While I was in the Royal Canadian Navy I had the opportunity to be posted to HMC Radio Station/CFS Bermuda from August 1966 until July 1968. Consequently, for several years I have wanted to make a trip back to Bermuda.
After a year in Frobisher Bay, Northwest Territories (now Iqaluit) it certainly was a major shock! Going from snowing and freezing when I left Frobisher in early July and arriving in Bermuda to sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 30 Celsius(mid 90’s Fahrenheit) was quite a change. That combined with being above the tree line and harsh landscape to lush greenery and a multi-multi-coloured blue sea. Needless to say that the opportunity to enjoy the single life of living in one of the tourist capitals of the world made making the trip to work much more pleasant.
As I previously, mentioned I had been wanting to make a return visit but the price of airfare and hotels seemed prohibitive and a cruise, arriving on one morning and leaving next afternoon seemed to be too short. Not wanting to give up I continued to search for an optimum cruise and found one with a more than reasonable price and offering two nights in Bermuda, arriving on Wednesday morning and departing Friday afternoon. This would give us basically two full days and a long morning in Bermuda. An opportunity that I could not pass up.
The ship, Royal Caribbean’s “Serenade of the Seas” would be leaving Boston, Massachusetts and docking at Kings Wharf, Sandy’s Parish, Bermuda. When I was stationed in Bermuda the dockyards area where Kings Wharf is located was derelict and mainly in ruins.
In the summer of 1967 the Canadian base obtained one of the buildings to locate a new radio transmitter and it was a major job to clear the overgrown brush and clean up the area immediately around the building to make it more or less accessible and liveable as it would be manned 24/7. Believe me when I say that it is a good thing that one is not superstitious and afraid of ghosts when working alone on a midnight to eight shift. It was a delight to see the changes that had been made to accommodate the cruise ships and accompanying tourists.
The same cannot be said about our former base. After the closure the site was obtained by 9 Beaches Resort from 1995 until its closure in 2010. Since then it has deteriorated and is now fenced off and falling into complete disrepair. There is still access to the beach which appears to be very well kept.
On Saturday, October 06: I put quickest way, (also the CAA route to the hotel) into the GPS and we set off for an overnight in Boston to board the ship “Serenade of the Seas” on Sunday morning for an afternoon sailing. The trip was uneventful until we reached the border crossing where it took an hour and fifteen minutes for us to reach the checkpoint. The delay, was simply the amount of traffic crossing into the United States. There seemed to be very little traffic on the two lane road leading to the crossing so it was a surprise when we reached the long line leading to the five check booths. The actual check was quick and easy and we were once again on our way tao arrive at our overnight hotel DoubleTree by Hilton in Bedford, Massachusetts which turned out to be an hour away from the dock.
I had prepaid for a weeks parking at one of the cruise ports parking lots. But what a job to find. After looking for the address, which turned out to be just an empty lot, and asking nearby people of they knew where it was I went on foot to try and discover just where it would be. Finally the reception desk at a hotel said it may me behind their building. Off I went, on foot, and finally discovered the shuttle bus to the port and that was the parking lot location. Back to the car and into the parking lot then board the shuttle bus, which waited for us, and off to the ship.
Boarding was quick and pleasant, all bags to the check-in area and onto the ship. A soup and salad lunch in the Windjammer buffet and lounge around until our cabin was ready and bags delivered.
Happily at 4pm, Sunday, 07 October, we left the cold and rain behind as the ship headed slowly out to sea for two days of slow cruising, and putting the clocks ahead one hour, to arrive at a bright, warm and sunny, Kings Wharf at 8am on Wednesday, 10 October.
Note: See Trip Log for a more detailed description of events.
Wednesday, October 10: the morning was spent wandering around The Keep, touring dockyards and the Commissioner’s House which are all a part of the National Museum of Bermuda. As I mentioned the area certainly had a major makeover and it was a joy to walk freely around The Keep, see our old transmitter building, in which I had the pleasure of working for about two months, and then the refurbished Commissioner’s House. The view from the ramparts of the tranquil multi-blue sea was captivating. While wandering around I was looking for what we called “the swimming pool’ which turned out to be the Dolphin Quest centre. I called it the swimming pool because I ended up swimming there one day when we were taking a lunch break from clearing the area.
I wanted to rent scooters which would give us the opportunity to travel where and when we wanted to go. Wendy was very leery about renting and riding her own scooter. However, at the scooter rental shop they had a deluxe scooter which would take two people so that was our choice. Apparently my driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road did not frighten Wendy and she was happy to go for a trip the next day.
That day we made the initial trip out of dockyard, though Somerset and onto the South Shore Road for a stop at Horseshoe Bay. Horseshoe Bay has gone through the transition to make it much more touristy than when I was there when it was simply a beach. Now you can rent lounge chairs and there is a quick snack bar and a full bar. After a quick lunch of fishcake sandwiches it was back on the scooter and off to Daniel’s Head. It was a disappointment to see the condition the old base was in. But the beach area is very well kept and some of the Bermuda Cedar trees that Cecil Whitecross and I planted in 1967 as a Centennial Project were thriving. I managed to get inside the surrounding fence by travelling along the beach and climbing up onto the old antenna pad. The pad is beginning to get overgrown and the huts which had plastic/tarpaulin type walls had either been destroyed by squatters, a hurricane, or simply aging badly only added to the overall despair of ‘the old place’. While the buildings and some areas were not doing well the beaches were still pristine and the major beach which is open to the public is well maintained.
The glass bottom boat which now offers snorkelling still makes the trip to the area off Daniel’s Island and the sunken wreck. In fact there was a glass bottom boat there while I was touring the antenna pad which brought back memories of swimming and snorkelling there and also sharing a beer with the operator of the glass bottom boat while he waited for passengers to be delivered to him.
While the area may be in disrepair and falling to wreck and ruin it only brought back fond memories of not only the good times at the mess or beach parties, but the friendships that had developed, the joy of living on a tourist island and, believe it or not, also the work environment. None of these memories can really be erased or relived except in only our fondest memories.
Thursday, October 11: It dawned another bright and sunny day and after breakfast it was off on the scooter to the far end of the island to visit St. George’s. While I found no difficulty is motoring around on the scooter with Wendy on the back I did make a couple of wrong turns which took us on an alternate route to the town. While it may have been an alternate route it was still a very pleasant scenic drive along the ocean. The one hour ride allowed us to view the various shades of blue of the ocean which are always an enchanting sight.
The Towne of St George’s is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was Bermuda’s first capital. It is also home to the oldest Anglican Church outside of the British Isles, and the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in the New World - St Peter’s, Their Majesties Chappell.
We wandered around the towne’s narrow streets and King’s Square for a photo op at the pillories. Lunch was in the White Horse Pub and Restaurant. Of course there as a visit to St Peter’s and a wander through the graveyard which houses the last remains of gentry, commoners, governors and privateers, as well as a separate resting place for slaves and free blacks.
Departing St George’s it was another wrong turn which took us to St David’s and a top up of petrol. Then once again a missed turn for the route I had hoped to take to Hamilton so it was again along the North Shore Road to Middle Road and into the city of Hamilton.
While Front Street has remained unchanged except for the change of names or merchandise in the stores the side streets have gone through a bit of a change. Gone are most of the old haunts that we used to visit; the Horse and Buggy Pub is now an arcade and the movie theatre is now Butterfield’s Bank. The Mariner’s Club where I spent many an hour enjoying the camaraderie around the bar as well as meals in the small restaurant area was still in operation. However, it also had changed, the original restaurant area has been renovated and expanded and is now rented privately. The hours of operation have also changed and it now does not open until 4pm. Sadly because we arrived before 4 and wanted to miss the evening rush hour traffic we decided not to stay until it opened.
There were no wrong turns on the way back to the ship so it was pleasant drive along Middle Road.
Friday, October 12: Our last, partial day in Bermuda. I am not sure if Wendy, after the one hour each way ride to St George’s and through Hamilton, had had enough of scootering but she decided that she would spend the time wandering through Dockyards to do some shopping to take home. Because we had the scooter until 1pm I opted to take another tour along South Shore Road which would give me the opportunity to stop and take some photos.
We bid each other good-bye and went along on our merry ways with a plan to meet up back on the ship around noon. My trip along South Shore took me to the junction of South Shore and Middle Road where I made a U-turn and headed back. Along the way I noticed that the Parakeet Restaurant was still in operation but several other establishments were either gone or I missed them. I did take the opportunity to stop and take some photos of the bays along the way.
As it happened just after I returned the scooter and was walking back to the ship I hear Wendy call out Bill, and there she was with two arm loads of presents for the family.
It was back on board and the ship slipped away at 4pm, leaving behind the warm sunny weather to the cool/cold dreary weather to the north.
Saturday, October 13: A day of cruising and sitting on a wind swept deck in the noticeably cooler and much cloudier weather.
Sunday, October 14: Back and docked in Boston at 8am. U.S. Customs and Immigration were actually onboard for non-US citizens which made that part of exiting much easier. After clearing US Customs it was a quick and easy exit off of the ship, to the shuttle bus and to the car.
Not only did we have trouble finding the parking lot at the beginning of our trip, we also had problems leaving the lot. For some reason our pre-printed parking voucher came up “invalid code” when we tried to exit. After a short delay, and calling on the intercom, an attendant appeared and manually opened the gate. Once we were out and on our way I thought than perhaps, because I had printed out two copies of the voucher the copy may have been what I was using and that is why it came up as invalid. No matter we were on our way. This time along the shortest route which the GPS said would only be about 45 minutes longer that the quickest route.
Crossing the border into Canada at Cornwall was a much quicker experience that exiting in Vermont.
Arriving home we were greeted by the entire family and Heather had prepared a delicious chicken Sunday dinner for us all.
My overall experience of the trip; I would do it all again in a heartbeat, including renting the deluxe scooter. All the Bermudians (Onions) that we had contact with were very friendly and helpful. Bermuda is still a peaceful serene and beautiful laid back island. Except for the old base there was no evidence of garbage or trash anywhere. Even the old base was fairly trash free except for the ruins of the huts.
However, I would not need to go back to Daniel’s Head to see the old base or if I did it would just be a quick stop and not the one hour or so wander around. A trip to St George’s and Hamilton may be missed allowing us the opportunity of visiting one or two of the other historic/tourist places. I missed the Swizzle Inn, and the Mangrove Bay Bar now The Somerset Country Squire Restaurant and Pub perhaps next time?
Lots of photos