Yachting into St George Harbor Bermuda

 
If you are sailing into Bermuda during night time and if the sky is clear, you should be able to notice a faint glow on the horizon while you are still some 40 miles away. Those are the lights of the island reflecting from the sky. That's the first indication that you are now coming close to Bermuda. 
 
And in few hours, the island will rise above the horizon with its bright lights welcoming you after a long tiring sail. If you are approaching Bermuda during the day, the first signs of the island would likely be marked by the sight of the beautiful flying Long Tail birds of Bermuda. 
 
 
 
These large seagull like birds have single long white tails and have habitats in Bermuda. You will soon pass by the historic Fort Victoria which is located on a hill top at St. George's Parish. Few years back the commonly used instrument Loran often gave inaccurate positions as one came close to Bermuda, because one would be too far away from US East Coast and the Loran worked on land based transmitters from homeland. But now sailors use GPS devices. 
 
Once you are within 30 to 40 miles distance from Bermuda, you should contact the Bermuda Harbor Radio (now Bermuda Maritime Operations Center). You can call them over VHF Channel 16 or 27, or at 2182 kHz, 4125 kHz. They will guide you for correctly approaching the dock at St. George's Harbor, which is the only port of entry for sailing yachts. 
 
They will also assign a custom duty officer to help with your custom clearances, immigration and health clearances which are mandatory before you sail or move to other parts of Bermuda. They will also assist you with the berthing of your boat. 
 
While approaching Bermuda, you should be thorough with the Bermuda Approach Chart to know about the location of the reefs and other land based navigational guides. The underwater reefs can be quite treacherous unless you are careful. 
 
They have doomed many ships and yachts in the past. Reefs exist up to 10 miles of Bermuda's northern shoreline, that is the side facing US. If you look closely, you will notice that although you are miles away from the island, there would be surfs breaking over the reefs close to you. 
 
So while approaching Bermuda from the north, it is wise to keep well to the east. If you are unsure or having difficulty to navigate, go towards east and past St. George's keeping a fair distance and come back from south east, which is a much safer option. Remember that the 100-fathom line is only 1 to 1.5 miles away from the shore. 
 
If it is dark and you are not confident of making a safe landfall, it is best to anchor offshore or at the Five Fathom Hole at 32° 23’N, 64° 37’W, until next morning. However be in contact with the Bermuda Harbor Radio and let them know your position. 
 
You will finally need to get into the St. George Harbor through the narrow channel Town Cut. If a large cruise ship passes through this channel, there is hardly any room for any boat to pass through at the same time. 
 
All commercial cruise ships are guided in and out of the harbor by the Government Pilot Service which is charged separately to the cruise line. This service is not applicable for the private yachts though. 
 
 
 
The channels are well marked by a row of colorful buoys and beacons. The buoys flash green and red lights during night time. Once you enter the harbor, you should proceed to the Custom Dock located at the north eastern side of Ordnance Island. while entering, a yellow quarantine flag needs to be flying from your boat and that should be easily visible.  
 
Any vessel which is entering between 12am to 8am, will be required to anchor at the quarantined Powder Hole located at the south-eastern side of St. George's harbor. The boat should report at the custom dock at 8am next morning. You can contact Bermuda Customs anytime over VHF Channel 16 or over phone: 441/297-1226. 
 
There is an arrival tax charged per person in the yacht. Children under 2 are exempted. The customs officer will collect the tax. Remember that the maximum stay period allowed in Bermuda for a tourist is 21 days. Although Bermuda Customs may grant permission for the boat to remain in Bermuda for an extended period, a separate permission is required from Bermuda's Department of Immigration for extension of any visitors stay beyond the 21 days. 
 
Update May 1, 2012: The initial period of stay for tourists has been extended from 21 days to 90 days (3 months). A longer stay will require an application to Department of Immigration showing citing reasons for such requirement and necessary documentation. 
 
If you are importing pets in Bermuda, you will need to show an import permit and also produce a health certificate of the pet. 
 
A valid machine identifiable passport is necessary for entry into Bermuda irrespective of your mode of travel. Check out Bermuda travel documents to know about necessary travel documents to carry with you. 
 
Note that importation of firearms or ammunitions of any kind is prohibited. If you are carrying flare pistol or other signal guns, you should declare that to the customs officer immediately on arrival. Spear fishing within one mile of Bermuda's shore is also strictly prohibited. 
 
 
 
Related Articles 
 
1) Check out Bermuda Boat Marinas to know about berthing facilities in the island. 
 
2) Check out Sailing to Bermuda for a guide on private yacht sailing to Bermuda. 
 
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