By Sandy Cares
The rooftops of Bermuda have long commanded attention for their distinctive terraced look. They appear in note cards, paintings and an array of tourist souvenirs throughout Bermuda. Mark Twain often described their iconic impression as “icing on cake.”
However, Bermuda rooftops are also functional. They are designed to capture and channel rainwater through a filter into cisterns. Bermuda has no fresh water: no rivers, lakes or streams, only rain water. Today, desalination plants provide fresh water to the island’s resorts. But this is expensive and most Bermudians get their drinking water the old fashioned way – from the rainwater collected on their rooftops.
The rooftops are a maintenance project for every household. People who can afford a company to clean and re-lime their roofs are spared the work of setting aside time and sweet-talking friends and relatives into helping them with this every few years. The lime wash keeps the roof too hot for birds to perch. The terraces filter dirt away as the water streams into the gutters. Take a look around any of the centuries-old buildings in Hamilton and St. George, and you will see cisterns connected to the rooftops by eve drops.
The story takes a tasty turn when Bermudians build a new structure or replace an old roof. Because roofs are so important, they are christened in what is called a “Roof Wetting” ceremony. For this, there is no champagne but rum. As for the rum, only one will do: Bermuda’s own Gosling’s Black Seal, also famous as the star ingredient in the national drink, the Dark ‘N Stormy.
On a designated day, builders, contractors and home owners step up and out on the hot roof and douse it with Gosling’s Black Seal rum to wish the new roof lots of rain and pure drinking water for the family living inside.
As for the Dark ‘N Stormy, the island concoction is made from Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and ginger beer served over ice with a lemon garnish.
Guest lecturer Sandy Cares has been delighting guests with her engaging lectures aboard our ships on Caribbean voyages since January 2014. Join her this winter: