Berkeley East first arrived in Port Everglades, Florida in December of 2006. She was born at Queen Long Marine, in Kaohsiung Taiwan, put on a freighter, and shipped to Fort Lauderdale where we jumped aboard our new Hylas 54, and began what we thought would be a two-year cruising adventure.
Nearly 15 years later, after sailing more than 50,000 miles in the US, Caribbean and Mediterranean, we met BE in Port Everglades once again, as she came home from her adopted motherland country, Italy. Three weeks prior, we had put Berkeley East on the BBC Scandanavia cargo ship in Genoa for the long trip across the Atlantic. At this point, Berkeley East has still spent more time in Italy than any other country, including the United States. But that was about to change.
There was a bittersweet moment when we decided to ship Berkeley East back to the US. It was definitely time for BE, and her crew, to move on, but the impact of cruising in the Med for 10 seasons was profound, and will forever be some of the best experiences of our lives
After flying back to North Carolina, we waited anxiously as the BBC Scandanavia carried BE along the Ligurian Sea, through the Gulf de Leon, the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic Ocean. We tracked the ship whenever it was in satellite range, the weather was intense.
As the days ticked by, we busied ourselves making plans for BE once she arrived stateside. New insurance was required, dockage was needed, there was much work to be done, so a haul date was necessary. We had thought all these things to be simple tasks, solved with a few phone calls (finally, no translation required), but over the years, we have learned that nothing is simple when it comes to boats. There would still be 10 days of "official" hurricane season when Berkeley East entered US waters, so obtaining an insurance policy was extremely complicated. The Fort Lauderdale Boat Show was just a week away, which meant finding a dock for Berkeley East was very difficult, especially given the shallow waters and fixed bridges throughout the area that cannot accommodate BE's depth, or mast height. And, with the start of the winter cruising season just around the corner, the shipyards were full of boats prepping for trips to the Caribbean. The timing was challenging.
As the Scandanavia was within range, we drove the 750 miles from Lake Norman to Fort Lauderdale to await BE's arrival. The shipping company gave an estimated delivery date and advised not to make travel arrangements more than three days before final confirmation, in case of delays, or even rerouting. We had recently heard the story of a yacht on a ship bound for Seattle, WA that was offloaded, unexpectedly, in Mexico; we thought Mexico would be a long drive. Launch dates and times are typically provided one to two days in advance, and about eight hours into our 12-hour drive to Port Everglades, we received notice that Berkeley East would be discharged from the BBC Scandanavia in two days at 11:30 am, in Florida, not Mexico; we were relieved. And with the early time slot, we felt like we had won the lottery, as we have a friend whose boat was once unloaded from a ship in Port Everglades at 2:00 am.
When we first picked up Berkeley East in Port Everglades, in 2006, we walked into the port and right onto the freighter to unpack BE. In 2021, we were taken by tender to the BBC Scandanavia, to board Berkeley East from the water. We assumed security was the reason for the different procedures. As we approached the ship, Berkeley East was already in the slings and being lifted by the crane. We were shocked that BE was the first to be moved as she was smack between two boats forward and three large yachts aft. We sat on the tender, watching the show, until Berkeley East was floating.
Once we climbed aboard, the real excitement began. We knew the crew would be in a hurry to get the other boats off the ship, but we weren't prepared for their urgency, or carelessness. As we went below to turn on BE's systems, we felt the boat moving forward; the Scandanavia's crew was pulling Berkeley East to make room for another boat alongside. But the wind was blowing BE into the ship, fenders were popping away, we had to push Berkeley East's 37 tons away from the ship to keep from scraping BE's hull along the rusty bucket, her mast dangerously close to colliding with the Scandanavia's crane.
Berkeley East had made it 5,000 miles aboard the BBC Scandanavia, fairly unscaved, we wondered if we could get her off without damage. We quickly started BE's engine, the Load Master tossed us our keys and we pushed off as hard as we could.
Once Berkeley East was free from the BBC Scandanavia, we were able to calm our nerves, and realize that BE was actually back in the United States, in Ft Lauderdale, where it all began 15 years ago; The Adventures of Berkeley East (and crew). We navigated up the intercoastal, calling for bridge openings, in awe of the number of boats that we saw (and the number of real American flags), the passengers waving and smiling as if they knew Berkeley East had just arrived home after many years away. An hour later, we docked BE behind one of the thousands of Florida homes with docks, where we started preparing her for her next adventure.