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Date: 19 Dec 2010 04:39:00
Title: Exploring Bermuda - is it Paradise?

Saturday night, St George, Bermuda

This place is amazing. We've spent all day wandering around and saying to each other "How lovely is this?".

It was hot enough to sit in the cockpit before 8am this morning and drink a cup of tea, watching the world slowly wake up. I'd been woken up by strange tapping noises and I'm still not sure what it was although it seemed to be coming from the hull so either we've got woodworm in the GRP (which might explain the leak in the heads) or there were some fish trying to get inside. When I looked into the water around Saxon Blue, I was stunned. It's slightly turquoise but so clear that I could see the Mussels all the way down the wall to the sea bed about 5 meters down. Sticking out from the side are some stags-horn shaped sponges and, swimming around them are thousands of tiny fish. It was all I could do not to just jump in with them, it looked so inviting. In fact, I'm so convinced that it's clean that we're running the watermaker now alongside the dock - not that we have any choice as we need the water, particularly now that we have Bill, the world's cleanest crew-member, onboard.

Our new friend Gary turned up at about half eight. We met him last night at the Customs Dock and his boat is moored alongside right opposite Saxon Blue. He sailed from Nova Scotia in Canada to here in one go on his own in his 26 foot boat. It took him 19 days. It made us feel like a right bunch of whimps. We went without a shower for 3 nights and felt pretty hard core about it. He's a really nice guy with sparkly eyes and a massive bushy beard. He's lived onboard for years and looks the part of the sea-vagabond, as does his boat which seems to be largely assembled from stuff he's been given and things he's made himself. I think it's all very inspirational.

We were in the coffee shop having coffee with Gary when Kali came along and found us, closely followed by Bill. We left them there and went back to Saxon Blue to get stuff organised after our voyage. I wanted to wash the salt out of the cockpit so that meant getting buckets of water from the toilets on the dock. Bermuda is critically short of fresh water so they don't leave any hoses around for boats to use. The shortage of water explains the white roofs that we saw when we came in. Apparently, the roof is coated with lime which filters the rain water as it falls. This is then collected by channels moulded into the roof and stored in the basement until needed. There's no need for a gutter as the water doesn't get that far.

Bill went off to do a mountain of laundry, Andrea cleaned our cabin and washed the salt out of our head and Kali tidied up the inside of the boat so that, by the end of the morning, everything was looking tidy again. Andrea was ready for a swim by now and one of the friendly locals had told us about a beach called Tobacco Cove just outside town so we got our swimmers on and walked over there. On the way, we passed lovely old colonial houses, some dating back to the early 1700s. Many have gardens with palm trees and other tropical species. The roads are narrow and there's not much traffic as each household is limited to one car. They make up for that by hurtling around on mopeds. Technically, the speed limit is 20 mph but, in practice, it's what your moped will do with the throttle fully open. We had a look at the Unfinished Church which is exactly that. It was started in the late 1800s but the congregation fell out with each other, leaving the building without a roof.

As we crested the hill above town, we could see right out to see over the lagoon. Bermuda island is crescent shaped and occupies about a third of the rim of the volcano which formed it. The other two thirds is a reef about 10 miles away from the island. From above, it all just looks like open sea but, right on the horizon, we could just about make out a few navigational markers and some crashing breakers. In the middle distance are the buoys marking the channels through the coral in the lagoon. As we walked towards the shoreline, we found the cove. It was surrounded by eroded volcanic rocks in wild shapes and lapped by slightly green water. It smelled a bit of rotten seaweed but looked lovely. There were farmyard roosters strutting around and we saw a pair of bright yellow birds with black, stripy heads. They looked like either kingfisher or woodpecker families and have a clear, distinctive call.

Andrea headed straight into the cove for a swim and eventually managed to find some water deeper than her knees. I finally gave in to her persuasion and went in as well. It was a bit cold to start with but then lovely. We swam around for ages and I could see schools of fish swimming through the rocks. Some of them were beautiful with vertical black, white and yellow stripes. As we came out, we got chatting to a Canadian family who were snorkelling. They were interested in Saxon Blue and our voyage and I amused myself smiling at the ease with which Andrea talks about it all now. She says "Oh yes, we had strong winds and big seas" in such a matter of fact way that people just look at her in admiration - as well they should.

Time was by now making itself felt in our stomachs so it was time to head back to St George's to get some lunch. We found a Bistro called Wahoo and ate Wahoo in it. Then it was time to do a bit of Janeway filming of the boat and the palm trees. Kali and Bill headed off in the tender to explore the harbour and we decided to go for a walk. We headed out near the cove, then along the peninsula which protects our harbour. The houses are lovely with pillars and balconies. They look quite Spanish but without so many arches. We found a scruffy little farm with goats in pens and some coastal fortifications built by the British in the 1800s to protect Bermuda from the naval threat of the day which was the newly independent USA.

By the time we got around the headland and back to Saxon Blue, it was almost dark. We found the Canadian family that we'd met earlier who were on their way to have a look at our boat so we invited them to come onboard for a look around. Their sons were such sparky young chaps and I thought they'd really enjoy it which they did. They were all great company and we had a lovely hour chatting about how sails work and other technicalities. Kali and Bill had got themselves invited aboard a local yacht for cocktails and so, once our friends left, we decided to have a quiet night in so got some pasta on the go.

As were cooking, we could hear a lot of raised voices and commotion from the dockside. It seemed that some locals on a bench were having a disagreement about politics so we ignored it. A while later, things had calmed down when a guy called out to us and told us not to worry about the fuss and that it was just somebody getting a bit loud. He invited us to go to the local yacht club with him but we said we had to eat our dinner. The guy, Donald, and his friend were still there when we finished so we had a chat to them and then all set off to the club. As we went in, some Police arrived and went in with us. I joked to the woman Officer "is it so bad that we need an escort". Hmmm....

Anyway, we were the only 4 people in the place although it looked more like a down-at-heel Parish hall than a yacht club. A bar occupied one end and that was about it. We spent a pleasant hour just chatting to our two new friends who were very witty and entertaining and another chap joined us was really sweet. Then another guy arrived looking a bit angry and it turns out he was the vocal chap from earlier outside the boat. I didn't hear him say it but he announced "I'm your worst nightmare" which I think was an overestimate of his prowess but he proceeded to try and dominate the conversation and was really just looking for an argument. He met his match in Andrea, though, who handled the excessive testosterone with glacial calm. Our hosts were clearly upset that this had happened so we headed off soon after.

Back onboard, Kali and Bill were home watching a film. They'd had plenty of dangerous local cocktails and were just trying to recover their composure. We were shaking our heads and trying to work out what kind of evening we'd had. I suppose other people's political arguments are often baffling but they were discussing the voting franchise in Bermuda which I would have thought was a matter of fact. Perhaps there's more to it or maybe it was just the drink talking. Anyway, let's see what happens tomorrow. We can always anchor out in the harbour if things get too fraught.

Harvey

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