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  • Writer's picturedianerhodes

Voyaging to Bermuda

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


Leaving Norfolk

After cruising down the Chesapeake, we were eager to get out into the open ocean heading east. However, after sailing about an hour beyond the bay and encountering a complete lack of wind, we decided to turn back and wait for a more favorable weather opportunity.


We returned to anchor off the Navy Base where my son, Andy, was once stationed. From our vantage point, we could look over and see his old aircraft carrier in port.


The navy provided excellent entertainment for us with lots of helicopters conducting sea rescue drills right near our boat. We watched sailors jumping out of the helicopters and others descending on lines to pull them back in.


Having patiently waited for three days, windy.com finally delivered the desired weather forecast and we weighed anchor. The initial day of sailing was truly exceptional. The wind was favorably behind us, propelling us smoothly at 7 knots.


Our only concern on Day 1 involved a navy warship. It decided to play a real-life game of Battleship when it shared its coordinates for live fire exercises. It gave me a moment of pause as I calculated that we were a mere 5 miles away from the action. Luckily, 5 miles was safe enough, we were in the clear!


The Gulf Stream

Exiting the Gulf Stream

Following the advice of Jimmy Cornell, author of "Cruising Routes," we sailed directly east from Norfolk and traversed the Gulf Stream in a straight line before altering our course to the southeast.


We were making excellent time over the Gulf Stream since we had wind and current coming from the same direction. However, exiting the Gulf Stream turned out to be a bit more challenging.


The wind and swell both started increasing. In sailing there's an old expression “If you're thinking about reefing, you're probably too late”. We were too late.


Being Overpowered

One of the more unpleasant things that can happen when you are sailing is being overpowered by the wind. This makes a boat heel (lean) excessively and then round-up (turn) to windward.


To regain control, sailors need to decrease the sail area (reef). On Lagerhead, reducing the headsail and staysail is a straightforward task that can be accomplished from the cockpit. However, reefing the mainsail necessitates Dave venturing onto the deck and managing the sails at the mast. This becomes a challenging endeavor when the boat is overwhelmed, crashing through waves, and heeling excessively.


To make matters worse, the sail got hung up on our mast steps. Our only solution was to point into the wind to untangle the mess. After 30 minutes of pounding into waves, heeled way over and a bit out of control, we got it all settled. Dave handled it like a pro, I was hanging on with both hands in the cockpit for fear I would fall out.


The rest of the trip was smooth sailing and we relished our time on the open ocean. The sight of millions of stars, free from light pollution, was truly remarkable—an experience that everyone should have. Too bad our cameras could not do it justice.


Arriving in Bermuda

After riding the waves on the open ocean for a solid 5 days, the sheer thrill of triumph bubbled up as we finally laid eyes on land!


Despite both of us being somewhat sleep-deprived from our 5-hour shifts, our spirits lifted at the sight of Bermuda. Even with the aid of GPS, we couldn't help but feel the same exhilaration that early explorers must have experienced upon spotting land after days and days of nothing but ocean.


The water around Bermuda is so remarkably blue, the same shade as the water in the Caribbean and off southern Newfoundland.


Bermuda History

Bermuda was discovered in the early 1500s by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez. There was no native population on the island at the time of its discovery or during the initial British settlement a century later.


Although the island was regularly visited over the next century, it remained unsettled.


English focus on the New World led to the establishment of Jamestown in 1607.


A flotilla sent to relieve the Jamestown colony in 1609 sailed into a raging storm, causing the ship, Sea Venture, to run aground on Bermuda's reef. All passengers and crew survived.


The crew, having learned about the horrendous conditions in Jamestown, refused to move on and attempted to establish their own government in Bermuda.


In 1612, the English officially began the settlement of the archipelago. The colony's first capital, New London (later renamed St. George's Town), was settled that year, making it the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World.


St. George


We sailed into St. George's Island, the most eastern port in Bermuda. With a quick stop at the Custom's dock, we were in and allowed to stay for 6 months.


We promptly anchored the boat and headed into town for dinner at the White Horse Tavern. We enjoyed a celebratory drink for our longest off-shore passage! We were pretty tired so after dinner, we headed home for a much-needed good night's sleep.


We thoroughly enjoyed St. George. It is a captivating blend of history and charm. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its well-preserved architecture, The cobblestone streets lead through a tapestry of pastel-colored buildings that each have their own stories to tell. Since we were anchored right off St. George, we spent a lot of time wandering through this picturesque town. We enjoyed the slow pace and how easy it was to get everywhere on foot.


A Hole in our Boat!

After much-needed sleep, we were ready to explore on Day 2. We parked our dinghy at the dock nestled between two inflatable dinghies and went ashore to explore. While ashore, the wind and rain arrived. After a lovely day spent around town and dinner at The Wharf where we met some fantastic people, we returned to find our dinghy alone and pounding on the coral wall as the waves boiled up in the wind.


There was water in the boat, which we assumed was from the torrential rain. As Dave rowed furiously, against the waves, one of the oars broke in two setting us adrift in nasty conditions. The wind pushed us over to the customs dock where we grabbed on and tied up.


