Day 18 – Bermuda

I said that I would not be doing updates this week, but Roberta is asleep, and all is quiet, so….

I’m sitting on a terrace at my hotel, and it’s 7:00am. The hotel does have a high-speed internet connection, but it is only in the “common areas,” so I am spending a lot of time sitting here on the terrace working my way quickly through my first pot of decaf.

Yesterday, Roberta, Shelby and I decided to see Bermuda from the water, with the goal to try out our new tender. When we first bought Sans Souci, they asked what we wanted for a ship’s tender, and I didn’t understand the pros and cons of the different options. We decided to go with a 15 foot Boston Whaler and a 13’ inflatable boat. The second tender was meant to be a backup for the primary, and over the past six years, it has been used exactly ZERO times.

In fact, when we decided to make a major change prior to the start of this trip, the backup tender was sold without every having been used. What a horrible waste of money and deck space. Our primary tender, the Boston Whaler, was also a problem. The Whaler is a fine tender, but it wasn’t right for us. The davit on Sans Souci is rated at 1,500 pounds, and the Whaler weighed around 1,200 pounds. We thought we were well within the safety limits, and it is possible that we were. However, no one who ever heard the sounds our davit made as it raised or lowered the Whaler would have leapt to that conclusion. For those not familiar with the Boston Whaler, it’s a solid fiberglass bottomed boat. It’s a “real” boat, with a “real” outboard motor. Roberta and I run Sans Souci alone 99% of the time. This meant that I would work the screeching Davit (via its remote control) while Roberta tried to keep the tender under control. Sometimes we would have nice calm seas to drop the tender in, but we never seemed to get that lucky, that often. We have dropped or raised the tender on seas where we should not have. Because raising or lowering the tender was such a major project, we tended to wait until some triggering event forced us to drop the tender. I’ve towed the tender hundreds of miles in order to avoid raising or lowering it. To understand what I’m talking about, you have to imagine me working a remote with my left hand, my right hand on the tenders bow, and the 5’ Roberta stabilizing the back of the 15’ tender as it bounced back and forth on a rolling sea. All of this while the tender dangles from a single cable attached to davit that is doing its very best to tell us, in a very audible way, that we should NOT be doing what we are doing. We experimented many times with attaching ropes to the tender, and trying to stabilize it from afar, but were never successful with this. You can’t, or at least we couldn’t, hold onto a rope that is attached to a bouncing tender from six feet away.

One of the first rules they tell you about tenders is that you MUST NOT ride in the tender as it is raised or lowered from the water. My personal observation is that we are not the only ones who have broken this rule incessantly. There are a couple of problems with dropping the tender without someone in it. 1) It bangs into the side of the boat, gouging the fiberglass as it does so, and 2) On the 62, there is no way to get into the tender after you drop it (the geometry of the 62 is such that you are about eight feet off the water at the bow, but at water-level in the center of the boat). The problem with raising or lowering the tender with someone in it is that it is extremely dangerous. If something goes wrong while the tender is dangling off the side of the boat, and you are in the tender – you will have a very bad day.

After six years, and many attempts to reinforce our davit, I finally admitted I made an expensive mistake and swapped tenders. Just prior to this trip, we sold off both our tenders, at an enormous loss, and bought a new Caribe 15’ rigid bottomed inflatable. The Caribe weighs about 800 pounds, with motor, fuel, and everything. The davit still squeals a little as the tender goes up or down, but these sounds seem much more natural. Because the tender is an inflatable, it does not require fenders. If it bounces into something while dangling from the cable, it’s no big deal. We also swapped the cable on the davit so that it has plenty of length. By attaching a line to the stern of the tender, we can drag it backwards after it drops to the water, for easy step-in from the side of the boat. Roberta doesn’t need to ride up and down in the tender anymore (which she shouldn’t have been doing EVER).

Our question was: how did the Caribe feel on the water? We ordered it from a picture, and had low expectations. To our surprise, we had a great time! It was at least as comfortable as the Boston Whaler, and seemed faster, based on how we ran it. I suspect the Whaler is faster after getting on a plane, but the Caribe didn’t seem to be as binary as the Whaler was. The Whaler seemed to have two speeds: slugging through the water painfully, and planing at high-speed. It really didn’t feel comfortable at speeds like 15 knots. The Caribe felt great at all speeds. I’ll try to upload some pictures from our cruise. Shelby was funny to watch, as Roberta put a bright pink life jacket on her, and a bright red hat. After about 15 minutes I took pity on Shelby and helped her out of the hat.

