Just Me, Nobody Special

Enjoy a browse in my world

Bermuda to Miami via Grand Bahama ~ May 2004 


After a particularly harrowing couple of years I booked a far away voyage to get away from it all

and recharge my batteries on board TS Tenacious.

Besides, I got to sail the Bermuda Triangle!

Day One ~ Getting Aboard

Saturday 8th May

Steady drive down from home in the rain, making good time arriving Gatwick at 11.30.  Baggage checked in [a light 10 kgs], a quick coffee and not long before the escort arrived to whisk me to Gate 52.  Flight BA2233 to Bermuda would be a laborious seven hours and they’re four hours behind our time, I watched as the people boarded nodding to those who would be fellow crew members [it is amazing how many you pick out].  Usual fare food wise, chicken and broccoli pasta for lunch, the films sadly were not as thrilling but as I had a dodgy headphone connection I didn’t miss much but as fate had bestowed a screaming baby in my cabin ear plugs would have been welcome!

We landed on Bermuda to glorious bright baking sunshine and a pleasant early evening 72°F.  Tenacious’s presence at the Island had caused much talk and the friendly airport staff were eager to ask us about our impending trip.  Even the rigmarole of immigration/customs/baggage was pleasant in the comfortable clean surroundings with live music to greet the Boeing 777.  We bundled and packed ourselves into a number of taxi’s, Aurielle, Domi [a French couple living in Stuttgart] and I shared the taxi that decided to take the long scenic route [which on an island a mere 1 mile wide and 21 miles long takes a little imagination].  The sun was setting as we arrived at the ship docked at the Old Naval Yard a little after 8.30pm [my body was saying “No it’s gone midnight people”].  On the Bridge meeting and greeting were Captain Barbara and Medical Purser Jo, I was pleased to see familiar permanent crew faces again.  I was issued with my watch card and told to make my way to the lower mess to sign the ‘Ships Articles’.

In berth 39 starboard side where I met up with my buddy for the trip Ruth, who had been sitting two seats from me on the plane, as we unpacked and chatted I was floored to hear she lives in Bungay!!!

Quick meeting and greeting of the crew in the lower mess, wheelies were issued with transit chairs and evac straps.  Some more people were arriving tomorrow, so it would be Monday before we leave Bermuda our intended destination Freeport Grand Bahama.

Snuggled under the light duvet just after 10pm, hoping my tenacious spirit would prevail, but thoughts of those back home and those gone were just under the surface.

Time to make memories

Day Two ~ In Port

Sunday 9th May 

I slept well, awake only minutes before the 7.30 wake up tannoy.  Breakfast at 8, full works, juice, cereal, toast, cooked.  I wondered how many more were to join as the lower mess looked a little depleted.  Those there were a mixed bag of Bermudian, American, English, and French, with just as many mixed reasons for being on Ship.

Morning briefing and introductions.  Captain Barbara introduced her crew, Simon First Mate, Roger Second Mate, Nick Bosun, Dave Chief Engineer, Chips Second Engineer, Graham Cook, and the three BM’s John, Phil and Mackenzie.  There would be a crew photo taken at Freeport and Jo would distribute the order forms.  For us to reach Freeport on by the 17th we need to achieve an average of 5 knots, it is hoped we will have a chance to anchour somewhere for a BBQ and some swimming but as ever all things are in the hands on the winds and waves.  We were booked to arrive at Miami on the morning of 20th.  Dave, went through the usual speak of conserving the fresh water, the ship has the ability to make a limited supply of its own [there is a form of desalination plant on board], the bar hours, what is kept where, account book and such like. The rule regarding the heads is to flush down only that which your own body has produced.  Roger did the talk about evacuation procedures, what alarms and signals mean what, man over board procedures, the issuing of harnesses.  Jo told us of the ship shop, sun creams and medicines, the limited laundry opportunity and what to do in the event of an accident.  Simon took us through an alarm test, so we could hear the bells/lights etc.  Explained the procedures for going aloft and confirmed that assisted and wheelies would get a chance to go aloft at some point.  Gangway procedures, how to sign ourselves on and off ship and that we had to carry our watch cards at all times when off ship as these were now our ‘passports and identification papers’.  Evacuation teams were trained in how to haul a wheelie up the companionways [ship speak for stairs], guess who was the guinea pig??  Simon in his deep Scottish brogue and broad charming smile said it was because I was the lightest and wouldn’t break him when I landed on him .. okay not been on board 24 hours and I already seem to have tuned into the humour level on board.

