Monday, June 20th, 2011
By Paula Washington
The last scheduled stop of World Voyage Five appeared on the horizon around noon on Wednesday June 8th. From ten miles away it did not look like much, a low lying sandy island that stretched for 13 miles in front of us. Despite its lack of elevation and its lonely location approximately 700 miles from Lunenburg, New York City or Boston, Bermuda is home to 60,000 people and a thriving economy boasting the highest GDP per capita in the world. The famous island has been an important landfall for ships throughout a lot of new world history, dating back to 1500s when the Spanish and Portuguese used it to replenish their supplies. Today it is a popular destination for yachts and hosts a few famous regattas each year.
As we neared the island its distinct features became clear. The shoreline was scattered with beaches and long inlets snaked their way deep into the centre of the island. Any where the rock appeared through the tangled vegetation it displayed the power of erosion. The white limestone was pitted and marked by years of rain and waves pounding the shore leaving the battered rock looking beautifully sculpted against the blue ocean and green foliage. Coming through the narrow passage the buildings of St Georges, Bermuda’s first capital and smaller of its two municipalities, became visible. We were all lined up along the midships rails commenting on the beautiful architecture and strange roofs. The houses and shops were painted in a large array of pastel colours with distinct matching white roofs. Inside the protected harbour we gracefully docked against a large well maintained dock on the edge of the town.
Coming into Bermuda I had no preconceptions about the landscape, the people or what we would get up to there. I just thought of it as a convenient stop roughly half way between Jost Van Dyke and Lunenburg where we could get some work done before we arrived at home. It turns out that it was so much more than that. On an early morning run the first day we had there I explored the town. It was small geographically but had everything you really needed. The water front was scattered with pubs and restaurants, their patio jutting out of the habour. The streets ran up from there with a square in the middle and shops and businesses scattered around town. At the top of the hill bordering the back of the town was a beautiful old ruin of a church. It was built all of limestone and must have been abandoned years ago for it had no roof or window panes and the floor had been taken over by nature as grass spread between the palm trees growing inside. You could tell it must have once been a grand place with skillfully placed windows that framed the landscape around it. I later discovered it was only one of the striking ruins over grown by gardens in the town. The small town turned out to be a great place to explore with lots of public spaces.
With the trip quickly coming to a close we spent the time in Bermuda diligently working to make the ship look great for our homecoming. We scrubbed and painted the waterways that run along the edge of our deck, put an extra coat of varnish on our bright work, spot painted the rails and shined up the engine room. On top of our own work list we were busily working on getting our secondary skiff ready. The wooden boat was built at the Dory Shop a few years ago and after a few minor repairs and a fresh coat of paint is looking great.
Now of course we didn’t spend all our waking minutes working. One of the inhabitants of the island is our great friend Paulina. Over the past five world voyages she has sailed around the world, joining for a different leg each time. Being a local Bermudian she has a great love for the ocean and quite a talent as a sailmaker. We last said goodbye to her in Bali where she promised to throw us a great party when we arrived in Bermuda 7 months later. True to her word she had us all over for a great barbeque at her lovely home just outside the biggest city of Hamilton. The party was full of stories of this and past voyages as her son Alex sailed on Picton Castle‘s third world voyage and many of her friends had questions about our trip. Over dark & stormys, the famous Bermudian rum drink, we stayed up late into the night reminiscing about all of the fun and insane things we did this year. On top of entertaining us at her house, she provided us with connections for water, provisions and anything else we could think of.
It turns out that Bermuda is much more than just a convenient pit stop on our Atlantic passage, it is a beautiful island with terrific people and lots to do, leaving us with even more great stories to add to our repertoire of tales from this amazing world voyage.