Beat the Blues in Bermuda: Photo Gallery

Apparently, right now is the most depressing time of the year.  The combination of dark mornings, dreich weather, and the return to normal duties after the excitement of New Year.  The arrival of credit card bills, the failure of resolutions for better health and fitness, and well, just …January.  All these factors combine into what the media had dubbed Blue Monday, the flattest and most listless day of the year.

But, so-called Blue Monday got me thinking about the blues, and the dazzling array of blues that coloured my stay in Bermuda last winter.  The sea wasn’t just azure, it was turquoise, cobalt, indigo, and ultramarine.  Sugar-cube cottages, hibiscus flowers and and whispy-white clouds contrasted skies that were cerulean and sapphire.

The first settlers on Bermuda found their way ashore in 1609, when the Sea Venture was wrecked on the reef, inspiring Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.  And the famous pink-sand beaches, tinted by the crushed shells of tiny crustaceans, are every bit a castaway fantasy.  Although locals might pass on swimming in the sea during the winter, low water temperatures are similar to what would be a great summer day at the beach back in the UK, so there’s no competition for a spot on the beach.  And there’s more than 30 beaches to choose from.

Located at the crossroads of the Atlantic Ocean, the islands were visited by ships sailing between Britain, the Caribbean, and North America, leaving a rich maritime history.  Perfect for a winter get-away, and a great way to beat the blues.

 

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A Vagabond March

Where I’ve Been

Lord Nelson tied up alongside the quay in Hamilton, Bermuda.
Lord Nelson tied up alongside the quay in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Well, this month’s update is a little bit of a cheat as I wrote it all at the very beginning of the month. I’m actually somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean right now, all being well, on board Lord Nelson, and cut off from all communications. We’ll see once I reach shore whether this is a good thing or I’ve died from lack of wifi. I expect there will be all kinds of things to keep me occupied on board; one thing I’m really keen to learn during the voyage is how to tie knots. Proper sailing knots, and some of the fancy ones too. I had a great teacher on Draken, Gerry, who showed me some of the knots and splices used most often, but I have to admit I didn’t practice too much, and now I’ve forgotten everything except a bowline.

Before I set sail though, I had a fantastic week exploring Bermuda. Even though its early in the season, I had a week of beautiful weather for enjoying the famous pink sand beaches, swimming in the sea, and hiking some of the nature trails around the island. I visited the UNESCO World Heritage site at St George’s, to find out about the island’s close connections to the UK and North America, the impressive Crystal Cave, and, in the name of research, the Swizzle Inn, home of one of the island’s signature cocktails. Look out for more about my Bermuda adventure once I get back to the UK.

Highlights

I booked a stand-up paddleboard lesson with Glenn at Island Winds, Bermuda. After sorting my balance, and a little bit of coaching for my technique, we explored the coast of Somerset Island, between Daniel’s Head and Kings Point, looking out for turtles and tropic birds. The clarity of the water is so deceptive when it comes to working out the depth underneath your board; fish swim by huge corals in water that looks knee-deep, but is really 3 or 4 metres.

I’ve Been Reading

I’ve loaded my kindle up with a couple of classic seafaring books for my voyage; Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana and The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin, in keeping with my adventure.

I’ve also been engrossed in A Writer’s World, by travel writer and historian Jan Morris. She claims it to be her last book, and it’s a reflection of the world during the half-century between 1950 and 2000, the changes, developments, and threats perceived over that period, twined into a memoir of her career. The writing is engaging and witty, capturing the character of the locations she visits in a blend of reportage and anecdote, and I hope I can begin to write half as well as she can. 

I also wanted to share this post from BBC Travel that gives you a reason to smile, as they give you 50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld.  An here’s another…

Bermuda2
Fort St. Catherine at the northern tip of Bermuda

 

Coming Up Next Month

There’s still a couple of weeks before I wash up back on British shores (with a kitbag filled with laundry), so I’ll certainly be appreciating the comforts of home once I get back there. With the TGO Challenge looming in May, I’ll have to find my land legs again and get out on some training walks. I’ll need to start carrying a heavier load in my pack and practice pitching my tent at the end of the day. A camping weekend in Wiltshire or Hampshire might be on the cards.

Thanks for following These Vagabond Shoes. There’s not much happening on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter just now, but soon I’ll have plenty of updates from my sailing experience to share with you.