After smoko, the ables were issued with their full climb harness and talked through climbing aloft.  As my watch were ‘Fore Starboard’ we were at the Fore Mast where we gave support and encouragement to those climbing, some for the first time.  This was the first time my watch had gathered together, watch leader Sue, buddy Ruth, Robert and his brother/buddy Chris and me, gulp!  Sitting on deck feeling the hot sun and smelling the familiar aromas of ship and sea was wonderful.  Lunch was jacket potatoes with a selection of fillings, poor cookie, he never did get used to this voyage being a reduced crew number so portions and leftovers were always plentiful and damned enticing.

The afternoon was our own time as the last couple of people were due to arrive.  Ruth and I wandered the local shops picking up a couple of postcards before heading to the maritime fort where we watched Robert, with the help of Chris and Jemima go swimming with dolphins.  The area was historic if a little neglected.  We wondered if the obvious dereliction of some building was because of abandonment or still not repaired after the hurricane season.  Although Bermuda is colourful, not only in the building colours but the flora and forna it was a little more run-down than I had expected.

As instructed we were back on board by 4.30pm for training in bracing the yards, experience remembered what to do but finding the exact pin on the rail still bemuses me.  Although I am slower and physically weaker than on my previous voyages, I could just about manage the Fore Royal on my own.  However, I need an extra hand, two to do my rope and one to hand signal to Robert beside me [who is deaf] when to stop!

Dinner 18:00 and as it was a Sunday, it was a full roast.  Lamb with mint sauce, mashed potatoes, cabbage cauliflower and broccoli, I think it was bread and butter pudding to follow [there had been a slight mishap with the bread, the order got delivered twice so we had an extra 144 loaves crammed into every conceivable space in the freezers], already people were commenting on the splendour of Graham’s cooking skills and for sure he does have a secret ingredient that makes you eat more and eagerly too.  After dinner Ruth and I went on deck to cool off, despite the precautionary factor 25 my face and arms had caught the sun so before preparing for our harbour watch from 10 to mid-night I plastered myself with the Lubriderm cream.

Harbour watch was pleasantly warm, we watched the cars speed along and screech to make the tight turn, the last crew member Fee from Wales arrived.  Not much to fill in on the hourly log as nothing much changed except the time.  Ruth and I chatted a lot about our previous trips and things we’ve gotten upto.  Ruth is a nursery nurse doing her ‘year out’, she has another three voyages booked after this on.

Day Three ~ Sail Away

Monday 10th May

After the usual hearty breakfast we were all on deck to prepare to sail.  One of our crew Jar had to make a mad dash to the US embassy on Bermuda as they had told him he does not need a visa but he does.  He was hoping to get it done in a day and be back onboard before we left at 9.30 otherwise he would have to catch a lift with the pilot boat, failing that not make the voyage at all.

The gangway was stowed, pilot aboard [dapper little man who Rosie thought was most droolish] to navigate us through the channel til about 12.30.  The plan was to motor til after lunch and then set some sails and motor sail til we found some trade winds, there seemed to be a general lack of wind and the forecast looked a little pitiful too.  As we were due on watch from 12.30 we were early lunch, today’s feast was sandwiches and chips, just how big were these extra 144 loaves?  The Customs boat arrived to collect the pilot and deliver Jar who had successfully got his visa.  [Jar’s wife works for the British Foreign Office on Bermuda].  During watch handover it was discovered that the Customs officials left their receipt book so they had to return.  They had bragged that their little motor boat could do an easy 22/25 knots, strange how it struggled to catch us doing 8 knots. What was that? Oh the swell, okay.  Looks to sea, sees flat calm clear blue water, hmmm.

My reputation had preceded me and I was placed on the helm as soon as we took over, steering ‘Due South’ 180°. The wheel seems a little larger than the one on Nelson, I soon got the balance of her and was able to use minimal corrective steerage keeping her within a tight 5° of the course.  Of my watch Chris was the only first timer, I helped him with his first turn at the wheel.  There was some general banter between us, Robert uses a wheelchair and was deaf but sailed every year with the trust, Watch leader Sue was a widowed granny who loved the interaction of people and sailing.  At starboard lookout I gazed across the very calm waters, feeling the hot sun bake down on me, wondering what these occasional silver specks were that skimmed across the water in the opposite direction to the little waves that there were, flying fish.  Upto helm again this time at 230° with very little weather and swell there was little but her own balance to take her from course, so it was more a case of sitting back relaxing in the comfy chair than battling nature.  The time passed quickly and soon it was hand over time at 16.30.

