Sailing Red Rooster
Our Adventures on Supertramp
25th April 2017
We met Steve and Fiona in the marina at Wickham’s Cay, Beer Island in the BVI’s after a two day travelling session. We had found very cheap flights, £320 each with a company called Kiwi.com and our route was from Stanstead to Oslo, to Ft Lauderdale, to Costa Rica then finally Beer Island. This sounds horrendous but we had an overnight stop at Ft Lauderdale so it wasn’t too bad.
It started well with Alan dropping us off at Stansted around 07.00 2 hours before our flight. Thanks Alan. We were pleased to find a new, more automated security check in system and we flew through.
We boarded on time but as we buckled our belts the pilot came onto tell us that there would be a 1-2 hour delay as Oslo was in the middle of a very heavy snow storm!!! Oh no!!
If the delay could not be improved upon and it couldn’t then it meant that we would miss our connection to Ft Lauderdale which we did!!! So Claire called kiwi.com while we were still sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off. She explained the situation and we were told to wait and they would get back to us. That’s all we were doing, waiting. I sort of understand why they put us on the plane even though they knew we would be sitting at the end of the runway for nearly two hours but it was very frustrating.
The flight itself was fine and at least we could see the reason for the delay as we came into land as there was a good foot of snow as far as the eye could see.
We reclaimed our baggage and checked that the Ft Lauderdale flight had actually left, it had been delayed too but it was gone. We hadn’t had a call back from Kiwi .com so Claire called them. We were told that there were no more flights to the US from Oslo that day and to book into a hotel for the night. We could claim the money back through their insurance scheme. That however was a lot easier said than done though as there were many displaced passengers looking for a room. We managed to secure one at the Great Weston which was a shuttle bus ride away. We were fed up at falling at the first hurdle but there was nothing we could do but make the best of it. We had loosely arranged to meet up with Clive, Patrice, Ben and Jamie Farnborough in Ft Lauderdale as they were all there but there was no hope of that happening now.
By the time we had got to our room kiwi.com had rescheduled all of our flights which meant that in the morning we would fly from Oslo to Amsterdam then to St. Maarten then finally on to Beef Island, it was going to be a long day. But, and it was a big but, the first flight from Oslo to Amsterdam had to leave on time as we only had 1 hour 30 mins at Amsterdam before the next flight left!!! Looking out of the window of the hotel was a worry because it was still snowing hard!!!!
We had a nice but expensive meal in the hotel. A glass of wine was £9 50. We had water!! Before going to bed I looked out of the window and the snow was still coming down.
0600 hours, the snow was still falling in large fluffy flakes. The cars outside the hotel were covered. If only we were going skiing.
We caught the shuttle bus back to the airport, found our flight on the board which unsurprisingly was already showing a half hour delay. Oh bugger!!! By the time we actually took off we were 50 minutes late. The view out of the window as the plane took off showed a land covered in snow as far as the eye could see.
As we were nearing Amsterdam the pilot came on to tell all those that had interconnecting flights their gate numbers to try and save us a bit of time. At least our bags were booked on all the interconnecting flights so we didn’t have to worry about them, or so we thought!
We had to run like mad through the terminal. Luckily there was a special queue for transferring passengers through passport control. It was sort of like a lottery system in that those who had the least time before their flight took off got through first. Once we were through we started running for our gate and of course it was at the very end of a very, very long corridor. We were amongst the last few to get on but not before Claire had checked with the boarding team that our bags were on their list. They were so off we went for a very enjoyable KLM flight to St. Maarten.
We were lucky enough to have 5 seats in a row all to ourselves so we spread out a bit. Claire had 4 of the seats while I sat at the end watching films. There were some good ones to watch too. I saw ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ and ‘Rogue One’. The food and drink also kept coming, we weren’t sure whether we had paid for it but no one asked so we tucked in.
We landed in St Maarten after an uneventful but enjoyable flight. We had a 2 hour stopover in St. Maarten airport and Claire checked again that our bags were on the Winair´s baggage manifesto, which they were. Our plane was a DHC-6-300 which is a small twin propeller plane. There were about 9 of us on board. There were no safety talks, no checks to see if your seat belt was done up and certainly no in-flight entertainment. As we accelerated down the runway the noise and the vibration was terrible. If you closed your eyes, which most of us did by the way you could easily imagine yourself being in an old transit van on the M1 rather than flying in a plane but it got us to Beer Island at about 7.30pm just as the sun was setting.
After filling out our customs forms we had a bit of a shock when the customs officer asked us for a letter from our skipper confirming that we were crewing on his boat!!! We didn’t have that so the best thing I could do was to call Steve on my mobile, luckily he picked up and he spoke to the officer confirming we were staying with him. She wasn’t happy and hummed and hahhed a bit but eventually let us through to the baggage claim area where our bags were conspicuous by their absence. Oh no!!!! That’s all we needed…..
After a bit of a search we eventually managed to find the only person left in the airport that worked for Winair, we explained the problem and the guy didn’t seem at all surprised. Claire had the baggage slips and she filled out a form that the guy gave her and he said we should call the office tomorrow mid-morning when all of the staff would be in. There was nothing more we could do so we got a cab to Wickhams Cay Marina to meet Steve and Fiona.
At last we were on board Supertramp and it was really good to see Steve and Fiona again. They showed us to our nice double cabin that Fiona had made cosy and welcoming for us. It didn’t take us long to unpack!!!!!! And soon we were sitting in a restaurant drinking rum punch and waiting for our chicken wings and tuna salad to arrive. It was extremely hot and humid that night and even though we were very tired sleep was a long time coming.
As soon as we had a bit of breakfast and got the boat sorted we headed out towards Virgin Gorda. Steve and Fiona had very kindly offered to show us around the BVI’s before we took the boat into the marina at Nanny Cay to join the ARC fleet. We had 5 days of fun to look forward too. First on their list was `The Baths` which was a beautiful spot. We sailed practically all the way there as the trade winds were still blowing. They almost always come from the East / North East at between 15 and 25 knots, we had a great sail. I wanted to sail Supertramp as much as possible before we set off for Bermuda to familiarise ourselves with her handling and equipment. For example this was the first time that Claire and I had experienced in mast furling of the mainsail and I wanted to be sure we understood all its idiosyncrasies.
The Baths are a jumble of very large rocks strewn along the southern end of Virgin Gorda and the gaps between them have naturally formed into little sandy beaches and pools of beautifully clear water. We picked up a mooring buoy on Supertramp, jumped in the dinghy and motored to the swimming area. You have to leave the dinghy outside of this area so after making sure it was tied up to one of the boundary buoy’s we jumped into the beautifully warm and clear water swimming the last 50 meters or so to the shore. We spent a very pleasant few hours walking from one end of ‘The Baths’ to the other using the wooden steps and ropes to help you climb up and over the larger rocks stopping for a paddle or a swim when you found a lovely pool of water or a rock pool.
At the end we found a nice little beach bar where we had a few cold beers while watching the resident chickens as they clucked and pecked at the ground around us.
When we were back on board Supertramp I called Winair to ask about our bags. Their answer seemed pretty vague to me and Steve suggested we leave and pick up a buoy in Trellis Bay for the night which was a short dinghy ride to a beach close to the airport building and go to see them in person.
We had another cracking sail and soon we were picking up a mooring buoy almost under the flightpath of the airport on Beef Island.
