Bermuda 2007 EUROPE 2005
Passage North from St Maarten to Bermuda
Depart St Maarten, West Indies 10th May 2007
Arrive Bermuda 20th May 2007
Passage duration 11 days
Distance sailed 870 nautical miles

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DAY 1: 10th May 2007

1130 local time (1630 UK time), 10th May 2007, 18deg 02N, 063deg 06W (Simpson Bay) 870M to Bermuda.

This morning we moved out of the lagoon and into the cleaner Simpson Bay in order to dive and check the outside of the boat's hull. All looks well and after fortification with Baked Beans on toast we plan to leave St Maarten bound for Bermuda within the hour. We will try to send regular log entries throughout the passage. These will be sent to John and posted onto the website. If we lose communication for a while please don't worry. We hope to arrive into Bermuda in about 8 days where we look forward to welcoming Rodger aboard and continuing on to England.

DAY 2: 11th May 2007

0800 local ( 1300 UK time) Friday 11th May, 19deg 39N, 063deg 18W, 103M sailed - 767M to go. Current wind SE 12-15

After a overcast and wet morning the sun came out for our departure and trip around the island of St Maarten yesterday. We sailed north past Anguilla and as this last Caribbean Island dipped down below the horizon and night approached we felt a moments trepidation at the long trip ahead. Before long we settled into things and the movement of the boat once more became familiar. We had ESE 12-15 knots through the night and although the odd lumpy cross sea threw us about we made good progress. The wind has veered around more behind the boat this morning which has slowed us a little - we may need Big Bertha later! Looking at the weather forecast we won't be breaking any speed records on this passage, but we're happy to be out here making progress.

DAY 3: 12th May 2007

1200 AST 12th May, 21deg 36N, 063deg 44W, 2 days out, distance made good 223M, 647M to go. Wind SE 8-12

The weather here is calm and hot with only a slight sea. Yesterday the sky was clear and we baked hiding under the bimini and spraying ourselves with water. Today a thin, high, milky cloud fills the sky which makes things cooler, but suggests a change in the weather. The wind continues light with often only just enough to fill the sails and stop them crashing about. We are following a zig-zag course running downwind when we get 12 knots and reaching across when it drops to 8-9 knots. This way we can keep the boat moving. With these conditions our progress is slower than usual - the boat is often only moving through the water at 3 knots. Usually tearing my hair out and reaching for the engine start button on this trip I am happy with our progress. Maybeee I've become the calm, mature sage-like individual that have always aspired to. Alternatively I am watching that cold front as it moves south towards us containing bigger seas and boisterious head winds and hoping that if we go slow it will have more time to moderate and move off east before we meet it.

Our days have settled into the following routine: 2000-2300 I'm on watch, 2300-0200 Nat on watch, 0200-0500 me again. When on watch we use our watch commander timer which gives an alarm every 15 mins to remind us to look around for other vessels. Between these scans we cat-nap, read by torch light or listen to Podcasts - last night I listened to a Royal Society lecture on evolution recorded free when in St. Maarten, Nat likes a talk by Jodrell Bank Observatory on the night sky. The moonrise is about 0300 and until then is pretty dark. When there are clouds about you can barely see the bow of the boat - after reading by torchlight for 15 mins you can't see diddly squat! But when the clouds clear an amazing number of stars present themselves - between the bright ones a dusting of many hundreds more. A planet, probably Venus, to our west is so bright as to give a beam of light on the sea. Dawn is around 0500. From 0500-0800 Nat's on watch and this morning I woke at 0800 to the smell of baking bread which Nat had made. We have breakfast together 8-9 while I download the weather fax from New Orleans. We often see elegant white sea-birds with long thin tails and dark eye patches circling the boat. They look keen to stop for a rest and shape up to land with feet outstretched, but then fear catches them and they sweep up again to continue on their way. We imagined these beautiful brave birds to be very exotic but disappointingly we think they are called Common Terns. From 0900-1200 I'm is on watch, 1200-1300 lunch, 1300-1600 Nat, 1600-1800 me, 1800-2000 Nat. Our AIS works well so far and alerts us each time a large ship comes within range. This is a great help. The sun is out again and Nat is making Squash and Sweet Potato Soup for lunch so I will end the log here.

DAY 4: 13th May 2007

Position @ 0600AST 13th May: N22deg48 W063deg36, days at sea 3, distance made good 295nm, distance still to go 575nm, current weather: no wind lots of rain

