As you may recall, Bermuda wasn’t on our route home, but rigging issues meant we had to divert here. We have spent five days at anchor in the beautiful St. George’s harbour. The town of St. George’s is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of history (it was the original capital until 1815), colourful old houses, friendly people and wonderful street names (Pieces of Eight Lane, Shinbone Alley, Slippery Hill and Featherbed Alley, to name a few).
Anyone can read a holiday brochure if they want to find out about how beautiful Bermuda is, so I thought I’d do something different and give you ten snippets which I have found extremely interesting, amusing or intriguing about this island:
1. The first visitors to Bermuda were the survivors of the Sea Venture, an English ship which was shipwrecked on the reef in 1609 (all the ship’s company survived). Most of the survivors later continued onto Jamestown, Virginia on two newly-built ships (Deliverance and Patience). The Admiral, Sir George Somers, was instrumental in the colonisation of Bermuda.
2. At his request, Somer’s heart was buried in St. George’s, but his body was returned to England, in a vat of alcohol, to be buried in his home town of Lyme Regis. I find this a little macabre.
3. On 10 March 1973, whilst out walking his dog, the then Governor of the island – Sir Richard Sharples – was assassinated by members of the militant Black Power group – the Black Beret Cadre. His aide-de-camp, Hugh Sayers, was also murdered. They are both buried here at St. Peter’s church. The assassins have the dubious honour of being the last people to be executed under British rule anywhere in the world. I’m not sure what happened to the dog.
4. There are no rivers or streams on Bermuda, so rainwater is collected via the roofs on each building. Each roof is painted with a lime wash and fitted with channels which funnel the water down to a tank under the building. The white lime wash helps to purify the water on its way down.
5. The railway (which is no more) ran for 21 miles down the length of the island. One-tenth of the route had to be built as bridges over the water, making it the most expensive railway line, per mile, ever built. It was commonly known as “Old Rattle and Shake” and only ran for 17 years.
6. Tommy Fox was one of Bermuda’s last whalers. According to local lore, he once crawled inside the belly of a slaughtered whale to test the Biblical story of Jonah.
7. James “Jemmy” Darrell was a slave, who won his freedom in 1796 thanks to his impressive piloting skills around Bermuda’s treacherous reefs. He was the first free black man to own a house here, and this is still owned by his descendants today.
8. Sally Bassett was a slave who was burned at the stake in 1730 on – according to local lore – a very hot day. Bermudians may still be heard to refer to scorching hot weather as a “real Sally Bassett day”.
9. The ducking stool was not only used to prove whether a woman was a witch, but also as a punishment for gossiping or being too loud in public! We can probably all think of a few people who would have suffered this humiliation!
10. The “Dark ‘n Stormy” (Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Ginger Beer) purports to be the national drink of Bermuda. It is claimed that the name originated when a salty sea dog held the drink aloft and observed that it was “the colour of a cloud only a fool or dead man would sail under”!
And finally, here’s another Mark Twain quote for you:
“Bermuda is paradise but you have to go through hell to get there.”
We’ve enjoyed our unexpected paradise stop-over, but, now that the rigging has been fixed, it’s time to move on. We have two important 50th birthdays and Jeremy’s annual motorbike trip to get back for.
We weigh anchor tomorrow morning and should be in the Azores – our final destination – in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed!