Bermuda: a port in a coronavirus storm
A couple who faced potential peril at sea after they lost the use of their jib sail on their boat have praised Bermuda for its help despite the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
Nena Cadle and her husband, Juan, were forced to head for the island when they ran into problems on Amodiño, a steel ketch they built in New Zealand.
They left port in Colombia in March after they received permission to return to their home port.
With Panama — the route to the Pacific and New Zealand — closed to yachts, they sailed east into the Atlantic, then north to catch favourable winds that would help them cross the ocean.
Ms Cadle said: “A couple of problems developed — we couldn't use the jib and we decided to divert to Bermuda to fix things. We needed a calm anchorage to fix the jib problem and St George's was perfect.”
The couple have not set foot on land for more than 50 days and, even in Bermuda, they have to remain in quarantine on their boat.
Supplies and repairs were ordered and delivered.
Ports in many countries are out of bounds due to lockdown restrictions, including Bermuda's, but the island is signed up to an international maritime convention that gives seafarers entry to its waters in emergencies.
Ms Cadle said: “The officials here have been very helpful and welcoming despite the circumstances.”
She thanked the Somer's supermarket for their service and delivery “rain or shine” and Bermuda Yacht Services for its help in getting repair materials.
Ms Cadle added: “Our last problem requires a few things from suppliers that are not open yet, so we've been trying to patch a solution together that would get us back on the road soon.”
She added: “The blues of water and wide sky here has been a balm to slightly frazzled nerves. A safe space to repair, check and plan has made our trip safer and we are very appreciative for that chance.”
A Ministry of Tourism and Transport spokesman said that because of the Covid-19 restrictions, Bermuda's borders were closed to all unauthorised vessels.
The Department of Marine and Ports Services has alerted marine traffic operators of the restrictions and that vessels should avoid coming to Bermuda, except for humanitarian exceptions under the International Maritime Organisation's Solas convention.
The tourism and transport spokesman said: “Should this happen, then following consultation and direction from the Ministry of Health, the decision of how to go about safely providing food and fuel while limiting any possible transfer of Covid-19 will be made.”
It is estimated as many as 300 small boats crewed by couples or families are trying to make their way home across the Atlantic.
The boats, mostly from 28ft to 70ft long, were caught thousands of miles from home when nations closed their borders.
Most have been anchored in the Caribbean, unable to continue their journeys because lockdown restrictions meant they could not pick up enough supplies and equipment for a transatlantic voyage.
But, with the start of the hurricane season on June 1, the need to get out of potential harm's way has become urgent.
Some have headed straight for the Azores, but others have opted to first sail towards Bermuda, in the hope of favourable winds to help them reach the Azores. The Portuguese archipelago is a transit stop, where supplies can be replenished.
The Azores is seen as a beacon of light to seafarers, but Bermuda, despite being closed, has been recognised as playing its part as well.
Daria Blackwell, vice-commodore of the UK-based international Ocean Cruising Club, said: “We have had favourable reports that Bermuda is being very honourable and doing the right thing to help these people get to where they need to go safely.”
Ms Blackwell said: “Basically, people sailed from one place to another and, while they were under way, ports closed. Some got stuck out at sea without a place to stop, others learnt that this was happening and stayed put wherever they were because all movement was shut down around the world.”
She added: “The word is that everybody needs to go home because the only places that are accepting people routinely now are their home countries. It is essentially repatriation.”
The OCC has opened up its Facebook groups to non-members to share information about what ports are open and where to stop for supplies of food, water and fuel. It can track boats so if someone gets into trouble it can get them assistance quickly.
A website called noonsite has information for people sailing around the world, and includes reports of difficulties seafarers have had, which ports are still open and the restrictions and requirements in each.
Ms Cadle said: “I know the handful of other yachts here would agree with me. The best of Bermuda isn't at the beach, it's with the people. I hope there is a next time.”
But not every mariner has reported plain sailing in Bermuda.
Another boat in quarantine in Bermuda told the OCC yesterday that it had encountered “very poor and aggressive” communication from island authorities.
• The noonsite.com page is at https://tinyurl.com/y9b9l9w5, the OCC is at oceancruisingclub.org and the OCC Atlantic Crossing West to East Facebook Group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/355101288727342/