Steve and I took the dinghy to the beach and walked less than 500 yds to the airport. Winair’s offices were on the first floor. The door was open so we walked in. I asked for the person who was in charge of the lost luggage. After a few introductions I asked him where my bags were. He had obviously done nothing about them and immediately picked up the phone reading numbers from the form that Claire had filled in the night before. I asked a girl sitting at another desk if she could at least trace the bags as we didn’t even know where they were. It transpired that it was common practice for them to leave luggage at St Maarten if the small plane was overloaded putting it on another flight later the same day or the next and they all assumed that this is what happened to ours but no. My new friend put the phone down stating that our bags had been left in Amsterdam!! We had to run like mad to make that flight but our bags didn’t. Steve told them that we were being severely delayed and needed to sail the next day. My new friend told us that our bags had been put on the next flight out of Amsterdam and should be landing at St Maarten in a few hours. He promised that if they were on board he would get them forwarded to Beer Island airport that evening. We arranged to return at 19.00 hrs as that was when the last Winair plane landed. They tried to persuade us to come back in the morning but I wanted those bags so we were coming back later.
We went back and busied ourselves around the boat for a few hours stopping for a lovely dinner prepared by Fiona. Steve got a call from Winair letting us know that our bags were in the reclaim area and we needed to show our passports to claim them. We jumped back in the dinghy and I was soon standing outside the doors marked No Entry that people off the last flight were coming out of. I could just see the carousel but a customs official wouldn’t let me through until everyone else had come out. Eventually she let me in and there, sitting all on their own were our bags. Whew.
No one was interested in my passport and I walked back out to the airport building and Steve and I made our way back to the dinghy. Steve was almost as pleased as I was as one of the bags was pretty much full of stuff for him, Fiona and or Supertramp.
Claire was overjoyed to see the bags and immediately started to unpack them. I was relieved to see that the little old La Foley Ukulele we rescued from a life of boredom stuck in a cupboard at my Mum’s house was still in one piece. It had been made between 1920- 1940 and Claire and I wanted to learn to play it. We also handed over all of the stuff we had bought out for Steve and Fiona relieved that we didn’t have to replace it all.
Time to celebrate me thinks so after a quick shower we all jumped in the dinghy and made our way to a tiny island in the middle of the bay that had a bar / club on it called ‘ The islands last resort’ A guy was playing guitar and singing. He was very good. We had Pain killer cocktails and beer enjoying the music for a few hours before going back to eat and sleep. It was a lot cooler on board as we were at anchor and a nice breeze was flowing through the boat.
Waking up in the Caribbean was a very nice experience. The pastel colours of the water, the warmth of the sun and the cooling air provided by the trade winds made it perfect.
Steve and Fiona were taking us to a very small Island called Sandy Cay which was part of Jost Van Dyke another Island in the BVI group.
It was blowing 25 knots so we just pulled out the genoa after leaving Trellis Bay enjoying a nice downwind sail for a few hours before dropping the anchor off of Sandy Cay in very clear water.
Claire and Fiona took the dinghy to the beach and walked around the island this took less than 10 minutes it was that small!!
They hadn’t been back on board that long before we saw the unmistakable fins of dolphins swimming in the bay. There were two pods both had 6 – 7 dolphins. Claire, Fiona and I jumped in the dinghy and motored over for a closer look at them. They were not bothered by us at all. Fiona had a Gopro camera and was filming them underwater then she jumped in and was swimming with them. I could see that Claire wanted to get in too but she was nervous. She could see that Fiona was fine so went over the side too. I of course had to stay in the dinghy for safety reasons you understand!
When Claire and Fiona climbed back into the tender after about 30 minutes they were so excited. Claire said she heard them clicking and squeaking to one another she said that one swam up to her and looked at her for a while. Suffice to say the girls were very happy to have been swimming with dolphins.
After a bit of lunch we moved the boat a few miles to pick up a mooring buoy in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. Steve and Fiona wanted to take us to the ‘soggy dollar’ bar which can only be reached by boat. We got absolutely soaked motoring around to ‘white bay’ which meant that we had a few soggy dollars to spend when we got there. It was a great beach with a few larger boats anchored off but a lot of smaller boats close to the shore with anchors dug into the sand of the beach.
We managed to get Claire to have a rum punch instead of her usual white wine and lemonade. She quite liked it which was handy as it was sold everywhere.
I was pleased to see that this bar had a game that I had first played with George in Antigua when we sailed there together in 2014. It's a simple but enjoyable game and I call it ‘getting the ring on the hook’ I call it that because that’s what you have to do. The game consists of a bit of string, normally hanging from a branch of a tree with a metal ring about 2 inches across tied on the end of it. The string is just long enough so that the ring can catch on a hook that’s screwed into the trunk of the tree about chest height.
The pleasing thing is that you can’t just swing the ring straight at the hook as it won’t hook on, you have to swing the ring around the hook so it catches on its way back to you. Very satisfying and frustrating in equal measure. We all had a laugh playing it and a few people passing couldn’t resist having a go with a couple of them doing it first go…….very annoying.
We walked along the beach and back stopping to look at a pelican that was diving into the water for the small fish that were swimming around the boats. We sampled another rum punch in another bar before getting back in the dinghy for a proper soaking this time as we made our way back to Supertramp.
We were eating ashore so we sat about for a bit before getting ourselves ready. The place to eat here was a bar / restaurant called ‘Foxy’s’ we hadn’t booked but fortunately there were a few tables left. We sat and the waitress informed us that it was a BBQ / buffet all you can eat for a fixed price (I can’t remember how much) it looked great but there was a problem….Steve is an extremely fussy eater. He´s a lot worse than me! He only likes very plain food, no sauces, no rice, no pasta, salads or veg. He only likes meat, fish, chips, mashed, roasted or fried potatoes. The meat had been marinated, the fish was ok but unfortunately all of the side dishes were rice or pasta based so there was nothing really there for him so we made our excuses and walked to the next restaurant that had a few different kinds of fish, burgers and the all-important chips. We had a nice meal there and walked back to Foxy’s which was swinging. There was a very good band playing, people dancing and a very strange man that danced with a bit of string tied to a wooden post that was holding the roof up. Every now and then he would stop dancing with the piece of string to perform some odd act of strength and agility which often included wooden stools, a bottle of beer and a very impressive limbo technique. All very entertaining.
Soon we were all dancing, we had a great night
I can’t remember what time we finally got into bed. I do remember that we hit someone’s mooring line in the dinghy on the way back to Supertramp.
We had a slow start. We bought some ice off of a man and his son who was stopping at all the boats selling ice and offering to take any rubbish you had for a few dollars then started to get the boat ready for a sail to Norman Island which was on the opposite side of the BVI’s to where we were.
We sailed for a bit and motored for a bit as the wind ended up on our nose as we passed Sopers hole. Fiona wanted to take us to Norman Island to snorkel over reefs and into some cave’s that were in the steep rocks at the water’s edge. Once again we were lucky to find a mooring buoy free and soon we were in the dinghy motoring over to the line of Buoys marking the swimming / snorkelling area. Fiona and Claire swam from Supertramp but it seemed a bit far for me although I do feel like I am getting my confidence back. Steve was happy to go in the dinghy too as he was not a confident swimmer either. Luckily there were enough sets of snorkelling gear on Supertramp for us all so once we had the dinghy tied up we set off slowly floating above the coral looking down at the fish. Some were really beautiful. We swam into the cave, it was quite small but ok. After about 30 minutes we decided that it was time to head back to Supertramp. I had felt ok swimming around so I decided to swim back. Claire and Fiona followed me while Steve went over to the dinghy.