Simon talked us through the drill for setting the sails, it was interesting how much I naturally remembered.  Then I was off to start my time on mess duty with Fee and Kim.  Early dinner in the upper mess at 5.20pm, braised Duck breast with cabbage, boiled potatoes and ratatouille.  Down in the lower mess in charge of the buckets and the lift, Fee and I devised some new technical terms for the buckets, flup, bit flup and not flup, flup pronounced with a welsh accent was short for full-up, crew talk was of the excitement and anticipation of the next few days at sea, the anticipation of setting off, back to the galley to dry up the dishwashers work and put everything away.  Fee and I made the mistake of going out on deck for a ‘sundowner’ [tot of rum as the sun sets] as we were a captive audience we set the braces ready for any breeze should it arrive.  We were still motoring, the sky was clear and the sea flat calm [Beaufort definition] Jason said it looked ironed.

Again despite creams and that I have caught the sun strongly, someone said I could be used as a substitute port Mast light I was so ‘bright’.  I didn’t feel that sore more just hot, I cooled the skin with a cloth dampened in cool water before slapping on the Lubriderm.  I would have to get myself up and about in the morning, as my wake up call would be before Ruth’s and she had the midnight to 4am watch.

Day Four ~ Mess Duty

Tuesday 11th May

Although I heard Ruth get up for her midnight watch I didn’t hear her return.  I got up 6.30am dressed and ready for Jemima to come push me to the heads.  In the lower mess Kim was already setting the table.  It seemed weird setting the table for so few people, we really were a small crew, 22 voyage and 11 permanent, and I guess the visa rigmarole deterred people.  Some were feeling the effects of sea sickness, which was weird as we were hardly moving or rolling, so even fewer were sat down to the full works.

After the breakfast clear away which takes the longest of all three meals because it uses every single crockery/cutlery item imaginable, Graham assigned duties.  Kim and I were to peel a bucket of potatoes, not too bad you may think, except that as it was nearing the bottom of the sack all those peelers before us had used the big spuds and we were left with the ones the size of an average fist.  It took us two hours, still sitting on the shaded side of the deck watching people scrub and swab during happy hour was pleasant.  

Morning smoko included a fresh baked ginger cake, I traded my slice for an iou 1 favour from ‘someone’. Still on deck, still peeling potatoes Robert, Chris and Sue gave a talk on the basics of using sign language, going through the alphabet and some simple phases.  Robert had devised some signs for people’s names, Captain was three fingers on shoulder as epilates, Simon was a bag pipe motion as he is Scottish, Roger’s was rude, Dave’s was the motion of pulling a pint as he is in charge of the bar, Chips was the sign word for chips, Mac’s was using your fingers to show long eye lashes, Phil’s was stroking long hair, John’s was cigar smoking because he always had a cigar after dinner, Graham’s was rubbing a satisfied full tummy, Jo’s was the sign for nurse, Nick’s was the letter T as he always had a mug of tea on the go.

Potatoes duly bashed, we set up for the lunch time, which was mega easy.  Vegetable soup with cold duck and sausages chips or toast, Graham is a master with left-overs, most of us eat on deck as it was far too nice to be inside.  Once all the clearing away was done it was time to terminate my love affair with ‘dishy’ the dish washer for a few days, nothing ever seems to get me all hot and breathless than the dishwasher.  I retired to my cabin for some cooling time with the air conditioning and a light snooze before the Officer of the Watch called all hands to sail setting stations once smoko has been cleared and all sails would be set, well the four jibs and 10 squares.  I followed two simple instructions, pull this one, let out this one.  It was abit more complicated than that, it was more a case of watching my clew line and over seeing the first timer next to me watch theirs, help haul sheets and halyards, but we all work at a steady comfortable pace and the work was done.  The tidying up however was laborious, a maze of ropes the deck looked like a spaghetti dish with the crew as meat balls.  There is a young Bermudian lad aboard called Genenko, he is exceptionally quiet, some of us wondered whether he was finding it all abit much and overwhelming but his buddy Alan [fellow Bermudian and family friend] assured us he was this way at home too.  When the engines were turned off we went from a g-forcing 7 knots to 4 knots.

Our watch was due to start at 4pm but with the sail setting and so forth we did no take over til 4.45, where should I start today, oh yes helming 220°.  The sea state was very light again, hardly any corrective helm needed, I did more work as port look out than when I was on the helm as there were some vessel around.  

Dinner tonight was pork steak in leek sauce with blind rice, incredibly delish.   Relaxing in the evening air watch leader Sue came and found Ruth and I, as Chris was now on mess duty and as Robert needed so much help getting up it would be just us three girls on watch from 4am to 8am.  We took advantage of the time and I had a full wash, cooling the burnt areas and again slapping on the skin care cream, even I have to admit I am a subtle shade of red. My face and arms feel warm but the crook of my neck does feel sore, I am wearing a hat and using a pillow case to cover my neck but I think I am burning through the covering and sun block.

