There was much more to do and see, of course, so I have enlisted the memories of some other Bermuda visitors to help fill in my blanks.
“Tobacco Bay is a popular tourist spot on the north side of the Island,” says Dan Stadtlander, a Connecticut sailor and aircraft engineer. “The snorkeling and marine life is second to none. It’s just like a postcard or swimming in an aquarium. The fish are absolutely tame and will swim right up to you if you splash the surface. There are caves and other formations to swim around. You can rent snorkeling equipment there or bring your own, which you should have on the boat anyway. There is no charge to visit Tobacco Bay.”
Peter McCrea, a retired executive from Maine and a woodworking artisan, offers these “vivid recollections” culled from a dozen visits to Bermuda. “The scent of fragrant flowers as one approaches the reefs. The joy of safe landfall at a beautiful destination. Savoring an anchored-out evening, having drinks and dinner with friends, with the cacophony of peepers reaching out to us from land. Enjoying the locals’ fish chowder, spiced with sherry peppers and Goslings rum, at the Black Horse Tavern in St. Davids. Heineken at Bluebeards. And steak and kidney pie at the Hog Penny in Hamilton.”
McCrea’s wife, Peggy, an artist, has her own memories. “My personal excitement over a Bermuda landfall from Block Island [R.I.] started after we punched through the [Gulf] Stream,” she says. “Temperatures were noticeably warmer, and the sea took up the wonderful Caribbean hue, changing from a dark blue-green turquoise to a brilliant, almost surreal crystal blue. Tropicbirds and dolphins — the tropical pets of the sea — are plentiful. Drawing closer to the island, the smell of tropical blossoms is almost overwhelming, as if sprayed by a perfume atomizer.
“The first night of sleep, once safely anchored in the protected harbor of St. George’s, is the deepest and most restful sleep one can experience,” she says. “You hear nothing, you feel nothing. When you awake the next morning and climb into the cockpit your senses are bathed in spellbinding, brilliant color. Blinding turquoise water spans from the boat to shoreline, where it switches to brilliant shades of pinks, corals, blues, enveloped in lush green cactus and palm fronds.
“After attending a concert in the St. George’s town square,” Peggy McCrea recalls, “my journal comments include a description of the people we encounter: smiling, talking, happy, friendly, comfortable, honest, safe, black, white, upbeat.”
None of us has yet mentioned the first fact that strikes you when you step ashore in Bermuda: While mass transit is an affordable and convenient way to get around, almost everything else is expensive. This is not surprising when you consider that almost all goods have to be imported. So bring lots of money and expect to spend some of it. If you arrive by powerboat and need to fill your tanks to make it back to the States, expect to pay double what marinas charge at home. The price for gasoline early this year was $7 a gallon.
You can save on fuel expenses by stopping at the marina at the Royal Naval Dockyard, where your purchase will be duty-free. Getting to the dockyard — or to Hamilton or any of the other landings in Bermuda — requires following a course through reefs marked by buoys. Another option, according to Brian Oatley, rear commodore of the St. George’s Dinghy & Sports Club, is to get together with other boaters and arrange for a dockside delivery by a local fuel truck in St. George’s. You will need enough boats to make it worth the trucker’s time, but, again, your purchase will be duty-free.
I can recommend that your visit be part of a race for one good reason: Race organizers in all of the events in which Bermuda is the destination require that you and your boat meet strict safety standards. This is a good way to make certain you are not one of the statistics out there.
But about halfway into my voyage to Bermuda, I encountered evidence that this is not the only way. The moon had set, and Robin was lolling on a windless sea when, dead ahead, I saw a green light. I got on the radio and discovered that a sailboat — a Tartan 40 named Tigress, from Kent Island, Md. — was headed home under power. Later, I contacted Tigress’ owner, Robert Urlwin of Wilmington, Del. He had sailed with a crew of four to Bermuda and was returning with three crewmembers. He wasn’t racing, so when the wind died he just turned on the engine.
Urlwin says he belongs to no yacht clubs. “If I owned a motorcycle, I would not join a motorcycle club,” he explains. “I just do what I want to do. Therefore, I just teach myself.”
Urlwin planned his trip to Bermuda for a year and then slipped the lines. “It was less eventful than I expected,” he says. “I kind of wanted some weather, not too much.”
Monica and I headed back to Newport on the double-handed leg of our race with plenty of reasons to return to Bermuda. We took nearly as long getting back as I had spent sailing over. The wind remained fickle, and we managed to find more dead air than anyone else.
“I think going by boat, especially if you can motor, is a delightful — and inexpensive — way to go to a beautiful island,” she says.
For me, the voyage and the visit were the most fruitful three weeks that I have ever spent on a boat.