23 February 2012
On the eve of our departure for the Azores, one might say that this stopover, a bit longer than expected, gave the crew a welcome chance to rest and properly prepare the return crossing of the North Atlantic.
Part of the new scientific team arrived safely yesterday, exhausted after sometimes 20 hour-flights. Tomorrow early in the afternoon we’ll head east, certainly with some wind. We have slightly more than two weeks of sailing ahead of us.
The streets of St. George’s offered us a haven of peace these past few days, as did the lagoon where we’re anchored until tomorrow. This city of 15,000 inhabitants is like a little cocoon. The Bermuda archipelago counts 65,000 souls in all.
Encounters with the “locals” in shops, supermarkets, restaurants and bars have been warm and friendly. People have always been caring, interested and even curious. Very often we hear the question “Where are you from?”
The majority of the people here are dark-skinned, but of course this is not tourist season. The Americans who normally arrive in droves during the summer are somewhere else this time of year. Local men, women and children are descendants of African slaves brought here by English settlers. Before the first shipwreck, the island was totally uninhabited.
The houses of St. George’s are painted bright colours. Gardens are clean and tidy.
Palms, rubber trees, giant ficus and hibiscus add more colorful notes to the scenery. What is striking when walking about, besides the calm, are the churches at almost every street corner.
Anglican, African Methodist, Catholic – steeples and crosses punctuate the sky. The most beautiful of all these buildings, clearly visible at the top of its mossy steps, is without a doubt Saint Peter’s Church. It dates from 1612 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The roofs are also very striking – almost all are white and have the same form, with built-in channels to collect rainwater. There is no source of water in the archipelago.
St. George’s is nothing like Hamilton, Bermuda’s main city. Hamilton is a fairly large commercial port, its wharves crowded with shipping containers. Here the streets are wider and buildings are taller, and there’s less of that human scale we appreciate so much when arriving from the sea.