Bermuda - another world

Ananda's blog
Keith and Stella Myerson
Tue 24 May 2011 12:43

32:22.73N 64:40.28W

Today is Bermuda Day.  Originally Queen Victoria’s birthday, this public holiday is big here and marks the start of the summer.  Yes – Bermuda is still an overseas territory of the UK!  A referendum in 1995 supported this status, although the islands have been self-governing since 1968.  So things carry on much as they always have done.  No self-respecting Bermudian goes into the sea before Bermuda Day –‘it’s too cold, baaiii!’ – although we found the temperature perfectly pleasant (23 degrees) yesterday when diving to replace an anode on our propeller.


Ananda clears customs at St Georges, Bermuda



Bermuda rigged

There’s a parade on in Hamilton, and there’s going to be a special yacht race here at St Georges – the local traditional class of Bermuda Fitted Dinghies.  Their crews will certainly be hoping the water is warm enough, as they’ll probably end up swimming in it.  For the rules of this historic racing class don’t require the same number of crew at both the start and finish.  So if the competition is close towards the finish, the crew literally jump ship and swim home leaving a lighter and hopefully faster boat!


Some balancing act here…




Unstable, ridiculously over-canvassed and with virtually no freeboard, the yachts always appear to be at the point of sinking.  One member of crew has to bail throughout the races.

Last week we visited the tiny Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) in Hamilton – a fascinating haven dating back to 1843 and with a collection of historic artefacts that would grace any museum in the world.  There are half models of famous sailing ships, and plaques from visiting ships, including one of only two given by the Royal Yacht Britannia – Prince Phillip had it specially made.  On the walls there are pictures of the Queen visiting shortly after her Coronation and again in 1993 for the club’s 150th anniversary. 

There’s even an RBYC club burgee that had been taken into space in the pocket of astronaut Readdie, a keen visiting racing sailor who later became a leader of NASA. No wonder the club remains popular with the Royals – Prince Edward and Sophie visited only a month ago.  Thanks, Sheree and Bruce (ex-Commodore), for kindly showing us around!


The hospital where I worked as a newly qualified doctor is still there, in Paget.  It’s undergoing a huge re-development with fine hurricane-proof windows.   All of this is being financed by a private finance initiative (PFI), sadly much the same as most new hospitals in the UK.  Build now and let your children pay the huge loan charges later.  But we found the old house where I lived, set amidst the beautiful botanical gardens next to the hospital.  Now it’s the park office!


My house (is a very very very fine house…)




Shipwrecks galore

The best way to see Bermuda is on 2 wheels, and our hired scooter allowed us to find areas we had never visited before.  Bermuda is really a series of coral islands interlinked by bridges and with countless protected bays and lagoons.  To the chagrin of mariners of old (and some new), the surrounding coral reefs stretch out to sea in every direction for miles and are littered with shipwrecks. 

At Spittal Pond nature reserve we found a rock carved by Portuguese sailors who were shipwrecked here in 1543 (not long after the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez originally discovered the islands in 1505).  They apparently built another boat and sailed off again.  It wasn’t until 1609 that an English ship headed for Virginia, the Sea Venture, was wrecked here in a hurricane; this time the 150 marooned sailors set up a colony.  They then built 2 ships from scratch and went on to rescue the failing colony of Jamestown in Virginia.  It was an account of this saga that inspired Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.  John Rolfe, one of the shipwrecked passengers who was a farmer, went on to marry an Indian princess, Pocahontas, and make Virginia’s fortune by cultivating tobacco… but that’s another story, to be continued as our travels progress!  

Since then, the islands have welcomed weary sailors over the centuries.  Luckily, our sea journey here was fine.  But Mark Twain was certainly grateful to arrive in 1867 on the Quaker City.  He commented ‘Bermuda was a paradise but one had to go through hell to get there’. 


Onwards to America

So, all in all, we’ve had a terrific week here - a real ‘blast from the past’.  But now it’s time to go.  We can feel the lure of the New World.  We’re off to America, land of the free. 

Destination (sort of) is Newport, Rhode Island, some 650 miles to the northwest.  We’re expecting some calms for the first couple of days so we’ve taken on more fuel, though with depressions further north, there may be stronger winds to come.  Stellie has stocked up with fresh fruit and vegetables, though not too much meat, as we hear that the US Customs sometimes confiscate stuff.  You’d think they were paid enough to buy their own food, wouldn’t you?

No WiFi so we’ll post this episode at sea by satellite.  This means small pictures, but no worries, we’ll update them when we arrive…done!