Friday, July 31, 2009

Somers Day for diving....

Just a few of the tents pitched along Ferry Reach for Cup Match

Ron and I went in search of a new dive spot, and based upon the prevailing winds, thought that the eastern side of the island would be calmer. So we checked our little Marine Resources guide, which listed Mills Breaker as a dive site with mooring ball, about 1.5 miles off the eastern end of Bermuda. We went out through Ferry Cut, and again, were amazed at the number of tents pitched along the Reach for Cup Match! Everyone camps out, swims, boats, celebrates. Very fun!

We stopped in St.George's to fuel up again ($1.47/liter) before going out Town Cut and heading east....we found the Mills Breaker mooring with little trouble, although the site was so shallow - 17' - that we could have snorkeled instead of diving. Disappointing, at best! We reconnoitered the area, but again, the surrounding reef was so shallow that it wasn't worth using the air fill. we went, pausing momentarily to watch the Norwegian Majesty squeeze out Town Cut on her way back to Baltimore. These large cruise ships take every bit of space in the channel....tight fit! We continued our voyage around St. David's Island and along the southeastern side to try to find the wreck of the Kate, which we hadn't dived yet. A long slog into the swells, we finally found it off of Tucker's Point Beach Club....but again, very shallow!! Argh. We finally went back to the patch of reef that we dove the very first day, in about 60' of water just outside the Castle Roads cut. Despite the dismal visibility (again!) we found a very nice swim-through and saw a couple large grouper and a good-sized hogfish that we approached quite closely. We also came across a huge wooden treetrunk-like thing mostly buried deeply in the sand...possibly part of an old mast?? Or, not. But it certainly was large, and unusual. We got back to find an e-mail invitation to join Shindig at the back side of Cambridge Beaches, on the west end of Bermuda....darn!! It would have been fun to cruise over there, but I didn't get the e-mail until we'd been out most of the day diving, and it was too late to run over in the dinghy and join them.

We didn't do a whole lot in the late afternoon beyond discussing what we need to do to prepare for our journey back to the States, as that is weighing on us a bit. Rather sad!! We need to do another oil change on the 20Kw, break down and stow the flybridge bimini, get all the clearance paperwork done for duty-free fueling, batten down the saloon and stow all fly-away items....but those will be done next week prior to departure. SO, we relaxed a bit today; Ally went over to Castle Roads to jetski for a bit with some of the local girls, then over to The Clearing to hop aboard t/t Justified for a late lunch at Rusticos in Flatt's. Ron napped a bit, and I prepped some seafood Fra Diavolo for dinner. Probably the quietest day we've had since we got here!! We're missing Warren, Christine and the girls, and with our own departure looming, we're all a bit melancholy!

Cup Match!

Cup Match is Bermuda's famous annual 2-day cricket match, held on Emancipation Day (celebrating the official end of slavery in Bermuda on August 1, 1834) and Somers Day, honoring the "Father Of Bermuda," Admiral Sir George Somers, one of Bermuda's founders. The whole of Bermuda grinds to a complete halt for the two days to concentrate on a single cricket game. Over 7000 people attend the match one or both days, and many more camp out along the beach fronts and listen to the play-by-play on the radio.

The competition began officially in July 1902 between two Bermuda cricket clubs, the Somerset Cricket Club in the west, and the St. George's Cricket Club in the east end. The venue alternates every year between the two clubs; this year it is being held on Wellington Oval in St. George's, so Ron and Karyn took the dinghy into Mullet Bay, just outside St. George's. We tied up to the public dock there, then walked to the stadium where the 107th annual Bermuda Cup Match was being played.

While Ron grew up in Hong Kong and played cricket as a young boy, Karyn didn't have a clue and had never seen the game before. It's a lengthy game -- some say playing cricket is fun while watching it is like watching paint dry, but tell that to the rabid fans we saw cheering, drumming and hollering in support of their team! We meandered about the stadium, trying to find a vantage point from which to watch the match, and finally ascended some scaffolding to get a better view. We joined a group of fans from Somerset who proceeded to take us under their wing and explained the game to us. It was so fun!! We stayed for quite a while, watching the match and trying to follow its events. Wickets and overs, runs and outs, it was all rather baffling at first, but eventually it started to make sense. Just being up in the stands with everyone was a blast!! We got the hot hint regarding the best local delicacies to be found, as many vendors and beer stands surround the stadium selling their wares. Karyn tried the Shark Hash, while Ron preferred his Conch Stew with rice. The hash was interesting...looked like a dried pesto paste of sorts, rather green for itself! But, when in Rome...!

