How do we love thee Bermuda? Let us count the ways.
Reasons 1 to 6 were written by Elizabeth Jones, Reasons 7 to 13 were written by Cassandra Ortega, Annabel Cooper writes Reasons 14 to 22. Reason 23 is written by Ras Mykkal and Bermemes writes Reasons 24 and 25. Colin Campbell writes Reasons 26 and 27 and finally Reasons 28 to 39 were written by W. C. Stevenson
1. Bermuda Nights
While Bermuda has long been praised for the vibrant brilliance of its daytime colours, it also has nighttime charms with special sound effects. Nightlife starts with the sunset, often a dramatic affair when the sun sinks fast, painting the sea and towering clouds in a blaze of splendour. Then the blue of sea and sky darkens, and the greens of Spanish bayonet, palmetto and palm shrink into spiky and fringed outlines, transporting us into a world of silhouette. Our smaller islands and rocky outcrops rise out of the water, taking on mysterious, shadowy shapes. One star appears in the darkening blue, then another and another until the unpolluted sky becomes a studded atlas for stargazers to follow. From time to time, the lights of planes and satellites float their way through the stars. On moonlit nights, Earth’s satellite slowly rises, bathing the earth in soft white light.
Sunset over, the birds fall quiet. But with the first star comes the insistent chirp of the first whistling tree frog. As the stars increase, so do the tree frogs, filling the air with their soprano chorus. No wonder many Bermudian children never forget the story their mothers told them: “You cannot see the tree frogs at night but their song is the sound of the stars twinkling.”
2. North Shore versus South Shore
One huge advantage to living in Bermuda is we’re never more than a ten-minute walk away from a view of the ocean. Curving into harbours and beaches, jutting in and out of promontories and inlets, our coastline is pleasingly varied. But our longest stretches, the north shore and the south shore, typify the contrasts in our shorelines, each having its individual character and its loyal supporters. On the north shore the reef is further out, offering more protection. The water tends to be calmer and more glitteringly turquoise though on windy days white horses race in. Lovers of the north shore say the view is more active altogether because of more frequent boating activity and because of the cruise ships gliding past on their way to or from Dockyard. It’s also more panoramic, so that at certain points you can see both Dockyard and St. George’s. True, numerous pastel houses and small businesses make the north shore more urban in character, particularly as there are fewer beaches. But they also make it more intimately in touch with locals who dive or drop fishing lines from the rocky shore or potter with boats on the docks. The north shore is more intimate, too, with Bermuda’s history. The Railway Trail follows the coastline, reminding us of the days when the train rattled over bridges and trestles, and before that, when shipwrights let ring their caulking mallets on the boat slips dotted on this side of Bermuda.
The South Shore National Park, on the other hand, is loved for its chain of mostly undeveloped beaches, whose sands consist of a trillion tiny skeletons, including those of foraminifer, tiny one-celled red animals tinging our beaches with pink. Here the coast takes the form of a jagged line of Aeolian limestone cliffs, home to our longtails, pelagic birds swooping in and out of the shoreline during their courting and nesting months. Here, too, the brown-crusted reefs surrounding us are more visible so that their dark shadowy underwater shapes contrast with the medley of blues characteristic of the south shore—sometimes the sea is sapphire and diamonds, sometimes more turquoise and emerald, sometimes all four at once. On calm, balmy days, the waves softly hiss but when storms approach their deep, rumbling roar is our first warning. The sea is no less beautiful for that: the waves pound furiously in, crashing on the reef in a frenzy of dazzling, white foam. It’s not surprising, then, Bermudians living abroad agree the thing they miss most is the sea, in all its colours and moods.
3. Bermuda Loquats
Bermudians so love their loquats it’s impossible to imagine what they did without them before Governor Reid introduced these fruit trees from China in 1850. Every late winter, early spring, pear-shaped yellow to orange fruits start to appear and children start to disappear, so enticed are they by the prospect of free luscious snacks. In fact, formerly a high-school teacher in Bermuda, this writer during a February nature walk once lost the entire male section of her class to the loquats and has never recovered from the trauma since. Even adults lose their sense of propriety when lured by these golden fruits. Never mind if they’re growing on someone else’s property—they’re there to be eaten, right? Spitting out the shiny brown seeds is also part of the pleasure. Besides, it helps nature along: the trees have no problem reseeding.
The more industrious of us pick loquats to make chutneys, jellies and jams, allowing us a year-round taste of their tart sweetness. Pickled with rock candy in rum for six months, they also make Bermuda Gold, an excellent liqueur. However, it has to be said the children are right. Nothing beats eating the loquat straight from the tree.
