Swinging into the Holiday Spirit, Bermuda style

12/10/2007, Hamilton, Bermuda


As we were walking back from dinner with Jim Daley the other night, we were commenting at how it was hard to get in the holiday spirit with 70 degree weather. It still is hard. I mean, at Christmas time one expects to be wearing a big coat and hats and mittens, not t-shirts and shorts. I think that to compensate for the warm weather, they make things even more Christmasy here. Or is it simply that Christmas so equals winter in our northern mindsets, that we notice the Christmas decorations less up north and much more so here in the warmth? I’ve stopped trying to figure it out and am simply enjoying being able to see beautifully decorated trees around us without the biting ice cold wind.
One of the best parts of travelling is stumbling upon festivals and traditions that one could only experience by showing up. Such was our good fortune during our first days in Bermuda.
In Bermuda, a land so closely tied to the ocean, Christmas is not Christmas without the annual boat parade. Since we arrived at Customs, we’ve been told numerous times that on Saturday, the boat parade takes place in Hamilton. I was expecting some boats with a few strings of lights, and then we saw Alan, the dockmaster at the Fairmont, working on his entry. This was no economical usage of light bulbs. Alan had designed and created a Bermuda triangle on the side of the hotel’s 50 foot yacht. There was a huge triangle with alternating white and blue led lights, a monster on the bottom of the triangle, and planes and ships getting sucked into the triangle from both sides. We watched Alan and his crew work on the installation all day Friday, and finally after the sun went down, they were able to test it. It was fantastic! The alternating lights on the triangle gave the impression that it was drawing you in, the ships and the planes on either side of the triangle lit up as they got sucked in and the monster / devil (Bermuda Triangle is also called the Devil’s Triangle, hence the devil) had twenty or so tentacles that moved as the light changed colors. Watching this display come to life, if this were only one entry, we could not wait to see the rest of the show!
While getting our boat ready to leave the dock that day, we met a gentleman who came by and asked us the same “So did you sail here from Boston?” question. Well, he was no random passer-by. Turned out that John was from Boston and lived in the South End. That is when he lived there. Now as the General Manager of the Fairmont, he was living in Bermuda with his wife and kids and quickly getting used to the temperate weather. We played the name game with bars and restaurants in the South End for a bit, and he told us about the boat parade and invited us to watch it from the hotel. Now I was getting excited! The hotel is supposed to be the center of the activity for this Parade. The judges sit on the dock and the boats cater to them, and also the surrounding spectators. There would be a band and an ensuing party Alan and John both assured us.
We moved Leander to an anchorage across the bay from the hotel, behind a White’s Island in the early afternoon. By the time the sun set, the bay filling with boats, large and small, with all sorts of lighted decorations on them. A sort of Rose Bowl parade on the water, with lights substituting for flowers. Chris, Paul, and I took our dinghy to the back of the hotel where we found a spot to tie off and walk practically right into the hotel. In the front lawn of the hotel, overlooking the boats getting read y to start the parade, was a crowd of people hanging out. Kids were running around, parents saving seats for everyone for the show. Amid the Christmas music playing in the lawn, we settled with our drinks to watch the parade. It was such a spectacle!
Some of the corporate sponsored boats were over the top. 80 footers with billboard sized cartoon figures stretching a couple of stories high. There was a boat decorated with Santa gone Fishing, a boat with Tweety and Sylvester, one with a flying Pegasus, complete with flapping wings. And then there was the Bacardi sponsored schooner with a Bacardi logo and a birthday cake for the parade celebrating its 10th anniversary. There was a barge on which a 20ft pirate stood, complete with parrot on the shoulder and canons and other pirates running around deck. There was a yellow submarine (how could they not play the Beatles as it passed?!), and there was a sailboat that look like a merry-go-round, with the mast being the stick on which an enormous horse was connected. There were so many huge, larger-than-life displays of light that one could not help but smile as they passed. Paul took some pictures and some video of the parade, which we’ll post, but it will be hard to replicate the experience.
The Pirate barge won the competition, and we headed to join friends at the bar for food an drink. Food was forgotten and we spent the next many hours telling and listening to stories among good friends from Sedona, contemplating the meaning of “three sheets to the wind.” It wasn’t before 2 a.m. that we made it back to the boat, keeping Chris safely aboard, a failed headstand in the dinghy notwithstanding. (“No Chris, you should not jump in to get that glow stick floating in the harbor!”) As we went to bed, Paul decried, “Anyone who wakes up before Noon will be thrown overboard!” As it turned out, no one was punished.

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