Part of the Somerset group who educated us on cricket

After our lunch break we returned to our vantage point at the "New Heartbreak Hotel" section of the stadium, but this time got stopped by security -- apparently it was a private viewing area into which we had wandered previously! No one minded our joining their party, though. So, as pirates, we still got in for another rum swizzle there before moving on to wander around a bit more and watch the games from ground level.

Our vantage point in the stands

The Cup Match underway, with Somerset at bat

We really enjoyed our time at the match, but returned back to the boat in the late afternoon to get ready as we had guests coming aboard for dinner, Lee and Judy from Baltimore, and Lee's sister Estelle. They were in Bermuda aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Majesty, and knowing they were coming, Ron had invited them to come to the boat for an early dinner. They were really delighted to see a bit more of Bermuda than just St. George's harbor and the usual cruise ship shops, so we ferried them in the dinghy out to Equinox on anchor in Castle Harbor. Everyone was quite nimble getting into and out of the dinghy, despite the unusually bumpy conditions in the harbor and Ferry Reach due to the Cup Match revelers out and about in their boats (think Memorial Day AND Labor Day weekend back to back!) but no one complained! Of course the tide was up, so we had to go through our gyrations to lower the dinghy radar arch, so they got a very realistic view of things to consider when getting around by boat instead of car! Nevertheless we had a lovely evening showing them Equinox, trading stories about travel and growing up, just generally enjoying ourselves. Dinner worked out well, and they all said visiting with us made their trip to Bermuda, which was so cute. We got them back to St.George's just before sunset in calm seas and a gorgeous evening with the whistling frogs starting to sing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Diving & Exploring Fort St. Catherine

Today was Taylor's last day of diving, since she is leaving tomorrow afternoon and can't fly within 24 hours of diving. Unfortunately Ally's ears were still bothering her, so only Ron, Taylor and Karyn went out on the dive. We went out to Libby Reef where we found the lone anchor before, and indeed, found it again. Visibility was thankfully better than yesterday, and we had a nice dive, noting the numbers of blue parrotfish, queen and princess parrotfish, sergeant majors and spotted butterflyfish. Ron also found another large Atlantic Deer Cowrie shell, which he gave to Taylor to take home. It was a nice dive to end Tay's visit here.

In the afternoon, we took the dinghy around the north side of St. George's Island and anchored in the cove by the St. George's Beach Club where we stopped for lunch (stalked by a very young rooster walking about the tables in the restaurant). The view was amazing, although the service was not as good as it was previously, unfortunately. The rooster didn't help any, either!

Ally's friend, the baby rooster

Afterward, we explored Fort St. Catherine. Originally built in 1612, Fort St. Catherine was rebuilt and its fortifications strengthened 7 times over the past 3 centuries. Now a unique museum, the powder magazine is restored to 19th century war readiness and is home to a collection of antique weapons, and in the old artillery store there is a gallery of dioramas depicting Bermuda’s history. The fort was defended by these absolutely huge cannons: 5 Woolwich Rifled Muzzle Loader cannons, each weighing 18 tons. The shells they fired weighed 400 pounds and were capable of penetrating thick iron plate. We walked about the fort and were really fascinated by the history it explained. The Fort closed at 4:00 p.m. and we literally were the last to leave -- but didn't get locked in though!

Approaching Fort St. Catherine from the north

The hallway to the magazine stores

View of the dinghy anchored in the cove below the Fort

We stopped by Dowling's on the way back to the boat, since we're now starting to think about what needs to be done to prepare for our trip back to the States. We need to fuel up, so have ordered some 3500 liters of diesel for the return trip and were trying to confirm the day we could get the tanker truck to deliver it. We want to leave next Wednesday (weather permitting) after we put Ally on the plane home, but Dowling's told us we need "Customs Form 5" before we can fuel up. So, we stopped in at Customs, who told us that we have to clear out before we are issued Form 5 and receive the duty free fuel. Not exactly a user-friendly situation, is it, since we want to fuel up on Tuesday and be ready to leave the next day after Ally's at the airport! So....we shall see how it goes. Hopefully the weather will be better on the east coast than it is right now and we will have a smoother passage than the one we had coming over. Not that it was bad, mind you, just a bit rainy and lumpy!

