Thurs, May 12, 2022
Latitude 32o 16’ N
Longitude 64o 52’ W
The 860 mile trip from Sint Maarten to Bermuda was uneventful.
The same day that Kay and Denise departed Sint Maarten, crewmember David Carstens flew in and joined Burke and me at the Yacht Club Port De Plaisance (PDP). David was joining as an experienced crew member, having had been on board for the eastward crossing of the North Atlantic, back in June of 2021.
After a quick 2-day resupply, the three of us departed Sint Maarten on May 5th, passing back under the same drawbridge we’d used to enter Simpson Bay. With three on board, we quickly settled into individual daily routines of four hours on watch, eight hours off, four hours on, and another eight hours off. One week later we were approaching Bermuda. Except for the reward of a fast passage, it was a disappointing trip in comparison with others around the Atlantic. Fewer birds, fewer dolphins, and no evidence of the Sargasso Sea, as hoped.
By 3:30 AM on Thursday morning May 12th we were within 30 miles of the island and checked in with Bermuda Radio as instructed in their entry procedures. Thirty miles seemed like a long lead time, given that it would take another seven hours to arrive, but other boats could be heard hailing the harbor, so I made the call. I was not prepared for the extent of information that the voice on the other end of the VHF radio would request, wanting to know details down to the make and serial number of my life raft.
Within five miles of the entrance into St. George’s, we were directed to anchor in Convict Bay, next to Ordnance Island where stands the stately government building housing the customs office. Once anchored, I rowed in with the book containing the ship documents and the crew’s passports securely zipped in a large plastic bag. What I did not have were test results for COVID. Prior to entry into Bermuda, one is supposed to register on line. This includes paying $40 for health insurance and promising to have taken a COVID antigen test withing 4 days of arrival. As with admission into Sint Maarten, our fate was once again linked to internet access and logic challenging electronic forms. Confronted with inflexible artificial intelligence, we had all promised to take an antigen test within four days of arrival, knowing full well that we would be at sea for seven day prior.
Once on shore and in the customs office, I was confronted by Customs Agent Ms. Burgess. Short and feisty, she reminded me of the grade school teacher who would scold you for not having done your homework, but was somehow on your side. She provided us with detailed instructions on how to go on-line and register for the required tests at one of the island testing centers. Don’t try calling, she said, you’ll never get through. After some consideration, she then sent me back to the boat to bring in the crew. Meanwhile the crew had been instructed to move Lillian to a location farther out in the harbor. Rowing against wind and waves, I’m looking over my shoulder as I round the break-water wondering where in the heck did my boat. go.
Once back in the office, Ms. Burgess surveyed the three of us in judgement and pulled out three home testing kits. “Mask off, breath out, unwrap the swab, swirl it five times up each nostril, dip it in the solution, and place a drop on the reagent and wait for the line to appear.” All this was recorded on cell phone by her co-worker and then messaged to another official with the authority to validate such results. Ms. Burgess then gave us permission to proceed straight to our reserved slip at the Caroline Bay Marina at the other side of the island. She would have the test results e-mailed forwarded there. As promised, the results arrived at the Marina, although we never did receive the final official bar code documenting our sanctioned arrival into Bermuda. No matter, we were in, and here was no requirement to check out with Marine Customs department before we flew home. Never-the-less, a week later we stopped by to see Ms. Burgess, just to say goodbye.