Friday, May 20, 2016

Out and about in Bermuda

We went to visit Fort St. Catherine, that was built on the northeast coast of Bermuda. It was built right next to the beach where the first settlers came ashore in 1609 when their boat was shipwrecked.  The settlers were bound for Jamestown, Virginia, the leader Sir George Somers claimed the island for Britain and it was settled permanently three years later. 
There are lots of forts built around the island to ward off the Spanish and French. The guns at St. Catherine's were never fired in anger! Throughout the centuries regiments of British soldiers toiled endlessly, doing drills, firing, cleaning and moving cannons, eating very bad food. At one time the island was known for yellow fever and many died of dysentery. 
Walking around in the keep, where the munitions were stored was quite the experience. In this dark place one small spark could set off and explosion.  There were special lanterns constructed so that no one would get blown up and the floors were covered in wood so that no sparks would be set off by boots on the stone floor. 

Barry lined up this fast ferry in his sights!!
    This battery guards the main entrance into St. George's Harbour, where we are anchored. 

Yesterday we took the bus down to the other end of the island to "The Dockyard". This is where the British navy worked to repair it's warships through the centuries. The Dockyard was built first by slaves and then by prisoners. Once the jails in England were full in the 19th century, (you could be jailed for minor thefts, such as stealing a loaf of bread, or just for being Irish), they shipped the prisoners out of the country and one of the places they ended up was Bermuda. It was often a stopping place before being sent to Australia. ANYWAY, these prisoners constructed the Dockyard. They lived on rotting hulks of old slavers. These boats were no longer seaworthy but sat in the harbour with no masts or sails on them and were used to house the prisoners. 
It is quite an impressive place, and where 200 years ago the wooden caravels would have been docked the cruise ship stop. The Governor General's house stood atop the hill overlooking the yard and it now houses a very comprenhensive museum. 
I just loved some of the beautiful furniture that remains in the house. The tables are made out of mahogany and the richness of the wood just shone. Notice the watercolours of ships hung around the room, the beautiful chandelier, and the wonderful carpet. 
Today we are staying put on the boat.  There is a big blow out there and it is raining off and on. There was a near miss this morning as a boat dragged her anchor and got very close to one of our neighbours, always very worrying. Another boat came in from the ocean with their yellow quarantine flag flying, being pushed around by a tow boat, obviously their motor was out of commssion. There was a boat that came in yesterday in the same condition, no motor, but because of the different wind conditions, she was able to sail in and set anchor while under sail, always a pleasure to watch that being done well.  In the last few days we have met two groups of people and invited them onboard, it is always great to hear other's stories and share our home with them.