In the evening Ron ferried over Christine's parents, Audrey and Bert Smith, from the Mid- Ocean Club dock to come aboard for dinner. They are the loveliest folks and since they hadn't seen the boat before, we thought to invite them for dinner. Audrey and Bert brought us all sorts of gorgeous fresh produce from the Windy Banks Farm: cucumbers, onions, and even (gasp!) Bermuda bananas. Yes, we know bananas are bad luck on a boat, but they didn't know that....and Audrey was most upset when Christine told her so on the phone just prior to their arrival on the boat. No worries, though as Ron and Ally were delighted....they love bananas! (Karyn hates them, so they don't get them very often...and on the boat, not at all!) In this case, we will ripen them and use them up in good health and with good intentions before we depart, just in case they have some valid claim to bad luck while underway! The Smiths also have some sweet corn that we will pick up when we have a chance to slip by Boat House on Harrington Sound in the next couple of days. Our dinner aboard consisted of rack of lamb, steamed green beans, mushroom risotto and Karyn's mango, avocado & crab stack before a bit of dessert, and it was appreciated by all! A lovely way to finish the day!

Diving off St. David's Island & Coral Beach Club

The winds have moderated a bit down to 5-10 knots at times, but remain southerly, so with the swells, seas are 2-4' outside the reefs here by Castle Roads. We managed another dive this morning, taking the girls out to see the large cavern in the reef that we'd found yesterday off St. David's. Unfortunately though, the poor visibility was back with a vengeance, along with a pretty stiff current that was less than fun to swim against as we made our way along the reefs. In the cavern, though, there was little current, so Ron explored a bit further, going out an exit across the far side of the cavern before returning back inside. I discovered a group of juvenile high hats clustered under a long, low ledge near the left side entrance, which was fun to see. We didn't stay long, but returned the way we had come, this time zipping along with the current as we returned to the anchor line. I find it a bit spooky when the visibility is limited and you can't see much of the reef until it comes looming out of the mists as you get closer. Ally was a bit bothered by her ears this dive, which has been an intermittent problem for her, so the dive didn't rank up there with one of the better ones. There's always tomorrow!

After filling tanks and an afternoon of reading and relaxing, swimming and jumping off the top of the boat, we took the motor scooters over to Ship Shape, the McHarg's little yellow cottage on Harrington Sound, before we all went to The Coral Beach Club for their Tuesday evening dinner. Coral Beach is at an absolutely stunning location on Bermuda's south shore, an old-world club that has been around since the mid-1940s in its present form, but the oldest dwelling on the property was built before 1650. Drinks and dinner were lovely, but it was rather sad also, since it was our last night together with the McHargs. They are leaving for England tomorrow and Spain thereafter for a vacation; Taylor will be playing in a tennis tournament in Spain, which is part of the reason for the trip. Being with Warren, Christine and the girls -- just simply spending time with them and their extended family has added so much to our time here, words are inadequate!! We all enjoy each others' company so much; Ron and Warren are great buddies and have felt that way since the day they met. Being included in their social whirl of activities, meeting all their friends, getting invited to different dinners and outings has made us all feel so included and welcome! Coral Beach was no exception; what's not to like? The setting was beautiful, the wine delicious and good friends were together!

Taylor, Ally & Alexis on the stairs at the Beach Club

Taylor, Karyn, Ron and Ally

The two families together!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Day in Paradise

...and Bermuda is it. Ally and Taylor hung out with Alexis on the beach this morning, so Ron and I sneaked in a dive while they were gone. It was actually the best visibility that we'd encountered here, so we were really happy, and the random reef area where we dove had some amazing caverns and swim-throughs. We found some amazingly beautiful Atlantic Deer Cowrie shells on the sea floor near the base of the reefs, which we collected, and saw one of the largest Blue Angelfish I've ever seen. A very nice dive; with the better water clarity, the reefs are even more impressive and vibrant!

After the dive we came around to the north of St. David's Island, through Town Cut into St. George's for dinghy fuel on the way back to the boat. Fuel here is expensive, mostly because of the government tax, and it's almost $1.50/liter. But then again, everything here is rather expensive, simply because it all has to be imported. Although liquor and wine prices seem reasonable, but I don't think there's a tax on that! :) While sunny, the wind had picked up again, so we girls spent the afternoon relaxing aboard, while Ron ran a couple of errands on the motor scooter: returning a wrong part to PW Marine, stopping in at Harrington Hundreds -the nearest market- for some needed groceries. In the early evening we all rode the motorbikes over to Audrey & Bert's home, Boat House, on Harrington Sound for dinner. We had a lovely time on their terrace overlooking the Sound while the girls swam, snorkeled and did a little scuba-diving, before enjoying a lovely barbeque dinner. The sunsets here are unbelievably beautiful!

Taylor, Alexis and Ally

Christine (holding Jessie), Audrey, Bert & Karyn

Warren and Ron at the edge of Harrington Sound
silhouetted by the sunset

Monday, July 27, 2009

Scooter Rides & more Bermuda Fish Chowder

We took advantage of having the scooters and took an early morning ride down South Road to the Coral Beach Club with the intention of having breakfast there, but after walking to the lower terrace, we discovered a sign that said "Members only, no cash or credit cards accepted." Whoops! Ally had been there as a guest with Alexis earlier in our time here, but she didn't realize it was members-only, and was rather mortified. Even though we're "pirates" at times, we decided the better part of valor was to slip away quietly before we were told to leave. It was a pretty ride though!! So, we ended up having breakfast at The Paraquet (a rather expensive greasy spoon cafe) and laughed at our adventures.

Ron & Karyn leaving the Coral Beach Club

Ally & Taylor following in our wake
as we drove back to the boat

An example of the narrow and twisting roads on the
route to Tucker's Point

In the afternoon, we went over to Castle Roads, along with many other local boats who were hanging on anchor. It's like the Bermudian version of Maryland's Fairlee Creek, a place to congregate, raft up and party! While the girls were swimming, Ron kept busy, scrubbing and chiseling the marine growth off the bottom of the dinghy, which was an exhausting procedure. We definitely have to get the bottom painted prior to our going to the Bahamas this winter!! We should have done it before coming to Bermuda, in fact, something that Ron now regrets, but it's cleaned now and we're only here for a bit longer, so it isn't dire.

We met up with all the folks we had dinner with last night: Heather aboard her little runabout at Castle Roads, and the Simmons aboard Shindig, who came by and rafted up with Equinox in the mid-afternoon. They hadn't seen Equinox before, so Scott and Helene and their friends Jillian and Rick came aboard for a tour and to relax, bringing Rum Swizzles for all!! Yum!

To cap off a fun day, we four dinghied over to St. David's Island and met up with Warren, Christine & her parents, Bert and Audrey, and Alexis for a dinner on the back patio at The Black Horse Tavern. They've been telling us that The Black Horse has the best Bermuda Fish Chowder, and so of course, we had to sample it. The Black Horse even has their own sherry pepper sauce -- definitely as authentic as it comes!! And the chowder was delicious indeed, thick and rich. Both Ron and I had the curried conch stew, which received rave reviews from us too. A great night!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Boat Projects and Dinner Parties

Today was a day for boat projects and maintenance...necessary evils while living aboard, even on gloriously lovely days!! Not that we didn't sneak in a dive in the morning, out to the Rita Zovetto, for Taylor's second wreck dive. From the huge deck winch to the large parts of the hull structure still intact, there is lots to see at this dive site, and we enjoyed it. Plus, we actually saw a fish we hadn't seen before, called a Goldface Toby, which is a member of the puffer fish family. Rather small with a translucent golden color, it was quite pretty. Taylor also found a beautiful seashell on the sand, which she carried around with her for the remainder of the dive. When we surfaced, out popped a Blackfin Cardinalfish, barely 1" long, which landed in the water right in front of my mask! I got a good look at it, being face to face with it underwater after it escaped the shell. Apparently the Blackfin Cardinalfish like to hide in empty shells, and this one certainly seemed a tad startled about the voyage it took, but off it swam, back to the depths. Wild!! We hadn't seen one of those before either!

Internet photo by Schulke, J.
Blackfin Cardinalfish

After the dive, it was on to boat maintenance projects. While I did galley clean-up, shower scrubbing, head cleaning, de-cluttering and general vacuuming inside, Ron changed out the bilge pump in the dinghy, as it had stopped working. While the old unit's float switch worked, the pump was dead in the water (so to speak), so he called PW Marine here in Bermuda and found they had a replacement in stock. Ron and Ally rented a pair of motor scooters so he could go to town to retrieve the part. This was not a five-minute job (we know how those go!!) but a hot and bruising job hanging head first under the main bench in the dinghy. Ron actually got stuck while inspecting the dead pump....he really thought he was going to break his ribs before extricating himself. I would have found him eventually, legs flailing in the air, I'm sure...