4. St. George’s or The Town of St. George
St. Georgians have long known their town is unique. That’s why few of them will consider leaving the old capital, let alone Bermuda. So while they appreciated the honour, they were not surprised when St. George’s, together with its related fortifications, was designated in the year 2000 a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “outstanding universal value.” Founded in 1612, the oldest English speaking colonial town still in existence, St. George’s has literally cast Bermuda’s cultural history into stone, the town, contrasting today with the modern metropolis the City of Hamilton has become. The rough tracks trodden by the first settlers slowly became the quaint, walled winding lanes we know today, so quiet at night you can hear the patter of footsteps, the creaking of bamboo and the rustle of palmetto. At the same time, the first palmetto-thatched dwellings of the seventeenth century gave way to eighteenth-century residences and St. Peter’s Church, built out of hand-quarried Bermuda stone and famous for their architectural simplicity. Today, St. George’s buildings continue to delight us with their white stepped bumpy roofs, pastel walls and enormous chimneys. So do the town’s gardens, both private and public, tucked away in nooks and crannies, hidden behind walls and edged by stone steps. Even the place names bring back the past. Many are dubbed after royalty, thanks to an ardent royalist mayor, the Worshipful John Van Norden, who in 1818 began the trend by naming streets after the reigning King George III, his wife and his children. And so we have King’s Square, Princess Street, Queen Street, Duke of Clarence Street and Duke of York Street. Other names are more picturesque. Silk Alley or Petticoat Lane off Queen Street, for example, commemorates two girls, whose silk underskirts swished as they walked to church for the first Emancipation Day service, August 1, 1834. Featherbed Alley is named after a goose-down mattress, a luxury household item for the wealthiest townsfolk in the colony’s early days. Apparently, a wife living on the alley had a quarrel with her husband and threw him out. Happily, Bermuda’s balmy climate allowed him an easy solution. He took their mattress out of the house so he could comfortably sleep on the street, thus adding to the many stories we love to discover in the alleys and lanes of old St. George’s.
5. Good Friday
You have to love Bermuda because it has to be the only country in the world where you get to have a good time on Good Friday. That’s not because the significance of the day is ignored. On the contrary, the churches islandwide are filled with congregations commemorating the Passion of Christ.
But for children, especially, the day means flying kites, the construction of which is symbolic of the crucifixion. According to local legend, a Sunday school teacher decided to demonstrate Christ’s ascension to heaven by creating and flying a kite which included crossed sticks to represent Christ’s cross. And so ever since on Good Friday, kites can be seen and heard fluttering and humming all over Bermuda, particularly on the south shore’s Horseshoe Bay where the annual Kite Festival is held.
In recent years many of the kites are bought but there are still significant numbers of homemade ones. Kite makers today create hexagon- or octagon-shaped kites with pine sticks and sheets of coloured tissue paper, adding hummers and tails made out of bed sheets cut into strips. The results can be aesthetically beautiful. However, older Bermudians remember a more frugal time when they used old brown paper bags and fennel sticks to craft the kites, the only constants between old and new materials being the sheet strips and the string used for launching.
Another important part of the Good Friday public holiday is food. As is common elsewhere, hot cross buns are served and fish is the order of the day. (It’s bad luck, by the way, for fishermen to go to sea on Good Friday.) But the Bermudian twist is that fish is most often served in the form of homemade codfish cakes placed inside the buns, often accompanied by banana, hardboiled eggs and baked beans cooked with chopped bacon, chopped onion and molasses or ketchup. The fishcakes themselves are basically made with a mixture of salted codfish, cooked after being soaked in water overnight, mashed potato, chopped onion and parsley, and thyme. However, the ratio of potato to fish and the addition of other ingredients such as chopped bacon, celery or curry powder can cause local debate, though everyone agrees thyme is vital. The mixture, bound by a beaten egg, is formed into cakes which are then coated with flour and fried in oil until golden brown. Quantities of white wine for the adults help the fare go down. Dark ’n Stormys don’t hurt, either.
6. Bermuda Cedar
Take any piece of Juniperus bermudiana, even one that has been immersed in water for thousands of years, inhale its woody cedar fragrance and experience an essence of Bermuda we’d hate to do without. For centuries the Bermuda cedar played a huge part in our history. It was the tree of choice for hanging the church bell. Its berries were fermented to make alcohol. But most importantly, its wood was used to craft our first houses, our forts, and during the age of sail, our sloops and schooners, renowned for their speed, nimbleness and durability. Indeed, such was the demand for our cedar, by the 1680s the forests were almost entirely decimated. Bermudians then began to reserve land for woodland, planting cedars instead of tobacco, while at the same time passing conservation laws to prevent the destruction of young trees. Owning cedars was a sign of financial success, as John Crevecoeur pointed out when he visited in 1784: “The cultivation of red cedar is their principal interest and their great wealth. A girl’s fortune is counted by the number of cedars—that of my hostess had been two thousand, seven hundred.” By the eighteenth century, houses were made of stone but cedar was still used for window frames, doors and shutters. It was also used by skilled cabinet makers to create furniture of all kinds though perhaps the most iconic is the Bermuda cedar chest useful for storing linens and clothes. Many Bermudian families own cedar chests passed down to them through the generations.
