Bermuda – The Onion Island

Thanks to growing thousands of tons of onions in the 19th century and exporting them in the main to the USA, Bermudian seamen were known as ‘Onions’ and the island, ‘The Onion Patch’.  Though trade declined after WW1 until the 1930’s, when locally grown produce could no longer compete with vast harvests in Texas, the islanders’ nickname lives on.

A British colony since 1707 and now an Overseas Territory, Bermuda is a lovely friendly island with an extremely pleasant climate – most of the time.  At 32.20N it is the most northerly coral atoll in the Atlantic, situated towards the western edges of the Sargasso Sea, and of course famous for being part of the legendary triangle that bears its name.  This imaginary reaches from Miami in Florida, south east to San Juan in Puerto Rico and north to Bermuda whose reefs are strewn with over 300 shipwrecks – a paradise for divers with deep pockets!  This is an expensive spot!

Quaint St. George’s, where we anchored, is a UNESCO site with an old Town Hall and Square, museum, churches, post office, restaurants and boutiques.

The limestone houses, unique to the island, are all painted in pastel colours and have signature white stepped roofs to catch the rain as there is no mains water supply, a tradition that dates back 400 years.  By law 80% of water has to be collected and stored in a tank under each house.  Nowadays roofs are painted every two or three years with a special non-toxic paint to keep the water as clean as possible.    Otherwise, desalination plants provide water for hotels and numerous golf courses that attract thousands of tourists each year.

With no self-drive hire cars on the island, to go further afield we could either take a very expensive taxi, or use public transport – far cheaper at US$ 20 for a day pass.   We took one of the frequent ferries to the historic Royal Naval Dockyard at the very western tip of the island, where cruise ships dwarf yachts in the small marina and overshadow the dockyard itself.  The America’s Cup teams were there too along with throngs of people wandering around.   For us the main attraction was the Commissioner’s House within the extensive fortifications of the National Museum, housing fascinating artefacts from 500 years of Bermuda history.

Back in St. George’s, Bob T who had joined us a few days earlier for the passage to the Azores, experienced some of the rain and high winds at the anchorage which proved to have excellent holding.  Pipistrelle’s anchor remained firmly dug in when one morning the wind rose to 28kn and then to 41kn+ in 2 hours, the motion very much like being on the ocean!  Coincidentally ARC Europe yachts arrived from the BVI during the storm.  Unfortunately, some had great difficulty in dropping anchor, with much dragging – not what’s needed after a challenging passage.  In lighter airs that afternoon we moved to the main anchorage where we would get more protection ahead of one of the countless changes of wind direction over the next few days.

Apart from seeing some of the island while we were there, time was naturally devoted to the normal amount of ‘boatie’ tasks.  OCC Port Officers Steve and Suzanne, of Ocean Sails, carried out small repairs to the genoa, they also tried very hard to help with a boom vang repair which didn’t work out in Bermuda for various reasons – more about that in a future blog. Otherwise of course, laundry was on the agenda at the local laundromat along with reprovisioning mainly for fresh fruit and veg.  Very conveniently both laundromat and supermarket were within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock, Somers offering a wide range of Waitrose goods at Fortnum and Mason prices!  But that’s Bermuda!

After two weeks, Elaine disembarked to fly home (in a stiff breeze, it was some undertaking to get her plus luggage ashore in the dinghy without getting anything wet!), leaving ‘the boys’ to wait for a suitable weather window and prepare Pipistrelle for the next stage.


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