I had only just started swimming back when I noticed something moving around on the seabed. It took a while to figure out what I was looking at. It was a turtle. It seemed to be walking on the bottom, taking bites out of anything that looked tasty. I shouted, well as much as you can shout with a snorkel and mask on to Claire and Fiona who swam over for a look. I carried on and made it to the boat ok. When I looked around Claire and Fiona were still a long way off and it was only when they got close that they told me the turtle had come up for air and they were swimming alongside it for a while. It was great to see Claire and Fiona so happy.
Once we were all back on the boat we received a radio message from Phil and Lorraine on ‘Far’. They had picked up a mooring buoy in ‘The bite’ telling us that there were a few still vacant so we motored over picking one up next to them. Unfortunately the way the wind was swirling around had the effect of pushing the boats towards each other and we were worried that we would end up hitting each other so we moved off around the corner in front of the bar ‘Willy T’s’. Far joined us shortly afterwards and soon we were in the bar drinking sundowners.
Phil and Lorraine off ‘Far’ were very nice people and they were also going on the ARC trip to Bermuda.
We were up quite early as Steve and Fiona wanted to take us to ‘Cooper Island’ another favourite spot of theirs where the snorkelling was superb. But as we set sail the wind filled in to a solid 20 -25 knots and Fiona said that the sea would be too disturbed by the wind destroying the clarity of the water so we decided to go onto ‘Bitter End’ on the Island of Virgin Gorda. We had a great sail with long tacks all the way up between the Islands. Supertramp sails really well.
After a few hours we sailed between Mosquito Island (Richard Branson’s eco resort) and the main island. We picked up a buoy and after sorting the boat out jumped in the dinghy and visited Saba Rock. This tiny Island covering just over an acre of land had a very nice bar / restaurant with beautiful views everywhere you looked. We sat on sun loungers drinking sun downers watching the kite surfers showing off in the warm shallow waters.
There were lots of people gathering around this guy standing at the edge of the dock. He had a bucket full of food, messy food and even before he threw anything in I saw a flash in the water as a large fish, I’m talking about 1metre long shot past. Soon there were too many to count and as the man started throwing the food in the water began to boil.
Steve told us that the fish were Tarpon and that this happened every day here at 5pm. The fish had learnt to turn up on time. He also told me that a few years ago he was here with his children and the children were watching the feeding from their dinghy. The guy threw some food close to their dinghy and one of these huge fish jumped in!! He showed me a YouTube clip (search for Saba rock Tarpon) it’s really funny.
We had a very nice meal on board, Fiona is a very good cook by the way and we all turned in for an earlyish night. Enjoying yourself is hard work sometimes!!
In the morning we left for the short trip to ‘Leverick bay’ we picked up a buoy with Steve and I going to shore shortly afterwards to book a table at ‘The Restaurant at Leverick Bay’ not only for the great food but also to make sure we had a good table for the Legendary Michael Beans show. While we were there we walked around to the hut perched on the end of the small jetty that served as the harbour masters office.
There were about a dozen berths on the jetty with half of them taken. Steve asked how much it would be for one night and was pleasantly surprised to be quoted $35!! It was $20 on the mooring buoy. So we moved Supertramp onto the jetty. Perfect.
The girls were pleased to be able to walk ashore instead of scrambling in and out of the dinghy.
The Michael Bean show was brilliant. He is a very charismatic man and expended a lot of effort in encouraging the rather large crowd to join in wherever possible. It was a pirate show and any word that had even the hint of an Arrrr like ‘Happy Hourrrr’, schoonarrrr, guitaarrrr, motharrr, and fatharrrr for that matter and so on was used in the show . It was funny and very entertaining, we had a really good night.
30th April, and we were heading back now to Nanny Cay which was the marina where the boats who were taking part in the ARC USA / Europe were gathering. Once again we had another beautiful sail. I feel happy with Supertramp, Claire was getting used to the powered winches and the in mast furling.
Claire and I had a long discussion before we decided to come on the trip about the need for us all to get on. Not so much during this part but once we set sail for Bermuda. 5-6 days is a long time to be stuck with someone who gets on your nerves. The problem was we didn’t really know Steve and Fiona that well, we had been at anchor next to them in Red Rooster during a really windy few days in Fornells, Menorca and that’s it really, we had a couple of meals together and drinks on each other’s boat but we didn’t really know if we got on.
I think we were very lucky to have been able to have a few days sailing Supertramp and in getting to know them better before setting off. We were bonding into a nice little crew.
When we arrived at Nanny Cay we were given a berth in the new section of the marina which was a 5 minute walk from the main area. At first we were a bit fed up about this as everything we needed to see and do was over in the main area but we changed our minds very quickly when we realised how much more breeze we had where we were. The boats that were in the very busy main area were stifling in the heat and humidity even prompting a few people to book into the local hotel for a bit of air conditioned luxury.
The ARC schedule was quite busy with the first seminar on Safety at sea starting about an hour after we turned up. We all went to that one with Fiona and Claire staying on for a talk about provisioning the boat for a longer trip and food preparation.
There was a lot of emphasis on safety which is understandable and ALL boats had to conform and demonstrate that they had the required safety items during a visit from one of the ARC team who had a check list for your boat. The check list was quite exhaustive covering such things as EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), Satellite phone, life jackets with sprayhoods, lights, whistle etc. The life raft was checked and we needed to show a current service record for it. They looked at all of the man overboard equipment, our flares, our emergency VHF aerial that you had plenty of bottled water for everyone even though we had a water maker they reason that it may stop working. It went on and on which is a good thing but if you didn’t have a required item you needed to go and buy it as there was no grey area.
We were also given a ‘Yellow brick’ tracker for the duration of the trip. The YB tracker is very accurate as it sends your location via satellite to a monitoring station which plots your position on a chart. These positions are sent out to the whole fleet once a day via an email link to your sat phone.
As we were racing to Bermuda this information would be very useful in determining how well you were doing against the rest of the fleet.
They are also used if you’re in trouble and the team ashore can increase the amount of times it pings out your location making it far more accurate.
The days passed quickly, we attended a flares demonstration, the hot bright type not the baggy 70’s attire. We joined in with a life raft demonstration in the swimming pool. Deploying a raft and climbing in and out of it with life jackets on.
A lot of time was spent getting Supertramp ready, filling fuel tanks and spare fuel cans, stowing the dinghy, storing the outboard engines. The girls did a really big shop stowing all of the food and drink in every nook and cranny. We had to fill all of the gas cylinders as well as checking over the rigging. We found a rivet that needed replacing on the vang, we checked and tightened the bolts on the main furling system.
Steve and Fiona were very kind in providing Claire and I with ‘Supertramp’ ARC shirts and caps which made us at least look like a professional crew.
Most nights there was something organised by the ARC team bringing all the crews together for a BBQ or sundowners at the beach bar. I was impressed by the amount of effort the ARC team put in to help out the crews and I am sure they had to deal with a lot of very mundane questions.