When steam took over from sail and tourism developed, so did the demand for locally handmade cedar mementos—friendship goblets, for instance, jewellery boxes, canes, bookends and bag handles. During the 1940s our trees were once again threatened by a cedar blight which decimated some 99 percent of them over the course of ten years. However, replanting cedars resistant to the scale has proved successful. Our cedars are coming back. Today, cedar furniture is not as fashionable as it once was but heirlooms are still cherished, while cedar items held in our museums, government buildings and churches are treasured for their artistry and historic significance. Cedar plaques and gifts continue to be popular. Woodworkers still prize the wood for its red colour, fragrance and grain, particularly the scarce “bird’s eye” grain, beloved by sculptors. But, perhaps as our ancestors did before us, we love our cedars most of all for their dusky beauty and for the shade they give us from the heat of the sun.
7. We Are Still a British Colony
Despite having its own unique culture Bermuda has always been influenced by British customs, thanks to its lasting status as a colony. Perhaps no other place in the world enjoys Bermuda’s distinct blend of British, American, and local culture.
8. The Gombeys
An intrinsic element of Bermudian culture with a deep history, Gombeys can be heard on various occasions but especially on public holidays, such as Boxing Day. Those who live near their practicing areas can hear the whistles and the rhythm of the drums as the Gombeys rehearse.
9. We Take Pride in Our Flag
Bermudians have always been an example of patriotism. Our pride in our island can be seen in many ways, but especially in the reverence we have for our flag.
10. Cassava Pie
There is nothing more Bermudian than cassava pie at Christmas. This unusual dish—a sweet, spicy cake with a filling of either chicken or pork—is as essential to a local Christmas dinner as the turkey itself. This unique dish dates back to the early 1600s and has since become a quintessential Bermudian tradition.
11. Codfish Breakfast
Another tradition that originated with the early settlers is the ever-popular codfish breakfast. Whether you like your salted cod with bananas and melted butter, tomato sauce and potatoes or hard-boiled eggs, this meal is as unique as any Bermudian custom.
12. Easter Lilies
One of the finest flowering plants ever to be introduced to Bermuda is the Easter lily. Each spring, the blooms are admired by visitors and enjoyed by locals for their sweet scent and beautiful appearance. Even Her Majesty the Queen receives a bouquet of Easter lilies from Bermuda each year. This sweet element of the island’s culture has become as beloved as Easter itself.
Known as “Bermuda’s traditional harbingers of spring,” Longtails are representative of Bermuda and all its natural beauty. Longtails…
• return to the island each year in late February or early March to breed, and usually lay their eggs in April
• perform an elaborate aerial courtship, with the male and female birds flying together and touching their tails
• have a nesting population of 2,000–3,000 breeding birds in Bermuda, believed to be the largest in the Atlantic, making it vitally important for the survival of the species
• lay only one egg per nesting
• return to the same site year after year, with each bird always reuniting with the same mate
14. Local Farmers
Any produce that has not had to travel thousands of miles in refrigerated containers is tastier, more nutritious and better for the environment. However, every time my “garden crops” end in failure, I am reminded that farming is hard work for little reward, but Bermuda’s farmers do it anyway. Thank you! The popularity of the Saturday morning farmers’ market and the queues at roadside stalls show that the demand for buying food locally is there, and I can see—and taste—why. Just one nibble of a freshly picked strawberry that hasn’t seen the inside of a fridge and you will never be able to enjoy an imported supermarket offering again. The basil smells sweeter, the tomatoes are juicier, the onions have more flavour, and what is it about buying carrots with stalks all tied together as a bunch? They just look like carrots are supposed to look.
15. Graham Foster’s History Lesson in a Mural
If a picture is worth a thousand words, I wonder how many trees could have been saved if all the world’s historians were as creative and talented as Graham Foster—not to mention how many more of us might study the subject! Hidden away in a stairwell of the Commissioner’s House in Dockyard, is Bermuda’s answer to the Bayeux Tapestry and Sistine Chapel: The Hall of History. In just one thousand square feet, Foster illustrates five centuries of Bermudian history—shipwrecks, settlers, capital punishment and the horrific slave trade flow into oceanic discoveries, architectural development, political events, the arrival of tourists and the advance of modern transportation and international business. All this via depictions of folklore and tradition. The mural took an astonishing seven thousand hours to complete and was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in November 2009. Thanks to Foster, there is no need for any of us to sit and study pages and pages of tiny black text to learn how our colourful island came to be what it is today. And that’s another thing… the colours!
16. Tag Days
I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that there seem to be so many tag days in Bermuda. On the one hand, it makes me sad that there are so many causes in need, but on the other, people’s determination to do something about that is another reason to love Bermuda. It doesn’t matter if you are jamming in a $20 note or just a few coins left over from your grocery shop, the person handing out the tags will be equally grateful that you stopped at all. After all, every penny helps!
