By Private Yacht
Bermuda is a strategic port for private yacht traffic sailing and motoring between North America and the Caribbean. Boats head south from all points on the Eastern Seaboard in the early fall, in preparation for key industry boat shows in St. Thomas, Tortola, Antigua, and other islands, and the start of the winterlong charter season in the West Indies. A similar migration occurs in the spring, a similar migration when yachts return en masse to North American harbors from Florida to Nantucket for the summer. Bermuda is a convenient halfway point on both annual journeys for refueling, provisioning, making repairs, and taking on crew.
Hundreds of yachts also descend on the island for international races held between May and July, either annually or every other year. These include the Charleston–Bermuda Race (Charleston, South Carolina, to Bermuda) in May of odd years; the Bermuda Ocean Race (Annapolis, Maryland, to Bermuda) in June of even years; the Newport to Bermuda Race (Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda) in June of even years, and the Marion–Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race (Marion, Massachusetts, to Bermuda) in June of odd years. The King Edward VII Gold Cup in October and International Race Week in June also attract scores of yachtsmen for world-class match-racing and International One Design events. Skippers off boats visiting the island during these times but not involved in any of these events should make advance arrangements for berthing and other needs.
Anyone traveling to the island by yacht needs to be acutely aware of ocean safety for the Atlantic crossing and also well attuned to the particular dangers of Bermuda’s reef-strewn waters. Centuries of shipwrecks attest to the dangers of the area’s tricky channels and necklace of reefs, which, extending up to 10 miles north of the island, are not taken lightly even by veteran mariners.
Maps and Communications
British Admiralty Hydrographic Office charts for the Bermuda area are available from yachting supply or map and travel outlets throughout the United States and Canada. On the island, contact PW’s Marine Centre (110 Woodlands Rd., Pembroke, tel. 441/295-3232, fax 441/292-5092, www.pwmarine.bm). All charts have been revised and electronically aligned so that satellite positions can be plotted. At the very least, all mariners should have charts depicting offshore beacons and reef areas, as well as major Eastern approaches (the Narrows and St. George’s Harbour).
The island has one marine radio communications facility. Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre which encompasses the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Bermuda) and Bermuda Radio/ZBR (tel. 441/297-1010, fax 441/297-1530, www.marops.bm, INMARSAT C AOR [East] 581-431010110, or INMARSAT C AOR [West] 584-431010120). Duty officers are in 24-hour contact with U.S. Coast Guards and other sea-air rescue centers in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean, and they maintain a continuous listening watch on international distress frequencies of 2182 kHz, 4125 kHz, Channel 16 VHF, and digital selective call frequencies 2187.5 kHz and Channel 70 VHF.
Bermuda Radio also broadcasts navigational and weather warnings and information by voice and Navtex to an internationally published schedule. Radio broadcasts are initially broadcast on 2182 kHz and Channel 16 VHF, before switching to 2582 kHz and Channel 27 VHF. Continuous weather information is also available on VHF Weather Channel 2 (WX 02), frequency 162.4 MHz. Channel 16 VHF is reserved for distress calls, or call and reply. Be sure to stay off VHF Channels 12 (used by piloted ships), 10 (port operations), 22 (Bermuda Marine Police Section), and 70 (digital selective calling). There are no VHF radio–telephone link calls from Bermuda.
Arriving in Bermuda
During an approach to Bermuda, all vessels should make and maintain radio contact with Bermuda Radio beginning at 30 miles from the island; duty officers can assist when necessary. Buoys and beacons mark Bermuda’s channels, in keeping with international marking systems. Port Hand markers are evenly numbered green can buoys, which flash green when lit. Starboard Hand markers are odd-numbered red conical buoys, which flash red when lit.
Private vessels arriving at Bermuda have to obtain clearance from Customs, Immigration, and Health (eastern end of Ordnance Island, St. George’s, tel. 441/297-1226, VHF Channel 16) in St. George’s Harbour before venturing to any other part of the island. Fly code flag “Q” (the yellow quarantine flag) until Customs clearance is granted. Vessels arriving overnight are asked to anchor at Powder Hole, in the southeastern part of St. George’s Harbour, and proceed to Customs/Immigration in the morning.