The other reason we rented the scooters was so that we could get over to Harrington Sound, as we'd been invited to dinner at Angel's Grotto, the home of Scott and Helene Simmons. To me, it's a very fascinating tradition in Bermuda that the homes have names and each is posted on the walls outside the entrances. In fact, the post office requires the name of the house along with the address, because (as we have found out, much to our consternation) there can be several homes at the same street number address. Thus, house names are required! So, after meandering through the property and looking at the names of all the houses and apartments, we finally found Scott and Helene's along the waterfront. Despite the momentary confusion as to which house was theirs, we still arrived on time....which was a bit embarrassing here, since Bermudian time is rather flexible (and folks are rarely prompt, we've discovered!). But no one minds at all; the party just begins when everyone arrives!

On our arrival, we found Scott hastily escorting a "Warwick" lizard out of the house. They have wild lizards here, some larger than others, and it used to be that the really big scary ones were only found in Warwick parish. Apparently now, though, they've migrated a bit, and are now found island wide....!! This Warwick lizard definitely had an attitude and even their cats didn't want to tangle with it, so it was Scott to the rescue!

We spent a truly lovely evening watching the sun set over Harrington Sound while chatting, dining, sharing wine and fun stories with Helene and Scott, Helene's sister Heather, daughter Vicky and our two girls. The dinner was delicious and the conversation continued until rather late, which seems to be the norm here!! We reluctantly bid everyone good night before the moonlit scooter ride home. Made it back safely with little traffic! :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bicycling and Dinghy cruise to Hamilton

Ron at the base of St. David's Lighthouse

After a gorgeous night under the stars on deck, Ron and I left the girls still sleeping to take advantage of a gorgeous, sunny-but-windy morning for another bicycle tour of Bermuda,. This time we rode east, around Castle Harbor up to St. David's Lighthouse, a quick 22-mile jaunt. The roads here are just so beautiful, with thick hedges of oleander and hibiscus, stone walls, limestone ledges, and ocean vistas that take one's breath away. I was trying to figure out a way to get a photo of Ron bicycling ahead of me as we were going through these gorgeous areas, but....not wanting to juggle the camera at high speeds and try to steer at the same time, I opted not to do it. Still, the photos would have been incredible...

A house just below St. David's lighthouse looking
south to the Atlantic

After the bicycle ride we returned to find the girls awake and ready to swim, but Ron convinced us all to take the dinghy the entire way around the north side of the island to Hamilton, a good 8-10 mile dinghy ride, one way. He wanted to have lunch at the Hog Penny, one of the more celebrated Bermudian/English pubs in town, to sample the Bermuda Fish Chowder. We also needed to run a few errands (bicycle store to buy a new tire for Ron, grocery marketing at Miles Market for vegetable provisions), so off we set. We made our way through Bermuda's North Lagoon, keeping a lookout for any of the shallow - and dangerous - patch reefs that dot the lagoon. There are 35,000 of them in the North Lagoon alone, according to the Bermuda Reef Ecosystem Assessment and Mapping Programme (BREAM), which recently created a detailed map of the coral reefs and ecosystems surrounding Bermuda. BREAM is a non-profit organization, part of the Biodiversity Project at the Bermuda Zoological Society, and has a web blog showing their most recent efforts and research activities. One website page shows their mapping efforts, for those that are interested: It's really fascinating!

Once around Spanish Point we went south and made our way into Hamilton Harbor. We docked the dinghy at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club after fueling up, then walked along Front Street to the Hog Penny. The fish chowder was definitely worth the effort! Entrees included shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, fish 'n' chips, and caesar salad with shrimp. All were delicious!

The secret ingredients for true Bermuda Fish
Chowder -- and must be added tableside!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Diving & Dinghy Riding to Harrington Sound

Well, we managed to dive the Pelinaion this morning, for Taylor's first dive in Bermuda. The conditions yesterday were too rough, and they were only marginally better today, but...they were better!! We used the mooring buoy on the dive site and Tay and Karyn were the first ones in, and waited for Ron and Ally to follow. Taylor had never done a wreck dive before, and the Pelinaion had a lot to offer. She was duly impressed with the huge propeller, and the three large deck winches. As this dive site has done before, new things emerged that made me feel like I'd never seen the dive site before myself. This time I noticed the anchor right next to the propeller -- also quite large and imposing -- and we found a number of beautiful swim-throughs in the reefs just beyond the wreckage that were very cool. The number and variety of stony corals here continues to amaze me: spiny sea rods, knobby brain coral, boulder brain coral, star coral in abundance. We also saw a couple of large grouper, which we hadn't seen before. The only glitch in the dive was that returning to the boat was a bit of a navigational challenge, as we got a bit turned around in the reefs, (Ron blamed the Bermuda Triangle effect) but we sorted ourselves out. Afterwards, Taylor was full of enthusiasm for wreck dives!