17. The View from the Lighthouse
There are views and there are views, and in Bermuda we are spoilt for choice. If you are prepared to climb the 185 steps to the top of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse however, you will, once you have caught your breath, be able to enjoy a view of virtually the entire island in all its glory. The lighthouse, which is one of the few in the world made from cast iron, began beaming its light on May 1, 1846. The beam can be seen by ships 40 miles away and has saved many vessels from wreckage in the 172 years that it has been in operation.
18. Bermuda Shorts
Wander the streets of any major city in the world during rush hour and chances are you won’t be able to see the black for the grey. Head into Hamilton after May 24 on the other hand and you will need your sunglasses not just to protect your eyes from the sun but also from the blindingly wonderful colours of the shorts you will encounter. In Bermuda, you can’t see the black for the bright yellows, pinks, turquoises, blues or reds. How jealous the visiting male insurance executives must be as they sweat their way through town when they could be enjoying a light breeze entering via the knees.
19. We Introduced America to Tennis
The United States may be able to boast having the most championship winners, but it might never have been the case were it not for Bermuda and Mary Ewing Outerbridge. Born in Philadelphia to Bermudian parents, she discovered the game at Clermont in Paget in 1874. She enjoyed it so much that she took rackets, balls and a net back to the US and set up the country’s first tennis court on Staten Island.
20. The Aquarium (BAMZ)
Bermuda’s Aquarium, Museum & Zoo has an impressive variety of land and ocean species; after all, how many other small island nations are home to two Galapagos tortoises? You can also admire large and small turtles, seals, flamingos, an alligator (when he deigns to come up onto the land) and hundreds of other birds and animals from all over the world. The Museum has fascinating exhibitions about the island’s natural history, and there’s a children’s playground and a café with unrivalled views of Harrington Sound. My personal favourite, particularly during a hot summer’s day, is to wander the air-conditioned halls of the fish tanks admiring the crazy looking lionfish and the reef shark that hangs out in the North Rock tank at the end.
For fun on the water, BAMZ has its own boat, RV Endurance, captained by the extremely knowledgeable Nigel Pollard who can take you whale watching, for a glow worm sighting, snorkelling or just a simple cruise.
Look a little further, however, and you realise that BAMZ, and its support charity The Bermuda Zoological Society, is not just a fun day out for all the family. It’s a vital educational resource that is also responsible for some of the restoration and conservation of Bermuda’s land and ocean, and the animal, bird and aquatic species that live there. It is home to sick and injured turtles, and the Bermuda Turtle Project has captured, tagged and released over 3,500 endangered green turtles as part of its mission to conserve them through research and education. Other such projects include those for the humpback whale, toad, shark, cahow and Bermuda’s reef system in general.
There are also outstanding educational programmes for children, as young as four years old, which make me green with envy when I think how unexciting my lessons were in a boring old school classroom. My young children have fed turtles, touched snakes, think David Wingate is a hero and pick up every single little piece of plastic they find on the ground.
21. Front Street
What’s not to love about a waterfront high street where even the yellow-painted public bathrooms are adorned with a floral mural and Bermuda flag? It has wonderful quirks, including the Bird Cage, and if you are stuck behind a car that randomly stopped in the middle of the road because its owner didn’t want to pull in or spotted someone they know, you can look across the harbour and count the number of pink and yellow houses overlooking Harbour Road.
22. Golf Courses
You can’t fail to impress your golf-loving guests with a round on one of Bermuda’s above-par courses. Amazingly, our tiny, densely populated island is home to no less than seven pristine golf courses. In addition to the beautifully kept greens, there is usually an equally beautiful ocean view your opponent is so busy admiring they’re bound not to notice you hacking up the ground, missing completely or giving your ball an extra “nudge”!
23. We Give the Best Nicknames by Ras Mykkal
Bermudian nicknames are legendary—and unique. One day someone calls you “Bungy” after a game of marbles and that’s it, you have a nickname for life, right up to—and most importantly—your obituary in the Royal Gazette.
What makes Bermudian nicknames so unique is that they are often derived from an event in that person’s life or some type of behavior pattern. Also common is acquiring a nickname from some physical feature such as height, size or skin colour. For example, if a friend thinks you have an unusually big head, they may start calling you “Heads,” “Globe,” “World” or even “Earthy” and chances are one will stick like glue. If your skin is really dark, “Blackie” may be too easy, so “Beetle” or “Whitey” may be chosen. We Bermudians love our nicknames—the funnier, the better—and we are the only place in the world where you can acquire an unusual nickname with an interesting story to go with it. Some of my favourites are: “Scrap Iron,” “Bumphead” and “Ham Bone.”
24. We Have Our Own Bermudian Verds and Accent
She dun matta’ wedda ya rahn ya boys gates chopsin bout ya day or gon take a quick mission up de country fa ah lil greeze. One ding you lot vill fall in love wiff on de rock is de vay we pass on ah stories… It may take like twenny minz to tell you ah shree minit story, she’s def worth de vait tho, bah… And if you ank cawt inna mice mid-story, lissen real close cuz you ca kinda tell ah Bermudian’s age jus by de vay you hurr de generations tawk in de w’s and de v’s (and what rodent ya got rahn back).
