Giving weather the cold shoulder

  • A brave face: Suzann Roberts-Holshouser howls during a ducking stool re-enactment in St George (Photograph supplied)
  • Making waves: Choy Aming surfing in his warm wetsuit made from Japanese neoprene (Photograph provided)
  • Difficult snapping: photographer Donovin Seymour found Sunday’s temperature “brutal”. (Photograph supplied)
  • Tough conditions: artist Chris Marson painting on Gibbet Island during Sunday’s chilly weather (Photograph supplied)
  • Still walking: Robin Holder with Mosa, left, and Teddy, is not particularly bothered by Bermuda’s cooler weather (Photograph supplied)
  • Dressed for the weather: Hamilton Crier Ed Christopher wears several layers under his costume (Photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

The world doesn’t sympathise when temperatures fall in Bermuda.

As our thermostats dropped to 56F last week, people on the US East Coast battled a bomb cyclone.

With it came more than a foot of snow; Mount Washington, the Northeast’s highest peak, recorded a temperature of -37F.

Here in Bermuda, we huddled in front of fireplaces, pulled out blankets and heaters and talked endlessly about the “brutal” conditions we had to face.

“It’s the dampness,” said Ed Christopher, the City of Hamilton crier.

“If you’re wet all the time, you can’t get warm. It’s all about the layers, honey.”

He spends a lot of time outdoors talking with visitors and leading tours.

“In winter, I wear an undershirt, shirt, vest and jacket and knickerbockers,” he said. “My legs get cold so I also wear long, white stockings. Because I’m tall, they have to be extra extra large and I stretch them before I use them.

“Then, if it’s really cold, I might wear socks on top of that.”

Don’t be mistaken for thinking he’s not used to “real cold”. One February he travelled to Ontario, Canada to represent Bermuda in a crier competition.

“It was a drier cold,” said the 61-year-old. “I wore several layers of long johns there. But I think in Bermuda the dampness in winter means you can never get warm.”

Photographer Donovin Seymour spent Sunday outside shooting the Goslings to Fairmont Southampton race.

His fingers felt so numb he kept fumbling with his camera. He coped by drinking endless cups of coffee, and wearing gloves when he wasn’t shooting.

He described it as “brutal”.

Bermuda’s Plein Air Painters were “fully exposed to the north wind” from their perch on Gibbet Island, according to member Chris Marson.

“It’s not the temperature so much as the wind that makes you cold when you are standing still in an exposed position for a couple of hours,” he said.

The 68-year-old said he’s been “quite comfortable” painting in snow in calm conditions and he drew on those experiences for Sunday’s expedition.

“I was dressed for the occasion with woollen thermal underwear, a down vest and a fairly substantial jacket with the hood drawn down tight.

“I was also wearing gloves with the fingers cut off to keep my hands functioning. That, with a Thermos full of hot coffee, kept me quite comfortable for the session.”

Shark researcher Choy Aming hits the water year round. Temperatures usually hover around 68F; on Sunday they dipped to about 65F.

Although only an “above-average animal encounter” will lure him into the ocean depths, he can’t resist the “great surfing and kiteboarding conditions” in the winter.

“I recently invested in an amazing wetsuit made from a special Japanese neoprene and it is incredibly warm,” he said.

“That being said, it is still a good shock when you first hop in. I can put in two to three hours in the water with the wetsuit. However, about 20 minutes after exiting the water, the chill kicks in. Then I put on lots of fleece and drink any hot liquid available. It’s then often an hour or two before I can get in the shower because I have to pack up all my gear and get back to the car, or I’m out on the boat. So I just have to grin and bear it.”

Suzann Roberts-Holshouser is plunged into the ocean twice a week from the ducking stool in King’s Square. She’s done it for eight years as part of historical re-enactments put on by the Corporation of St George.

“I’ve only had my breath taken away by the cold once,” she said. “It was probably two years ago. But normally, if the sea temperature and the air temperature are the same, it is very comfortable.

“The challenge is on a windy day. I am sitting up, over the water and they are giving me a lecture — all I can think is, drop me in.”

After the show, she uses a bathroom in the Town Hall to dry off.

“What is cold is standing in St Peter’s graveyard during our ghost tours,” she said. “All the actors have different costumes and mine is quite light. Doing that can be colder than being dunked, especially when the wind is whipping through there.”

Not everybody feels the same. According to Robin Holder, the colder temperatures “don’t really bother me that much”.

It’s probably a good thing. He walks dogs and is a personal trainer — both businesses keep him outside.

“In my old life working in an office, there were times when I couldn’t even see a window,” said the former government public relations officer. “Now I love being out in the fresh air all the time, exposed to the elements.”

The 48-year-old said he actually prefers this time of year. The cooler temperatures only bother him if the wind and rain is too strong.

“I’m not really a fair weather kind of guy,” he said. “It was really cold this morning and this afternoon turned out to be a really bright day. Most days I just wear a pair of comfortable walking shorts, and a thin top. If it’s raining, I put on a heavier top.”