I still have about a week left in Puerto Rico anchored in San Juan bay; time in which I will check the boat, reprovision the boat to ensure I have sufficient basic foodstuffs for the whole of June and develop a passage plan to Bermuda based on a preferred “weather window”.
The title “Bermuda Triangle 2019” describes the triangle of my proposed ocean passages from Puerto Rico to Bermuda and then on to New York, while relating to the book “The Bermuda Triangle” by Charles Berlitz which piqued my interest in the late 1970’s. The book was based upon a series of conspiracy theories about unexplained aircraft and sea vessel disappearances in the region between San Juan, Bermuda and Miami.
The header photograph is the San Felipe del Morro fort which guards the entrance to San Juan bay in Puerto Rico.
In the extra time I had in San Juan I also found Condado beach for some fabulous early morning runs and visited my latest “Best Bar in the World”, Marilyn’s Place, dedicated to my teenage sweetheart, Marilyn Monroe and which sold a local craft beer, Ocean IPA brewed in nearby Isla Verde.
The passage to Bermuda was epic! I sailed the first 400nm in three days and then the last 455nm in seven days. At one point the Atlantic Ocean was completely becalmed and I made just 27nm in 24 hours. I don’t carry enough diesel to motor for days and so I made the best of very light winds. It was a great experience that I will remember on long passages in the next few years. Ironically, in the final 24 hours I had to slow down in strong winds by reducing sail as I didn’t want to arrive on the shallow coral coast of Bermuda before sunrise.
I anchored in Convicts Bay in St George’s Town and didn’t leave the boat for 48 hours…to rest, and because I didn’t want to launch the dinghy in the howling wind and rain! But beautiful weather appeared just as I was fully recovered from my longest solo passage, and discovered a wonderful island. Friendly and polite Bermudians, picturesque scenery, turquoise sea and a fabulous history. I loved St George’s Town, the oldest town and original capital, and the nearby Tobacco Bay beach just a short walk past the Unfinished Church. The local Rogues & Runners museum tells the story of Bermuda and the American Civil War. I took the local bus to the capital, Hamilton and visited the excellent Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute with the Bermuda Triangle exhibition. I then took the ferry to the western extreme of the island to the Naval Dockyard, an area of historic naval buildings completely transformed into a port for visiting cruise ships. I also took the local bus to Flatts Village one day for lunch and a photography session in a wonderfully picturesque spot.
As an added bonus the ICC cricket World Cup hosted in England and the FIFA women’s football World Cup hosted in France were both being televised and shown in the local White Horse pub. I have already postponed my departure to support the excellent England women’s football team… New York will just have to wait!
The England women’s football team sadly finished with a disappointing fourth place, but the England men’s cricket team have qualified for a semifinal match against Australia…a match to be played on the day I plan to sail away from Bermuda exactly three weeks after arriving!
Two duty-free bottles of Goslings Black Seal Rum have been ordered for delivery to the Customs Office. As I clear out of Bermuda I will receive the bottles in a sealed package not to be opened until I am clear of Bermudan waters. A cocktail of ginger beer topped with Goslings Black Seal Rum is known as Dark ‘n Stormy.
After two days of wet and windy weather I am staying an extra day…..another boat in the anchorage lost its anchor and chain, and drifted aground! They couldn’t use the engine because they’re waiting for a new gearbox and they couldn’t get the outboard to start on the dinghy! They were pulled off the shallows by a local tug and taken to the dock. It’s very calm today so I’m going to help them retrieve the anchor and chain….and I’ll leave tomorrow!
I formally cleared out of Bermuda and called Bermuda Radio say I was now leaving. I was careful to stay out of the coral-infested shallows and then headed off on a course of 335 degrees bound for New York. The whole passage took two days longer then I’d planned because on two separate nights I changed course to avoid huge electric storms and then I hit the adverse flow of the Gulf Stream just as the wind died….so I motored for 43 hours sometimes managing only 1.5 knots Speed Over Ground and on a NNE course. I knew I was passing through the far side of the Gulf Stream when a long line of yellow sargasso seaweed that separated the faster flowing water from the ocean appeared, and then the wind picked up and happiness flooded the boat as we sailed again….destination New York!
As I approached the VTS traffic separation scheme I was surprised how little shipping there was, and then as I passed through the VTS huge vessels were entering and leaving the harbour. The pilot boats were very busy and even called me on the radio to advise when two vessels would be exiting the harbour. I entered the lower bay just as the sun was rising and I passed underneath the Verrazano-Narrows bridge in glorious early morning sunshine. In November 2000 I ran over the bridge at the start of the NYC marathon, and so now I’ve been over and under it!
The passage had taken eight days. It was still very early and slightly misty so I took some time to take some photographs of the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline before calling up the Liberty Landing marina. The Hudson River was a glorious riot of paddle boarders, jet skiers, speed boats and ferries mingling with the fishing boats that just seemed to anchor wherever they wanted.
The marina is fabulous but too expensive to stay more than a week as a treat for hitting New York in a summertime heatwave! My first priority was to clear into the USA through Customs and Immigration which took just 24 hours of a few telephone conversations and a trip to the Immigration office at the cruise ship terminal. I now just have to advise the Customs & Border Police as I move from one region of their jurisdiction to another. Simple!
For a couple of days I struggled with tiredness but still managed to go for a run, get the bicycle out twice, do three lots of laundry and walk to the supermarket. My eldest son Alec and new husband Paul, came over for dinner, and soon I was ready to enjoy New York. I had organised a 30 day mooring in 79th Street Boat Basin marina and just one week after arriving in Liberty Landing I set off for a 5nm passage upriver and across to Manhattan island. Summer in New York indeed!
79th Street Boat Basin marina is now my new home next to the cycle path downtown and ideally placed for an early morning run around Central Park. I cycled across Brooklyn Bridge to see Alec, my eldest son for a BBQ on the rooftop of his apartment block and continued to cycle everywhere around Manhattan. I have already visited the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, watched Jimmy Buffett in concert on Jones Beach and treated Alec and Paul to the Broadway show Hamilton as a belated wedding gift. I have met fellow Instagrammer Chris Ang and New Yorker David Kadas, and caught up with fellow sailors the Kindler family and Sue Hardy, both whom I first met in Sicily during the winter of 2017/18…a long time ago and far away! I bought a day pass to the opening day US Tennis championship and watched the end of Johanna Konta’s first round win. For the first time I went to a discussion and book signing evening at Barnes & Noble, and bought the sixth book in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by David Lagercrantz that is likely to appear in my 2019 Book List. I had already started planning for my passages south for Christmas in the Bahamas when Hurricane Dorian appeared and has already caused immense damage to some of the islands. I need to pop back to the UK for a couple of weeks and neither of my sons can visit over Christmas so I’ll take my time heading south…Christmas in Florida sounds just great! But first I have decided to head north out of New York City and somewhere safe to leave the boat whilst in the UK. Today is Labor Day which signifies the last day of summer…and it has been raining!
All good things must come to an end, and on my last evening in Manhattan I was treated to New York pizza at Big Nick’s by good friend Lucy Liu. Lucy also lent me the book The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster which will appear next on my reading list. The day I left was 9/11 and I made my way up the East River through the notorious Hell Gate, and eventually into Long Island Sound….the end of my summer in New York!