Translation: It doesn’t matter whether you’re over a friend’s home discussing your day or taking a quick trip across Bermuda for food, you will fall in love with the way we pass our stories on. Although it may take a while to tell them, it’s definitely worth the wait. Also, if you aren’t daydreaming, listen closely….you can in many ways tell a Bermudian’s age by their particular use of Bermudian vernacular within the w’s and the v’s (and what type of bike you have parked behind your house).
25. We Take Pride in What Part of the Island We Are From
If someone asks “Whooze ya peeples?” or even “Whurr you from?” Bermudians aren’t exactly trying to be pokey (joking, we are), but we are such a close-knit community that we can often tell your whole bloodline, or identify friend and/or family in common, just by your response. Where a Bermudian hails from on the island can tell you a lot about who they are, what families they belong to and what their history is. And even as people grow up and leave home, many still stay in the same parish. Most Somerset families have been living up God’s Country for generations, St George’s people rarely cross the bridge except to commute, and don’t get us started on St David’s people never leaving their corner of the island. With nine distinct parishes in only twenty-one square miles, our clans tend to stick together generation after generation, even developing unique traditions, skills and family cultures that are passed down. In some places, even the accent differs just a little, and that’s what makes us all Bermudaful!
26. The Genius of Catching Water off Our Roofs
Everyone who visits our island knows Bermuda is renowned for our friendly people, gorgeous beaches, pastel-coloured homes and white roofs. While the majority of Bermuda’s attributes are self-explanatory, many tourists ask why we have white roofs with built-in steps. To understand this, we need to go back a few hundred years.
With no rivers, streams or other fresh water vessels, the early settlers to Bermuda came up with the most ingenious idea ever known to man. (OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still incredibly clever.) That, of course, is the ability to harvest rain by way of our roofs.
How does it work? Simple.
Rain water hits the lapped or weathered slate profile roof that has a step-like appearance.
The water then trickles down and is caught at the bottom of the steps by the rainwater glide or gutter.
The glide/gutter escorts the water flow into the rainwater leader or downspout
Water from the downspout is safely delivered to concrete water tanks. Depending on the age of your home, water tanks can be found either underneath or beside every home in Bermuda.
What’s with the steps? In early construction days, the slate that was used to build Bermuda roofs overlapped one another and presented a step-like appearance. Not only was it proven to be aesthetically pleasing, it also determined the lapping (or step) formation which slowed down the flow of heavy rainfall, making for efficient water collection.
Why white? Bermuda roofs are made of limestone, which is white in colour. In the past, lime mortar was used; however these days, roofs are painted with a lime-based whitewash. White is also the most logical colour to reflect sunlight and deter heat from penetrating the house.
Can salt water enter your tank? Not your typical daily issue, but it does present a challenge during a hurricane. Whether you live oceanfront or more inland, hurricane force winds can kick up their fair share of salt water. To prevent salt water from contaminating water tanks, locals employ an old tactic. The size of the leader (or downspout) mouth is roughly the same size as your average tennis ball. The trick is to stuff a tennis ball in a sock, wrap it tightly and place in on top of the leader to completely cover the hole. It works like a charm.
You could say Bermudians are pioneers of water conservation. Catching rainwater is also very economical. The average water tank in homes across Bermuda, holds between 15K–20K gallons of water. The average cost of getting water delivered to your home is just under $100 for 900 gallons. While visitors to the island may not embrace rain on their vacation, Bermudians typically greet “tank rain” with open arms and closed wallets. It truly is our liquid sunshine!
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27. Our Houses Are Built to Withstand Hurricanes
With three direct hits in four years, Bermuda is no stranger to tropical cyclones. But despite enduring the fury of Category 3 and Category 4 storms delivering relentless pounding of hurricane force winds, the vast majority of homes across the island have continued to remain intact and in place.
While is it virtually impossible to build a house that is 100 percent hurricane proof (especially in the middle of the Atlantic), Bermuda does have a reputation for remarkable designs of resilient infrastructure that could withstand whatever “blows” happened to appear on our shores.
Most of the original Bermuda buildings were constructed with relatively lightweight wood post and beam structures, a masonry paste infill walls and thatched palmetto leaf roofs. Following two major hurricanes in 1712 and 1714, which flattened all but the stone buildings constructed on the island up to that time, Bermudians realised the long-term benefits, despite immediate cost, of Bermuda stone construction. Early colonists who were also indentured workers were required to contribute two days’ labour per week to assist the development of the colony. These works included the creation of bridges, roads, public buildings and fortifications. Thus the skills required to work with Bermuda stone were quickly absorbed and translated into many domestic and commercial structures. These structures established the standard for durability as well as a new endemic architectural pattern that would last until the mid-twentieth century.
A building boom that began in the 1950s and continued through the 1970s saw more homes built during this period than in any other in Bermuda’s 300-plus-year history. A consequent shortage of Bermuda stone led to the widespread use of concrete block as an alternative, and local builders were quick to adopt innovative construction techniques, including the use of concrete and steel framed buildings developed during the tenure of the British and American military bases.