The customs officer recommended we stop into the White Horse Tavern to look for a sailor who could tow us back to Lagerhead. There we discovered two boatloads of crew enjoying each other's company. An Australian captain agreed to tow us, but he and his first mate weren't quite ready to set off. Instead, they welcomed us to join them, we ordered a couple of beers, and before we knew it, it was already midnight.


We piled into their dinghy with the captain and his first mate. After we secured our dinghy to theirs, Dave unexpectedly dove into our dinghy and rode it back to the boat. Somewhere along the way, Dave managed to lose his flipflops.


As we neared Lagerhead, I mentioned, "Our ladder is on the other side." The captain humorously responded, "Apologies, love, but this is your stop. Take your husband with you," handing me our dinghy line. I scaled up the very high side of Lagerhead making sure not to drop the line and inadvertently release Dave into the bay.


The next morning we inspected our poor wooden dinghy Half Pint. She was half full of water. Her right side was bashed in from the coral and had a few gaping holes in her. After much swearing, Dave blew up our little inflatable dinghy.


Of course, our outboard engine was broken, so it was just rowing for us the rest of the time in Bermuda. Dave plans to patch up and fiberglass all of Half Pint in Puerto Rico so she won't be down for long!


We're taking on water!

Sightseeing

The Unfinished Church

Unfinished Church

One block away from the dinghy dock is The Unfinished Church. It, stands as a hauntingly beautiful testament to both architectural ambition and the passage of time.


Started in the 1800s, The gothic church was meant as a replacement for St. Peter's Church, which had been badly damaged by a hurricane. However due to funding problems, parish infighting and another damaging storm, the church was never completed.


Walking through the skeletal remains, we couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at the grandeur that was intended.


Tobacco Bay

We walked up the hill beyond the Unfinished Church and then back down the other side to find the delightfully picturesque Tobacco Bay!



Nestled at the northernmost tip of Bermuda, this bay once served as the dramatic backdrop for the Gunpowder Plot of 1775. During this historic event, local Bermudians collaborated with American revolutionaries to liberate a stash of British gunpowder from the Town of St. George.


Being a British colony, they certainly couldn't outright aid the enemy. However, Bermuda desperately needed the American colonies' support for goods and services. So the Americans "robbed" the gunpowder while the Bermudians looked the other way. And it all worked out in the end for both the US and Bermuda.


Fast forward to the present day, and Tobacco Bay Beach has transformed into a hotspot, featuring the Beach Bar & Restaurant. The tranquil lagoon, surrounded by distinctive rock formations, invites you to bask in the sun or explore the underwater wonders. We snorkeled here and saw schools of yellowtail, barracuda, huge blue parrotfish munching the coral. Octopus have been spotted here as well as sea turtles.


Tobacco Bay offers everything you could want for a laid-back day at the beach, from comfy chairs and snorkeling gear to a delicious array of food and drinks served up with a side of live music. We were here in the off-season and pretty much had the place to ourselves, us and the chickens wandering around.

Full Service at Tobacco Bay. We visited the beach a few times during our stay.

Fort St. Catherine

A Wall at Fort St. Catherine

A short walk down the road from Tobacco Bay sits Fort St. Catherine. This fortress, dating back to the early 17th century, played a role in the island's maritime defense. It shot 2 whole cannonballs at a Spanish ship back in the day and scared them off. That was its military defense record.


The fort does offer a nice tour of the island's military history. St. Catherine provides panoramic views and stands as a testament to Bermuda's colonial past.


It is also one of 90 forts on the islands! Bermuda's got more forts than a pirate's got eye patches! These forts are scattered around like confetti at a pirate party. You can't throw a coconut without hitting some historical stronghold.


Fort George

Our favorite fort was Fort George. Perched a top the highest hill on the island, Fort Goerge has a moat, unfortunately, no water in it. It's been converted to Bermuda Radio headquarters. Bermuda Radio watches over all the boats and ships sailing around their waters and advises boaters on when and where they can move.



Getting Around

I know tooling around on scooters is the Bermudian way but we enjoyed their public transportation. The bus system in Bermuda is excellent and easy to use. They have cute, pink electric buses that take you all over the island. You can even use your bus pass on the ferries. Bermudians are so friendly and kind. An example, As each person got on the bus, they greeted the bus driver and all the bus passengers in general. We rode the buses to the following attractions.


The Crystal Caves

We highly recommend visiting the Crystal Caves located in Hamilton Parish, Bermuda. Formed over millions of years, these not-to-be-missed caves feature stunning azure underground pools and incredible formations of every size and shape imaginable. The caves are illuminated to showcase their natural beauty, creating a surreal and enchanting experience.


We witnessed a man proposing to his girlfriend in Fantasy Cave. Dave was the videographer for their big moment.


The Swizzle Inn

Original and Yummy Rum Swizzle

Directly across the street from the Crystal Caves is the Swizzle Inn, Bermuda's legendary concoction of good times and great vibes!