After the dive we cleaned up and headed over by dinghy to Flatt's Inlet for lunch at Rustico's (delicious Bermuda Fish Chowder -- one of the best we've sampled so far!) and a visit to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. We tied up at the aquarium pier, and spent the afternoon meandering through the place. Everyone loved the Museum and its interactive exhibits, historical artifacts and detailed information about Bermuda's history, flora and fauna. Very cool!!

Ally took a lot of fun photos in the Aquarium, and was fascinated with the peacocks walking about the zoo. While the flamingos look pretty in the Caribbean exhibit area, we found you really want to stay upwind of them!

A gray triggerfish

One of the zoo's Galapagos tortoises

Inside the Aquarium

When we left the Aquarium, the current was ripping through the Inlet at such a clip, we couldn't believe it! It was creating a small waterfall under the bridge, so of course, we had to go through it! We waited for the green light and zipped into Harrington Sound against the current, and then turned around and raced down the waterfall and back out again. Quite the rocket ride!

Navigating the current into Harrington Sound

We had a quiet night aboard -- dinner and a movie -- before we shut down all the generators and went up on deck to stretch out on the foredeck cushions in the gorgeously silky night and star gaze. The stars here in Bermuda are absolutely phenomenal -- no ambient city lights to ruin the view, so one can see the entire milky way dusted across the sky! Ally had Jack Johnson playing softly on her iPod, which was the perfect accompaniment for the whistling frogs singing backup vocals and the waves chuckling along the shore line. Totally mesmerizing and beautiful!! We all counted shooting stars -- I saw at least 8 -- and fell asleep listening to the night sounds around us. A magical time and place!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waterskiing, Beach & Diving

Our niece Jordan left and her younger sister Taylor has now joined us aboard. When we took Jordan to the airport via dinghy, though, we were thwarted by an extremely low tide that prevented us from using the dock across the road from the airport's main entrance. The water was so low and the winds were so rough there was no way to even attempt to climb up. It was interesting to note, though, that now the sign on the dock was changed to "NO docking of boats allowed any time"....clearly we were observed using it for Jordan's arrival!!

We tried to get out for a dive on the Pelinaion in the morning, but with the winds from the southeast, the conditions were simply too rough. We didn't want to push it; Taylor needs a quiet refresher dive, since it's been a few months since she dove, and diving in such rough conditions was not advisable. SO....we came back into Castle Harbor, where the winds and waters were calm, and went wakeboarding (Ally) and waterskiing (all 4 of us) instead. A great morning's activity, and it put us all in good moods. It felt great to ski!!

Taylor slalom skiing
Ally jumping with the wakeboard

Ally riding the other way, having turned

Karyn enjoying the ski run

Ron looking sharp

The girls joined some friends over at the Tucker Point Beach Club for the afternoon while Ron and I took the dinghy into St. George's to get a few more gallons of oil for the generators. We underestimated our generator use, so have changed out the oil and filters more often than we anticipated. Not an issue with all the extra filters we have aboard, but we did want to get a few additional gallons of the Shell Rotella-T SAE30 for the gensets. Luckily for us, there is a Shell oil depot on the island, and actually, a Shell station right in St. George's -- Dowling's -- that carries it. So, we bought a few more gallons after having a light lunch on the waterfront.

It was so calm as we came around Ferry Reach that we decided to explore the north sound a bit and again, were amazed at the calm conditions there. We went back to the boat for dive gear and set off to explore the reefs on the far north side, using one of the Bermuda Marine Resource guide to find a mooring. We had no idea how far it was across the North Shore Coral Reef Preserve -- over 8 miles! But conditions were so calm, it was an easy ride there and we had good light to avoid all the coral formations that popped up all over the place. The dive was a pretty one as far as reef structure and the variety of soft corals, sea fans, sea whips, and encrusting hard coral, but surprisingly, very few fish. We did see a beautiful pair of angelfish and many of the ubitquitous parrotfish, but even those seem paler and less vibrant than their southern counterparts. In any event, we got a dive in and we enjoyed that!

