Bermuda

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When we sailed within sight of Bermuda we were delighted to see land. For the next seven hours we quietly inched our way towards St. Georges harbor. After surviving a tropical storm it was quite strange for our first step on land to be on the strange netherworld candy-land known as Bermuda.

Bermuda is composed of over 300 islands, strung together by roads, and decorated with pastel colored houses that all have white roofs with diagonal rain catchers on them. The cobblestone and brick roads are mysteriously immaculate. No trash clutters the sides of the roads, and the walkway cracks are magically void of dirt. The minimum wage is over $12 dollars per hour (the Bermuda dollar is equal to value to the US dollar), but everything costs between 2 and 5 times what it would in the states. The locals (including the teenagers) think that $20 for a meal is cheap. There is very low unemployment, and those that live here seem to be laid back, socially entangled, and many of them are protruding a somewhat Jamaican aura – though, without being prompted, they regularly object to any Jamaican connection.

Apparently, at any given time tourists make up about 30% of the island: mostly American, mostly of the extra-large retired type, clamoring to find some nic-nacks to take back home and put on their shelves. They pour in on 5000 passenger cruise ships, in a hurry, wearing brightly colored flower clothes, armed with cheap wind-up water proof cameras and short lived smiles.

Sailboat travelers are definitely in the minority. In our harbor there were about 20 small ships, some anchored, some docked. Those of us anchored had to had to brave the choppy waves and strong winds whenever we wanted to go back or forth to land. Our dingy, of course, was the only one that didn’t have an outboard motor, and its excessive leaks required mouth to dingy resuscitation every time we wanted to use it. This unmidigated disaster, caused by Gwen’s refusal to spend any money whatsoever, led to more than one comical, and somewhat scary tale, which I’ll leave for campfire nights.

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The prettiest gem of Bermuda, the part that I like to remember most, is its beaches. We walked for hours along a particular long stretch of soft sand beaches that were separated by towering spires of volcanic rock. We passed through caves, under tunnels, ran through the sand bars that connected stretches of different beaches between waves, and climbed the rocks to stand in erosion carved arches among the tide pools. The walk ending in Horseshoe bay was one of the best beaches I’ve ever explored. Angela, Scott, and I made almost a whole day out of it.

Scott flew home the next day. Enduring the sailboat any longer would have probably killed him. He had already lost 18 pounds of muscle due to starvation and constant subjection to poison in the water (the captain didn’t consider it necessary to provide clean drinking water). He had also nearly died in tropical storm Andrea, an experience that made him more than ready to start the next chapter of his life. And then, of course, the tension between the captain and everyone else was getting to be far too much to bare.

Scott dealt with Gwen very diplomatically, kindly not mentioning any of the real reasons that he was leaving before reaching Europe, and not asking for any refunded money (although the arrangement originally made between each crew member and Gwen was that we pay so much, but if we change our mind part way then he would refund the proportionate amount). We knew that we were going to miss Scott a lot. His ability to remain patient, and try to see the best in every situation was remarkable. We had bonded with him, talked about the important things on our minds, our dilemmas, our hopes and fears. Plus we had survived Gwen together… I mean crossed the Caribbean and the Atlantic from Panama to Bermuda together.

When Scott arrived on the boat, officially paying more than any other crew member, and after being stood up by the captain for 7 hours after flying from the states to meet him and join the crew, he somehow ended up without a bed (the captain, of course, overbooked). Gwen said “sorry, we are all out of beds, but you can sleep in the kitchen on the bench seat.” When the boat was under sail, being tossed about every which way, it was difficult to stay on a bed, let alone on a bench seat, but Scott, who was used to a fair bit of luxury, said to himself (and later told us) “Well I came on this trip to experience something different.”

With Scott leaving I worried that I wouldn’t be able to survive Gwen’s constant barrage of inconsiderate acts. Thankfully Marc flew in from Utah to join the trek to Europe and to fill the social void. He landed within the same hour that Scott left. The next day I took Marc back to the same stretch of beach. We climbed the entire shoreline of rock, standing in places that very few humans had ever stood before. At the end of the day Marc made note of how much fun we had. Pointing to the quantity of bloody scrapes and cuts he had on his arms and legs, he laughed with confidence that he had earned a new treasured memory. Ahhhh – team death punch never let’s me down.

Gwen insisted that I wire the second half of our agreed upon funds before leaving the island. We had originally agreed half up front, and half when we arrive in France, but he had made up his mind that this was no longer acceptable. Hoping that he would try to be a little more tolerable on the upcoming stretch I consented, even though I didn’t have the necessary money. I felt like something was off, but decided to load up my credit card any way; anything to make the next 15-18 day passage more socially bearable.

Thad

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