Downtime in Bermuda (and Elsewhere)

Sima and Paul
01/19/2008, Bermuda and Turkey


As an introduction, we apologize for switching back in forth between narrators in this entry, but it truly was a joint effort!
Sima and I took some time away from the boat to go and visit first her family in Istanbul and then my family in Boston. We took the easy way – airplane – and are now back on the boat in Bermuda. SIma spent more time in Turkey than was initially planned as she was a bit under the weather. All is well now, and we’re back on the boat preparing for our trip South.
The next stop is Puerto Rico to see Paul’s niece Casey. Timing is such an important factor in these trips. Weather and wind? Nah. Pirates? Nope. Provisioning and fuel? That’s not it either! See, it’ll take about six or seven days to do the trip, and the AFC Championship is this weekend. With a little bit of luck, the Patriots will prevail, and that will put them in the Super Bowl on February 2. Sure, we could listen to the game on Armed Forces Radio on the Single Side Band Radio (that might actually be fun), but we’d rather watch the game on the telly. So we’ll leave after the Pats play the Chargers this weekend, and sometime in the several days after that, when the weather is right, so that we can be in PR before the Super Bowl.

(I hope that no Chargers fans are reading this – our planning based on a Pats win would make excellent bulletin board material to psyche up San Diego, and we wish to avoid that all costs.)

We’ve loved Bermuda, as we’ve said in previous entries. As we’ve noted, Paul’s great ,great, great-grandfather was here 200 years ago as a sailor in the Royal Navy, and we’ve been digging through historical materials in the Bermuda Library, National Archives, and Royal Navy Dockyard to learn more about what his life was like. We’ll save for another blog all that we’ve learned (so that you may skip it or read thoroughly as you may prefer!)
Our visits to these places have led to the development of some wonderful friendships. For example, Roddy McFadden at the National Archives not only spent a good amount of time pulling records for us, he also presented us with three limited edition prints of paintings of the island done about the time that Alexander Robertson was here in the early 19th century. One we gifted to Sima’s parents, one to Paul’s, and the third we’ll keep for ourselves.

At Dockyard (no the, or Naval Dockyard if you want to blend in with the locals), we were initially befriended by Frances and Howard Smith, who live and work on the premises. Talk about a life! Their housing is provided complimentary on Dockyard grounds overlooking the Atlantic. Their home is a converted stable, and is very big and comfortable. Throw open any window and you’re staring across the wind-swept lawns of the dockyard and staring out into the Atlantic. Frances had us over for lunch at her home, and it was wonderful to see more of Bermudian life.

Through Frances and Roddy, we met Ed Harris, the Director of the Bermuda National Maritime Museum. Ed graciously allowed us to meet with him one afternoon before Christmas, and we talked with him at length. We told him about Paul’s ancestor, our interest in Bermuda history, and Paul’s interest in writing on the subject at some point. To say that Ed was helpful would be an understatement. Ed began pulling books off of shelves on relevant topics, and telling us where else we might want to look. To our astonishment, Ed meant not for us to review many of the books he was showing us, but for us to have them. When it was finally time for us to get up and go, and as we struggled under the weight of our satchel full of books, Ed asked us what we were doing for lunch. We were smart enough to say that we had no plans, and Ed promptly invited us to Dockyard Museum Christmas lunch, an intimate gathering back in France’s house. Ed later invited us to a Boxing Day gathering at a friend’s house, where we were able to chat with a number of folks whose families had been on the island for generations.

So while a week before Christmas, we were wondering what we would be doing for the holidays, we ended up having a full calendar of Holiday engagements thanks to all the wonderful people that we met on the island.

We spent the few days leading up to Christmas secretly shopping for gifts for one another. It is difficult to buy and disguise gifts when you are together all the time. There are no real errands that need to be run alone, and hence it is impossible to cover up motives…. But Paul is a great sport about keeping gifts secret and Sima has been learning to be more like him so we worked out a “turn a blind eye” system between the two of us (unlike the old days, when, for example, Sima famously scouted out and found her Valentine’s Day gifts in Paul’s apartment). During these days neither of us offered to help the other with his/her bags for concern that it might have our gifts in it, which would lead to an unnecessary “don’t look in there, that’s a gift!” proclamation.

With all our shopping for Christmas done, we planned to attend a Christmas caroling night at the Mariners Center on Christmas Eve. We were to stop for a beer with Roddy and his friend Paul from the archives before carols and then go home to wrap presents, watch a movie, and eat pizza. Well, we never made it past the pre-caroling beer! One turned into several and we ended up chatting away with our new friends on Christmas Eve, sitting by the waterfront in t-shirts and shorts. On Christmas morning we went to the services at the Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton. (There were only about 30 people in this huge building. We were told that the services at the more distant Catholic Church would be better attended, and that the services on Christmas Eve were typically better attended than Christmas Day. We did, however, get to attend services with Bermuda’s new governor, who’d recently arrived fresh from England following his appointment. Our understanding is that the office of governor is relatively ceremonial.)

We then took a long walk through the streets of Hamilton, which were quite lifeless. It was incredible to compare the streets of Hamilton on Christmas Eve, when many of the shops were still open and hundreds of people bustling about, with the streets on Christmas Day, when there was literally no one and no cars on the entirety of Reid Street, the main drag through downtown.

Back on the boat Sima opened a gift from Paul: snorkel mask. Paul opened a gift from Sima: fins. Sima opened another gift from Paul: fins. He opened another gift from Sima: snorkel mask. Then a snorkel for each — turns out we got each other the same gift! We are looking forward to trying them out in the warm waters of the Caribbean.

After spending some time with family in Turkey and Boston, we are now back in Bermuda. We have a handful of boat projects, nothing too major, and then we are off.

We should mention too that Sima and I are both sporting new haircuts. Sima’s looks good (and very short.) Paul got his haircut by a fellow who maybe hasn’t cut white people’s hair so much in the past, and it is somewhat easy to discern this. Paul likes baseball hats anyways . . . .

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