Return trip: Captain Shane Burnham was last in Bermuda in 1999 where he saw Paul Young in concert. *Photo by Simon Jones
Return trip: Captain Shane Burnham was last in Bermuda in 1999 where he saw Paul Young in concert. *Photo by Simon Jones

Guiding a 4,000 horsepower tug and its accompanying barge packed full of building material through Bermuda’s perilous reefs is major feat of navigation.

And for captain Shane Burnham, a man who grew up watching tug boats ply their trade on the Hudson Rover, it was pretty challenging too.

Captain Burnham, who has been driving tugs for more than 16 years, was behind the wheel when the Michael McAllister and her barge, Gale Force, arrived in Bermuda last week.

The tug originated in Norfolk and maintained a steady nine knots on her four-day voyage to the island.

But it was only once the 40-year-old vessel, which has carried cargo across the globe, and her cargo rumbled into Bermudian waters that things became a little trickier.

Captain Burnham told the Bermuda Sun: “We had a pretty calm crossing and made very good time.

“The barge was out on the cable around 1,000ft behind us for most of the way.”

He added: “But once we reached the island it became more of a challenge.

“The seas were around four or five feet to our stern.

“We had to be very careful about how much power we used and how much cable we drew in for the barge.

“Making the turns was also an issue because the channel is narrow and shallow in stretches.

“But we had the Second Mate with the Bermudian Pilot in the wheelhouse, while I was on the throttle.

“We slowed her down and took up the cable to around 200ft.

““There was not a lot of room for error.”

The Michael McAllister and her barge arrived safely in Dockyard on January 11 to deliver her cargo of construction supplies for WEDCo as well as marina materials for the Hamilton Princess project.

The vessel, along with her six strong crew, has remained alongside at the Knuckles berth in the West End while she waits for a weather window to return.

The delay has given the crew a bit of unexpected time to take in some Bermudian sites and sounds.

But it’s been a trip down memory lane for captain Burnham, who was last in Bermuda in 1999 delivering fuel to the Oil Docks in St George’s.

He said: “I came once in 1998 – that was my first trip abroad.

“We waited three days in Dockyard for a weather window to go to the oil docks and discharge the 110,000 barrels of fuel we had brought in.

“Then I was back again in February 1999 in horrible weather conditions.

“I remember seeing a Paul Young concert while we were here on one occasion — we had a great time.”

The Michael McCallister was due to leave Bermuda and head back to the US at the weekend but was forced to delay her departure because of weather out in the Atlantic.

She is expected to leave Bermuda today.