We attended the leaving dinner which was a grand affair giving the ladies an excuse to dress up and the men to shower and shave. We were sat on a table with some very nice Americans who were fare paying crew doing the trip for the experience. Most of them were slightly nervous of what lay ahead. I think you would have to be pretty stupid not to feel nervous a day or two before a 5-6 day crossing of the North Atlantic.
On the 5th May we were doing all of the last minute things, topping off the water tanks, getting rid of all the rubbish etc. Steve took us over the boat going through all of the safety items. He asked us to wear our life jackets at all times day and night when on deck, clipping onto a strong point in the cockpit.
We also agreed that we would do 4 hour watches, in pairs starting from 20.00 in the evening. So Claire and I would do 20.00 – 24.00. Steve and Fiona would then come on from 24.00 – 04.00 and we would come back on at 04.00 – 08.00. Steve and Fiona would then take over but anyone could sleep whenever they felt the need during daylight hours as long as someone was on watch. The following evening Steve and Fiona would do 20.00 -24.00 and so on.
Steve and I went to the skippers briefing that afternoon where weather forecasts were discussed and the fact that it was going to be a downwind start which was always interesting.
Those that had SSB radios (SSB is a more powerful radio system than VHF requiring expensive kit and training) set up a time schedule to call each other. We also talked about customs requirements when entering St Georges in Bermuda, where to anchor / moor up afterwards.
The handicap system for the race was also discussed. You were allowed to motor and looking at the forecast we were all going to have to turn our engines on at some stage but when you did you obviously needed to be penalised. This was done by multiplying the hours your engine was running by a factor of 1.47 I think!! This figure was then added to your overall time. Or something like that. Of course it was only as good as the honesty of the skipper who had to declare his hours motoring at the end of the race.
Steve and I made our way back to the boat. We had decided to have a quiet night before we departed.
I slept surprisingly well waking up to general hustle and bustle on the pontoons. Fiona made us a nice breakfast and we left the pontoon around 10.30 after saying our goodbyes and good lucks to all those around us. The race start was a 12 noon.
There were about 40 boats in the race. We were amongst the first out. We cruised up and down under engine with our mainsail out looking for the committee boat and the large orange buoy that was to form our start line.
We waved at a few of the boats we knew then saw the committee boat appear. It dropped a small white buoy then motored off a reasonably short distance before dropping its anchor. The committee boat came up on channel 72 for a roll call and we had to confirm that we were on the water ready to start. A few people took this opportunity to ask if the very small white buoy was in place of what should have been the large orange buoy. It was. We were told that the large orange buoy had a puncture!!
Steve asked me to helm for the start and we agreed to keep back from the line until all of the ‘boy racer’ types had gone as we didn’t want to get into any awkward situations.
To me starting on Port seemed the obvious choice as our course on a broad reach would take us into open water and space to manoeuvre whereas if we started on Starboard we would either be running dead downwind which would be very slow or have to gybe soon after crossing the line if we were reaching as that course took us towards the shore of Tortola.
With 10 minutes to go to the start I took us on a run to the line on Port reminding everyone, as well as myself that on this tack we had no rights of way and that we would need to get out of everybody else’s way but as we were starting after the main group had left this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. We had the genoa out now but I still had the engine on tick over just in case.
The line wasn’t very long and as we rounded up to beat back up wind only three or four of the smaller boats in the race where anywhere near it. The rest of the fleet was quite a distance off. I looked at my watch thinking that unless they started towards the line very soon they were going to be very late which would be bad for us.
We sailed away from the line to a point where we had started the run in from before. The horn went at 5 minutes to the start and we were hovering, not literally you understand but I was trying to hold her into the wind with all sails flapping not going anywhere as one of the problems with a downwind start is that it's virtually impossible to stop the boat once you’re moving.
4 minutes to go and the main group were still a long way off. They were all going to start on starboard which would be a big problem for us but I was sure, well sort of sure that they were all too far away! There was a breeze but it wasn’t windy. I just couldn’t see any off them covering the distance to the line in the time we had left so with a mental ‘Come on, let’s go’ I killed the engine and span the wheel heading for the line.
I explained to everyone that I thought the rest of the fleet were going to be late and that as we had timed our run in previously I felt we would get there before them. Steve, understandably was a bit twitchy, after all it was his boat but I assured him that it was going to be alright. I just wished that there was someone who could have reassured me!!
We trimmed the sails and Supertramp started her run for the start line. We could not afford to be early so I asked Claire to ease the genoa sheets but it's hard to slow down a 25 ton yacht.
The rest of the fleet were on the move now, all sails set coming towards the line on starboard. I asked Claire to sheet in the genoa as the minute countdown came over the radio.
I could see that the smaller boats were right on the line and should be out of the way before we got there. I kept looking across and behind me at the rest of the fleet. I was sure we were going to be alright…….weren’t we??
The start horn sounded bang on 12 and 30 seconds later Supertramp crossed the line in 5th place…Brilliant.
We waved our goodbyes to the committee boat crew and looked back at almost every other boat in the race.
We settled down and was soon goose winging (this is where the main is out one side and the genoa out the other) as the wind was coming from right behind us as we turned to starboard to go down Sir Francis Drake channel past Little Thatch and Great Thatch and across to Jost Van Dyke out into the North Atlantic. We passed the smaller boats and a couple of the faster boats passed us but by the time the sun set on that 1st day I think we were 3rd or 4th.
Steve’s plan was to sail east of our Rhumb line to take advantage of the stronger winds forecast there and to leave entering the large patch of very light winds that would affect the whole fleet as it drifted across from Florida as long as possible.
The plan worked well, we were the only boat to go so far out to the east but the winds were pretty good giving us between 7 and 10 knots for most of the first 48 hours.
We had a few squalls and I didn’t like having to tack the boat onto starboard in strong winds to free up the winches and reef the main. That said Supertramp handled the conditions very well.
We didn’t really have any problems although the generator stopped working and upon investigation the impellor had stripped so we had to take all of the raw water system apart to find all of the rubber pieces before we could start her up again but when we did a seal at the end of the heat exchanger was leaking badly due to the endcap being split. So no generator for the rest of the trip.
The watch system seemed to be working well, we were pretty much out on our own where we were so there was nothing much to do really.
On the third day we really needed to start heading back in towards Bermuda. Steve was receiving daily weather forecasts and race positions. We were doing ok and it looked like some of the boats were motoring as the large area of light winds was slowly creeping across the fleet.
The wind eventually came around allowing us to goose wing with a poled out genoa (this where you use the spinnaker pole to hold out the clew of the genoa) almost directly towards Bermuda. We sailed like this for many hours before inevitably the wind started to die and we needed to turn the engine on.
We motored for 18-20 hours before the wind filled in enough to allow us to sail. That evening we had to go through a squall line. I have only ever read about these and they are difficult to describe but in front of us was a huge line of very dark, ominous cloud that was formed into an almost perfectly straight line reaching up from the surface of the sea. Behind us all was clear and bright with blue skies. It was so long, I’m talking miles here that it was unthinkable to try and go around it. Steve turned on the radar which showed patches of very heavy rain within the cloud line. Lightning started to flash and the cloud blotted out the sun which glowed a fiery red through the gaps.
