About 30 miles short of Bermuda, yachts are required to call up Bermuda Radio and advise them of their approach. Bermuda radio is not a broadcast station that you tune into but, given the island’s exceptionally hazardous navigational situation, the early warning piloting system/welcoming committee. Bermuda is a rocky outcrop surrounded by the most enormous fringing reef, much of which remains uncharted because it is simply too difficult to survey. I’m told there are more than 300 wrecks off the coast of Bermuda, which isn’t surprising. Fortunately now there is very little excuse for adding to that number.
We had a delightful chat with the Bermuda Radio night shift who took an inventory of our safety equipment, checked we were properly charted, weren’t in need of any medical assistance and weren’t planning on cutting any corners on our approach. We were asked to stand by on listening on Channel 16 on the VHF conveniently situated next to our passage bunk where I’d hoped to sneak a last hour’s kip in before our final approach. My dozing was interrupted by Bermuda Radio gently discussing the pilot arrangements with the two cruise ships that were due to arrive around the same time as us, then giving them instructions on how long to leave their canapés in the oven and tips on the best hikes on the island (I think the latter two exchanges, though very vivid at the time, were my own lapses into unconsciousness but it would have been the kind of helpful information he might well have supplied).
This is the entrance channel to St George’s harbour, the Town Cut. I took this picture from the shore and you can see how narrow it is. Apparently the cruise ships used to come in this way before they got so big!
We found our way safely into St George’s harbour and once we had been so very warmly welcomed by immigration (who insisted we all came into the office so she could shake all our hands), we found a lovely spot to anchor in this immense calm anchorage. We breathed a sigh of relief, and turned in for some sleep, as the wind slowly turned north and piped up to 20 knots. There is no deeper sleep than that on a sound anchor when you’ve dodged a bullet.
Gate’s Fort at the entrance to the town cut. Looking East.
The nurturing welcome certainly boded well and we found this extended to all those we met on shore. Bermuda is very different from the Caribbean. For a start it is geographically a long way away, climatically much cooler, economically more sophisticated and very densely populated. The people, a melting pot of all professions, heavily influenced by Bermuda’s role as a trading nation, yet very much with their own identity. This does not feel like an outpost of its large US neighbour or its historical mother, Britain.
St George’s was the old capital and many of the buildings date back to its early days, warehouses, inns and houses. Most beautifully preserved and painted in the customary pastel colours with the stepped roofs painted white. The brilliant white roofs are not just for decorative effect. There is no natural ground source of drinking water on Bermuda. Each house must collect its own rainwater from the roof which feeds into a tank either at ground level or on newer houses in the basement from where it is pumped inside. The lime put on the roof also acts to purify the water. If you run out of water, you can order a delivery from the government run desalination plant, but it is costly.
St George’s brightly coloured buildings with their white roofs.
We found ourselves at home here more quickly than most islands. Taking advantage of really clean loos in the town square with hooks on the back of the door for your bag (first time we’ve encountered such a civilised touch since we left home!) and the town’s free WiFi, which finds all the sailors sitting on iPads first thing in the morning, checking the weather. For this is the great staging post for those boats returning from the Caribbean to Europe or back up to the New England ports. There are around 30+ boats waiting for a window in the weather so they can set off for the Azores, from where some will head south to the Mediterranean and the rest north to France, the UK or Scandinavia.
It’s a very easy island to explore with the network of pink buses that connect the various parishes. We visited the capital Hamilton on Bermuda Day and caught the end of the Bermuda half marathon and the start of the Bermuda Day Parade. Another outing took in the Aquarium and the old railway track that has been turned into a long distance walking path from where you are accompanied by the incredible turquoise water that the fringing reef supplies. I’ll let the girls fill you in more……
Daisy and Dora contemplating the blue.
All in all, we all loved Bermuda and so glad we made it more than just a stopover on our way back East.