Saturday, 11 August 2018


15th - 16th June 2018

Fort St Catherine
It was a 2 mile walk up to the north-east point of the island to Fort St Catherine. There are numerous forts on strategic points around the islands. Most were originally constructed in the 17th century but added to and enlarged up to the end of the 19th century. The restored Fort St Catherine is a good example and is a bit like Dr Who's Tardis. Looks small outside from the landside, but has several underground floors housing magazines, armouries and soldiers' quarters with associated facilities and four levels above including a museum.

Right: Much more impressive from the sea. I took this on a later trip by ferry down to The Naval Dockyard.

Amongst other weaponry and gun emplacements it housed 16 of these monster cannons on two levels (left). They were made and used in the 19th century and fired shells weighing 400 lbs from a 10" calibre barrel up to a max range of 5 miles (but mostly effective at only 1000yds, I read). Manned by the British Royal Artillery I expect their accuracy conformed to the 'Gunners'  motto of 'Ubique' i.e. the rounds fell 'anywhere' and their nickname of 'Drop-shorts'
There are more modern, 2nd World War era, emplacements with Bofor's guns or similar.

Right: This poor photo of a poster shows one 'in action'. The shells were hoisted up from the magazines below by rope operated lifts. I would not have liked to be the loader. I also note that they did not wear ear-defenders. Speak up Cpl Jones!

Left: More of these, or similar, guns on the top level.

Right: Tobacco Bay which I passed by on the way up. It has a typical and popular public beach with bars and loud music.

I took the ferry from St George's over to the the Royal Naval Dockyard on the western tip. It is a 45 minute journey. The Dockyard was built around 1809 and remained operational until 1951. The main buidings consist of the barracks, Clocktower, Cooperage and the vast Commissioner's House and Naval HQ. 

Left: The Clocktower building. This is now an enormous 'shopping mall' with restaurants and even a cinema. The tower on the left houses a clock. The tower on the right houses a type of clock showing the times of high tides (or did).

The Dockyard is now the main tourist attraction on the island and the destination of mammoth cruise liners, mostly full of Americans, such as this floating city (right). There were 3 of them berthed while I was there. It was also the site for the 2017 America's Cup yacht races.

The Commissioner's House and Naval HQ is an enormous oblong building with verandas on each level at one side of a large parade square around which are old munitions buildings and warehouses. These buildings now house the National Museum of Bermuda. For some reason I have, much to your disappointment?, lost my photos of these. Must have pushed the wrong button. The museum includes a multi-room basement detailing the history of the British military occupation and the present Royal Bermuda Regiment. Upstairs on various floors are further exhibitions in elegant rooms mainly to do with seafaring exploits. Quite impressive.

Left: Around the top is a fortified area with several old gun emplacements.

........and a beach below.

Within the precinct of the Commissioner's House and HQ there is a large pool, the Keep Pond, containing, I think 6 or maybe 8 (difficult to count), bottle-nose dolphins known as 'Dolphin Quest'. On offer is a range of 'in-water' activities alongside these creatures. For example, for $800 you can be a dolphin trainer for the day. Train them to do what I wonder? Do your ironing?  Well, don't know about you, but I can think of many more amusing and less time consuming ways of spending $800!

Have you ever tried to take photos of dolphins leaping out of the water? I have previously in New Zealand. It is a most frustrating business. Sure, they swim round and round and occasionally leap energetically, and in formation, into the air but when you point the camera at them coming up, by the time the lens has auto-focused they are underwater again. This shot (left) is the closest I got. What a waste of time and why bother........

.......when you can get any number of professionally taken photos from the internet! It saves hanging around for half an hour with nothing to show for it.

There are lots of bars and restaurants around here. I chose to have lunch (shepherd's pie and chips) at a pub/restaurant called the Frog and Onion (left). Decent enough place. Pie and chips $20, US pint of beer $14 plus, as was normally the case elsewhere, they kindly mention at the bottom of the menu 'for your convenience a 17% gratuity will be added to your bill'. Convenience?! Plus they expect a tip! Maybe the filthy rich American tourists are used to this sort of 'convenience'. 
Right: A row of British telephone kiosks. The telephones inside do actually work...and no helpful stickers advertising the services of 'Miss Whiplash', or 'buxom blonde offering discreet massage' etc. with or without a 17% gratuity.

Left: A selection of shops in the Clocktower Mall. They get busy with the cruise ship passengers until about 4.30pm then, after a few loud 'whoop whoop' noises from the ships' foghorns all the passengers scurry back to their floating palaces and bugger off.
It means that the last ferry departing goes only to Hamilton at about 5.00pm which I caught and no connecting ferry to St.George's. Got to Hamilton for a brief stop in time to watch the Spain v Portugal World Cup footer match in a 'sports bar' and then got a bus back to St.George's.

Quite an amusing day out.

A friend of my host owns a fancy speed-boat. He very generously took us for a day trip around the northern part of the island calling in at various beaches. The navigation around the islands is quite complicated and infested by reefs and semi-submerged rocks (as Admiral Sir George Somers found out in 1609).

Left: An amusing little gold statue of a mermaid on a rock.

We passed several smart villas. This one (right) had it's run-around boat hoisted above water at the bottom of the garden.

........and this one (left) belongs to a well known ex-US Presidential candidate and used as a small holiday home.

There is an uncountable number of beautiful and pristine coves and beaches at which you can swim and have picnics. The water around the island is crystal clear and ranges in colour, depending on the depth, from a cerulean blue to a pale turquoise. The sand tends to be soft and fine; bright white with, sometimes, a pink tinge. All very attractive. It is a snorkeler's and diver's paradise. 

There are two types of sea bird which are indigenous (amongst others of course) to the island and I don't think exist anywhere else. Needless to say I didn't take these birdy photos!

Left: The Cahow, a type of petrel. They live in burrows on some of the uninhabited islands. They were/are seriously endangered.

Right: The Bermuda Longtail. We saw a lot of them. Don't know where they hang out but I believe spend much of their life flying off-shore. Considering the price of accommodation on the island I don't blame them.

My host is a keen rower. On one occasion his  plus other boats rowed from St.George's harbour to a jetty near the Chapel of Ease on St.David's island to be 'blessed' after a church service. It is an annual tradition; 'The Blessing of the Boats'. I was now mobile on a scooter and due to turn up for this service which featured the notorious St.George's Salvation Army Band. Needless to say I got lost, missed the service, but arrived in time to see the Bishop of Bermuda blessing the boats and annointing them with Holy Water.

Right: The Bish. He is called Nick Dill and was previously a lawyer in London. He went to Oundle School and is a most charming and entertaining chap. He was assisted by the local chaplain, The Rev.Thomas Slawson, from Maryland, USA.

On running out of 'Holy Water' he got a lady to fill up his Holy Chalice from a half empty bottle of water she was carrying. Being possibly rather religious she protested that it was not Holy Water. He told her curtly "well it is now ".

He proceeded to 'bless' any boat of whatever size pulled in and gave them a certificate to prove it. He gave me one too as a souvenir, and I'm wondering what to do with it.

Left: A little child's sailing dingy that got given the treatment, as did many others.

.....and afterwards for tea and cakes in the Village Hall. Right: A few of those present which included Harold, originally from Wales, and William, a Bermudian, who spent some time (late 1950s) doing National Service in UK with the Royal Signals whom he represented in the 400 metres hurdles in army athletics.

I seem to be taking rather a long time to finish these reports nowadays. Sheer idleness, and I have yet to report on the Carnival and the Gumbay dancers in Hamilton. Stand-by for yet more.


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