New materials attempting to respond to years of successful local performance knowledge required new building standards that would ensure safety of the structures while retaining the essential “Bermudian” character.
So whatever blows our way, Bermudians can trust the design and build of their homes. In many cases it is the safest place to be during a hurricane. If you’re really fortunate, you may even retain power throughout the storm. What better way to continue the traditional hurricane parties!
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28. Lobster Season
For the luddites among us who still have a calendar hanging in the kitchen, there’s a big red circle around September 1st—the magical first day of lobster season. After five long months of waiting, Bermudians take to the reefs in droves to snag a succulent spiny lobster. For some it’s an atavistic exercise in hunting expertise. For others, it’s a humble reminder that you wouldn’t be much good as a castaway on a desert island. Of course not everyone wants to go searching holes in a reef to find their dinner. Far easier to just buy one on the side of the road or at the grocery store.
Down here we simply call them “bugs,” but due to its difference from the archetypal Maine lobster, the spiny lobster is also called a “rock lobster” by some—like the B-52s for example. Fun fact: John Lennon credits that B-52’s song with reigniting his career post-Beatles. He was on holiday here in Bermuda with his beloved Yoko when he first heard the song.
“I was at a dance club one night in Bermuda,” he told Rolling Stone in 1980. “Upstairs, they were playing disco, and downstairs I suddenly heard ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B-52s for the first time. It sounds just like Yoko’s music, so I said to meself, ‘It’s time to get out the old ax and wake the wife up!’” OK, OK, back to the subject at hand.
How you cook up your lobster is completely up to you, but I recommend listening to celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who prefers a less traditional approach.
“I think curry and thermidor is an excellent start,” he says, “But then I think what you should be doing is thinking about the next day. First of all, the shell, don’t throw them out. Take that curry sauce, bring the shells to a boil, strain it and then you have a great curry lobster soup for the next day
29. Fish Sandwiches
O fish sandwich, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee when my hands cannot contain
The overflowing majesty that brought you fame,
And fortune for us that deliver your grace.
I love thee when lunch cannot come sooner,
In daydreams at my desk at half past eleven.
I love thee freely, like God up in heaven.
I love thee purely, like a Sunday nap.
I love thee with the passion Kanye loves himself,
And Kim Kardashian loves attention.
I love thee with a love I thought I never would,
Despite my wider waist. I love thee with tartar,
Tabasco, all my life; and, if I could choose,
Though impossible, I’d love thee even harder.
30. A Cricket Game Is a Four Day Holiday
Sure, cricket enjoys a fan base of around 2.5 billion people around the world. Sure, plenty of countries suffer from cricket mania. But nobody does it quite like we do. For two days the entire island ventures forth to drink, gamble and generally act the fool in honour of our island’s longest and greatest sporting tradition.
The first cricket game was played in Bermuda in 1846 between British soldiers in St. George’s and Royal Navy sailors stationed in Dockyard. The game quickly caught on with the local black population who found myriad ways to play despite lacking the proper equipment.
At some point in the late 1800s—nobody really knows when—the St. George’s and Somerset clubhouses of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows—associations formed by black Bermudians in the face of segregation—began holding cricket matches as part of an annual picnic in celebration of Emancipation Day. It was a friendly affair at first, but year after year it only grew in popularity until cricket was the primary focus of the day’s festivities.
A first-hand account of the atmosphere during these days was recorded by local writer Nellie Musson, who described the transition from an informal game to a proper competition.
“The women cooked the food and served lunches. This included the Emancipation Day special of roast duck and rice pudding with added portions of carrot bread and baked pumpkin or pumpkin stew. Homemade soft drinks which were served unsparingly included ginger beer and root beer.
“Everyone enjoyed the outing so very much that the idea for an annual cricket game was formed. The popularity of the game grew and became a two-day event. Women followed the men, taking their entire families and sometimes staying overnight, sleeping in carriages, trolley carts, and makeshift tents.”
The first official Cup Match would eventually be held in 1902, where all-black teams from the St. George’s and Somerset cricket clubs put together a prize purse and purchased a silver cup. But Cup Match’s designation as a national holiday was still a long way away.
Despite this, black Bermudians took the Thursday and Friday of Cup Match off anyway—a tradition that began long before the competition itself came around. With the addition of the annual cricket match, Emancipation Day and Cup Match became one and the same. It wasn’t until 1946 that the government finally gave up and formally declared Cup Match and Emancipation Day a national two-day holiday.
During its formative years, Cup Match was always at the home field of the current victors. That was later changed so that the Cup holders could only host for two years in a row, before it was eventually decided that the venue should alternate on a yearly basis.
