Travel : Pushing the boat out in Bermuda

James Edgar visits the Caribbean island to try his hand at sailing

Monday, 11th July 2016, 4:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:17 pm
Tried & tested - Tile

Clutching my shiny new sailing manual, I look out over the still waters of Hamilton Harbour and watch the under-eights lesson glide back into the marina.

My nerves reassured, I start to wonder if I should have bothered wearing clothes I “don’t mind getting wet” – this dinghy sailing doesn’t look too difficult.

Sailing in Bermuda

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After I’m shown the ropes of the 12ft RS Feva on the quayside, I am towed out into the Bermudian waters to see what she can do. Within minutes, I understand why I was told to wear bathing shorts. Getting to grips with the ropes, rudders and rigging is trickier than I first thought.

I have come to Bermuda to master the basics of sailing dinghies – there surely can be no better place to learn.

Protected on almost all sides, Hamilton Harbour is a nursery for novices.

My course is with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club – one of the oldest Royal Clubs in the world.

Sailing in Bermuda

My prize may only be the Royal Yachting Association’s Start Sailing qualification, but as I gaze out over the bay, I daydream about a far greater spectacle in the not too distant future.

Next year the eyes of the world will be on Bermuda when it hosts the 35th America’s Cup.

Sailing is in the blood of the Bermudians and it is impossible not to get caught up in the hype.

Britain’s ties to Bermuda date back to 1609, when the flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture, was shipwrecked on its way to Jamestown in Virginia.

Bermuda still maintains some very British characteristics: red pillar boxes, driving on the left and a passion for cricket. Yet this tiny archipelago, with just 65,000 residents, is individual and quirky.

Pink, green and blue houses perch above the shore, and locals go about their business in flamboyant pastel-coloured shorts and knee-high socks. Measuring just under 21 square miles, this territory has an intimate charm.

Bermuda’s history of shipwrecks and adventure means legend and folklore are intertwined. I am treated to an entertaining account of the Sea Venture’s fate on the Haunted History tour at the old town of St. George’s, now a Unesco World Heritage site.

And back at sea, I explore the coastline by kayak making my way out to a shipwreck called HMS Vixen, a Royal Navy gunship deliberately sunk in 1896 and now a haven for marine life.

There is also plenty to explore by land, as I discover during a bike ride along the renovated old Railway Trail, taking me past the 19th century Fort Scaur. These days, Scaur Hill Fort Park is a tranquil 22-acre area site with breathtaking views – the perfect place to watch the America’s Cup.

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Holiday destinations – Travel in brief

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