Drive to Bermuda with Dave

Fall 2006 CSANews Issue 61  |  Posted date : Jun 01, 2007.Back to list

It may surprise my I-75 readers to learn that Kathy and I love Bermuda. The U.S. expressways and Florida are where we work; Bermuda is where we go to relax. This tiny British island lies many miles off South Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean…and it has no interstates!

So you can imagine our delight when Norwegian Cruise Line phoned a few years ago and asked if we would like to host a Bermuda cruise for our Canadian "Along I-75" readers aboard their Boston-based ship, "Norwegian Majesty." The deal included a free cabin for the trip, and a budget to buy drinks and refreshments for our group. In return, all Kathy and I had to do was organize and host suitable entertainment while at sea, tied to the theme of our books…the idea of a"Drive to Bermuda with Dave" cruise was born.

For a writer, historian, sailor and romanticist, this was a"no-brainer." First, we would be setting off from historic Boston where the American Revolution fomented on the docks and quays in the mid- 1770s. On arrival in Bermuda, we would be docking right alongside the Government Dock in St. George's. Used in the American Civil War to help supply the Confederacy, it is the oldest and most historic part of the island.

In short time, the "word" went out and Norwegian signed up 31 loyal "Along I-75" fans to join us ("hi folks – didn't we have a great time?"). The date of our departure arrived and we drove from Toronto to arrive eight hours later in "Beantown," where we met our fellow cruisers assembled at Boston's Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, less than a kilometre from where the infamous Boston Tea Party took place.

The sea route out of Boston Harbor is littered with history. The shipping channel glides past Castle Island and Fort Independence where, in 1776, the British army was driven out of Boston and back to Halifax under the guns of nearby Dorchester Heights. It passes the execution rocks of Gallops Island, where pirate captives were chained at low tide, to be drowned and eaten by crabs as high tide approached (after all, Boston is the seafood capital of the USA!). And finally, turn right (to starboard) at the jagged Graves Rocks with their resident shipwrecks, all guarded by the powerful Graves Lighthouse. I could have spent a week spinning yarns on this section of the cruise alone.

But my first attempt to entertain our group went right down the drain…I barely escaped with my life!

I invited them to join me on the boat deck as we left Boston so that I could regale all with stories about Boston in 1776. In the itinerary handed out as part of the pre-cruise package, I had glibly titled my talk,"Why the Americans never won the War of Independence." Unfortunately, the ship's purser had a copy and decided to announce it on the ship's PA system…and all passengers were invited.

Quickly, our small Canadian group was joined by several hundred burly (and very proud) Bostonians who professed to be interested in this new view of their history. Luckily, I was able to drag my foot out of my mouth by convincing them that most people living in Boston at the time thought of themselves as British ex-pats (disenfranchised and without a vote in the Mother Country), and it wasn't until later in 1776 that they started to think of themselves as "Americans." Phew!

Once clear of Boston (and controversial history), we settled down to the normal activities at sea – cocktail parties, casino gambling, wine tasting, sleeping, evening theatre and sumptuous dining.

But as we approached the Bermudian shoals, Kathy and I had a special treat for our charges. We invited everyone to an"on deck" sunrise breakfast. During the night, the ship had circumvented a huge storm to our east, resulting in an absolutely stunning daybreak. In the balmy dawn air, we feasted on hot coffee, fresh orange juice, croissants and scrambled eggs, marvelling at this spectacular backdrop of nature.

To make the breakfast even more interesting, I rigged up a marine radio and GPS unit from my sailboat. Linked to an electronic chart of the sea channel on my laptop computer, we were able to watch the ship's progress and listen to our ship "talk" to the St. George's pilot boat as it came out and swung around our stern to gently hug the starboard side so that the pilot could come on board.

Soon it was "slow ahead" and we glided into the narrow 200-ft channel of the Town Cut, which leads into the protected harbour of historic St. George's. Our group was split between observing the ship's moving"plot" on the electronic chart, and watching over the vessel's side as the shallow shoals, so close to our hull, slid astern.

As we entered the Cut, I told the story about the Sea Venture, a ship sent out from England in 1609 to carry supplies to the starving settlement of Jamestown in Virginia. Blown off course in a violent storm, she was wrecked on these very shoals within a few hundred feet of our current position. All aboard were able to walk ashore, where they set up camp. They built two boats, the Deliverance and Patience, in which their journey to Virginia was completed a year later. But a few stayed behind and became the first settlers of Bermuda. Reports of the storm are believed to have provided the inspiration for Shakespeare's"The Tempest."

Finally, tied up alongside St. George's Government Dock, we were off to enjoy the delights of our island paradise. Bermuda has many cherished memories for me. I always rent a scooter when ashore. In particular, I love scootering around the island looking for and photographing the beautiful bronze statues crafted by Desmond Fountain. You'll find them hidden away in tropical parks and beside public ponds. We also enjoy wandering into art galleries to delight in the watercolour scenes of island life by Carol Holding…or just walking down a lane in a Bermudian evening listening to the distinctive tinkling chorus of the tree frogs. Our first"Drive to Bermuda with Dave" left us with wonderful memories.

Several years later, we visited Bermuda again, but this time it was particularly poignant. As usual, we had"driven to Bermuda" via Boston and the"Norwegian Majesty." This time, I was attending a travel writers' course on digital photography. During the day, the organizers arranged for stunning models to accompany us and we had a wonderful time shooting in the tiny secluded beaches and coves of the southern shore. Kathy was elsewhere on the island, taking a course on gourmet dining – breakfast, lunch and dinner!

On the second evening of the course, we photographers had a sunset"shoot" - a typical Bermudian evening of beautiful sunset and lush vegetation silhouetted against colourful clouds; an evening of peace and tranquillity. It was Monday, September 10, 2001 –– the night before the world changed forever.