“Hound” is a 59’sluminum sloop designed by Aage Nielsen and built by the German yard Abeking & Rasmussen in 1970. She’s got classic lines and lots of teak and mahogany on deck, and I’ve been looking at her from a distance for many years and thinking “man, I’m going to have to figure out how to weasel my way aboard her!”
This summer, that opportunity presented itself, with no weaseling required at all (yay!) I discovered a few years ago that the boat was and had been owned by an old friend of my Dad’s, who I knew as a teenager (which must be a testament of some sort to his patience), but had fallen out of touch with since. Despite this, I hadn’t managed to catch up with Frank when the opportunity to go sailing would present itself, until I ran into him at a party and spent a few minutes chatting. I mentioned that I coveted a ride on the boat, and he said he was looking for crew for next year’s Bermuda race, and asked if I would be interested. I told him I would, and we agreed that we would talk more about it.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Frank, asking if I wanted to help deliver the boat south for the winter, something I hadn’t done in a while, but used to enjoy a great deal. Apart from my interest in doing it for its own sake, I realized that this would give us a chance to get to know one another again, and see if we would race well together, so I leapt at the chance.
After a couple of days waiting for Hurricane Noel to pass, we left Westbrook, CT, at 7:00AM on Sunday, Nov. 4, in a crisp northerly. We had six people aboard, Frank, David the captain, Zoe the chef, two other experienced sailors, Turner and Biff, and me. We left Long Island Sound at 9:00, and after about another hour and a half, we left Montauk Pt. behind. Later that day, the northerly faded and the wind filled in from the Southwest, leaving us beating to windward at about 6 or 7 kts, in about 12 kts of wind. Later that evening, we had some light rain squalls, but nothing serious. We motored for some of the time (particularly in the rain), but the sails were still working, and we made pretty fair time.
By the next morning, the breeze had built to between 18 and 30 knots and gone to the west, and we were roaring along on a beam reach at about 8-10 knots in a moderate sea, with the engine off and smiles all around. After breakfast, the captain, who had collected everyone’s passports before beginning the trip, came up the companionway ladder with a particularly big smile on his face and pointed out to me that I had given him the passport of an 11-year-old girl, which he thought he would have a hard time convincing the immigration officials in either Bermuda or Antigua was me. I had asked my bride to get my passport out of our safe, and hadn’t looked at it when she gave it to me – she gave me the wrong one(!) Fortunately, the boat is equipped with a sat phone and we could send and receive both phone calls (very pricey, but possible) and e-mails (much cheaper, and by far the preferred option) while aboard. Also fortunate was the fact that a friend of the skipper’s was traveling to Bermuda to arrive at the same time we would be there, and was drafted to help get me my passport (much better than spending my time on the “Onion Patch” in a Bermudian jail!) I called and sent an e-mail to Wiz asking her to help resolve the problem, and she contacted the travelers and got them my passport later that day. Problem solved – better living through communications!
We made such good time throughout the morning that we entered the Gulf Stream at about noon (we could tell because the water temperature rose about 15° in about 20 minutes, and the seas got a good deal more confused, though not enough to be a problem). During the day, the wind faded and went to the north again, so we slowed down, eventually enough to start the motor again for a while. By midnight, we were still sailing in a lot of adverse current, which surprised us because he should have been clear of the Gulf Stream. The current must have been mostly wind-driven, because we kept it for the remainder of the passage, though it did diminish somewhat. By five o’clock Tuesday afternoon, we were back on a 25 knot southerly and romping south again at 8 knots with the engine off – much quieter and lots more fun than listening to the engine drone on for hours! The wind continued to build, and that night we bashed our way through 30 kt winds and confused seas of 7- 10 feet. Nice to be sailing on a big heavy boat in those conditions – even so, we were sailing under just the main with two reefs in it, and we incinerated the coffee pot (big trouble for those drinking coffee – I was drinking tea). Made great time, even though we were still bucking two knots of current (it faded the next morning to a knot or so).
By the morning of the Wednesday the 7th, the wind and seas had abated a good deal, and we were sailing under all sails at about 7-8 knots in 11-13 knots of wind. Made steady progress more or less like that for the rest of the day. That evening at sunset, we were being overtaken by a large front and associated squalls, but we managed to stay ahead of it for the rest of the night, though we shortened sail as a precaution, which required us to start the motor again. That did allow us to sail straight at Bermuda, though, and at a pretty fair clip. By early the next morning (4:00AM or so), we could see the skyshine from the lights of Bermuda on the horizon, though we couldn’t see lights themselves until just before sunrise. I don’t know why it is, but I seem to be fated to always arrive in Bermuda near dawn, and I’m fine with that – seeing the shine of lights in the night sky after a couple of days at sea is always a lot of fun, and it makes the landfall anticipation go on longer.
We arrived in St Georges harbor without further incident (other than a very brief shower) at 8:00 AM on Thursday the 8th, and awaited space at the customs dock. While we motored around waiting for space, the guy who brought my passport found a dinghy to borrow for a couple of minutes and came alongside to hand it off to me, which no doubt made clearing into the country a lot easier. We eventually cleared in, and then went across the harbor to the St George’s Dinghy Club to tie up for a day or two. Not the fastest trip I’ve ever taken to Bermuda (a little more than four days), and almost no wildlife seen, but still, a good passage.