Bermuda Pawpaw

Bermuda pawpaw getting prepped for dinner

One of the things we like to do when we cruise is find out the local delicacies and unique cuisine of the places we visit, and sample everything. Bermuda is no exception, it has its regional dishes like Bermuda Fish Chowder, and its various drink specialties (which we have noted before, the Rum Swizzle and the Dark 'n' Stormy). What we discovered through talking with folks here though, is that Bermuda has lots of "pawpaw" trees, often growing wild and its fruit is used for cooking. We were told that "when it's green, it's a vegetable, when it's orange, it's a fruit." We were mystified by this; I'd heard of pawpaw, (I think it actually grows wild in Maryland) but had never seen one. Nor had we ever heard this information about the fruit. When it's green it can be added to meat dishes, and it will tenderize the meat beautifully, or be made into a casserole. When it's ripe and orange, it makes a delicious fruit dessert.

Mysteriously, two pawpaws were delivered to the boat a couple of days ago -- left aboard while we were out swimming at Castle Roads. (And we thank the unseen donors for the generosity.) Large and green, I had NO idea how to use them, and they were not like anything I had ever seen before. And, after a brief internet search, I was ever more mystified, since all pawpaw references and recipes were for a fruit. Nothing about using pawpaw when green as a vegetable -- the photos of pawpaw didn't look like the green orbs I had onboard, either.

THEN...I discovered that the Bermuda pawpaw is actually papaya!! True pawpaw are totally different species, and yes indeed, we had two huge papaya in the galley. Green papaya fruit is often used in stews and curries in Bermuda, and indeed, the raw fruit is rich in an enzyme called papain, which is useful in tenderizing meat and other proteins. I found a recipe for Bermuda Pawpaw Montespan, and made a vegetarian version as a side dish for dinner last night. Ally loved it, and in fact, we all thought it was quite good. Very cool addition to my cruising recipe file!

Bermuda Pawpaw Montespan

  • 4 green pawpaws -- skinned and diced
  • 1 tomato -- thinly sliced
  • 1 Bermuda onion -- thinly sliced, fried
  • 1/2 pound ground round -- browned and drained
  • grated cheddar cheese

Cook pawpaws until tender. Mash and put a layer into a greased baking dish. Cover with a thin layer of tomatoes, then meat and onion, then cheese. Repeat these layers until all ingredients have been used. Finish with pawpaw, sprinkle with cheese. Cover with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Bicycling & Hiking

Monday was a bit blustery for diving, so we went out for another bicycle ride around the north side of Bermuda. This time we circled Harrington Sound, went through Flatt's and out along North Road to Spanish Point, named so because in 1603, Diego Ramirez, captain of a Spanish galleon spent 3 weeks there in Bermuda with his crew to repair their ship. The map created by Captain Ramirez during his visit that year is the first ever known map of Bermuda. We enjoyed the views of to the north, and the dramatic cliff hillsides. Returning through Hamilton, we circled back to Tucker's Town, and completed a 27-mile loop.

View of Hamilton Harbor from Fort Hamilton ramparts

In the afternoon, Karyn and Jordan took a taxi ride through Smith Parish to Fort Hamilton. We explored the Fort, entering across its drawbridge and hiking around its ramparts filled with cannons, gun emplacements and even old shells then down into its interior (a bit creepy, being very dark, moldering & wet). The dry moat encircling the fort is now filled with amazing botanical garden. A meandering path leads through a thick forest of soaring bamboos, palms, palmettos and allspice trees, and flowering shrubs of all kinds.

View of the dry moat gardens

When Karyn & Ron visited Bermuda in 1989, they explored Fort
in the late afternoon, and ended up getting locked inside. They
finally found a caretaker to let them out just as it was getting dark
....clearly this sign resulted from their misadventure!!

Looking up Front Street, Hamilton

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bermuda Raft-up!

After a morning of anchoring and moving (4 times!) in search of internet access, we took our dinghy Eclipse over to Castle Roads, swam in the amazing turquoise waters and joined a raft-up with the McHargs aboard Commocean, and their friends Scott and Helene aboard their new 32' Cabo, Shindig, which only recently arrived from the States. Love these impromtu parties!! We enjoyed a lovely cook-out, being joined by Justin, his mother Donna, and Kathy, Joe and their son Brian, aboard Justified. Before the evening was out, everyone ended up aboard Equinox for after dinner cocktails: dark 'n' stormies, or rum and cokes. To answer the pressing question a la Captain Jack Sparrow: "Where has the rum gone?" Well, now we know, since Bermudians like their rum!! Clearly, we like it too. Gosling's Black Seal Black Rum is amazing...

