The sun is hiding behind a thin layer of clouds, intermittently peeking out and shining down on the deck of our cottage, the “ruin”. It’s Sunday Morning, and departure day. In the next couple hours, we will be stocking up on needed provisions, and moving our crew from the two little cottages, perched on the hill overlooking St. George’s harbor, back to the boat. We set sail around 1030. There is so much to look forward to with the final passage back to the States, through the Gulf Stream, into the lingering remnants of a cold spring on the East coast, and all I can feel is a deep sadness in departing this magical island. I know the last few days were imprinted in memory, and I will be nostalgic for this moment in my life forever...and yet, I’m still here, in the moment, knowing it must end and wishing it would not. Strange feeling.
The Captain, in his chipper, matter of fact New York accent just popped up on the porch, wishing us good morning and instructing us to meet at our favorite breakfast joint in town, Mama Angies, while he clears customs. It’s go time. Reflecting on the last two days in Bermuda will have to wait until we push off to sea, and I can find my cozy spot under the dodger to relive our time ashore.
Mama Angie’s was closed, so we visited the supermarket around the corner from our apartment, and picked up a traditional Bermudian breakfast in the buffet line - codfish and potatoes, drizzled with butter and onions, with a beef sausage on the side. I threw some eggs and corned beef hash in the dish to put an American twist on an Island tradition. We walked back to the cottage, and had our last meal on the porch.
I woke up in my bunk on Avocation around 0800, and slowly climbed down to the cabin sole. Though the boat was secured along the pier, I had to find my balance before moving about - this time it was induced by a successful shore visit rather than an uneasy sea. I quickly assembled a bag with 5 days of laundry, a couple outfits to wear on shore, and random accessories I can’t live without - Bluetooth speaker, book, iPad and swim goggles. The simple things.
We walked up and down the hill (you should be getting a sense of the geography by now) into the harbor town, and made a right down a street no more than 10 feet across, right after the supermarket. 200 feet up the hill we came to a white church with a steeple, and a small green courtyard. We turned off the road into their all grass parking lot, which had room for 7 electric cars, each space allocated by a charging station. This Island has some how brought the eclectic feel of an 18th century colony into the new millennia without marring either. Charming.
Phillip, our cottage owner, pulled into the parking lot with his bride, and cheerfully jumped out to give us a tour of our lodgings. There were two small cottages sitting alongside the white church. The first had two bedrooms, with three queen-sized beds, a large sitting area, kitchen. (With laundry) and a nice bathroom and tub. As this would sleep three of the crew, and given that Alejandro and I had formed the strongest allegiance, we gave that cottage to Dan the retiree, Goose the Texan, and Jeff the professor - they obliged and walked in.
The cottage sitting behind the first, was a two story 750 square foot apartment which looked brand new on the inside, but was externally created from the coral reef of the island, old-world shutters, a wood deck and trim. Sitting on the porch, we could look out over the palm trees and other small houses cascading into the harbor. Inside, there was a pull out white leather couch, a red granite counter with a fridge, hot plates, sink and various dishes. Upstairs was a queen sized bed in a loft. The bathroom was on the main floor with tiled floor, enormous shower. The clean, air conditioned, European-style apartment seemed opulent after living like pirates on board the previous week. It was perfect! I insisted that Alejandro take the loft, but he wanted to let a coin decide our fate. I was glad fate favored him, and he took his things upstairs.
After a brief unpacking, the entire crew walked back down the hill, turned at the supermarket, walked another block further, and found ourselves at the iconic St. George’s breakfast joint, Mama Angie’s. Walking through the shuttered wooden doors who’s sign reminded us to close the damn door - the air conditioning was on, we found ourselves in a room no bigger than most kitchens. This one was divided on one half of the room for the prep and cooking of food, and the other side had a few round tables set up for customers, including a counter with two seats for additional patrons to dine. Apparently, the word had gone viral about Mama Angies, as every seat in the place was occupied, save for two by the door next to an older black gentleman and a middle aged white woman. I asked if it was okay for my foreign friend and I to join them, so we could round out the joke...a black, Jew, Canadian, and Costa Rican are sitting at breakfast in Bermuda...