Because this thing was so huge I could not figure out how close we were to it but after twenty minutes or so we decided to reef the main in preparation. The wind died and we were tempted to turn on the engine but I knew that there was a lot of wind in there somewhere when all of a sudden it returned with heavy rain. We were into it now and I was using the radar display to guide Supertramp around the larger areas of torrential rain. It took 10 or 15 minutes to get through and when we popped out we had clear weather in front and black cloud and rain behind….very strange.
Goggle ‘Squall line’ under images and you will see what I mean.
The next morning Bermuda was on the horizon. We had good winds early on in the day then it became a bit fluky. This is the most frustrating part of a trip like this, you have been looking forward to this moment so much, to see land, to see your destination but then it often takes many hours to finally get there.
We arrived around midday on Thursday 11th so we were at sea for just over 5 days and we had sailed about 890 miles.
We were still good friends, there were a few discussions about sail trim and VMG (Velocity Made Good is a compromise between speed and direction. It's a decision whether to go slowly as directly as possible to your destination or go a lot quicker in a direction that still takes you roughly the right way. It is used all of the time in yacht racing and of course everyone has an opinion) however, everything went very well.
We went straight to customs who were fantastic then stern to at the sailing club where we were given four cans of dark and stormy by the ARC team to celebrate our arrival. There weren’t many boats here so perhaps we had done alright. Anyway shower and sleep.
I had been to Bermuda once before back in 1976 when I flew in here to take my place as part of the crew of Great Britain II (The renamed and famous yacht British Steel) that was taking part in The Tall Ships Race.
I was a very lucky 19 year old for 2 reasons. First I had won a place on the crew of GBII. The race started in England and was split into 4 legs with the most prestigious being the leg from Bermuda to Newport RI in the USA with a cruise in company down the East coast of America to sail into New York harbour, receiving a salute from the President before spending a week in this fantastic city which included a tickertape parade up Broadway as part of the USA’s Bicentennial celebrations.
The other reason was that this trip had fallen right across the dates of my final exams which would complete my 3 year apprenticeship to become an electrical engineer. I did not want to miss the Tall Ships race which would be a genuine experience of a life time and fortunately for me Sid Jones who was in charge of the apprenticeship scheme at T.Clarke’s where I worked thought the same so after many long discussions with the City and Guilds examination board he arranged for my exam papers to be flown out to Bermuda and I had to sit the final papers in a school hall in St Georges harbour. I am sure it was very difficult for him to do this and I am still full of gratitude. Oh I passed by the way.
The following morning saw us rudely awakened by strengthening winds that threatened to push us back onto the solid harbour wall we were moored to. The wind had been forecast and we all spared a thought for those boats still out at sea trying to complete the race.
Steve decided to move Supertramp off of the wall and lay to anchor in the bay. I ran across our borrowed plank to wake up the crews on the four or five boats next to us as some of them were already banging into the wall.
We had dropped our dinghy the day before to enable us to go stern to so I got in that and released our bow lines when Steve was ready and followed him out into the bay. We only went about 100 m before dropping the anchor. It held perfectly and we settled down to sit out the blow. We saw 52 knots come up on the wind speed indicator and again we spared a thought for those still out at sea. Three of the boats were only 35ft or so with one of them crewed by a mum and dad with two small boys.
Fortunately the really strong wind only lasted a few hours and we decided to go ashore to have a look around and to see if we could find a large washer that would help with the repair of the generator.
St Georges was a lovely harbour town with just the right mix of old and new with a few bars and restaurants thrown in for good measure.
Steve and I had our hair cut while we were there $20 each!! I know what you’re thinking how could I be charged the same as Steve??
Anyway back on the boat we showered and changed ready for the welcoming party at the sailing club. It rankled a bit with me that there were still boats out there, still trying to make Bermuda and here we were celebrating. The first rum punch was free but after that you bought your own. The food was almost inedible but the Gombey dancers were brilliant.
It turned into a really good night. I got very merry and was persuading everyone to do the Peter Kay ‘Walk onto the dance floor dance’ you need to Google it, or Goggle it as my mum says! Haha.
Anyway we were dancing into the early hours with the lovely German family from the boat ‘Teamgeist’ Lee and Tanya from ‘Yoda’ (their moto is ‘there is no try, only do. From Star wars) and some other people who kept saying hello to me over the next few days but I didn’t have a clue who they were!!
Ever since we could get wifi I had been sending messages to my son George as he was on his way to Bermuda on board ‘Elfje’ It looked like he would turn up very soon going into Hamilton, that’s the posh end. I had everything crossed that we would / could meet up even if it was just for a pint and a hug. It was pure coincidence that we would be here at the same time and I wanted to make the most of it.
Saturday 13th Steve and I managed to get the generator working again. It was a complete bodge that wouldn’t last too long but at least it was running again.
The ARC team had organised re-fuelling for us engaging a diesel tanker at the dock near where the ferries stopped. We were called in a couple of boats at a time and we got the fuel tax free which helped a bit.
Claire and I went to the sailing club to face time our parents. All was well with both sets which was nice to hear. We are very lucky with our respective parents as they are healthy and happy for us to live this kind of life.
We all went ashore for a meal with the team ‘Far’ we were lucky in that they had gone in earlier and bagged a table big enough for us all as when we arrived people were queuing out the door. The restaurant was called ‘Wahoo’ after the fish and we had Wahoo tacos which were delicious.
The following day, 14th May we had a bit of a lazy morning on board stirring ourselves enough to go for a stroll around the headland in the afternoon. We walked straight across from the sailing club to find an old fort that used to protect the entrance to St Georges harbour. It was really warm and as I had swimming shorts on I went for a dip in the sea which was very refreshing.
Walking back we couldn’t help notice that all of the roofs, I mean every roof even if it was a small out building was coated in a thick white fiberglass looking coating?? It looked very strange at first I thought that it may be due to strong winds lifting roof tiles off with the tiles being a danger if they hit anyone but we later discovered that there is no fresh water anywhere in Bermuda so every house / building has to collect rain water. The roofs had ducts built into the covering which channelled the rainwater into tanks below ground. The water was then pumped into houses / schools etc when required. Clever eh.
The last of the boats came in and everyone was pleased to see ‘Diana’ the yacht with the family on board. Also another small yacht ‘Nalu’ came in around the same time and we heard that these two had buddied up to give each other support during the last days of their race.
It was presentation / prize giving evening. We all wore our Supertramp ARC tops. The food was a lot better than before and there was even wine on the table.
There was the usual slide show of pictures from the start in the BVI’s with lots of shouting when ‘your boat’ popped up on the screen.
After a few hello’s from the governor of St Georges we got on with the prize giving. I think there were three fleets C was the smaller boats, B was mid-size and A was the bigger boats. We were in the A fleet. It was all a bit of a blur as I was trying to get more of the wonderful apple sponge stuff that was for desert when I heard the presenter say ‘and the winner of class A…….Supertramp!!!! Well you could have knocked me down with an empty Carib can. Supertramp…winners, well I never. Claire was as surprised as I was. In fact I think we all were. So up we went shaking hands, pictures taken.
I was so pleased for Steve and Fiona they received a plaque to go on the wall in Supertramp, their boat name engraved on a trophy that stays at the club in Bermuda and a bottle of exclusive Gosling’s Rum. Brilliant.
We woke up late which wasn’t good as Steve and I were meant to be at a skippers briefing for the next part of the trip from Bermuda to the USA. We eventually found where the meeting was and we weren’t too late. We didn’t really need to attend this as we were going to stay on a few more days in Bermuda to see more of the island as well as trying to meet up with George but they would discuss crossing the Gulf Stream, which is not to be under estimated and customs procedures when entering the USA.