Today Cup Match represents the biggest cultural event on the Bermudian calendar, one that celebrates both sport and Bermudians’ emancipation from slavery. We’ve seen epic matches and even more epic nicknames through the years, some more memorable than others. There was Bummy, Bunny, Friday, and Dicty Bunkers, Bo Jangles, Johnny Cake and Poach; Tit, Beaver, War Baby, Boar, Red, Jigger, Champ, Buller, Bosun, Pig’s Ear, Porgy, Shark-Eye, Cocky, Piggy, Tubby, Bubber, and Fleas.
31. Anything Can Be Transported on a Moped
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and nothing brings out ingenuity in Bermudians quite like the lack of an available car when you need one. Friend needs his lawn mower back? No problem, it’s got wheels. Luggage, too. Going paddle boarding? Just make sure you don’t let it catch the wind. With only one car allowed per household, sometimes you have to make do without, with often hilarious results.
32. Swizzle Inn
The legendary Swizzle Inn—home of our national drink, the rum swizzle—is Bermuda’s oldest and most iconic watering hole. Opened in 1932 in a seventeenth-century roadhouse, the pub has been an east end staple for more than 80 years. The guest book even dates back to 1942. Besides providing locals with pub grub and beer, the Swizzle is also the last stop many make before leaving the island and the first stop for those who have just arrived.
The pub has been a family-owned business since husband and wife Johnny and Jackie Correia took over in the early ’60s. The pub’s restaurant was added a decade or so later, followed by the second storey and a gift shop in the early ’90s, after their son Jay took the reins. Through it all the Swizzle’s atmosphere still exudes that mom-and-pop vibe. It’s a proper old-fashioned pub in a world where old-fashioned pubs have become, well… old-fashioned.
It’s hard to overstate just how big of a staple the Swizzle Inn is for the island. We’ve developed entire traditions around the drink they’ve invented, and done our damnedest to adhere to the pub’s motto whenever we visit—Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out. Perhaps the greatest indication of the Swizzle’s importance is the fact that every now and then, somewhere out in the world, you’ll spot someone wearing one of the popular T-shirts sold in the gift shop.
33. Bermuda Rig Sailboats from Competing Yacht Clubs Still Race
For the unfamiliar, fitted dinghy racing might look more like a competition to see who sinks last rather than an actual sailing regatta. You’d never guess from looking at them that these masterpieces in impracticality represent the origins of modern sailboat design. The rigging found on our fitted dinghies is Bermuda’s most lasting contribution to the world—the Bermuda rig—an influence found on the majority of sailboats worldwide.
The origins of the Bermuda rig date back to the early1600s when a Dutch-born shipwright on the island started producing ships based on a popular design from his home in the Netherlands. He used a triangular sail that ran to the aft of the boat, hoisted to the top of the mast and attached at the base. Just imagine a fitted dinghy except way, way bigger. The result was the Bermuda sloop, a ship that was faster and more maneuverable than any other on the water. The Dutchman was soon employed by Bermuda’s governor, and shipwrights across the island were forced to emulate his design to stay in business. A poem by John H. Hardie published in 1671 described their prowess:
With tripple corner’d Sayls they always float,
About the Islands, in the world there are,
None in all points that may with them compare.”
Over the years the design would be tweaked and refined into the modern image of a sailboat we see today, but the original Bermuda rig can still be found on our fitted dinghies.
Naturally, with such marvelous ships at their disposal, it didn’t take very long before officers stationed at the Royal Naval Dockyard and the Army garrison began racing each other. The ships and their crews would be hired on weekends and before long sloop racing became one of the most popular sports on the island.
By the late 1800s, racing in such large ships that required professional crews to sail them was proving far too expensive for the sport to remain relevant, and on August 28, 1880, dinghy racing was born. The rules were a bit different than they are today. The first races involved several different types of dinghies in separate classes, but all were raced by amateur crews. Two years later the Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Association was formed—later named the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. A year later, HRH Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, visited the island and donated a trophy that would be awarded to the winner of a dinghy race open to club members that March. Soon after, a purse race was held that was open to all amateurs, with boats restricted to the current fitted dinghy specification.
Today, fitted dinghies are raced between the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, the St. George’s Dinghy and Sports Club, and Sandys Boat Club. You can find races throughout the summer in various locations around the island, racing windward/leeward courses with an upwind finish. It’s a truly unique sight—you certainly won’t find crew members diving out of their boats in any other regatta—and one that all Bermudians should witness.
34. The Dark n’ Stormy
The beauty of the Dark n’ Stormy is in its simplicity. It’s just rum and ginger beer. You’d never imagine such a simple cocktail would have an actual history behind it. I wish I could tell you that the story begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night…” but the truth is far more pedestrian. Nevertheless, the delightful, sparkling, refreshing drink is an indelible part of our world.
The concoction itself dates back more than a hundred years to post-First World War Bermuda, when some sailors in the Royal Navy began mixing their beloved Gosling’s Black Seal rum with home-brewed ginger beer. One imagines it was a eureka moment for the sailors because the mixture became the most popular drink for sailors who had just finished their shifts—which is why the drink is so closely tied to our sailing heritage. Even its name evokes the dangers of sailing around Bermuda’s notorious reefs.
