Bermuda Race and the NE USA/Canada



With the Bermuda Race in mind, we began our move northwards in late April. We stopped for a quick reconnaissance of the finish line in St. Georges, experienced severe culture shock by our first visit to a fully stocked supermarket since leaving the Canaries, walked the tidy streets of the island and visited the historic dockyard.

We caught a tiny weather window to start our passage north to Newport. Though a depression threatened us, we escaped and had a quick passage of just over four days. Crossing the cold 'wall' of the Gulf Stream, water and air temperature dropped 30F in four hours - a real shock after six months of tropical warmth. After some quick varnish and spline work in an empty Newport, we had a mini-cruise to eastern Long Island Sound, taking in Tom's old haunt at Watch Hill (RI), Mystic Seaport, the Connecticut River and Gardiners Bay on Long Island. We caught up with Tom's family and had a magical day in Selden Creek, tucked in the middle of the Connecticut countryside and just wide enough for a five point turn. After this interlude, we hauled out to make good some of the bottom splines and to antifoul. We again off-loaded all our cruising gear, while trying to get a new SSB radio working properly. The weekend before the Bermuda Race, we had a very, very wet New York Yacht Club Regatta, winning our class only two-up.


It was a delight to be joined for the Bermuda Race by crew from the UK. Led by Vicky's sister Fiona (minus luggage) were Jason Baggaley, Lance Peltz, John Curtis and Viv Worrall. Despite last minute dramas with Fi's luggage and the SSB, the start of the Race seemed to go well, but things fell apart pretty quickly. Though unforecasted, the wind fell away on the first night and apart from an eight hour burst during the Gulf Stream crossing, it stayed away. With hindsight, we should have stayed further east than we did, but the fact remains that almost the whole of the back of the fleet retired and even the Maxis took four days or more to finish. Lance nearly despaired of his flight, but we did finish - dead last, taking seven and a half days. After all the preparation it was disappointing, but the crew made up for it; it was a pleasure to spend time with them, despite the frustrations.

Fiona kindly helped us return to Newport. A mad two days saw 'Sunstone' sink back down. A gentle cruise up through Buzzard's Bay, the Cape Cod Canal and across Massachusetts Bay brought us to Beverly, near Salem of witch trial fame. Tyson, Tom's nephew, joined us on our way 'down east' to Maine. Sadly his introduction to sailing was mostly theoretical due to the lack of wind. The Ocean Crusing Club meet at East Boothbay gave us a chance to extend our acquaintance with other similarly crazed sailors and with a club which helps its members throughout the world through the kindness of Port Officers like Peter McCrea in Newport. We were determined to get quickly to Nova Scotia, via hops up to Mt Desert Island. We were lucky with fog until our night-time entry to Shelburne in SW Nova Scotia, where the radar proved its worth. Normally this harbour would be crowded with three visiting yachts. We arrived at the same time as a Cruising Club of America (CCA) rally of about 70, including Desmond and Sue (nee Greville) Hampton with baby, Claudia, aboard 'Roc'. At Halifax we repaired a fractured engine mounting foot and visited the excellent maritime museum, including its fascinating display covering the largest non-nuclear explosion ever, following a munition ship collision in 1917.

A fast passage brought us to St. Peters Canal, entrance to the Bras d'Or Lakes on Cape Breton Island. We had 10 days of beautiful weather to explore three of the five arms of the Lakes as well as the central town of Baddeck, where the hospitable Bras d'Or Yacht Club was holding its regatta. We had to join one race - under yet another rating system. Baddeck also gave the opportunity to reweld the engine mounting foot yet again and to replace three of the four engine mounts, shaken to bits by motoring through a windless summer. The Lakes were uncrowded and we rarely shared our wooded, sheltered anchorages. For the first time in decades we also mountain biked on a 20 mile foray inland.


Predictably, our cruise back along the 'East Shore' involved a good deal of beating against the prevailing south westerlies. 'Sunstone' seemed to enjoy it even when we didn't. We enjoyed the rugged, unprettified beauty of this least populated or visited part of Nova Scotia. Sophisticated Chester complemented the rustic simplicity of the rest of Nova Scotia outside Halifax. We met with old friends and made some new ones among the hospitable sailors of Mahone Bay - as at historic, picturesque Lunenburg. The islands and beach of our last anchorage in Nova Scotia, Port Mouton (pronounced Mutoon), was a miniature introduction to Down East Maine. Roque Island, our first destination in Maine, is deservedly famous for its mile-long beach. We anchored there in a tiny cove surrounded by tall pines, with delicious mussels thick on the tide-deserted rocks. Unfortunately that evening we shared it with a 122' motor yacht. These things happen - but in eastern Maine not often. There were quiet anchorages whenever we wanted, often with beautiful trails only a short row away.


It is hard to pick out highights, when every day brought something good. Favourites were, the ledges of Mudhole, the shelter of Seal Bay, Vinalhaven, where we applied two coats of hull varnish at anchor, the intimacy and surprising variety of Duck Harbour and its neighbouring Mountain on Isle au Haut and the offshore spareness of Damariscove. But sailing up and then climbing over to look down on Somes Sound fiord was also a treat, as were the wooded heights of Bartlett Island in Blue Hill Bay. There is no doubt that we will go back to Maine someday.




From Damariscove Island we sailed straight back to the friendly Jubilee Yacht Club at Beverly. We visited the sights and sites of Boston and also drove inland and see the White and Green Mountains. We enjoyed walking the 'Freedom Trail' in Boston and the spectacular scenery of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire.


A series of quick day hops brought us to Oyster Bay, just outside New York, where 'Sunstone' stayed double anchored while we visited family/friends. The Big Apple is certainly a changed place under Mayor Guiliani, and has much to recommend it - if you like cities. But one of the all-time great day sails must be through Hell Gate, down the East River and out New York Harbour past the Statue of Liberty. Even when you've grown up with it, it is stunning. Two wonderful sails to Cape May and then up Delaware Bay took us to and then through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal into the Chesapeake at the beginning of October.

We celebrated the anniversary of the start of our cruise in mid-September. It was quite a year. We visited 124 different harbours and sailed just under 12,000 miles. There were 66 entries in 'Sunstone's ' visitors book, which represent nearly 200 guests, quite apart from all the people we have met ashore. There are many matters of detail which we might have done differently in preparing and conducting our cruise so far. However, we are pretty happy with most of our decisions and delighted that 'Sunstone' is still our sailing home, despite the work needed to keep her in the style to which she - and we - have become accustomed. For the romantics, it is a year in which we have learned a lot about each other, having spent virtually every minute together - and enjoyed all but three or four.

Quite apart from the sailing and the scenery, what will we remember about this summer in the USA and Canada? Walking down streets where everyone greets you and looks you in the eye; receiving profuse apologies when an ordered item is not available from a menu and being given the alternative 'on the house' (this has happened in two different restaurants); being delighted by the low prices of goods and food and appalled at the high prices of services and yacht berths/moorings; the deference of non-city drivers to pedestrians; the repeated generousity of strangers in offering the use of their cars; being perplexed and sometimes annoyed by the proliferation of moorings - most of them empty - clogging potential anchorages; the immaculate state of most New England cruising yachts; watching eagles and ospreys soar and hunt; eating lobsters fresh from the sea at $7 a pair, preceded by free mussels plucked straight from their rocks; the wonderful hospitality of the officers and members of the Jubillee Yacht Club, Beverly and the Bras d'Or Yacht Club, Baddeck.