After Robin’s brief passage through Town Cut, the duty officer gave me landmarks to direct me to the customs office, the mandatory first stop. As I recall, it was behind a “colonial-type building,” a description not completely helpful given my lack of architectural acumen. However, I did find the customs dock, and in a trance induced by my time at sea I was able to complete the paperwork in about five minutes, with the help of a patient and polite woman. This would be my first of many encounters with the genuine hospitality of the islanders.
Then I motored my Westsail 32 east across the harbor and anchored off the St. George’s Dinghy & Sports Club in about 15 feet of water with a good-holding bottom. The cost of parking your boat ranges from free on up. The club, which hosted our race, charges $1.50 a foot to use its dock; there is no charge for anchoring. Cruisers are welcome except when a race is in progress. This is a working-man’s club with showers, laundry, free wireless Internet and a bar.
At the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, halfway down the island chain, the facilities are more upscale, and the rate for a slip is around $3 a foot. There also are some marinas, and dock space can be rented in St. George’s at the town docks when the cruise ships aren’t moored there. Some who visit Bermuda by boat want lodging ashore rather than remaining aboard during their stay. The options range from in-law apartments to posh beachfront hotels.
Monica, my wife, met me in Bermuda. The plan was for her to arrive seven days after I left Newport, R.I., and to join me on the boat until we raced back to Newport together. (For those who are unfamiliar with the Bermuda One-Two, the passage from Newport to Bermuda is sailed single-handed, the return double-handed.) But I was late arriving, so she booked a room at the Royal Palms Hotel in Hamilton. The rooms are in cottages and two former manor houses, and there is an open-sided restaurant where you can eat the complimentary breakfast of scones, fresh fruit and an assortment of meats and eggs while tropical birds fly in and out. Lush gardens of frangipani, oleander and bougainvillea surround the hotel. There is no beach view because you are on a residential side street of the city. The room rate was $375 a night — not exactly Motel 6. The $500 rooms are in the beachfront hotels.
In season, the more affordable accommodations frequently are booked well in advance. “You really should do your homework” if you want a place to stay on land, says Eric Johnson, an Annapolis, Md., sailor who has cruised to Bermuda seven times. “It’s not too early to do it a year in advance, especially in the summer. If you think you’re early, you’re not.”
Johnson stays in one of the private homes near the center of St. George’s and says he pays $85 a night for a room with a kitchenette and laundry facilities. He suggests talking with sailors who have raced to Bermuda to learn about inexpensive private accommodations.
I joined Monica at the Royal Palms the night I arrived in Bermuda. The following morning, we returned to St. George’s on one of the islands’ reliable pink buses, and then hiked back to Robin. There we met fellow racer Peter McCrea, who suggested we rent a motor scooter. It was good advice. The cost was $178 for four days — the time we had left in Bermuda. We quickly adapted to driving on the left side of the narrow, winding roads, and our exploration of the islands began.
Scents and colors
In four days, one can only hope to begin absorbing the beauty of the place in its broadest strokes. I am left with the colors, the cleanliness and the congeniality of the people. We scootered to the beaches along the southern coast, where the sand, indeed, has a pink hue and the coral formations are breathtaking. We paid $16 each — U.S. dollars are interchangeable with Bermuda dollars — to tour Crystal Caves, a limestone formation fed directly be seawater. One day, we boarded a high-speed ferry in St. George’s to take in the Navy Dockyards at the far end of the islands, an historic fortification maintained as a museum, embraced by places for tourists to spend money.