by Nancy E. Spraker
An enormous fishhook named Bermuda appears on the Atlantic Ocean approximately 650 miles off the U.S. coast. Although blue-green waters surrounding its pink shores are inviting, its treacherous reefs have caught over 300 ships in 5 centuries. Shakespeare’s The Tempest tells the tale of the British vessel Sea Venture, which fell victim to the Isle of Devils while battling a hurricane in 1609. She carried supplies to starving Jamestown, Virginia, when Captain Somers beached her and saved all 150 onboard, who then survived by fishing the island’s bountiful seas. They enjoyed a warm climate—compliments of the Gulf Stream—and skillfully built ships out of cedar, thus beginning Bermuda’s status as a major maritime center. The British Navy built an outpost, the Royal Naval Dockyard, and several forts there to protect colonial interests in the Caribbean and America after Bermudian blockade-runners invaded several U.S. waterways. Due to the Bermuda Sloop rig’s innovative triangular sails, Bermudian ships would scurry past square-riggers close on the wind. Smaller versions of these ships called Bermuda Fitted Dinghies filled Hamilton Harbor during island regattas—they still sail there today.
World-class racing yachts join them in June when the Newport to Bermuda Race—the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race—takes place. Run biannually by the Cruising Club of America and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, this year’s race was its 49th since its start in 1906. Yachts sail 635 miles from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda, crossing challenging Gulf Stream currents as described by the race’s first winner, Thomas Fleming Day, who said, “You don’t stop to parlay with a Gulf Stream in June.” The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club clears its docks for over 150 boats after they pass Gibb’s Hill Light, maneuver Town Cut channel and check through customs in St. George’s. Last year 37,000 shots of Bermuda’s Gosling’s rum were served to 4,000 partygoers. Silver trophies in the shape of Bermuda’s aids to navigation are awarded to top skippers and crews, with the grand prize being the highly coveted St. David’s Light trophy. The longevity and success of this historic race is, perhaps, the main reason behind Bermuda being considered as a venue for the 35th America’s Cup in 2017.
by Peter A. Janssen
A quintessential New England small town on the banks of the tree-lined Connecticut River, Essex is a mix of whitepicket-fence charm and colonial history, all with a heavy nautical overlay. Six miles up the river from Long Island Sound, Essex offers some protected and picturesque coves, an inviting Main Street, and a boating-centric culture that makes visiting cruisers feel more than welcome. Indeed, Essex today has more transient moorings for boats than it does parking spaces for cars. And if Essex itself isn’t enough of an attraction—even though it’s on almost everybody’s list of Best American Small Towns—then head up the river another mile and drop the hook in Hamburg Cove, one of the most protected and alluring gunkholes on the East Coast, if not the entire U.S.
Like many other great cruising destinations in the Northeast, Essex is easy to get to. On Long Island Sound, about six miles east of Duck Island Roads off Westbrook you’ll see the Saybrook Breakwater Light. It’s 58 feet high and on the end of a 1,000-foot-long breakwater. The wide channel between it and the matching breakwater to the east leads north up the Connecticut River to Essex, and then another 40 miles or so to Hartford, the state capital.