We didn’t feel we were missing out on the security of a group of boats going together as only a few boats were going to the USA as the majority were going across the Atlantic to the Azores before crossing from there to Europe. There were about 8 -10 boats going to the States and all of them were going to different ports so we would be on our own anyway. We could keep the tracker as an additional safety device and we would still receive weather updates so we were good.
When we got back to Supertramp the girls were ready for a day out and we planned to jump on a ferry from St Georges that went around the Island and stopped at the ‘old royal navy dockyard’ opposite Hamilton which was where the 2017 Americas Cup Challenge was taking place. I was excited to be here and to be able to see these large foiling catamaran’s practising in ‘The Great sound’ which was the race area.
We had seen Sir Ben Ainslie and the BAR team practising in the Solent when we left England in 2015 so it was great to see that they had made it through to the knockout stages here in Bermuda. It would be great if they could win back ‘The Americas Cup’ which is the oldest sporting trophy in history.
The ‘Dockyards’ is a very nice place to visit especially with the additional buzz the Americas cup has bought to it. The old naval buildings are very well preserved and it was enjoyable walking around here.
Bermuda was ‘settled’ by England in 1609 becoming one of its most important bases during the American war of independence. A Royal naval yard has been here since 1795 and was only closed down in the 1950’s.
After a bite to eat we walked to the south basin where all of the Americas Cup teams had set up their bases to house and work on their boats. We managed to sneak past the security guards but we were spotted and were asked to leave!!
We decided instead of just going back to St Georges on the ferry that we would get a ferry to Hamilton, walk around there for a bit before getting on a bus back to the boat. So we strolled back to the ferry terminal stopping in the mall just long enough for Claire to buy an Americas Cup shirt and for Fiona to buy a very nicely embroidered cushion.
We met ‘TeamGeist’ on their scooters and managed to jump the very large queue when we pretended to be with them as they pushed their scooters onto the ferry.
We got a fantastic view of the racing catamarans as we sped past on the ferry.
Hamilton was a lot more commercialised than St Georges. It was still very nice though. After walking around for a bit looking for a BAR Americas Cup shirt for Steve we stopped at ‘The Pickled Onion’ for a bite to eat which Steve insisted on paying for I think as a thank you for helping them and Supertramp win the race.
We got the bus back to St Georges and later that evening we went over to ‘Far’ for leaving drinks as they were off in the morning to complete their trip back to their home in Maine. Steve and Fiona intended to take Supertramp up the east coast of America to visit them after Claire and I leave them.
We were in the dinghy quite early as we wanted to hire scooters to see the rest of the island. We didn’t realise it but the ARC USA boats were leaving and we waved as ‘Far’ headed out of the bay.
The scooters we hired were good, we got them for two days, they weren’t cheap but they were OK and a brilliant way to see Bermuda.
We drove to Hamilton stopping at the Bermuda Bistro which was a great place by the way to have something to eat. I noticed that on their new Americas Cup menu they had six burgers one for each team but there was no English burger, instead there was a Somerset Bay burger or something. When it was time to order I mentioned this and the waitress thought it was really funny that this had been missed off so she called the manageress who was horrified as she had just had all of the menus changed and reprinted for the Americas Cup trade.
After we had eaten we asked the waitress where we should go on our scooters and she suggested we drive out of Hamilton and take the South Rd which had fantastic views of the beaches. We also could visit the famous ‘Horseshoe’ bay the Gibbs lighthouse and Summerset Bridge that boasted being the smallest drawbridge in the world.
We had a fantastic time driving along South Rd. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking far better than anything I had seen in the BVI’s. The sea was unimaginably blue against the white sandy beaches.
We stopped at Port Royal Golf course so Fiona could buy her friend a souvenir shirt. Steve and Fiona who are very keen golfers also looked at the costs of playing a round of golf here as the course looked so beautiful.
The Summerset drawbridge was crazy, the traffic had to be stopped, the wooden sections lifted up and only then could a very small yacht come through after it had undone the shrouds that hold up the mast!!!!
We had a very nice day and it really was nice to back on two wheels, even if it was a scooter I loved every minute of it.
On the way back we stopped at a famous bar called ‘The Swizzle Inn’ where the drink ‘The Swizzle’ was invented. It's basically a rum punch with other stuff in but it tasted OK. We had some food to share before making our way back to St Georges where we parked the scooters before getting the dinghy to the boat. Whew, what a day.
The following morning, 17th May we were in the dinghy to see the start of the ARC Europe race. This was a long leg for all the 30 or so remaining boats as they had 1800 nm in front of them. We waved to ‘Teamgeist’ and ‘Yoda’ wishing them fair winds and calm seas.
We were back on the scooters. Steve and Fiona had decided to play a round of golf at the Port Royal golf course and Claire wanted to visit the Crystal caves. We parted at Bailyey’s Ice Cream, no relation no discount, agreeing to meet up at the Bermuda Bistro in Hamilton around 18.00.
The caves were a bit of a rip off as expected, there were two different areas to visit The Crystal Cave or the Fantasy Cave. You could do both for $32 each or it was $22 each for one or the other. I asked one of the workers which one they would visit if they could only do one and the crystal cave got the nod so down we went.
It was very nice and the story behind the discovery is quite good too in that a couple of boys were playing cricket, which is Bermuda’s national sport by the way when their ball dropped down a crack in between two large rocks. They went home to get a torch and when they clambered down into the hole in the ground these two huge chambers opened up before them.
As with the caves we visited in Sardinia the formations have taken millions of years to ‘grow’ into what is a memorable sight.
We jumped back on our trusty scooter and headed for The Bermuda Bistro for something to eat but more importantly to get some Wifi as I was sure George was in.
The manageress recognised us saying that she has ordered all new menus with a British burger to honour the BAR team.
When I turned on my phone I had a message from George telling us where the boat was and that we should come and see him ASAP. We finished our drinks and walked down to the very posh Princes Hotel and marina complex.
We walked through the reception and lounge area like we owned the place and out through the grounds down to the marina where ‘Elfje’ sat glistening in the sun like she had just been unwrapped rather than having just completed a long crossing of the Atlantic. George and the rest of the crew must work extremely hard in these conditions, it's was very warm, to keep her looking so well.
George was on deck as we walked along the pontoon and he jumped down for that all important hug. I don’t get to see my kids too often but I know, they know I love them very much.
He looked good, tired but good. He could get away for about an hour so we walked back to the hotel gardens sat down and ordered beers and a wine for Claire.
He was happy in that his girlfriend Shayna was going to be in Bermuda too. She was the chief stewardess on a beautiful classic yacht called ‘Eleonora’ which was due into Hamilton in the morning. He really wanted us to meet her so we promised to return to Hamilton the following day. His hour lunch was up so we walked with him back to his boat. We saw Ben Gallaway there one of George’s friends and crew mates and said hi.
George asked where we were going to be so I explained where the Bermudan Bistro was and he said he would try and get there later after work.
We had a stroll around Hamilton. Claire bought a gift for Fiona and Steve as a thank you for giving us this wonderful opportunity. We slowly made our way back to the bar to wait for them.
