{Stus-List} Passage Notes - Bahamas to Bermuda (LONG!)

Colin Kilgour ckilgour at sympatico.ca
Thu Jun 25 16:31:08 EDT 2009

I just did a passage from Bahamas to Bermuda on a friend's' custom Shannon
46 (a Shannon 43 with 3 feet added on the stern for a lazarette).  This was
a 3-leg passage as the owner migrates the boat from Naples, FL to Boothbay,
ME.  Leg 1 was Naples to Grand Bahama (with a stop in Key West).  Leg 2
carried on to Bermuda.  Leg 3, which began yesterday has the boat going from
Bermuda to Maine.
I joined the boat in Bahamas and left it in Bermuda.  I posted a bunch of
pics on Picasa here
LaMsp3E1em6sgE&feat=directlink> , but rather than give you my written
account of the voyage, I thought I'd be lazy (but timely) and just give you
the owner's account - which is already typed up and ready to roll.
Here it is.
The good ship 'Syrah' and crew arrived safely into St. George's Harbor on
the north end of Bermuda late on Sunday, June 14, having completed the 870
nm passage from West End, Grand Bahamas in just over six days.  We sailed
with a crew of four, including Dwight Hawkins (Dallas), Mike Johnson (Nova
Scotia), Colin Kilgour (Toronto) and me (John Monter, St. Louis).

If you recall the fabulous winds that I reported on the 350 nm sail from
Naples to West End via Key West, then you will appreciate the fairness and
balance bestowed on us by the wind gods during this latest passage.  As
observed by one of the crew "it seems that the sailing conditions tend to
balance over the long term; for every day of great sailing, there is a
not-so-great sailing day".  And, sure enough, we started the passage from
the Grand Bahamas to Bermuda with four "not-so-great" sailing days.

For these first four days, we struggled with very light air, which came and
went, and even when it was with us, seldom blew harder than 10 kts.  These
conditions caused us to motor for the majority of each day's run.  Because
our sailing speeds were so low when under sail, our nautical miles made good
for each of the 1st four 24 hour periods was low, despite the fact that we
ran the engine for 13 -17 hours for each of those days.  We made good 139 nm
on Day 1, 140 nm on Day 2, 130 nm on Day 3 and 134 nm on Day 4.  We did a
chance (for the 1st time) to fly our spinnaker during one of the "wind-up"
periods. She looked beautiful and strong as she pulled the boat along at 5 -
6 kts in 8 - 10 kts of air.  Unfortunately, the wind died after 3 - 4 hours,
and the "chute" went back into her sausage, not to be seen again until we
washed the salt out of her in Hamilton. 

Finally, at the beginning of the 5th 24 hour period, the winds filled in
from the W/WSW, slowing building in strength from 6 - 8 kts to 15 - 20 kts,
and then holding at that level for the balance of the trip.  Our course to
Bermuda put the angle of the wind deep on our starboard quarter, so we set a
"wing & wing" sail plan, with the genoa set to starboard, as assisted by the
whisker pole, and the main set deep to port.  During the 1st 3 - 4 hours of
this latest attempt to sail to Bermuda, it was not obvious that the wind was
going to hold.  While listening to the 7th game of the NHL final playoff
over Dwight's weather radio, we struggled to get 5 kts out of the wind.  I
went off watch at 2200, fully expecting to hear the "iron jenny" get fired
up for the 89th time at some point during my off watch hours.  However, when
I came back on deck at 0400 hours, the boat was honking along at 7 kts, with
the wind at 15 - 17 kts, still on the starboard quarter.  So began the last
--- and best --- 32 hours of our passage to Bermuda.  The boat moved through
the water like a freight train at 7 - 9 kts.  The wind speed never dropped
below 12 kts, and got up to 25 kts during the several squalls that we sailed
through.  Finally, at 1509 hours on Sunday, June 14, one of the crew yelled
"land ho", and we looked at the first land we had seen for six days.  Five
hours later, we were tied up at the Customs Dock in St. George's Harbor.
With the paperwork soon out of the way, we were cleared in and immediately
headed for the bar for the 1st of many Dark & Stormy's.  Isn't sailing

While a less-than-perfect passage, the run from Grand Bahamas to Bermuda
finished on a high note, which we all agreed was preferable to a strong
beginning and a weak end.

We observed several forms of marine life during the passage, including water
spouts and tail splashes from at least three whales in migration, a huge pod
of dolphins (20 to 30) that played in our bow wave and dove under the boat
repeatedly for 15 - 20 minutes, and a series of Bermuda Long Tail sea birds,
that came and went over a two-day period while we were at least 300 nm from
land, diving into our wake for fish and attempting to land on the rigging.
During one of these encounters with the Long Tails, the bird became
fascinated with the grape bunch artwork on our spinnaker, fluttering very
close to it, as if he was attempting to get a bite of fruit 300 nm out to

Another highlight of the trip was tuning into Herb Hilgenberg's "Southbound
II" nightly weather reports on the single sideband radio.  We were able to
make contact with Herb on Day 3, and reported our position and wind
conditions back to him each subsequent 24 hour period.  We found Herb's
forecasts to be accurate, which proved to be very helpful in plotting our
course for best wind, relative to the rhumb line to Bermuda.  During these
daily reports, we tracked the travails of a couple who were headed for the
Azores from NC and were hit by a major squall.  The resulting knockdown
damaged their instruments and rigging to the extent that they determined to
divert to Bermuda (closest landfall).  Unfortunately, this new course put
them right on the wind, which slowed their progress of a crawl.  Each day,
Herb would brace them up, offering both weather and sailing counsel.
Approximately 24 hours after we got into Bermuda, they came into the St.
George's Harbor under tow, having finally run out of fuel.  Their boat was a
total mess, and they were pretty worn out from the ordeal.

We are now tied up at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton.  Colin and
Mike will depart the boat soon, and Dwight and I are waiting the arrival of
our wives, and looking forward to their love and company during a five-day
break from sailing at the Tucker's Point Lodge.  

Many thanks to Dwight, Mike and Colin for their help and expertise during
the passage from the Bahamas to Bermuda.  They were great crew, and I deeply
appreciate their many and significant contributions to the passage.

The good ship 'Syrah' departs Bermuda on Wednesday, June 24, for the final
750 nm leg to Boothbay, Maine.  The sail plan calls for a seven-day passage,
but unless we are delayed by weather at the start, we should make the
passage in 5 - 6 days.

Wish us fair winds!

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