Blue skies, x

5 Fantastic Facts About Bermuda

Ah, that’s where it is. Image from bermuda-online.org

A tiny dot on the map near the middle of the North Atlantic, Bermuda the oldest Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.  The 100 or so islands that make up the archipelago lie closer to North America, which exerts a strong pull, but despite this mix of influences, the island has its own unique story. Here are 5 things you should know about this offbeat place:

1. In the years between discovery by Juan de Bermúdez in 1503 and the first colonisation attempts in 1607, Bermuda was often called the Isle of Devils, and reputedly inhabited by spirits and ghouls. This superstition may have been fuelled by the calls of nocturnal seabirds, like the Bermuda Petrel (Pterodroma cahow), known locally as the Cahow. Bermuda’s only endemic bird, it was thought to have become extinct shortly after colonisation as it was easily caught, and quite tasty. However, a small population was discovered in 1951, nesting in the rocky isles of Castle Harbour, giving it the status of a Lazarus species, one that was found to be alive after being considered extinct for some time.

The Cahow, or Bermuda Petrel. So rare, it was considered extinct for 300 years. Photo from Arkive.org

2. I‘d always thought I’d had a pair of Bermuda shorts as a kid, but it turns out I was wrong. My neon pink and yellow knee-length shorts, with a print of palm trees and nautical charts (it was the 80s, and that was acceptable back then), were actually board shorts. The terms aren’t interchangeable; neither are Bermuda shorts the same as cargo shorts, cut-offs or baggies. Genuine Bermuda shorts are far more formal, made from wool-blend fabric or cotton twill, and when teamed with knee socks, and a blazer and tie, are the everyday working attire of Bermuda’s business men. White Bermuda shorts, at regulation length, and knee-socks, are part of the uniforms worn by the British Royal Navy in tropical locations.

Check out these dapper chaps on the way home from the office. Photo from bermuda-online.org

3. Bermuda shorts, albeit in more casual fabrics, are also considered appropriate dress by many golf clubs. Which is handy, as Bermuda has the greatest number of golf courses per square kilometre anywhere in the world; seven 18-hole courses for a land area of 56km². I’ve also seen it claimed that the island has more golf courses per head of population than anywhere else, but as a Scot, that seems to me like a pretty big brag for a tiny wee island. So, as it was a quiet day when I wrote this, I crunched a few numbers:

  • Population of Scotland = 5.295 million (source Google)/ number of golf courses = 578 (source Scottish Golf Union) = 1 golf course per 9160.89 people
  • Population of Bermuda = 65,024 (source Google)/ number of golf courses = 7 (source Bermuda Golf Association*) = 1 golf course per 9289.14 people

Nice try, Bermuda, nice try.

*10 clubs are listed, but one appears to be repeated 4 times.

Former Bermuda resident, Catherine Zeta Jones playing golf. In Wales. Not Bermuda. Or Scotland. Photo from BBC.co.uk

4. Many of the buildings in Bermuda are painted in cute pastel shades, with a few in more daring neon colours, but almost all have a distinctive pitched whitewashed roof. This isn’t after a particular fashion, or the result of keeping up with the Jonses (or even the Zeta-Jonses!), but serves a valuable purpose. The island has no freshwater rivers, lakes or springs, and fresh drinking water is not supplied by the local authority. Instead home-owners must collect rainwater falling on their roof, and store it in underground cisterns. The whitewash contains lime, which ensures the water is sanitised, and the colour makes it easy to remove dirt and debris from the roof. The roof of a building must also be sturdy enough to withstand the gale-force winds that can occasionally batter the island.

Downtown Hamilton in cute candy colours. Photo from Wikipedia

5. The Bermuda Triangle is a notorious area of the North Atlantic, roughly corresponding with the sea area between Bermuda, the east coast of Florida, and the islands of The Bahamas and Puerto Rico. A number of ships and aircraft are reputed to have disappeared mysteriously within the triangle, although a report by Lloyd’s of London states that this is not the case. Things allegedly lost in the Bermuda Triangle include: several aircraft, including a DC-3 carrying 36 passengers; the crew of a five-masted schooner, the Carroll A. Deering, which ran aground off Cape Hatteras; two lighthouse keepers on Bimini, Bahamas; the USS Cyclops (AC-4), and all of 309 crew, the largest non-combat loss of life for the US Navy; and Barry Manilow’s woman.

Barry Manilow. He can’t smile without you. Photo from Wikipedia.