Yesterday afternoon ran to schedule. Mark listened into Herb at 1600AST and we heard a couple of boats in our vicinity speaking to him. The closest was S/V Foxtrot about 60 miles to the east of us. Mark has been receiving and analysing the synoptic charts from NOAA New Orleans and Boston and using them to track depressions forming to the west of us. One low and possibly a second are currently forecast to sweep between us and Bermuda by Monday evening. Herb's advice to Foxtrot was to 'slow down' and 'to not go north of 26N by Mon eve', ensuring they remain to the south of the low. As you read in the last log this has been Mark's strategy too so we continued to keep the boat moving along slowly despite the wind increasing slightly throughout the course of yesterday afternoon and into the evening. It is quite unusual to find ourselves reducing speed at a time when we would normally be cracking on full steam ahead. We appear to be adapting quite well to our newly found skill of going slow, so much so we are currently now adrift. The wind died at around 0400AST and the rain started to pour down at 0500. The sails subsequently flapped about making an horrendous noise so Mark took all the sail in about an hour ago and since then we have just bobbed around, Free Spirit's course now out of our hands, with Captain Neptune himself up on deck having a shower while trying to fill our water tanks! He seems to have become more like the endearing characters of his favourite sailing yarns than ever before. Last night Mark demonstrated his bravery and endurance as he stood my watch for me. Just as I was coming off watch at 2000AST I had the fright of my life as the cockpit and the sky lit up just as I was coming down below. I have never made it down the companionway steps and into Mark's arms as quick as I did then! One of the many things I have learnt while on our sailing adventures is that I am absolutely terrified of lightning when out at sea. Our first experience of this was on leaving the Cape Verdes, an island group off the coast of Africa. It was our first night out of port bound for the West Indies and the lightning was phenomenal but Mark consoled me that it was far away as no thunder was to be heard. Last night however it was accompanied by a full roll of thunder letting me know just how close it was. With the handheld GPS and VHF sealed away safely once again in the pressure cooker, the curtains and my peepers were drawn tightly shut in an attempt to block out reality. So, with a scaredy-cat's full night's rest behind me, albeit fitful, it is my turn to give Mark a break. The lightning has either thankfully stopped or the daylight has made me oblivious to it, either way I feel happier. Amazingly under no sail Free Spirit is making 2.5 knots in roughly the right direction, we must have the tide running with us. The water has just started to gush out of our freshwater hand pumps indicating the tanks are now full and Mark is back in from his shower feeling refreshed. The rain has now stopped leaving behind nothing but quietness. A cup of tea is brewing and an easy morning at sea doing nothing more than reading or dozing lies ahead of us. Hopefully the wind will pick up soon so we can hoist our sails and be on our way once more.

DAY 5: 14th May 2007

0800 Mon 14th May 2007, 24deg 24N 063deg 45W, Sailed 392M, 478M to go, Wind W12, Rain.

Around 0900 yesterday, just when we had settled into the idea of a few hours asleep adrift the wind returned and quickly built to 25 knots kicking up a steep sea. After crashing about for an hour we decided to heave-to for a while. The seas were steep and breaking, the wind howled through the rigging at 25 knots and clouds of dense rainfall swept past. At first we assumed it was a squall and would pass through quickly, but by 1430 we decided it wasn't getting any better and making short sail hurtled off to the north, breaking crests chasing us. We found clearer less windy weather just before dark and today the weather fax has inserted a new trough line just where we found one! Since then the wind has been a good strength but constantly changing in direction. From easterley it has gradually veered clockwise through south to northerly and now back to west requiring plenty of sail changes and adjustments throughout the moonless. It's pouring with rain again, but we don't mind - Nat has baked some wholemeal bread, the seas are only slight and we're making ok progress. There is another trough to cross sometime this afternoon or tonight but we feel blooded and ready now. We hope to arrive Bermuda Friday morning.

DAY 7: 16th May 2007

Current Position 27deg30N 064deg39W @ 0900AST on 16th May. Distance made good: 580nm, Distance still to go: 290nm, Weather: ENE15, blue skies & moderate seas.

The Sargasso Sea has a mean surface level approximately one metre higher than that of neighbouring coasts so it would seem that we have been sailing uphill since leaving St Maarten. It has certainly felt like that physically and mentally recently. The last 48 hours aboard have been hard. There have been squalls and thunderstorms surrounding us, endless sail changes, strong head winds and large irregular seas. A never ending series of obstacles seem to appear in our path. As we beat our way out of the strong winds and boisterous large seas brought to us firstly by a large area of squall activity and secondly by a cold front passing over us, a third unfavourable weather feature presents itself. Possible gale force conditions are forecast for Bermuda at the time of our arrival, which would make entry dangerous. We will take more weather information day by day but it looks as thought we will need to stop the boat some distance short of Bermuda and wait for good weather. Having said this we are fit and well - slowing or stopping the boat will allow us to rest before entering. The boat is behaving well and has no problems. Now the cold front has passed we have clear skies once more, the seas are lessening and a fresh cool breeze, which is a welcome reminder that we have now left behind the stifling heat and humidity of the tropics.

DAY 8: 17th May 2007

We are now hove-to (stationary) an a charming little patch of ocean at 29deg59N, 064deg37W! We are within 26hrs sail of Bermuda and south of the strongest winds. Although the decision to stop was difficult the idea of trying to run downwind in 30 knots into a small gap in the reefs to get into Bermuda seems unwise. The weather is set to improve quite rapidly after its peak on Friday night so we hope to arrive Sat pm or Sun am. We hope to catch up on sleep and eat some good food.

DAY 10: 19th May 2007

This morning as the front approached, the weather deteriorated and the wind began to ease we started sailing toward Bermuda . All day the visibility was poor as the rain came down in sheets. Unable to make the entrance before nightfall but aware that the wind will come from the north in the morning we moved as far north as we dared before heaving to AGAIN! Rather than sailors we may call ourselves “heavers” from now on. From 100 miles out we have been listening to the very professional Bermuda Coastguard on the radio and earlier we contacted them giving our position and ETA.

DAY 11: 20th May 2007

We arrived this morning at about 9am after motoring into that northerly wind for an hour or so (glad we positioned ourselves well last night). Once inside the well protected St Georges Harbour all was quiet. Again the coastguard were most helpful – the best we have encountered so far. We checked in at immigration and then were lucky to get on of the sought after marina places. Being a small boat helps. Now some sleep before dinner with Nat’s friend Andrew and his girlfriend and daughter Sylvia and Skye.

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