By the time they arrived the street was being blocked off as it was ‘Harbour Night’ this happened every Wednesday apparently. Very soon there were many different kinds of stalls erected either side of the road. Steve and Fiona had had a brilliant round of golf saying that the course and its setting was perfect.
We had something to eat then George turned up. He had met Steve and Fiona before in Antigua when I had asked them to say hello to him for me via Facebook. I introduced him to the manageress and she said she would look out for him.
After a few rum punches we walked through the street market to the marina bar at the Princes Hotel and had a few drinks. We met a friend of George’s called Willie. We had met originally in Palma and I was pleased that he remembered us. He was born and lived in Bermuda. George introduced us to a few of his other crew mates they were all nice people. We had to get back, it was dark now but we were fine on the scooters.
I was a happy Dad being able to have a drink with my son in a bar in Bermuda having both sailed here on different boats. I mean Come On!!!
It was time to think about leaving this beautiful Island. We still had a long way to go before we reached our final destination of Hampton, Virginia in the good old US of A.
I was still worried that the tri colour light at the top of the mast wasn’t quite right so I winched Steve up and he checked it over.
We went over the boat making sure that everything was as it should be.
The four of us went into town, Steve and I filled up the scooters with fuel before returning them while the girls went to the supermarket to buy food for the crossing. We met them and helped get the shopping back on board.
Just before lunch Steve and I went in the dinghy to sort out our exit permits with the friendly customs people. As we neared the dock I could see George standing there with a crash helmet in his hands?? It transpired that his boat had organised a few scooters for the crew to get around on and he had used one to drive over to see us. His phone had run out of battery and he was just standing there wondering how to get hold of us when we turned up in the dinghy!!! How crazy is that?
The customs officials wouldn’t let us file our exit papers until the day of departure which was going to be on the 19th so we had to return in the morning.
All three of us jumped in the dinghy and we went back to Supertramp for a coffee while Fiona and Claire stowed the last of the food.
When that was done we went into town for a drink. We had only just sat down when George received a message from his girl. She was in Hamilton having got a lift in and was looking for him.
We promised to follow him over on the bus after we had finished our drinks. Which we did.
We found George and Shayna upstairs in ‘The Pickled Onion’ we had never met Shayna before but she seemed a lovely girl. They had just finished their meal so we left and strolled down to another bar called ‘Bulli Social’ which was in a lovely spot close to the park it was a really nice place with a great waitress who had guessed in minutes that George was my son and that Shayna was nervous about meeting Claire and I for the first time!!! How good is that?
It was nice seeing George and Shayna together they were very relaxed in each other’s company. George was nervous about meeting her parents too who were due to arrive in Bermuda soon.
Shayna’s brother Ben made an appearance, a big lad who just happened to be actually competing in the Americas cup racing on board Softbank- team Japan. Wow, how good is that.
After we grilled Ben about the boats and the racing he left with Shayna, George wanted to get going too as he was moving off of the boat that evening and into some accommodation ashore. We said our goodbyes, as usual I had no idea when I would see him again but he was well and happy. So I was happy too.
A couple that Steve and Fiona had met in the Caribbean happened to be here on their boat staying at ‘The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’ so we went to find them.
The club is very prestigious. It's the third oldest ‘Royal’ club outside of British waters and has been established for over 170 years.
We walked in past the trophy cabinets stuffed full of silverware of all shapes and sizes through the bar and out onto the pontoons. Claire and I were pleased to bump into Joph and Georgie who were the captain and chef on ‘Freya’ a boat George used to crew on. She was moored stern to and looking as good as ever. Ben Gallaway was there also and it was nice to speak to him for a few minutes.
We also had a good view of George’s current home ‘Elfje’ Just beautiful.
We walked along the pontoons and finally spotted ‘Resolute’ but could not get an answer after banging on the coach roof. Oh well.
We made our way back to the bust stop. I was feeling pretty tired and we were off in the morning so I hoped I would get a good night’s sleep.
Friday 19th May
Well it was time to leave. It's a shame because we have had such a brilliant time here.
Steve went across to the customs to check out at 08.00, we stowed the dinghy on the davits and we radioed Bermuda radio for permission to leave the harbour at 09.00.
The coast of Bermuda is very shallow in parts and we made sure we gave all of these areas a wide berth before settling down onto our course. The wind was very light and the motor was on which was sort of OK.
We were a lot more relaxed on the boat. I think it was a combination of confidence in each other, not being in a race and knowing that when we got to Hampton the long ocean crossings were over for a while. I also think we were all a bit down thinking of the journey ahead and about what we were leaving behind. I know I was.
We had something magnificent to lift our spirits though as later in the afternoon we saw two whales on the surface and some smiley small dolphins came to play for a while too.
We motored for nearly 48 hours. We knew that there was going to be no wind for this part of the journey but it was still frustrating. We were expecting the wind to fill in later and Steve told us that there was strong winds forecast for Tuesday & Wednesday but we should be in Hampton by then.
Sunday 21st May
At last some wind and the engine went off.
When I came on watch to relieve Steve and Fiona that morning the sea looked a lot bigger and kind of mixed up. There was a general set to the swells but it didn’t match the wind speed. We had 10 – 12 knots but there was a lot of white water??
I suggested that we head up a bit as the waves were coming at us side on so we changed course slightly to get the waves on our front quarter.
We talked about the Gulf Stream and we wondered if we were in one of the big eddies that can form either side of the main current.
We were given a photocopy of the latest Gulf Stream flow at the briefing and there were large eddies shown but it was difficult to figure out exactly where you were on a photocopied picture??
We carried on like that until it got dark. I had heard a lot of bad things about sailing across the Gulf Stream and I remember being told at the briefing not to cross it with a wind direction that had any North in it. We had 10 -15 knots North Easterlies!!!
The Gulf Stream is a strong ocean current that starts in the Gulf of Mexico passing Florida to run up the Eastern side of the USA before heading out across the Atlantic towards Europe. The main section of the current is about 60 miles wide and runs at about 5 mph so it’s generally running south to north therefore a wind with North in it would be pushing against it, rubbing it up the wrong way as it were and that’s why the big disturbed seas appear.
By the morning the seas had calmed and we saw very little white water but the wind was still the same so it must have been something to do with the stream. We agreed that we hadn’t crossed the main current yet as we were too far out.
We were sailing well but as night came the boat started to slow down and we were sure we were in the current properly now. Fortunately the wind had come round a bit so I was less concerned about the state of the sea.
Ahead of us, where the land was there was dark low cloud as far as the eye could see. As the light faded we could see this cloud formation wrap around behind us. Lightning started to flash and we had intermittent rain. We had started to see large tankers on the AIS coming out of Chesapeake Bay. A few of them almost turned at right angles to port when they reached a certain point and I can only assume that they were using the Gulf Stream to carry them down the coast towards new York.
Claire and I had an exciting few hours in the pitch-dark and rain. We tacked the boat to make our intentions clear to two huge tankers that were coming straight towards us then when we tacked back after half an hour or so the wind started to build and we needed to reef. So we tacked back again to free up the winches and to get the main on the right side for furling. We got it in just as the wind touched 30knots and changed direction. When we tacked back our best course took us towards a large vessel that we could see on AIS but it had no information about it other than it was at anchor. I thought we should be able to get past it to windward. After a while we could see the ships lights as we climbed up each wave.
