Bermuda Bound on the Duchess of Devonshire

The following is an email I recently received from Ted Brewer. This isn't this month's "Question of the Month with Ted Brewer" post (that's coming next week!), but I found it to be an interesting story and thought I'd share it.

Email from Ted Brewer to

"Kevin, I just read your blog about the tragedy of Triple Stars and it really brought back some memories. In '64 I was working for Bill Luders and we had designed a steel 45 foot sloop, the Matinee, for a Connecticut owner. The yacht was built in Germany and, after he saw the drawings and the Matinee, Sir Bayard Dill of Bermuda ordered a sistership. Just like a lady, the Duchess of Devonshire was late in arriving and, by the time we offloaded her from the freighter in New York, towed her up to Luders Marine in Stamford, Connecticut and commissioned her, the autumn was well along. Indeed it was a cold and blustery day in early November before we sailed from the yard, with friends waving us a fond faretheewell, and began beating to windward along the Long Island shore, heading for Montauk Point. The merry crew consisted of Sir Bayard Dill, a friend of his, Sir Bayard's two grown sons, his sister, Alan MacDonald the shipyard rigger, and yours truly.

Unfortunately the weather gods were against us; the wind increased to near gale by noon and it began to snow, heavily. So discretion prevailed (or was it the mutinous, freezing crew?) and Sir Bayard decided to head back to Stamford to warm up and await a favourable forecast. That came along in a day or so and, again, we were underway but in far more pleasant weather. Montauk was rounded and we set course for Bermuda, hoping to get into the Gulf Stream and warmer weather in a couple of days. It was a happy ship though with Sir Bayard, Allen and I on the same watch, and Sir Bayard's sister dishing up hot and plentiful meals. I'm sorry I can't recall her name but she was a well known Broadway actress, and very pretty. That I do remember.

Sailing to Bermuda? Don't underestimate the passage
to this isolated island 500 miles offshore in the Atlantic.

We'd been out only 2 days when it began to blow and seas began creeping up from astern. We actually had a couple of birds land on the Duchess after being blown offshore, a sparrow and a small hawk which, eventually, attacked the sparrow. That took our minds off the weather for awhile but things were worse the next day with continuing near gale winds and high seas. Alan and I were on deck during the First Dog watch and the crew was below, with the companionway closed, having a Happy Hour. Alan was steering and I was in the port forward corner of the cockpit, taking things easy and watching sea after sea sweep up astern, to lift us up and pass beneath the hull. Then I noticed one spectacular sea, almost vertical, roaring up behind us. I yelled to Alan to hold on tight while I wrapped my arms around the jib sheet winch in a death grip, and we were pooped! Suddenly, Alan was in sea water to his chest while I, bent over the winch, was completely covered. The Duchess gave a bit of a roll then most of the briny was spilled out over the coaming, while the remainder drained through the scuppers.

Neither Alan nor I had a harness on, because no one had invented them yet, so we were lucky not to have been swept overboard. Also very lucky it had not happened at night, or I might not have seen that monster of a sea racing at us and shouted the warning. And lucky the companionway had been closed or the boat might have taken on a dangerous weight of sea water. Eventually, the rest of the crew spilled up from below and took over the watch while Alan and I nipped below to change into dry clothes and sip a couple of warming heart restorers.

There was some more excitement and troubles on that voyage but, eventually we landed safely in Bermuda, one day before they sent out the search planes! But that is another story!"


  1. Sounds like when I was helping to deliver a Bristol 45 in November '09 between a 980 mb trough and the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

    South of Bermuda, after several days of slowly clocking but consistantly 20-plus knot winds, broken with 40-45 knot squalls, I was on watch at 3 AM under a clear sky. The skipper wisely insisted that a) helmsmen keep in the cockpit, and if not, to wake him, and b) tethered out.

    Out of nowhere, the wind rose to 40-plus and threw the boat on its ear. Had I not been tethered, I would have slid under the lifelines and into the Atlantic, some 500 miles offshore.

    I wouldn't fancy my chances and I'm religious about tethers/jacklines now.

    Interesting blog!


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