Escapade 19.2. Bermuda Shorts by Larry Caillouet

While waves of ice and snow storms were sweeping across the continental United States, in Bermuda we were enjoying sunny days in the 70’s and nights in the 60’s.  It was great weather and a great place for vacationing, but our days were busy with getting the boat ready for the next leg of the voyage. We tied to the town dock in St. George’s which proved to be a really convenient location.  A grocery store and a pharmacy were a block away. A laundromat and a barber shop were a block away. Restaurants and pubs were in sight. And repair services were nearby. In fact, the Doyle Sails shop was—you guessed it—a block away.  The crew helped me remove the mainsail and hoist it off the boat onto the Doyle truck that came for it.

A machine shop was next to Doyle Sails.  We needed a new latch on the hatch above the forward head.  It had broken and every time a wave washed over the deck, gallons of sea water would push the hatch open and flood the head.  We had to bail the head out because the sump pump couldn’t keep up, and then we rigged a spider web of small lines to hold the hatch down.  It wasn’t water tight, but it reduced the flood to a splash. The machine shop made the most beautiful polished stainless steel latch for the hatch over the head.  It was a work of art, and priced accordingly.

The list of repairs had grown to an even dozen.  Some were essential, like the sail repair, and others were only highly desirable.  The refrigeration had quit working after we crossed the Gulf Stream. This was after paying a king’s ransom to a marine refrigeration company in Annapolis to have the freezer and refrigerator working perfectly for the long voyage into tropical seas.  It turns out that when they changed the refrigerant in the system they did not replace the high pressure valve with one for the new refrigerant and when the boat got to warmer waters, the pressure increased and cut off the refrigeration. The correct valve solved the problem.  Other repairs were marked off as various technicians came to the boat or as we walked to the hardware store (two blocks) for hooks, screws, etc.

The town dock is adjacent to the town square, a popular place for strolling, eating, socializing, and taking photos.  It is also the place where the historic dunking machine is located. At noon on Saturday the town crier announced that a woman had been convicted of being a gossip and a nag.  With much ceremony and repartee between the woman and the town crier, a crew bystanders was assembled to administer the dunking. I had wandered down to see what the commotion was about and was pressed into the dunking crew.  After the woman was seated in the dunking chair, we rolled her out over the water, and after a final obstinate refusal to repent, we dunked her! When she came up shouting protestations and insults, the town crier instructed us to dunk her again, so we did!  If I counted correctly, it took seven dunkings to reform the woman’s character. She left the square a sober, repentant, and thoroughly soaked woman.  

History is ever-present in Bermuda.  It is the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the Western Hemisphere.  Ancient light houses and forts warned, welcomed, and defended the island, but now serve mostly as tourist attractions.  The dockyards at the southern end of the archipelago that is linked together by bridges into the “island” of Bermuda served the British navy for almost two hundred years in the 18th to 20th centuries, but now are filled with interesting shops and recently hosted the America’s Cup.  The oldest English speaking church in the New World in continuous operation is St. Peter’s Anglican Church in St.  George’s, founded in 1614. We went there on Sunday and found a small congregation served by a priest with a decidedly Tennessean accent.   

Although there are many fine churches in Bermuda, the one that all tourists go to see is known simply as “the Unfinished Church.”  Construction was started in 1874 on a Gothic styled cruciform cathedral to seat 650. Funds were sent to complete the church, but a fire had destroyed the main cathedral in Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, so the funds were diverted there.  Hurricanes and other storms have battered the church since that time and as of now, there are no plans to finish the Unfinished Church, making it one more historical tourist attraction.

Bermuda is old, but not out of touch with what is happening today.  The town square and every restaurant has WiFi and the restaurants on the narrow streets of St. George’s all seem to be sports bars with flat panel televisions.  We treated ourselves to dinner at the White Horse Pub on the evening of the NFL conference championship games. The meal was excellent. It was also long, due to the big television in plain sight from our strategically chosen table.  Diana and Elaine gave up and went back to the boat long before I did.

Kentucky doesn’t have a monopoly on cave attractions.  We were surprised to learn that Bermuda, which is of volcanic origin, has its own Crystal Caves.  Diana and Elaine toured the caves one afternoon while I was working on the boat and

said that while they are much smaller than Kentucky’s famous cave system, they are beautiful.   

The town of St. George’s where we docked and lived for almost two weeks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The island of Bermuda is relatively small, but is so filled with historical and modern attractions it is a worthy destination for a vacation.  But what we admired and liked best were Bermuda’s people. They were highly skilled, well educated, friendly, and polite. All tourist destinations don’t welcome their tourists, but Bermudans make theirs feel right at home.

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