Bermuda was settled by the English by accident. In 1609, Sir George Somers and a boatload of colonists wrecked their ship near what became the town of St. George’s. Sir George appears happy about it in a statue at the main wharf.
Bermuda is not a Caribbean Island. (I used to confuse Bermuda and the Bahamas.) Bermuda sits about 650 miles out in the Atlantic east of North Carolina. But despite being so far north, it never gets much below 56 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
A territory of the United Kingdom, it has only about 21 square miles stretched out over a few islands connected by bridges and at its widest is only about two and a half miles wide. There also are a bunch of small private islands nearby. While there is a British Governor, Bermuda is largely self-governing. Our guide complained they are no longer dependent on the UK, but have to pay for the Governor. He said, however, the young people do not want an independent government.
We were surprised to discover the low hills were limestone. Stretching east and west, shallow bays and lovely beaches line the North Shore. The South Shore has smaller beaches and rougher water, but the coral reefs are close in making it an excellent spot for diving and snorkeling.
Our guide was enthusiastic about all things Bermudian including the world’s smallest draw bridge, just sixteen inches wide to allow a sailboat mast to pass through. Saint Anne’s (1616) is the oldest Anglican church in the hemisphere. He also said their 65,000 people have over 100 religious denominations and the most churches per capita in the world. I can’t speak to church attendance, however, because they also have the most golf courses per capita in the world.
Bermuda once had many wooden homes, but now there are only about eight left. Today, colorful homes are built of more storm-resistant concrete block or limestone over large cisterns whose concrete lids form the houses’ first floor. Almost all Bermudians rely on rainwater as their principle water source. The roofs are limestone “slates” laid over wood struts. The slates are cemented together and then covered with a coat of whitewash. Near the bottom, ridges channel rain water to pipes which take it down into the cistern. During dry spells, they are now able to order water by the truck load from reverse osmosis plants.
Unlike many Caribbean islands, there is little evidence of poverty, but the beautiful and colorful homes, wonderful gardens, parks and flowers come at a price. It is a very expensive place to live. At one time, they made their living exporting Bermuda onions and dried fish. More recently, tourism was the chief source of income, and today it is the insurance industry. They are self-sufficient in milk, but almost everything else, including bread, is imported.
At lunch, a small side salad cost nine dollars, and fish and chips cost eighteen dollars. The government built “affordable” housing for Bermudians: two bedroom condos starting at five hundred and fifty thousand dollars which sold out very quickly. When I asked our guide how the working man could survive, he said the minimum wage was around twenty dollars an hour.
One of the biggest holiday weekends was coming up the next week, the annual Cup Match, a two-day cricket match. This year, Somerset faces St. George’s, and automobiles and homes displayed either two-tone blue flags or blue and red flags for the owner’s favorite teams. We were told people fill every inch of the public parks with tents, camping for up to two weeks as part of the holiday.
Bermuda also boasts of having the first-ever environmental laws. They have been protecting their beauty since the 1600s. Our short visit was on the itinerary of a cruise ship, and was really too short. We want to snorkel on those reefs and walk around those towns and villages. We plan to come back.