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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Adventures in Bequia
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Admiralty Bay, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 1.22.09

French cruise ship leaving the pitons at sunset
French cruise ship leaving the Pitons
Have I mentioned that the sailing part can be a blast? We left the Pitons at sunrise for the 52 mile ride down to Bequia. Saint Vincent is in between Saint Lucia and Bequia but we weren't interested in stopping once we got going. This trip was down the windward side in order to avoid the long dull motoring stretches in the lee of St. Vincent's steep peaks. Winds from the ENE 20 knots, course nearly true south, big seas from the East. A roller coaster ride without rails. Long periods at 8 knots (which is well above hull speed). When we turned to the Southwest in the Bequia channel, the seas really stood up and we were surfing the whole boat down the steep faces of waves taller than they are wide regularly over 10 knots. This is major fun for sailors.
West Cay at Sunset
West Cay at Sunset

The destination is charming. Bequia is a little island: 7 miles square, 6,000 souls. It is one of the Grenadines in the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was founded by Scots and runaway and/or shipwrecked slaves and lived off whaling and whaling ships for many years. Not a lot of room for plantations and the colonizer/colonized minds. It does have a great, long tradition of boating. There are lots of restaurants and small hotels, villas and guest apartments – no big resorts. It has one anchorage, really, maybe two, but the other one is unreliable. We share the anchorage with lots of cruisers, ferry boats, charter boats, fishing boats, freighters and the occasional cruise ships. We have been here for almost two weeks.

Cactus and Flowers, Bequia
Cactus and flowers, Bequia

Our first adventure was a hike from Princess Margaret Beach to Lower Bay and back. We took the dinghy to the new dock at the top of Princess Margaret Beach in front of jack's restaurant. At the other end of the beach, you walk up a steep trail and down the other side to Lower Bay. We walked down to the end of this beach, where Lance gave me a haircut, with the wind blowing the hair away as fast as he could cut it. We walked on the road behind the beach to go back. The roads are narrow, and there is not a lot of traffic. Lots of tropical flowers, bougainvillea, hibiscus etc. in gardens surrounding mostly small buildings. We found the small steep road leading back down to the beach and our dinghy.

Admiralty Bay, Bequia from the fort
Admiralty Bay from the fort

On the other side of the bay, we walked up the very steep road to minimal remnants of an old fort. The roads and driveways are so steep, I would not be comfortable driving on them. There was a vendor of T-shirts and stuff at the top, but no customers while we were there. I sat on a canon while Lance did some touch up on the haircut. The view was spectacular. The vendor said he does pretty well on days with cruise ships in port. As we left, several taxis of tourists came up the road. A taxi in Bequia is a pick-up truck with a little canopy and two benches down the side. As is typical on a small island, we ran into the T-shirt vendor later. He was happy with the tourists. Things have been slow.

Palm trees on the walk to the Turtle sanctuary, Bequia
Palm trees on the walk to the Turtle sanctuary, Bequia
Baby turtles in the turtle sanctuary in Bequia
Baby turtles at the Turtle sanctuary, Bequia
The walk to the turtle sanctuary was much longer, but takes you along the wilder Atlantic side. Brother Hegg raises the turtles until they are 5 years old and then releases them on the beaches. They are pretty big when they are 5 – maybe a foot across. Turtles lay thousands of eggs, hundreds hatch, and only a few survive to make it into the water, so maybe this helps. At least it teaches people about turtles and keeps them from buying turtle shell products. On the walk back, we stopped at a bar and chatted with the bartender who had worked for many years on cruise ships and traveled all over the world.



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Butchering fish in St. Vincent
Butchering fish in Saint Vincent

We took the ferry to St. Vincent for another adventure. There are two competing ferry lines who both seem to have purchased extremely old Danish ferries. They sway in the swells we were surfing and walking consists of lurching from pillar to wall in a crouching half fall, half run. In St. Vincent, we made a pilgrimage to a Yamaha dealer to buy a new hose. Yamaha dealers are hard to come by in the islands, especially ones who sell spare parts. We found the local bus stand and asked everyone for a bus headed towards Blue Lagoon, and one driver waved us in. Local buses are mini vans with lots of seats in them –usually 4 rows. In St. Lucia, the buses are labeled, but here we could find no indication of where the buses were going. As we drove by bus stops and groups of people, the driver gives a little honk, to see if anyone wants his bus. We couldn't figure out how they would know where he was going. We got off at the Yamaha dealer (you just say “stop” when you want to get out), and sure enough he had the part. While we were there, we asked the guys how you know which bus goes where. You just ask, they said. We had a lovely walk checking out the anchorages at the bottom of St. Vincent where we chartered on our very first trip to the Caribbean in 1999.

Butterfly and flowers in Bequia
Butterfly and flowers, Bequia
After lunch at a local restaurant we went out to the road to flag down a bus. A bus pulled over looking very full. The conductor waved us in. I took the only empty seat, and then he tried to get Lance in the back, but there were already 3 adults and 2 kids back there, so he put a little cushion about 5 inches across in the gap in the bench, and waved Lance in. Lance got about half his butt in – there were now 4 of us in this row, and so he pulled me onto his lap. The ladies sharing the bench with us were skeptical but polite. "Good afternoon". Everyone is amazingly polite, given the circumstances. "Little mama, may I pile this bag on your feet?" The front seat had only 3 people in it (including the driver), and they never tried to fit more in there. The next row had a huge pile of boxes taking up two places, then a passenger. As we drove along, he pulled over at a stop and picked up another passenger. She took the conductor's seat, and he kind of leaned against the door and the front seat. We stopped again and some people got out, and others got in, still absolutely stuffed. People would lay items for transport in the van which were to be delivered. At one point, the van way past full, humanity, boxes, groceries stacked to the ceiling and we stopped for one more. A lady was waved into the seat, and the passenger next to her was kind of wedged half way sideways in a half crouch. He apologized to the lady for crowding her, and asked if this was usual here. They had a nice conversation, establishing that he was visiting from Trinidad, and at the end of the ride, he paid her fare (about $1.25 for two). They left together.

Inauguration at the Salty Dog, Bequia
Inauguration at the Salty Dog, Bequia
On inauguration day, we went to the Salty Dog with lots of other cruisers and watched the speeches. Much cheering, and the crowd stood up for the Star Spangled Banner, sang along and cheered some more. Even the Brits! Even the Canadians! Tears for Aretha's "My country 'tis of thee". Sweet land of liberty! It feels like finding something again you long thought had been lost. Laughter for new country where "the red man can get ahead, man" Even more cheering when Bush's helicopter took off. "Don't let the rotor hit you on the way out." Everyone waved goodbye. "Don't forget Cheney and the wheelchair."

Yesterday we walked up the hill to Mt. Pleasant. It was a steep switch-backed narrow road, and there is construction going on, so there were quite a few trucks going by, and they took up the whole road. We did the walk in the afternoon, when we were not so fresh, and the day was hot. Should have gotten started in the morning, but it was still a nice walk. At the top, there are lovely views of the Bay on one side and the Atlantic beaches on the other. We walked to Old Fort which used to be a hotel with a restaurant but now it is rental villas, so no cool drinks to enjoy the views with. When we got to the bottom, we had delicious fruit smoothies at the Frangipani Hotel bar. Bequia Music Festival starts tomorrow. We will skip the night performances but join the festivities on Sunday which is an afternoon performance. Our favorite local band, "The Honky Tonics", will play. Bequia, where the "white man do right." Ya, Mon.


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