35. We are so polite!
Is there anywhere else in the world where one might not be served until they greet a cashier with a “good morning” or “good afternoon”? If it wasn’t a tradition so dear to our hearts, we might find it comical. There’s certainly nothing more amusing than seeing a confused tourist getting a blank stare as a local waits for them to return their greeting. It’s not the tourists’ fault of course. They weren’t raised with a mother’s elbow jabbing them in the ribs every time they failed to properly greet someone.
36. One Point on a Triangle Made Us Famous
Asking Bermudians about the Triangle really should be put on the list of micro-aggressions. It is an inescapable conversation topic no matter where in the world you find yourself, and frankly we’re sick of it. OK, maybe not sick of it, but it definitely gets tiresome explaining to someone abroad that, no, you’ve never gotten lost in the Triangle. In fairness, however, it is the reason most people even know about us, along with the Beach Boys. So I suppose we should be grateful for that.
There are an infinite number of explanations why spooky stuff happens between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico. Some have blamed the disappearing ships on the lost city of Atlantis. Stephen Spielberg imagined that UFOs were to blame in his hit film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, depicting the ill-fated crew of lost Flight 19 as having been abducted by aliens. Methane hydrates are a more popular and believable explanations—the idea being that massive bubbles of methane can pop up beneath ships, reducing the water density and sending them plummeting to the bottom.
But the fact of the matter is… it’s all overblown hype. Those of us that care point to Lawrence Kusche’s book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved, published in 1975. Through his research Kusche found many of the early writers’ accounts of incidents were exaggerated, suspicious, or outright lies. The mysteries of the Triangle, he found, are nothing more than the result of sensational writing, poor record-keeping and a self-perpetuating mythos that made regular shipping incidents in a traffic-heavy area seem out of the ordinary—a fact proven by a study conducted in 2013 identifying the ten most dangerous shipping lanes in the world. The Bermuda Triangle was not among them.
So it’s no surprise that incidents in the Bermuda Triangle have significantly dropped while technology has gotten better. A man named Reza Baluchi tried to traverse the Triangle in a Zorb a few years ago until the US Coast Guard snatched him from the maw of natural selection when he called them up for a rescue. When you can ring up the coast guard from an inflatable orb in the middle of the Atlantic, I think it’s safe to say that getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle just ain’t what it used to be.
37. We Add Rum to Soup
According to legend, Bermuda’s fish chowder was first born on the beaches of St. George’s in giant pots simmering above a fire. With such little farming in Bermuda’s early days, locals gathered round and tossed their own contributions into the stew as they sat and chatted about the day’s events. It’s a rather quaint and provincial origin. Milk was prone to spoiling, so meat stock was used instead. Basic root vegetables were tossed in—nobody was growing anything fancy in those days. Mix in some sherry peppers and fish, and you’ve got the origins of a national dish. No word on whether anyone was dumping rum into those giant pots, but if they weren’t, it surely didn’t take very long until someone tried it on their own.
38. The Perfect Fish Chowder Starts with Four Simple Ingredients
1. Fish. It’s widely agreed upon that the heads of rockfish are the best, but they’re not easily come by. In lieu, tuna, porgy or snapper are good substitutes.
2. Water. The biggest key to Bermudian fish chowder is the consistency is essential. It shouldn’t stick in your stomach. Fish chowder is meant to be light—an appetizer, not an entree.
3. Vegetables. Onions, celery, green peppers, carrots, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, garlic and ketchup or tomato puree. Season with thyme, bay leaves, cloves, marjoram, curry powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
4. Time. The best fish chowder takes a long time to make. Two days to be exact.
Once your chowder is ready to serve, add as much rum and sherry pepper as your heart desires.
39. Crown and Anchor
Cup Match’s biggest attraction might be the cricket, but Crown and Anchor comes in a close second. The sound of “Up she comes!” is music to Bermudian ears—a true siren song beckoning you to try your luck at winning a small fortune.
The game is a simple one invented by sailors in the Royal Navy. Three dice marked with six symbols—crown, anchor, diamond, spade, club and heart—are rolled by the banker onto a table marked with the same six symbols. Before the dice are rolled, players place their bets on their desired symbols. If your bet comes up on one or more of the dice, you win back your stake and the same amount for each die showing the symbol you bet on.
As with most gambling, you’re working with the odds heavily stacked against you, so only the foolhardy go in with actual dreams of winning big. If you’re smart you’ll keep your bets small and drink the free beer stocked beneath the tables.
If you really want to make yourself some tax-free cash, there is one strategy that the diehard fans among us swear by. The only surefire way to come out on top in Crown and Anchor is to keep betting double the amount you lose. If you lose $5, bet $10 the next time. If you lose $10, bet $20, and so on. Unfortunately this only works if you’ve got a seriously loaded wallet, because there’s no telling how long it will take for you to wind back up on top.
At the end of the day, tales of our luck or woe at the Crown and Anchor table are just as popular as recountings of the cricket.