A night spent offshore raises official suspicion
To the editor:I have made several trips to Bermuda, most of them as part of different Bermuda races. But on one visit, my third to Bermuda aboard my ketch Lorilee, I had a surprise in store.
It was mid-November when we spotted the loom of the Gibbs Hill Light dead ahead, confirming our celestial navigation, jet contrail, and birds returning to land at sunset series of navigation landmarks. I contacted ZBM, better known as Bermuda Harbour Radio, and informed them of our position and, as we were well to the northwest of the island, my intention to proceed to the south and then east of Bermuda to reach Town Cut. ZBM came back and suggested that might not be a good idea and that I should "consider" passing to the north of Bermuda and down the east side to Town Cut. "When in Rome," so I replied in the affirmative and we altered course to pass to the north of Bermuda. Our ETA to Town Cut was 0400 local time, and I did not wish to approach the reefs or the cut in the dark. I informed Bermuda Radio that we would spend the night hours in the northeast sector to await daylight. No problem, they replied.
With daylight we made our approach, and by 0950 were tied up at the Customs Dock, Ordnance Island, St. George. As November is not exactly a busy month for visiting boats, we were allowed to move forward on the quay wall for a free dockside berth for more than 10 days. What a great location! We were docked in the heart of St. George and even got to watch Santa arrive by horse-drawn carriage.
Shortly after arrival and clearance by customs we were visited by a single official with a German shepherd. The official informed me that he was with the Bermuda anti-drug agency and wished to inspect my vessel. I invited him to come aboard and we sat in the cockpit chatting. Finally I got around to the business at hand. "Is this a routine check you do to all visiting boats?" I asked.
"So why did you single me out?"
"You gave us cause for suspicion," he answered.
"How did I do that?"
"Well, you spent the night in a holding pattern to the northeast of Bermuda."
I remained calm and informed him that I had been in radio contact with Bermuda Harbour Radio during the night and in fact had followed their advice in arriving at that location. In any event I told him he was welcome to roam through my vessel with his drug dog. For whatever reason, he eventually decided not to check my vessel and departed.
As always, Bermuda Harbor Radio can be reached by VHF even when in port, and they will graciously provide whatever assistance you need, even such matters as where to catch the bus or what fuel docks are operating. I just hope that taking their advice in the future doesn't lead to another visit from the man with the drug-sniffing dog.