The Bridge

Bridgetown’s most historic bridge is called Chamberlain Bridge. This handsome Victorian bridge is named after Joseph Chamberlain, the then British Secretary of State for the Colonies. It was a swing bridge from 1872 until it was upgraded to a lifting bridge about 15 years ago.

It’s from a long line of bridges built at this site. Destroyed by hurricane, flood or fire, they go back to the island’s colonisation in the 1620s.

But guess what? This is my favourite bit. When Europeans arrived in Barbados, they found a bridge was already there. Which was strange, because they didn’t find any people on the island. Just the bridge.

We have to come under Chamberlain Bridge to park the dinghy. There are two sections you can go under. Either the newer lifting part lined by wood, or the older stone arch. We do both. Sometimes we skim the side, so we all have to duck and smell the damp, old age of it.

The bridge is twelve metres long. It’s pedestrianised too so that when we come under it, we usually have an audience, staring down at us from the bridge’s ramparts.

This is the hold-your-breath moment that no one’s going to gozz on our heads. I only think so, not because Bajans are uncouth, but because I might be tempted to do so in their position. It would be a perfect aim and strike. Sorry – I must be the uncouth one. Digits crossed.

The bridge opens up to the Careenage’s inner basin. This is a marina, but it’s half-hearted at best. We’re not ungrateful about this. There’s always plenty of room to park Edna and climb up the ladder to shore. There are stands for electricity and water.

Yesterday, there were two yachts in the marina in active use. The other five or so boats, sterns attached to concrete walls, have all seen better days.

There is a boat parked close to our landing spot. It didn’t occupy this space last time we were here. We have to skooch around it now.

It’s a fishing pleasure boat, perhaps used for chartering – from Road Town, Tortola. Road Town is the capital of the British Virgin Islands. Since Hurricane Irma slammed into the British Virgin Islands in September 2017, a number of poorly-looking boats have popped up with Road Town written on their hulls. We’ve seen them on every island so far.

Missing masts, patched up holes, twisted wires and metal. They have one thing in common: they’re all from Road Town.

Road Town was busy when we were there in the early months of 2017. It had a huge, separate marina just for charter boats. The charter companies got quickly back to work after Hurricane Irma. What else could they do?

People around the Caribbean have claimed the damaged boats – a sort of recycling service. It makes sense. This one in Bridgetown is typical. By the state of it, it looks as though it went fully underwater. Now, it’s someone’s repair dream. I can’t help think the boat tells its story like the bridge does. Very silently.

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