Anchoring and Berthing
There are safe anchorages in both St. George’s and Hamilton Harbours; Bermuda Radio will provide anchorage and berthing instructions, and clearance must be given to shift berth or sail. Berthing is not permitted at the south side of Ordnance Island or Penno’s Wharf in St. George’s, as these areas are reserved for cruise ships. First-come, first-served is the rule for securing space along the north side of Ordnance Island and Market Wharf, but it comes with a fee. Likewise, berthing carries a fee in Hamilton and is restricted to yacht club berths, boatyards, and marinas. The St. George’s Dinghy & Sports Club (24 Cut Rd., St. George’s, tel. 441/297-1612 or 441/537-0712, www.stgdsc.bm) can accommodate up to a dozen 100-foot yachts berthed in a Mediterranean mooring style (stern to dock), offering water, electricity, showers, laundry, Internet access, and garbage and waste oil removal. Yachts anchoring in St. George’s Harbour are also offered full access to club facilities and can come alongside to fill water tanks ($0.15 a gallon). In Hamilton and the West End, King’s Point Marina (Dockyard, tel. 441/234-0300), the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (Albouy’s Point, Hamilton, tel. 441/295-2214, www.rbyc.bm), The Waterfront Marina (96 Pitt’s Bay Rd., Pembroke, tel. 441/295-1233), and the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (25 Pomander Rd., Paget, tel. 441/236-2250 or 441/236-4411, www.rhadc.com) all have modern facilities and offer water, electricity, ice, and trash disposal. Trash pickup can also be arranged through the Corporations of Hamilton or St. George. There is a floating dock at Barr’s Bay Park, Hamilton, for visiting sailors to tie up dinghies while running errands in the city. The Mariner’s Club (22 Richmond Rd., Hamilton, tel. 441/295-5598, fax 441/292-1519) has facilities for naval personnel and other mariners, including a seaman’s chapel.
Marine Services and Information
Having arrived safely at Bermuda, you will find a wealth of marine services in the ports of Hamilton, St. George’s, and Dockyard. Harbour Radio can arrange for emergency repairs. Fuel (diesel or gasoline/petrol) is easily available at numerous waterfront marinas, including Van Buren’s Marine Station (Flatts Village, Smith’s Parish, tel. 441/292-2882); St. David’s Esso Marine (St. David’s Island, St. George’s, tel. 441/297-1996); and Dowling’s Marina (1 Penno’s Dr., St. George’s, tel. 441/297-1914). For bulk fuel orders, contact Shell Company of Bermuda (tel. 441/297-1577) to supply duty-free fuel via dockside pipeline or tank truck to its all-weather bunkering facility at Ireland Island, Sandys. Canvas repairs are done by Dockyard Canvas Co. (Royal Naval Dockyard, tel. 441/234-2678) and Ocean Sails Custom Canvas & Upholstery/Doyle Sailmakers Bermuda (60 Water St., St. George’s, tel. 441/297-1008, fax 441/297-8330, www.oceansails.com). Rigging is handled by Triangle Rigging (tel. 441/297-2155, www.rigging.bm). Engine repairs can be handled by West End Yachts Ltd. (tel. 441/234-1303), PW’s Marine Centre (Pembroke, tel. 441/295-3232), or Bermuda Marine Supply & Services Ltd. (Pembroke, tel. 441/295-7901). Aristo Ltd. (tel. 441/292-4902) sells and services alternators, starters, and electrical systems.
The Bermuda Yacht Reporting Centre on Ordnance Island in St. George’s provides four-day forecast charts, tropical warnings, and Gulf Stream analysis. Pre-sail weather briefings can be booked from the Bermuda Weather Service meteorologist (tel. 441/293-5067, ext. 402). For emergencies in port, contact Bermuda Radio or call 911 for police, fire, or ambulance services. A detailed outline of marine regulations and resources can be found in Ralph Richardson’s Bermuda Boater, published in 2004. The Department of Tourism (tel. 441/292-0023, www.bermudatourism.com) also publishes a comprehensive resource booklet for private yacht travelers.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition