999.9 nautical miles in 13 days, 3 hours and 30 minutes and just like that, we’re in Bermuda.
We did it. We sailed to Bermuda from Fk. Lauderdale, Florida. And like all offshore excursions it was an incredible adventure.
I (James) remember after we sailed to Hawaii in 2006, I would tell that story and people would always respond with, “Wow, how was that?!”
At first all I could do with that question was scoff. I mean, what?! I just told you I sailed 2040 nautical miles across the largest body of water on the planet Earth and all you got is, “how was that?”
THAT was absolutely everything…THAT was life at the pace of the multiverse… THAT is the adverse environment that no monkey-brain could possibly comprehend…And That is the way we choose to live in this world.
It is amazing in every way! Sometimes it’s so perfect that it draws you into places in your mind that you couldn’t reach before but at the same time it can be so physically taxing that there’s no way to prepare yourself for that kind of thing. In other words: you’re not going to work this shit out in the gym.
Our planet’s Ocean is a body of life so incomprehensible to our puny human receptors that, when it kicks up, all most of us can do is lay down and quiver. I mean, we came out of the sea as sloppy, wet primordial lizardish things and evolved on land, so going back to our true home is a long, long way to go. For those rare few of us who get to dwell within its incredible intensity, well, lucky us.
The Earth’s Ocean is a vast expanse of this planet that can lull her sailors to hypnosis or shatter their lives with a fear unmatched by any on land. The Ocean is so deep and so divergent that land animals (like us and gato) must adapt at a pace that strains our land-locked comprehension. The sea jealously demands our absolute attention. Fuck it up and you pay with a pain that is unlike any you have felt before.
The weather was perfect for the first three days. As we came out of Fk. Lauderdale, we were right in the Gulf Stream and doing 6-7 knots with barely a breath to fill all the sails. We made 95 nautical miles that first 18 hours and we wouldn’t see those numbers again on this trip.
Then there were the Horse Latitudes…
Every day, the wind would fail at dawn. Some days it came back only to die at noon and turn to glass for the remainder of the afternoon. At 1600-ish each day in the doldrums, we would feel the whisper on the backs of our necks and the game was most definitely (motherfucking) on!
The wildlife thinned out quick. The above sailfish followed us for a few minutes then disappeared into the depths. A pod of spinners–20 strong–passed us about 30 meters abaft and were never seen again. The tuna on attack, the flying fish (one of which gave its life on the bad bet that our deck was a safe place), and the ubiquitous long-tails gliding above all seemed to challenge us along.
Feeding ourselves amounted to eating every easy thing that might go bad if we didn’t get it out of the house. It was so hot and the sun was so oppressive in the mid-day that we did mostly cold dips and even cold canned soups with PB&J sandwiches. Moment to moment, the basic life-imperatives of drink water and find shade alternated in the foreground of consciousness with a 12-mile horizon is actual rather small and this ocean travels the whole world.
Storm cells. If there’s an overarching theme to this trip, that might be it. Along with the evening’s freshening breeze, the atmosphere laid eggs of brilliant white and dingy grey. The black bottoms of the serious clouds sometimes streaked the sky under them with rain-mediated patterns like chromatographs.
We altered course frequently in attempts to avoid the ones flashing with lightning and growling with thunder. More successful than not, the nots are more vividly memorable than the successes.
Wet wet wet, and every towel and every garment aboard soaked and then drying, donned damp to be soaked and then dried in the brilliant sun of the next day’s unclouded heat.
The electric motor kept us directionally correct and not just underway but actually making way. I (James) called it ‘The Free Ride” with the sun providing just enough electrical thrust to keep us moving in the right direction we glided on a glassy sea for free. At the most inimical, a counter-current against us along with an absolute lack of wind had us motoring (with full rudder control!) at 0.5-1.2 knots for a half day. We don’t have a speedo for measuring our speed through the water, but this is the exact reason to have one…to make us feel better about the fact that we weren’t getting much of anywhere across the crust of the planet, but we were certainly making way through the Verse!
This is our revolution in action and kicking ass! The Free Ride is like the first time we made ice from the water we made from the wind and the sun. It’s a profound feeling of revolutionary success and it drives us to continue on.
We weren’t just moving through the world for free…sometimes we were getting change back! The 400 watts of solar atop the Primary Energies Tower blasted electricity directly to the motor controller. The motor monitor kept us informed when the net power was zero and then +0.8, then +1.2, then zero again. Even when we drew more than we made, dusk and dawn, we were content. Critics of the electric motor fuss about how such a setup would perform in exactly that situation and we are here to say that it was glorious. Starting and running a diesel engine, with its finite number of explosions that must be rationed carefully, is far more stressful than running down a battery that drinks light from the sky to renew itself. Oh, and the stink and rattle and the awful awful noise? Nope. All gone.
The doldrum-days provided ample time for proj’ing but then it got real.
The first week ended with a shift in the currents that released the breaks. At last, every little breeze was progress and every calorie of electric motor power significantly furthered of our travels. Life and death struggles were visible only in the rings of disturbance on the surface waters but it was clear that this new current was home to many creatures.
This is the thing. This is where I (Dena) felt at home and agreeable to the situation. Still wondering with a bit of fussiness whether the wind was just a little north of us or whether the storms were worse there, but mostly? Mostly, I was living in my home with my loved-ones. The moon reached full and beyond and I was privileged to see it so clearly, so in context of the Earth’s solar system siblings and galactic neighbors and neighboring galaxies.
The wind got good and then better than good. The seas grew steep, 6-9 feet regularly, meaning that the big ones approached 20 feet high. Lovebot steered remarkably well up the faces that lifted us, stern first, toward the sky and then slid us down the backside. Sometimes, looking down, it was hard to believe that Lovebot’s paddle was even touching water because the wave was so steep. Sometimes, looking up, it was hard to believe that we would rise to the occasion…but we did. Thousands of times.
Everything became hard! The bruises were no longer cute and the ocean could give a fuck.
As we made our final approach to Bermuda, we realized that we were going just a little too fast to arrive during daylight so we really buried that staysail as far as we possibly could and still have any sail up.
Just after dark, the country of Bermuda revealed itself to me (James) in lights. Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse in Cross Bay was the very first sign of land I’d seen in thirteen days. To be honest it scared the fuck out of me. We’d spent the two weeks crossing a part of the world’s ocean that gave us a little of absolutely everything we could’ve imagined and then some.
We did it though, we slowed Cetacea down enough to bring her around the island, skirting the last of the big squalls like a boomerang leading us right into St. George’s Town Cut. As we entered the deep narrow channel leading into town, the sky exploded in blue and the tight-sheeted main barely helped the electric motor propel us upwind into Convict Bay.
I brought her into the customs dock nice and slow.
I (Dena) hopped onto the quay and took care of clearing into Bermuda. Not only was it simply a matter of filling out a few forms and handing over a credit card, the charge to that card was less than I expected. When does that happen?
The officials sounded Bermudan, I think. British-Islander is how I’d describe their accents and they both wore their brilliant-white uniform shirts, a high-contrast effect with their rich-dark skin, with the ease of long experience. No fuss, just the fact, just the forms and the fees. At the end, the official who had interacted with me directly walked out the door with me. She pointed out the grocery store and the place to get fuel and water. Still in the less-is-more-when-talking-to-officals mode, I didn’t brag about how we make our own water and power for our electric motor. Keep it simple is the best plan.
I jumped back down onto the boat. A breeze just off the port bow provided a perfect kick off the quay for the stern and then James released the bow as well. We slid downwind with just a little reverse thrust from the motor until I had enough room to kick her in forward and rotate in the narrow space. Only a few minutes later, we were hook down in Convict Bay looking over and up at the lovely town of St George.
We had arrived.