Strange kind of day, it started with me waking long before I needed to feeling nervous and tearful, I thought maybe some home sickness was arriving, but I did all that I could and am feeling reasonably confidant at what I can do for myself.  We have quickly jelled as a bunch of strangers, already swapping groan jokes “What do you call a French shoe seller .. .. phillip flop”, friendly fun and camaraderie.  Well sleep time, 3.30am will be here all too soon, only this could get me willing to get up at that disgusting time of the day.

Day Five ~ Early Start

Wednesday 12th May

Aurielle gently woke us a little before 3.30am, Ruth and I dressed and made our way to the Bridge.  The night sky bright by the moon light, clear stars twinkled the air was calm and still warm enough needing only a sweatshirt over my t-shirt.  Rosie’s watch had excitement to tell us, the Queen Mary II radioed us, Rosie was stoked as she had to pick up the radio and say “Tenacious stand by” while she sent someone to find Roger [who was getting yet another bucket mug of tea].  QM2 has the EIS radar system, which means like a tracker of the web when you click on a certain ship it gives you the details of the vessel, they wished us safe voyage.

The engines had been turned back on, and with the sails set we were back up to 7 knots.  Helming a course of 230° she needed a little more watching than she had done, partly due to the props pushing the water past the rudder. Simon was Officer of the Watch for us, his deep Scottish voice sounding musical as he told stories.  Dawn rose at 6.30am.  With the few of us on watch there was plenty to do,  the ships log as always every hour on the hour, reminders of what time to wake people, and how civilised we phone the permanent crew.

Poor Dave, imagine an early morning [he was the one shook from his bunk to start the engines], looking a little asleep carrying mug of hot tea in one hand lit cigarette in the other hurrying up the companionway to the Bridge, his foot catches on the last but one step and he trips spilling his tea all over the deck in full view of most of the crew.  So what was in that tea then?  

Breakfast couldn’t have arrived soon enough, I was starving.  After the morning meetings [PC’s BM’s Watch leaders at 8.35 then watch briefings at 8.45] where messages and the days itinerary is discussed. It was happy hour, the starboard watches were below deck and I was in the bar cleaning the glass racks and the area.

Smoko on deck by the Main Mast, as always a broad selection of tea, coffee, fruit tea, herbal tea, squash or water, and a freshly baked cake biscuit to keep hunger at bay til lunch time.  Today’s event was knot tying,  Tony who used to be in the merchant fleet but is not a MOD Plod and a regular JST sailor walked us through the most used knots, clove hitch, round bend two half hitches, bowline and stopper knot [also called the 8 knots], it was fun watching people get themselves all tangled and knots fall apart.  This continued til lunch was called, time flies again, the grilled gammon with chips and beans was scrumptious [it should be noted here that during the voyage Graham received many marriage proposals, one purely because his gravy was so delicious, he declined all graciously].

I was about to relieve a little desperation in the heads when the call came for all hands to bracing stations, plans aborted, back to deck to let out the Royal and T’Gallant braces to mid ships.  After that was done, Ruth and I took full advantage of the afternoon quiet time [1.30 to 3.15pm] to catch up on some snoozies.  After smoko, Ruth helped me drown [wash my hair], sitting on deck to let it dry off in the sun which was still very warm.

Early dinner for us of Chicken Rogan with boiled potatoes [my peeled ones] carrots and cauliflower.  I think Graham could make cremated toast delicious.  A competition is being circulated, for $2 per guess, winner gets $30 the rest goes to the Trust.  Guess the actual mileage travelled from Bermuda to Freeport Grand Bahama, I guess 1012, a hedged guess as Barbara had said it was between 900 and 1000 miles when we had had the briefing on the first night.

 Captain Barbara was officer of the watch to start with til Simon took over after dinner, Barbara tested our theory of knots, sadly her attempt to try and teach Ruth the alternative method of bowline tying only confused her completely.

I had just settled in the helm chair when I was deserted as the Fore Mast yards were set to ‘mid way’, this is half way between mid ships and full to port.  Once done Chris started trying to think of song titles that best described each member of the crew, sadly our attempts were pathetic, however finding titles that were less flattering was far easier and hilarious, these poor people Gray was a non stop talker we came up with “Silence Is Golden”, and Lynda who was more out of her thin clothing than in it “Flash”, it made the time go very quickly.

Tomorrow after happy hour during smoko, there would a Captain’s inspection, it was vital that we maintained a very high standard of cleanliness otherwise the authorities in Miami would refuse us permission to berth.