We learned that the woman, Karen, hailed from the Thousand Islands in Canada, and was living in Bermuda for a month to look after her daughter’s 15-month old, while mom taught a yoga class in town. All expenses were being paid by the yoga studio to have the daughter, the chaperone mother, and the baby on the island for the 30-day visit. She was quite the Canadian character. She explained that her husband worked in Toronto, whose crowded streets and big-city feel she despised, so she lived on the small island an hour’s drive and 30 minute ferry ride away. She said that it was difficult scheduling her boyfriends’ weekly visits in between her husband’s weekend rendezvous. The humor came from her disinterested delivery, as if it was exhausting and a nuisance to have so many suitors. She explained that her daughter arrived a week prior to her and the baby, as she had to go all the way to the prime minister to get an exception for granting a passport to her daughter’s adopted child. She reminded us that nobody, even half the North American continent was going to separate mother and child under her watch. I wasn’t about to mess with mama hen, and was somewhat relieved when her to-go order was delivered and she departed. If she’s a sample set from our Northerly neighbors, I’m comforted to know they’re on our side.
I shifted into her seat so I could sit right next to the black native of Bermuda, named Melvin. His story was of real interest and significance. Alejandro asked how old he was, which to our shock he answered “91”. He attested his youth (could have passed for 75) to finding Jesus in his mid-twenties, and giving up drinking and smoking. He said that he was a wild man back then. Was that the 20’s?! Someone help me with the math. He lives on the other side of the Island, closer to Hamilton, but was eating a pancake and beef sausage before visiting his wife of 60+ years. Sadly, she is living in a senior-living facility at the top of the hill in St. George, as she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He told us she has amnesia, but when he explained that she doesn’t recognize him much of the time, we realized he misdiagnosed her by mistake.
I wasn’t sure what to ask. I wanted at that instant to hear his entire story, how they met, when they fell in love, what has he seen in 90 years, what life lessons could he share with us with so much experience and wisdom? I thought of Tara and how heart wrenching it would be, if one day, all of her memories of our experiences were robbed from her. I would hope I could manage to keep living with such grace as Melvin exhibited, but I really don’t know. I did ask what he missed most with his wife and he said the travel the adventures they did. Together.
Today, he has an older daughter who lives on the island, and has children, one of which is pregnant with twins! Melvin is on the verge of becoming a great grandfather. He has two younger sons who have found success on the island as well. I didn’t learn how many children they have, but in total, Melvin has 9 grandchildren. I expect he is a loving grandfather to them all. He finished his one pancake, stressing how two pancakes are one too many, and got up to leave. We thanked him for his company, his stories, and wished he and his wife a happy future. The people we meet. I think that’s the biggest reward to sailing.
Following breakfast at Mama’s kitchen, we returned to our cottage. I organized my shore-luggage, dropped my laundry next door, and then walked into the bathroom, transporting myself into a five-star spa. After multiple days of lathering sunscreen over layers of sweat and grime, a steamy shower with more room than Avocation’s closet-sized head was a gift from God. Afterwards, lounging in a pair of shorts on the couch, I fired up my iPad and journaled in the air conditioned room for the remainder of the morning. Blissful relaxation.
Later, Alejandro and I walked the two blocks down the small hill into town. I was on the mission to buy gifts for my team, and find something additional for Avery, while Alejandro was almost manic in his desire to find a wooden parrot. He simply said he wanted a parrot, while we were finishing breakfast, and the absurdity of it, delivered in a Latin-American accent triggered an uncontrollable fit of laughter. After wiping my tears, he clarified that the neighbors garden outside our cottage had a wooden, ornately-colored parrot, standing watch over the carrots, or Okrah, or weeds for all I know. He simply had to find one, or he would snatch the neighbors and leave some money. I may need to rethink having Alejandro over to the house in Denver.
We visited a few store fronts, where Alejandro would launch into this parrot infatuation, while I rolled my eyes and tried to hide my embarrassment. It’s the same feeling Tara and I get when my mother sits at the check out counter, digging through a wallet with more cards than the MGM Grand, trying to find that Kohl’s coupon to save $5 on a $300 purchase. Oh, Alejandro, I know you mean well.
We spent the bulk of our shopping excursion in Saltwater Jewelry Designs, where we immediately befriended the owner and designer, Kelli. As her son punched away on the computer next to her, she told us all about the pink sand, unique to Bermuda. The sand is created from the Parrot Fish eating red-colored shells, which when passed through his digestive system emerge pink. Perhaps less exotic than a pearl’s “creation story”, but much softer on my budget. I picked out an array of jewelry for almost every female in my life, and was so excited about the pieces, helping a local, and finding something truly Bermudian.
With our wares snug back at the cottage, Alejandro and I set out toward the boat...up the hill, down the hill...to procure the bottle of Goslings and ginger beer we left the night prior. When we arrived, Hank was reading The NY Times in the cockpit, his daily obsession while ashore. We boarded, whipped up a couple Dark N Stormys, and sat down for the latest news on the world stage. Since we’ve left, Syria has bombed Israel, Trump backed the US out of the Iran deal, Kim Jung is considering an agreement to reduce nuclear armament...and...mmm, this dark and stormy is so smooth. Better make myself a second.