The Swizzle Inn is not just a bar; it's a celebration of the Bermuda spirit. Like everywhere on the island, Bermudians here were super friendly and eager to share tales of island adventures. We enjoyed listening while sipping on the legendary Rum Swizzle.


The décor? The walls and ceiling are covered in stickers, boat cards, and dollar bills. Every inch of the Swizzle Inn is designed to make you feel like you've just stumbled upon the coolest beach party of the year. We liked it so much, we visited it twice.


The ceiling of the Swizzle Inn. Can you spot Lagerhead?

The Blue Hole

A short walk down the street from the Crystal Caves is the Blue Hole, known for its stunning turquoise-blue water surrounded by lush vegetation.


It's not a traditional marine "blue hole" like those found in underwater sinkholes. It's a collapsed underground cave system filled with seawater.


It's a popular spot for swimming and snorkeling due to its clear, vibrant blue waters and the marine life it supports.


When we first arrived at the Blue Hole we had it all to ourselves and enjoyed our private swim around the caves. More people showed up later but it was still fun to jump off the sides of the cliff into the water.


The park also offers walking trails and scenic views, making it a peaceful and beautiful natural environment.


The Blue Hole


The Naval Dockyard


The Clock Tower Mall at the Royal Naval Dockyards

The most visited spot in Bermuda is the Royal Naval Dockyard. This is where the majority of cruise ships dock. It is on the exact opposite side of Bermuda from St. George. When you are sitting on the beach in Tobacco Bay, you can look across the reefs and see the cruise ships docked there. It takes about an hour by bus to traverse the winding roads to the Naval Dockyard.


Set against the stunning backdrop of Bermuda's light blue waters, the Naval Dockyard stands as a testament to the island's maritime legacy. Here, massive stone fortifications, such as the iconic Keep Yard, proudly guard the memories of naval exploits and strategic prowess. The imposing structures are not just relics; they're storytellers, recounting the island's role as a strategic naval outpost.


Naval Dockyard is not just about the past. It's a vibrant destination buzzing with life and energy. It contains lively waterfront markets where local artisans showcase their crafts, and where the aroma of fresh seafood mingles with the salty sea breeze. The lively Clocktower Mall invites you to indulge in a bit of shopping, offering a mix of local and international treasures. At the Dockyard you can swim with dolphins, rent a segway or a jet ski, or take a sailboat ride.


Frog and Onion English Pub



We stopped in at the only brewpub on the island the Frog and Onion English Pub. When the bartender found out we were sailing the world, he bought us the perfect sailor drink... a shot of rum!


The Frog & Onion Pub was created and opened in 1992 by a Bermudian (the Onion) and a Frenchman (the Frog) and is Bermuda's most unique Pub. Housed in the mid-18th century Cooperage in the historic Royal Naval Dockyard,


A cooperage is where the navy made its barrels for transporting everything at sea. The menu at The Frog & Onion features a selection of traditional English-style classic pub food. The Cooper's Room, one of the indoor dining rooms, features a giant original stone fireplace,


Horseshoe Bay


Horseshoe Bay

Bermuda is famous for its pink beaches and a visit to Bermuda wouldn't be complete without time spent there.

At Horseshoe Bay, the first thing that captures your attention is the vibrant palette of colors – the powdery pink sands, a result of crushed coral and shells, the deep blue of the ocean, and the lush greenery that frames this coastal paradise. It's a postcard-perfect scene that seems almost surreal,

We wandered down the beach path, away from the cruise ship crowds, and along the rocky coves that frame the bay. We found our own private beach paradise and we promptly jumped in for a refreshing swim!

Hamilton

Front Street in Hamilton

Another must-see in Bermuda is venturing into the heart of it all – the charming City of Hamilton, the cosmopolitan capital of this island paradise.


The city stands as a lively focal point teeming with delightful dining, nightlife, enticing shopping, and a rich cultural tapestry. Hamilton, much like the entirety of Bermuda, seamlessly weaves together elements of the old and the new, the past and the future.


A Cruiser's Thanksgiving

Originally planning for a low-key Thanksgiving with only Dave and me, our plans took a delightful turn when we received an invitation from fellow boaters, Erica and Steve. They hosted a Cruiser Thanksgiving on their beautiful sailboat, Oliver and Angela, from another sailboat attended as well.


The evening turned out to be a joyous gathering, filled with shared stories and delicious food. Grateful for the opportunity to spend such a lovely time with such wonderful people.


Our hosts, Erica and Steve
Oliver and Angela

Gale Force Winds

Despite Bermuda granting us a generous six-month stay in their beautiful country, we were eager to head south to the Caribbean. During our two weeks on the island, we faced gale force winds on at least four nights, making sleep difficult. We took turns on anchor watch making sure we didn't drag or other boats dragged into us. While we managed to stay secure, some other boats were not as fortunate.


Locals warned us that with winter approaching, more storms were likely. When Erica and Steve shared their planned departure date, we consulted Windy,com and decided it was an excellent plan. Consequently, we both set sail on the same day, with their destination being St. Thomas, USVI and ours being next door, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Join us next time in San Juan, Puerto Rico!








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