Karyn swimming at Castle Roads

Shindig rafted up with Commocean to port

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Diving, Dining, Exploring....

View of St. David's Lighthouse from Friday's dive site

We spent the last couple of days making a few scuba dives out to the southeastern reefs and wrecks (Rita Zovetta and Pelinaion) again, with one dive along Libby Reef where we came across a lone anchor on a rocky coral ledge....big flukes, just a classic old ship anchor from the 18th century. It had been down there quite some time, judging from the large brain coral formations that had encrusted one of the flukes. It's always so cool to pick a random spot along the reef for a dive site and come across stuff like that acaught on the reefs; you feel like you are peeking into history a bit, and who knows? Perhaps we were the first people to see the anchor underwater after it was lost. You never know!

Friday afternoon we took the dinghy around into St. George's for some fresh vegetables, as our supply was getting low. We discovered that there is one vendor who comes into town on Friday afternoons, so we made sure to visit his truck and get what we needed, as we were hosting the McHarg's aboard for dinner that evening. The mangos, pineapple, kiwis and other fruit made a fabulous fruit salad for dessert, and the fresh broccoli was a perfect pairing with the rack of lamb and aparagus/mushroom risotto that was on the menu. We followed dinner with a movie: "Bottle Shock", since both Warren and Christine are wine aficionados and hadn't seen the movie before!

Ron selecting a pineapple from the veggie truck

Saturday we took the dinghy around the east end of the island to Fort St. Catherine, and had a lovely lunch at the St. George's Beach Club next door. Ron and I have been sampling the Bermuda Fish Chowder where ever we's delicious, especially when a bit of sherry or rum are mixed in at the table! It was scorchingly hot, so after lunch, and a quick look at the outside of the fort (the interior being closed on the weekends) ,we snorkeled and swam along the beach in front of the fort, and picked up a lot of beautiful sea glass to add to Karyn's collection aboard.

Walking up to the fort's entrance

View of the cove in front of St. George's Beach Club,
taken from the outer Fort St. Catherine wall

Karyn & Ron after lunch, ready for a swim

Some of the Bermuda sea glass we found on the beach;
one piece has some raised lettering on it...

Later that afternoon, we moved the boat off the mooring, as its owner had come by to say he had another boat coming to use it tomorrow. Sad to leave our secure spot, but we dutifully moved and anchored around the point near Cable Bay, closer to the McHarg's. It was lovely to see our boat on anchor from their patio, although we later realized that we no longer had any internet connection! After searching fruitlessly for a connection in Cable Bay, we reluctantly moved back along the coast, finally settling in just north of our old mooring and closer to the hotel. It's nice to be able to access their free internet wifi from the boat, so we are set for the moment!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bicycling to the Dockyard & Back

We started in the east at Tucker's Town, then rode
west all the way around to the Royal Naval Dockyard
before returning along the same south shore route.

The view of Warwick Long Bay from the overlook

Thursday morning found Ron and Karyn up well before the girls, so decided to take a long "pedal-bike" ride (which is what they call bicycles here, versus the motor scooter "bikes"). We meandered along Bermuda's stunning southern shore road and then followed the island as it curves to the north, ending up at the Naval Dockyard. It was a good tour of continually rolling hills, narrow roads hemmed in by limestone rock walls, amazing palms of all descriptions, flowering bushes of oleander, hibiscus, jasmine, sea lavender and flame trees, white-roofed homes tucked in along stunning seaside scenery. Also, at times, some very close buses, cars, trucks and scooters, as the roads are quite narrow and winding! In general though, folks are very courteous to bicyclists, so we had a great ride. I made Ron buy more water and some sun block when we got to the Dockyard (and paid cruise ship prices for the the lotion -- ouch!!) because the sun was so strong, even in the morning. It was 21 miles to the Dockyard from where we started in Tucker's Town to the east, so it was a good 3 hour bike ride to make the 42-mile round trip. There were a couple of surprisingly steep hills on the return leg that were a bit challenging to our tired legs, but we prevailed! The swim after the ride was heavenly!!

A fun flotsam-covered wall at small working marina at the Dockyard

St. Mark's Church in Smith Parish -- at the top
of a mighty big hill, I might add!!