While chatting away in the cockpit, the wind began to gust, and all of a sudden the bow of our boat began drifting toward our neighbor’s vessel, as if the bow lines came undone from the mooring ball. I immediately surrendered to my failings in securing the boat a couple days prior - remember that bowline knot I tied in haste? But, the captain shouted over the wind that the bow was still secure, it was the wind shift and tension on the stern lines that needed adjusting. I was handed a buoy from Alejandro, and tied it aft, over the stern to protect us from hitting the concrete wall. It was everything I could do to resist the wind’s power and 35,000lbs of a ship wanting to land against the dock. I held it off, took the buoy from Alejandro, and with an inch to spare, was able to drop it behind the stern. We spent the next few minutes re-tying the stern lines, running another line from our bow to the dock, holding it against the wind, and realigning our position. What began as a sun-downer (sailing cocktail hour at sunset), quickly shifted into an on-shore gale and near disaster. Neptune needs to remind us sometime of his awesome power. I can see why the captain stayed on his vessel - old sailor...not bold sailor.
After ensuring the dark rum was still drinkable, we headed up to the Dinghy Yacht Club, to crash the party being hosted for all the sailors participating in the Atlantic Rally Crossing. They were throwing a pirate-themed party, and nobody can pull off a swashbuckling crowd like a, well, swashbuckling crowd. Sailors are a lively, and very creative bunch. We stayed at the party long enough to enjoy one dark and stormy (for comparison purposes, of course) and a visiting band of native dancers. Drums and whistles announced the entrance of the dancers, adorned in colorful costumes and masks, feathers and war spears, moving rhythmically to the music. I learned later that this spirited dance is the combination of Native Americans and Africans who had both been enslaved on this island.
We walked back up the hill to town, running into Goose on his way back to the boat. He had spent the day at the dockyards on the Western edge of the island, learning about the maritime history of Bermuda. He said it was a great visit with so much history to learn. I added it to my mental list of Bermuda hot spots to see on a return trip.
With all the excitement over the previous couple hours, Alejandro and I sat down on the back porch of our cottage, listening to the frogs singing their mating calls, sliced some cheese and opened a bottle of wine. The cool evening breeze tempered the warm humidity that encircles the island. I was relaxed. I mean, no screaming kids, no emails, nowhere to be...the peace of being absolutely present, surrounding by the tropical beauty.
As 2200 approached, we realized that a little cheese would not sustain us for the evening. We headed into town, and over to the one place open on a Friday night at that hour - Mini’s Yacht Club. We were told that this was the local hangout and had a lively crowd. It looked like a seedy dive, but could hear the music from our approach, and were excited to hopefully get a bite to eat, while allowing our party to continue. We convinced Jeff to tag along, and were hoping to expose this ex-Mormon of the less-refined side of the human spirit.
Mini’s was certainly the local’s dive - we were the only three white foreigners in the place, but somehow fit in. The cook took our order for cheeseburgers, and we found our way to the back by the pool table, where a young couple from another boat were in a close match. Ricardo and Star were serving as crew on a 130 foot sailboat, moving it to Newport like us. On a boat that size, they were professional crew, although with a name like Star, I wonder what other sources of revenue were at play. She was Aussie, and Ricardo was from Portugal - it seemed their love affair had just began, as he was a recent addition at their last port in St. Maarten.
We played pool for an hour, chatting them up, and battling to win the prized tequila shot, financed by the loser. Tequila? Convincing these amateurs that we were in the Islands, and Rum was the drink of choice, was too much work. I choked down a couple shots before deciding along with Alejandro and Jeff that our night was over. It was 2330. I realized the potential chink in Bermuda’s armor was their lack of a nightlife. If that’s your most important attribute of a tropical vacation, perhaps sticking to the well established history of debauchery in the Caribbean would be a better option.
I’ve been sitting on-board Avocation, writing this, and Captain just called all hands on deck to push off. I’ll have to finish Saturday’s entry while on-board, and load the rest of our journey when we land in Newport!
Talk to you again in a week!
We're the Zimmerman Family!
Home Base | Denver, CO
A family of six that
LOVES to sail !
Follow our crew (Royce, Tara, Avery, Charley, Nora & Ruby)
as we blog our sailing adventures
Set Sail 4.22.23 | Las Palmas - Across the Atlantic - Island of Antigua
Set Sail 9.22.21 | Sweden - Germany -
Set Sail 7.18.19 | Newport, RI -
Martha's Vineyard, MA -
Nantucket, MA -
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