Tendering around Bermuda was trickier than I expected. I’m sure that once you’ve done it a few times it’s no big deal, but as a complete novice, we weren’t sure where to go, or where we could go. We weren’t even sure how fast we could go. I had a marine map of Bermuda with me, but no speeds were indicated. I wasn’t sure if I could directly cross the harbor, or was supposed to follow some sort of “keep to the right” rules. We watched others, and decided that if there were rules, they were a well-kept secret. Everyone seemed to be going every direction, at every speed. We also weren’t certain where we wanted to go. I had no idea where to start. While taking a taxi, we had seen a bridge that was described as the smallest draw bridge in the world. That seemed a fun destination, so we went there. I was puzzled because on our map, virtually everything on the other side looked too shallow to run. This meant a challenge, and challenge is opportunity! The bridge itself was a pleasant surprise. It was short and narrow. All traffic under the bridge was one way only. Across its span were 10 or so kids who were leaping off the bridge into the water between the boats. I wanted a picture of one jumping, but Roberta yelled at me for potentially encouraging an activity that was almost certainly unsafe.

After the bridge, we discovered a wonderful bay and marina. Through an opening on the far side of the bay, we could see open ocean. For at least a mile out, the surrounding ocean was shown on the map in a scary looking yellow color, with little plus signs in it. A large span had the message “This area inadequately mapped” written across it. As we were thinking that we had gone as far as we could, a family in a small tender headed out into the shallow waters. They had one person on the bow to watch for rocks, and were moving slowly. We decided to do the same. As I watched for rocks and Roberta drove, we worked our way through a couple of miles of water only 6 to 12 feet deep. The depths were nothing for the tender and we could have blasted our way through at any speed, but we didn’t know that at the time. Perhaps it was high tide. All we knew was that the other tender, who we assumed were locals, were moving slowly and carefully – so we did the same. Our quest was rewarded by entry to a great anchorage. We found hundreds of boats all anchored together, many rafted together and lots of barbecuing, swimming and general merrymaking going on. We also found a shortcut back, and after a bit more sightseeing, called it a day – a very fun day….

When we returned to Sans Souci, St. John and Garret were eagerly waiting for us. Actually, they were waiting for the tender, so that they could take it out for some scuba diving. The crew from various boats, mostly young men, seems to be VERY HAPPY here in Bermuda. I’ve noted an increase in the number of young, attractive ladies hanging out in front of the boats. It will be difficult to get everyone focused on the preparations and repairs that need to be made before the next leg of our voyage, although I have been assured that the “work” starts today.

As I am sitting here, I have noticed several of our boats leave the dock. Today is the first of several “bunkering” days (the nautical term for taking on fuel). Each boat has been assigned a time slot at the fuel dock. Ocean crossing powerboats are a rarity here in Bermuda. I’m sure the fuel dock is struggling to deal with 18 boats, each of which wants a thousand gallons or more of fuel.

Our slot is at 1pm today. I might tag along, and bring Scott Strickland with me, the owner/captain of Strickly For Fun, a Nordhavn 47. We’ve been discussing the need to practice running the boat without thrusters. For those not familiar with thrusters, these are optional equipment that can be added to your boat to help you with slow speed turns. They are literally small props that are mounted sideways, through the hull of your boat. A bow thruster has the ability to turn the nose of your boat to port or starboard. I have a small joystick at each of the control stations for Sans Souci, which controls a small hydraulic motor attached to the bow thruster. I also have a stern thruster at the back of the boat. This allows me to move the back of the boat directly to port or starboard. By using the two joysticks together I can easily sidestep Sans Souci, theoretically parking her in a space her own length. As good as this sounds, and it is, the thrusters have no effect on the boat when it is moving more than about 1 knot. They also have no effect when there is more than about 15 knots of wind. I have come to rely on them, and avoid situations where there is high wind, when I need to maneuver the boat in or out of a boat slip. Unfortunately, there will come a day when the winds are too high, or the thrusters fail, and I need to be prepared for this. There are techniques for turning a single-engine boat at slow speed, and sail boaters tend to be experts at them. I’ve read the books, and done some experimenting, but must confess that this is an area where I need more study. Perhaps this afternoon, or if not today, sometime this week, we’ll take Sans Souci out for some practice.

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