doing their best to ensure it’s not 501 (the most recent major tradgedy involve an oil tanker than ran up on the coral, spilling thousands of gallons of crude oil into the fragile marine ecosystem, which is a terrible shame).

So as the Atlantic Cup and ARC Europe fleets approach the island, Bermuda Radio contacts them, and we listen in. Prior to departure from Tortola, each yacht filled in a pre-arrival form, indicating all the relevant info about their boat and the people onboard, including sat phone numbers, EPIRB IDs, liferaft info, etc. This is then forwarded to the boys at Bermuda Radio, who then anticipate each yacht as they arrive, and are able to hail them by name on the VHF once their inside about 25 miles. All this is going on while us ‘Yellow Shirts’ listen out on the VHF to see who’s next to arrive. After given permission to enter the harbor, the yachts then proceed to the customs dock on Ordnance Island to complete the formalities, where we greet them with their welcome packs and cold Dark ‘N Stormy’s.

At night, this works wonderfully. Mia and I were able to maintain a listening watch on the radio starting at 2am this morning. We had 6 overnight arrivals, yet didn’t get out of bed until 7 (though still didn’t get much sleep with the radio crackling to life all night long). Customs closes from midnight to 8am daily, so the yachts that arrived on our watch were directed by Bermuda Radio to anchor in Powder Hole, the nice anchorage just to the south of the town and wait for further instructions before proceeding into customs for clearance. Which was fine by us.

So my morning got underway around 7, when NYCTEA arrived. They were instructed by Bermuda Radio to standby off the customs dock and wait until they opened, rather than anchor. I scooted down to the dock to greet them. Tilly Mint, a big non-rally Oyster was occupying the dock at the time, so NYCTEA, stood by. By then, most of the yachts who’d arrived over night and went to anchor had gotten a short sleep and were starting to wake up.

‘Rally Control, Rally Control, this is Amelia d’Oslo, channel 77, over.’

As soon as the fleet realized I was down on the dock and the customs office was opening momentarily, my radio crackled to life again and the onslaught began in earnest. Tilly Mint completed their formalities and proceeded onto the superyacht dock at Bermuda Yacht Services (where Sandra and her son Mark, who manage the place, have been kind enough to loan the ‘Yellow Shirts’ a de facto base of operations in town, to avoid the scoot down from the Dinghy Club, where the main office is).

We can fit two boats at a time onto the customs dock, barely, and Amelie d’Oslo squeezed in behind NYCTEA, who completed their clearance but still needed to see the island’s vet to clear in their little dog Oscar. As each boat left, there was another close behind to take it’s place. The carousel got going around 8am this morning, and hasn’t let up since. Since the rally yachts were given Bermuda customs forms in Tortola, the process goes surprisingly swiftly and smoothly, with each yacht taking only about 15 minutes to complete the procedures.

Meanwhile, Kieran and Lyall had their hands full at the St. Georges Dinghy & Sports Club. NYCTEA had to stand by at anchor to wait for the vet, so Amelie d’Oslo began the parade to the dinghy club. Thankfully the strong SE wind that had been blowing in Bermuda for several days finally subsided this morning, and yachts were again able to tie up stern-to along the Dinghy Club’s long concrete pier in the calmer – yet rainy – conditions. Following Per and his crew on Amelie, the rest of the overnight arrivals queued up at customs, including Peter von Danzig, La Capitana, Ma Vie, Futura and Mad Fish, the family boat that led the fleet over the starting line in Tortola some five-and-a-half days ago.

“We caught a big dorado!” exclaimed one of the kids on Mad Fish, showing me a photo and stretching his arms out wide.

“Yeah, it was dinner for three days!” added Emma.

As for the yachts at sea, we expect everyone but Caiman and Tati to arrive sometime today or this evening. Caiman was the sole yacht not to take the start in Tortola while they sorted out some crew, but Dutch skipper Martin remained in good spirits and hopes to re-join the fleet here in Bermuda. Caiman is an out-and-out racing boat, so should have no problem making a fast passage north and taking the start with the fleet on Leg 2 en route to the Azores.

Kailani, the other family yacht in the race, with the Hawaiian father-son-nephew combo sent Rally Control an email from at sea this morning, describing some of their trials and tribulations.

“We were doing great last night and about 0100,” they wrote, “[when] the shackle for our spinnaker broke and the halyard got jammed at the top of the mast. It was all fun and games for awhile, [but] we finally got things under control. Anyway we should be in this evening!


Nik & Crew”

Tonight marks the first event on the program for our short stay in Bermuda, with a happy hour and BBQ up at the Dinghy Club tonight from 1700 hours. Duty-free refueling begins tomorrow (which is another hectic day on the docks, but this time in particular – thanks to a couple days of very light wind following the start in Tortola – a needed one.

So now after a short nap this morning – Kieran relieved me on the customs dock around 1015 – and a quick lunch with Mia and a shower, I’m back at it and will be heading down to the docks again this afternoon. Alice in Red, the lone yacht who departed from our new base in Portsmouth, VA, is set to arrive this evening. They’re the smallest yacht in the fleet (a 36’ Vancouver), and have had a bumpy passage from the US mainland, so I look forward to welcoming them with a well-deserved Dark ‘N Stormy and am anxious to hear their sea stories (the other yacht that left the USA, Windwalke IV, has my old Broadreach friend Darren onboard as skipper, so it was very cool meeting him up again yesterday. Seems we’ve been running into each other a lot lately in various ports in the North Atlantic, which is very cool! This will be his third Atlantic crossing).

Until later!