Suddenly the radio burst into life and a woman’s voice said ‘Supertramp of London, Supertramp of London’ this is military training vessel Blah,Blah. I can’t remember its name ‘please go to channel 72’
Well she wanted to know our intentions as she was conducting helicopter training on her decks and asked us to keep clear. She also asked what type of vessel we were and when I explained that we were a sailing yacht she seemed to relax a bit. I could imagine her looking on her screen at us the last couple of hours wondering what the hell we were doing. I said that I understood her request, wished her a pleasant night and signed off.
We now had a problem in that if we tacked away we would be heading away from our destination. Well we had to tack any way as I didn’t want to get into any bother with the US Navy so we did but it was no good going this way. As if in answer to our problems the wind died away. The 30knot squall we had had blown through and we only had 8 - 10 knots now so I started the engine and turned the boat into wind furling the genoa and pulling in the mainsheet and headed straight towards the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.
When Steve and Fiona came up for their watch we could see lights on the shore and the AIS was dotted with traffic. We decided that we should all stay up as we neared the entrance to the Bay as it wasn’t like anything we had experienced. The Bay was MASSIVE with several traffic separation zones, huge tankers and cargo vessels, pilot boats zipping about calling us on the VHF asking to stay where we were as a tanker was coming through.
Steve stayed at the wheel and looked knackered by the time we passed through the gap in the Bay Bridge entering the Blue Water Marina.
It's a lovely feeling when the boat stops, when it's tied up and the engine is switched off.
We were in the good old US of A
It was hot and humid here and when I mentioned it to the lads at the fuel dock they just laughed and said we should wait until it warms up!!
Steve contacted the US customs and we had to wait on the boat until they arrived. They were quite nice people, two blokes, guns, handcuffs the whole works. They checked our passports, stamped them which is always nice. One of the pair went through the freezer and fridges looking at any fresh produce that came from outside of the US. He checked our oranges and lemons well most things really. We were mostly ok because we had bought the majority of the stuff in Bermuda which had been shipped there from the US in the first place.
We were given a good berth but when we tried to move into it Supertramp touched the bottom as Steve backed her in. So we pulled out and stopped on the hammerhead pontoon. We were told that it was because it was low tide and that we should try again in the morning. This we did and she went in fine.
Now that we have finished with the ARC I just want to say that the overall experience of the organisation and the commitment of the staff was good but I have not been convinced that it was value for money. The four of us paid about £1400 split between us and I just can’t see where that money went. I know it's about safety in numbers when we were out on the water but it also felt like things had been booked up for weeks so the focus switched quickly to the party or meal and not on the sailors. A good example of this was the welcoming party in Bermuda when there were boats still out racing!! I know things need to be organised but it just seemed wrong to me……After all they had paid they’re money too.
Anyway I won’t be joining an ARC race anytime soon.
While we were in Hampton we cleaned and polished the boat, I had done / made a few things on board Supertramp by way of a thank you. It seemed odd that we were now thinking of leaving to make our way up to New York. We had decided to stay about a week, there was not much to see as Hampton was a very small place but we wanted to spend time with Steve and Fiona and not just leave as soon as we hit dry land. Also it was nice to relax.
We took advantage of the shuttle boat that drops you off and sometimes picks you up from the marina into town. We enjoyed drinking and eating in the local restaurants and we discovered that we needed to tip heavily compared to anywhere else we had been because the waiting staff only earnt around $2 an hour (£1.75) with the tips bring them up to a reasonable wage. It was sort of hard for us but it was common practice to leave 20% of the bill.
We tried to hire a car from ‘Enterprise’ in Hampton $430 for the one way drive to New York as the flights were very expensive so was the train and I didn’t fancy 7 hours on a coach but unless we could get a cheaper car then bus it was going to be.
The cab driver we had to take us to the main shopping area said we should try picking a rental car up from Newport News Airport as he often took people there who were picking up rentals.
Claire went on line and Budget cars could do a one way trip to New York picking up the car at Newport News and dropping it off at La Guardia for $138 taxes included!! We had that and no messing.
We then sorted out a hotel in Manhattan that was near Hells Kitchen, which was nice!! Through Booking.com which Joy, my daughter had suggested we try. It was called the Watson Hotel and was supposed to be a 10 minute walk from Times Square. More importantly it was only a short distance from La Guardia where we needed to drop the car so I booked it. $580.00 for four nights, Bargain.
Well we were sorted and it meant that it was time to leave Steve and Fiona. We were going to miss them and I think the girls were really going to miss each other as the pair of them got on so well.
Claire had been struggling for some reason to cook decent dippy eggs ever since we boarded Supertramp. She blamed the size of the pan, the lack of a decent lid, the eggs, the gas, the altitude, everything. It was time for me to step in so I cooked Fiona and Claire dippy eggs for breakfast and they were perfect. The secret? Just cover the eggs with water, put on medium heat until the water boils. Turn off heat and cover with a lid for one and a half minutes. Then drain off the hot water and flush with cold water for one minute and serve. Perfect dippy eggs.
Claire had been trying to sort out the Uber cab app. For some reason it wasn’t working and Steve had to keep sorting it out. We wanted to use Uber to take us to Newport News Airport as it was a lot cheaper than getting a normal cab.
Claire finally got it working and the first one we got in was driven by an ex USAF guy who used to work in the big underground command centre at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall. I worked as a foreman electrician on that project for nearly 2 years!! I know…..small world.
On Sunday 28th May we got an Uber to the chandlers. There wasn’t one near the marina which was a bit odd. This one was huge. Steve had been advised to install a large filter in the line that took cooling water to the fridges and he got the parts he needed here.
When we came out we wanted to have brunch. Brunch is very popular with Americans especially on a Sunday however we realised that we couldn’t walk anywhere from where we were as we were right in the middle of a major motorway junction so we had to call another cab to take us back to Hampton.
We ended up in a place called ‘Ventures’. We shared some French toast, Claire and Fiona had breakfast pizza’s I know, huge pizza’s with eggs and bacon on, I had Corn beef hash and Steve had some scrambled eggs, bacon and toast.
The food was lovely, we left the restaurant just as it started to rain. We thought we could make it to the pontoon where we could get the shuttle boat without getting too wet but we were soooo wrong. Just as we were crossing a big, empty car park it absolutely fell down and we got soaked, I mean really soaked. For some reason I thought this was really funny and couldn’t stop laughing.
We made it to a bar near the pontoon, we were absolutely dripping wet, we called the marina but they said it was too rough for the water taxi so we got another Uber to the marina. Steve stayed in the marina bar to watch the NASCAR racing and we went back to the boat.
Claire started to pack our bags while I installed the larger filter and it seemed to be doing its job, collecting debris out of the water without reducing the flow to the fridges.
This was to be our last night on board Supertramp. It was sad as we had had the best of times. We had dinner on-board before getting an early night as the Uber was picking us up at 08.00 to take us to Newport News Airport.
The following morning Monday 29th May we were up showered and off of Supertramp of London. Steve and Fiona waited with us for the cab to arrive. It was a sad parting and we hope to see these two again. We have had such a good time and writing this blog has bought all of it back.
For me of course the highlight was meeting up with George in Bermuda. Who knows when we would have met up if I wasn’t there on Supertramp?
So we’re off now to pick up our rental for the 7 hour-ish drive up Route 13 then onto I-95
See the New York tab for the final part of our trip.