Updated: Oct 23, 2021 07:56 AM
George Outerbridge prepares to set off on a cruise tour in the 1980s (Photograph supplied)
A tour boat operator and former president of St George’s Rotary Club loved to highlight the sights and stories of Bermuda to visitors.
Tracy Outerbridge, the daughter of George R. Outerbridge, a lifelong East End resident, said he was “a great ambassador for Bermuda, regaling visitors with tall and short tales about his island home”.
Mr Outerbridge, who died last month, also played for the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band, including at events overseas.
He and his wife Gill acquired Bermuda’s first glass bottomed boat, the Sea Urchin, and ran the vessel as a family business through the 1970s.
Mr Outerbridge renamed the boat Aquarius after a major refit and ran popular twice-daily tours from Ordnance Island in St George out to the reefs.
Ms Outerbridge said she and her brother and sister Ben and Alison enjoyed summers working on board.
The Outerbridge’s next acquisition was a rundown Mississippi paddle steamer, the Mark Twain.
She had been brought to the island from New York by a group of local investors and had been considered for conversion to a floating restaurant.
But the steamer was put up for auction in 1980 and the Outerbridges, at first interested in the boat’s engines, ended up as the only bidder.
They paid $21,000 for a vessel that was said to have cost $500,000 to build in 1968.
The couple raised eyebrows after they turned down a $35,000 offer for her – then borrowed $200,000 from banks to remake the Mark Twain as a sightseeing and charter boat.
But the gamble paid off and, after a complete refit, the vessel emerged as the Bermuda Belle and entered service in 1983 with a glass bottom installed.
Mr Outerbridge took the 65ft Belle to Hamilton throughout the 1980s when cruise ships were lined up on Front Street.
He equipped the vessel with a powerful ship’s horn to catch attention.
His daughter said that “years of cruises for tourists and parties for locals followed”.
Mr Outerbridge retired in the 1990s to become a tour guide for the Elderhostel Programme. an educational travel package for people aged 55 and over run by what was then called the Bermuda Biological Station for Research in St George’s.
Alison Outerbridge and other family members took over the Bermuda Belle.
The boat was sunk by Hurricane Fabian in 2003, two years after it was taken over by a new owner,
Ms Outerbridge said her father had been the seventh of nine children and lost his mother when he was 5.
She added: “He grew up to be very kind, empathetic, hard-working, entertaining man loved by many – especially his three children.”
He was a member of the St George’s Rotary Club for more than 30 years and a past president and his family hosted exchange students from all over the world at their home.
• George Richardson Outerbridge, a longstanding president of St George’s Rotary Club, was born on January 19, 1940. He died on September 26, 2021, aged 81.