Saturday, August 8, 2015

Prepare to Set Sail to Bermuda with Miz Scarlet!

Life has a way of interrupting the best made plans. After many months, I'm finally putting the final touches on "Miz Scarlet and the Perplexed Passenger", Book 5 in the Scarlet Wilson Mystery Series.

It's not that I don't care about my writing, or that I took a break to lounge around in the sun, sipping margaritas and fanning myself with a palm leaf. No, I've been doing double duty, taking care of a loved one during a serious illness.

The view from The Reefs in Southampton is amazing!
Painting by Sara M. Barton
It's never easy to put one's own career and personal life on hold, to do right by someone who's experiencing a health crisis. Like Miz Scarlet, I am a family caregiver when necessary (I also blog about cancer and caregiving as The Practical Caregiver). Between medical appointments, physical therapy sessions, and cooking comfort food, I had little time to focus on the final touches of my new book. But now, as life gets back to a more even keel, I'm able to devote myself more to what I love to do -- tell a fun tale.

You might wonder why Miz Scarlet is sailing to Bermuda, rather than some exotic destination half a world away from the fictional Four Acorns Inn in Cheswick, Connecticut. The answer is quite simple. As an author, I try to add as much authenticity to my stories as I can. I love this little semitropical oasis. It's my happy place. The colors of the houses are cheerful. The people are friendly. It's a very civilized place, although the traffic can be more than a little hairy.

Fun facts:
Depending on who you ask, there are at least 123 islands that comprise the country of Bermuda (some put the number closer to 180, but that depends on your definition of "island" -- some of these are just really big rocks).

 It's hardly surprising that so many ships were wrecked within Bermudian waters, given that the many "islands" challenge any sailor navigating through narrow channels and crazy rip currents. Snorkeling and scuba diving is a popular activity at some of the more famous wrecks.

Bermuda sounds like a huge place, until you learn that all those tiny spits of land are found within just over 20 square miles. There are a mere 150 miles or so of roadway. Small bridges connect some of the larger main islands, so it's easy to sometimes forget you are traveling from island to island.

Speaking of island-hopping, that's what pirates did with their booty, burying treasure in the sand and raiding their competitors' turf! Bermuda was a sanctuary for many privateers fleeing from pursuers after pillaging in the Caribbean and the United States. (North Carolina is only about 650 miles from Bermuda.)

Just about everything has to be imported. That's why a gallon of gasoline is more than $8 and a gallon of milk is slightly less than that. If you buy Bermuda's famous Gosling's Black Seal Rum in a duty free shop, you'll pay about $11 for a bottle to take home to the US, Canada, or the UK, but if you buy it to drink in Bermuda, the price doubles. Ouch!

Bermuda has no freshwater rivers or lakes. That's why rain water is collected on the roofs of buildings and special catchment areas, and stored in cisterns. Every little drip and drop is precious to Bermuda residents and tourists.

This little oasis at The Reefs is a tranquil delight to soothe the harried soul.
Painting by Sara M. Barton
Bermuda shorts are considered proper attire for men when paired with jacket, tie, knee sox, and dress shoes. But don't expect to see wild tropical prints, loud plaids, or vibrant colors. Dignified is the name of the game, whether worn by a businessman, a police officer, or a guest at a fancy social occasion.

Visitors may not rent cars (why would you want to, given the price of gasoline and the crazy traffic?) You can, however, rent mopeds, hop the pink public buses (even the school kids ride them), or climb aboard the ferry. And real estate laws don't allow for foreigners to buy certain properties. Preference is given to Bermuda citizens when it comes to housing. That's only fair, considering how small the housing market is there.

Tourism is very important to the country's stability. There are many hotels, inns, bed & breakfast establishments, and guest houses, as well as restaurants, offering a wide variety of options to visitors. Cruises are a great way to visit the island. Most ships dock in Royal Naval Dockyard; a few smaller ships tie up in Hamilton.

In the summer, Harbour Night in Hamilton is great fun. It's the big weekly Wednesday evening street party that includes musical performances, Gombey dancers, arts and craft vendors, food tents, and many of the stores on Front Street stay open late for shoppers.

So, get ready to cruise with Miz Scarlet, Kenny, Laurel Googins Wilson, and Dr. Thaddeus Van Zandt to Bermuda. It's going to be a wild time!