1. Red Dawn, Pink Beaches
The sun rises.
It climbs the blue ridges curved along the far reaches of Great Sound, it silhouettes an arched bridge leading to the Dockyard, a tourist attraction that boasts a craft market, boutiques, a glass-blowing demonstration, a stone fortress and cavorting dolphins who let you swim with them.
From our balcony at Cambridge Beaches Resort it feels like we have a ringside seat for the dawn of creation. Just to our west is a small beach bathed in an incandescent red glow.
It’s called Morning Beach.
On Bermuda’s south coast we see another beach, arcing gently, nuzzled by sapphire seas, dominated by surreal limestone towers carved by wind and waves. USA Today has ranked Horseshoe Bay Beach the best Valentine’s Day beach for couples.
We choose a different beach. I pick up some sand. It’s flecked with pink coral crystals: flesh-toned sand, downright sensuous.
It’s more secluded than Horseshoe, prettier.
If I were a better person I’d tell you its name.
2. Isle Of Sail
When colonists first passed Bermuda on their way to the settlement at Virginia in 1609 a storm came up and shipwrecked them. They all made it ashore and eventually arrived in Virginia. The next year Admiral Somers returned.
It’s proof positive that this island named for a Portuguese sailor, once discovered, is irresistible.
It’s also the first example of Bermuda’s love affair with sail.
The ultimate waypoint of three ocean races: Marion-Bermuda, Charleston-Bermuda and Newport-Bermuda.
Birthplace of the Bermuda sloop and home to weekly races of an indigenous boat called the fitted dinghy.
Not many rules here: boats are wood, 14’1” long and can’t have any fiberglass or aluminum masts.
But it’s what’s allowed that makes for all the fun.
They are allowed as much sail as they can carry. And, during a race, they’re allowed to lighten the load by dumping someone overboard.
Though he wasn’t participating in these races, one world-class sailor went overboard early in October.
3. Going for the Gold
“Winds were spotty,” says Talbot Wilson, director of PR for the Argo Gold Cup Regatta, hosted by the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
Wilson steers the runabout into the waves whipped into froth by twenty-knot winds.
Two boats – International One Designs -- off our bow race one-on-one for the windward mark in the last race of the day, the last flight of the second last entry in the seven-event World Match Racing Tour.
“So the winds shift. Boom flies across. Mirsky goes into the water. But he gets hold of a spinnaker line. His crew gets him back aboard.”
Wilson shakes his head. “And he wins the flight.”
Back on shore display tents flap and flutter. Optis recline on the grass, part of the Family Sailing Festival.
Out on the water, Australia’s Torvar Mirsky and Johnnie Berntsonn, a Swede, battle it out.
Mirsky wins the last flight, the King Edward VII Gold Cup, and the $50,000 purse that’s a highlight of this event that hosts twenty-four of the world’s best crews from seventeen countries.
No ordinary race, no ordinary sailors.
4. No Ordinary Sailor
Neither is 11-year-old Justin Vittecoq from Montreal.
In tandem with the match-racing events, the best young sailors from the countries represented there are invited down for the RenaissanceRe Junior Gold Cup. The fleet of Optis race daily for bragging rights and actually sail the same course as the IOD’s for the finals.
Singular honour for Justin, but hardly his only one. He’s the youngest racer here and the youngest to win the Canadian Nationals.
And he gets a great start in the finals, though winds are strong and gusty.
Nice job almost to the windward mark, but he loses ground and is in the middle of the pack when they round it. Reminds you of a flock of seagulls.
“I’m a better light wind sailor,” he says philosophically. “Haven’t done as well as I’d like.”
“But I still love the sailing. The Bermudians find it really cold. Bermuda is nice and hot.”
5. Welcoming Arms
It’s also home to some of the world’s most charming architecture.
The roofs here are like ivory, pure white, ridged.
“Limestone slabs cut into slates,” explains Lenny Holder, our driver, when we stop beside one pristine specimen.
“White-washed, invisible gutters. The gutters catch rainwater,” he says. “The white-wash purifies the water – it goes into a cistern.”
The roofline also sports a scalloped pyramid. In the old days they stored perishables here. Now they’re for show.
“No eaves, either,” I say.
“Hurricanes. The winds can’t get in and take off the roof.”
Now we drive past a harbour dotted with cabin cruisers and sailboats. A cavalcade of colours decorates the homes climbing the surrounding hills.
“Rainbow hill,” I say. Lennie laughs.
We pass another gorgeous house on our way to St. George’s.
A gently curving staircase rises up from the garden in front of the turquoise facade, steps on the right, steps on the left. They gradually narrow and join each other to form a tiny porch at a front door of Bermudian cedar.
“Welcoming arms stairway,” says Lenny.
6. Bermuda Shorts
You step into history when you enter the Waterlot Inn. They’ve been serving food in this establishment for more than 430 years.
Highly polished plank floors lead over to wing chairs beside a massive fireplace. A waiter brings me a “Dark and Stormy” – an island concoction of ginger beer and black Gosling rum.
Heavy beams decorate the formal dining room downstairs. Half the men in here wear navy blazers.
“Locals come to propose, to celebrate graduations,” says Jamahl Simmons, PR manager for the Fairmont Southampton, a gracious property that manages this establishment that’s more English than England.
The restaurant manager strolls over to see how we’re enjoying our meal.
I’ve just wolfed down the best filet mignon I’ve ever tasted.
The manager’s tuxedo is impeccable but for one anomaly that startles me until I remember where we are.
His bottom half is graced by perfectly pressed jet black Bermuda Shorts.
By Mark Stevens