Good afternoon all of you,
It is 0800 hours local on 23rd. November and we are in St. George, Bermuda. It has been a few days since my last report. There is plenty to tell.
The washing machine and tumble dryer have been working overtime.
The boat has been seriously cleaned with vacuum cleaner, cloths and chamois leather.
Joost was unstoppable, when the rest of the team took a break for coffee he continued to tirelessly scrub and polish.
The bimini has been taken down, it will be a while before we sit on deck in the sun again. It catches a lot of wind too, not ideal for the ship’s balance.
Peter is busy cooking in advance for those moments when preparing food at sea gets tough. Rice, chili con carne, fish soup, sounds good doesn’t it. It all goes in the freezer. He’s a great cook. He could easily take part in the Great Dutch Bake-off, it’s in his genes.
Another of his sons, Arnaud, cooks in a famous three-star restaurant in Paris, close to the Champs-Elysées, where then President Sarkozy would take his lover Carla Bruni to dine at the French tax-payers’ expense.
All the while that we are busy, Four Seasons gets admiring glances from passers-by on the quay. Taxis and even busses stop to offload people, news that we are here has made it’s way around the island.
Where are we from? Where are we headed?
The Azores, The Netherlands, Wow!
Jaws drop, as if we are from another planet.
How fast does she go? What’s in the engine room? How many horsepower?
If you’re interested:
2 Volvo Penta type D9 diesels, 575 Hp apiece.
A slightly older visitor, in his early seventies and insisting that he is of Dutch origin, seemed at first very interested but turned out to be more inclined to tell his own story.
We hear that he had a number of homes, one here in Bermuda, one in the Phillipines where he is married to a 26 year old Phillipine girl. Not impossible, though I didn’t get to see her.
Apparently he owned a number of boats too, these I didn’t get to see either, and his father was a whaler who shot his last whale single handed with a machine gun.
A story teller pur sang. I guess he lives alone and lonely in a small hut somewhere on the island.
We also had a visit from a charming and beautiful lady, possibly of Indian descent. She was honestly interested and wanted to hear our stories and plans. She, and I think her husband, had just returned to the harbour of St. George in their catamaran. They too were headed for the Azores but had turned back due to the bad weather. They have decided to stay here at anker for the time being, waiting for better weather next spring before trying again.
‘But whats your plan then’, she asked, looking at Four Seasons, ‘you don’t even have sails.’
That’s right, we have a motor boat.
‘All the way on the motor?’
‘You must carry a lot of fuel.’
‘That must cost a fortune.’
It does, I replied, but madam I don’t play golf, I don’t gamble and I don’t fool around.
She looked at me admiringly, did I read her eyes correctly that I must be the ideal husband?
She took her leave and rowed her dinghy home to the catamaran.
What I also notice here is that everyone, from Customs Official to harbourmaster and diesel supplier calls me Captain, with honour and respect.
I am treated accordingly.
That’s something I miss from my own crew.
I think I shall buy myself a Captain’s hat.
Maybe that’ll help.
We’ve spent the last few days working on the water maker, which refused to work regardless of our efforts.Even two engineers from a local island company were unable to solve the problem, we needed to order a new membrane from Australia.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Peter Wierenga, who refused to give up, we think we’ve solved the problem.
After wrestling his way through page after page of instruction manual he thought the pressure on the membrane must be too low, we had it on 800kPa instead of 800psi, or maybe the other way round. I can’t quite remember.
Anyway, after turning the knob in question the machine was as right as rain and now produces 35 litres of top quality drinking water every hour.
Everybody happy, we can shower and do the washing up again.
We could hardly start on the long crossing without this machine, theoretically it would be possible but we’d have to have strict rationing in place.
We took a much needed break from the boat the day before yesterday and got in a bus full of screaming, shouting school kids on its way to the capital Hamilton. A trip of about 20 kilometres.
This is a green island. Green but not fertile, the tobacco industry having removed all nutrients from the ground, so that the only thing that will now grow is onions, the best in the world, people say.
Everything has to be imported, making this an expensive place to live. The same applies to drinking water. 90% of the water is rainwater. Every house has a concrete roof than cleverly catches and collects every drop of rain.
Hamilton is a much bigger place, a modern centre with nice shops. This is where the cruise ships bring their passengers to spend big money. It is also home to all of world’s big insurance companies. Bermuda runs on insurance and tourism.
You’ll be glad to know I have found myself a Captain’s hat.
On the way back to St. George we had to stand in the bus. As seats became free my crew all found a place to sit, leaving me the last man standing at the end of our hour-long journey.
The hat hasn’t made any difference.
A little bit of Bermudan history.
The first to arrive in St. George were shipwrecked British, who later traveled on to Jamestown, Virginia to found the early colonies. St. George is more or less unchanged since the seventeenth century, which explains its place on the Unesco World Heritage list.
At first the cruise liners would stop here, but they grew to be so large that they no longer fit and now they go straight to Hamilton. This was the beginning of a decline in St. George’s prosperity. Too many people spend their days sitting around a square close to the harbour drinking their way through the day.
The local yacht club hopes that by concentrating on moorings for super yachts they can bring the place back to life. They are having some success.
The boat is as full of fuel as it can be, including the bladder tanks.
We are full too, as we visit the fine local restaurants and top up on protein, fat and carbohydrates, not forgetting the citrus fruits that will save us from scurvy.
These extended meals are followed by a short walk back to the boat, where we make ourselves a cup of tea.
Jorrit tells us stories, accompanied by films on his laptop, about his adventures aboard the Eurodam, the Prinsendam, the Maasdam and the other Holland America Line ships.
He recounts tales of hatches torn away by wind and waves, the Prinsendam forced to turn back at the Cape of Good Hope by a heavy storm, the stem of the Veendam a metre shorter after running into an enormous trough in very rough seas.
We are talking about ships more than three thousand times the size of our Four Seasons.
These are sailors’ stories to send shivers down your spine.
Joost is lapping these stories up. Does he enjoy them, or is it the opposite? Peter thinks he’s a bit of a pessimist.
I call it masochism.
Sometimes he seems wrapped up in his thoughts, far away from the things we are discussing.
He’ll suddenly ask if it is easy to sail off in this boat.
‘Yes, if you’re aboard you only have to start the engines.’
‘Oh, you don’t need the keys or a code.’
‘No, not at all.’
‘Easy to steal then?’
‘Yes, but where is a thief going to go? This is an unusual boat, one of only a few like her, you won’t get away with a quick paint job.’
‘No, I was thinking of selling the parts.’
Who needs a cabin?
Or the complete wheelhouse?
A straight stem?
I don’t know what is going on in his head, but I’m keeping an eye on him now.
Before you know it we’ll arrive back in the Netherlands in an unrecognisable, stripped ship!
The crew will probably have undergone changes too.
This isn’t going to happen. we have to get it right for our family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues, the media such as TV Rijnmond, CNN, Den Haag Vandaag, DWDD, RTL Boulevard and not forgetting Radar and Nova Zembla, because there is bound to be something that needs to be investigated.
Did the trip really take place? Fake news?
My biggest worry is that people won’t believe us, can’t believe that we made the trip at all.
But I don’t want to think about this now, enough already.
Today we will wait for the weather forecast. Jorrit has found a company specialising in daily advice for our sort of boats and the route we hope to take.
We wait patiently.
Talk to you later.
Best regards, Edzard Braam