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Oops – don’t think this is the right gap
between the rocks off Bequia

 As the forecast was not particularly calm or dry we decided Tobago Cays could wait for better conditions and set sail on the last Friday in March for the beat north to Bequia (Beck-wah). After all cruising like this we have no holiday timetable with return flights booked in two weeks time as many sailing here have. With a month’s cruising permit for the whole SVG we can be patient and even apply for an extension if we need to. There is plenty else to do – museums, provisioning, hiking, boat fixing – that can be done despite squalls and tropical downpours. The whole thirty nautical miles was past islands on the starboard side (the east) – Canouan, Mustique and a host of smaller ones we found it hard to identify without having the chart on deck all the time. Squalls passed ahead of us and behind us, it got windy for a time but we barely got damp, enjoying the freedom of being at sea again for several hours.

A double ender out sailing

Admiralty Bay, Bequia is a huge space surrounded by steep tree clad hills and crowded with mooring buoys, charter boats at anchor plus a few cargo ships, local ferries and, when we arrived, Sea Cloud a lovely old windjammer now used as a small cruise ship. Port Elizabeth the only town on the island (think small village in European terms) has a few supermarkets and veg stalls (supermarkets only sell tinned and packaged foodstuff, alcohol, household items like loo paper plus catering quantities of paper plates or plastic cups and sometimes frozen chicken and pork). Temptress stocked up with a slab of local beer, two bottles of South African wine and two litres of UHT milk. The latter had been hard to find anywhere since we left St George. Liquid milk is more expensive than alcohol, it seems most locals prefer the powered variety as it keeps longer and occupies less space, crucial when everything has to be shipped in. Hence having a breakfast of cereal and milk has become a treat rather than the norm on board with our precious stock of UHT reserved for use in teas and coffee.

More local sailors

We are finally getting used to shops with almost bare shelves – no stacking things high here, spread them out to fill the space. Often there is little or no organisation requiring several rounds of the entire store to locate items even with staff trying to help you. And in order to complete the shopping list, a visit every store is necessary plus the veg stall and the bakery. Some surprising things turn up – wanting Bonjela I presumed we’d have to walk to the pharmacy but there, just as we were leaving Knight Trading’s main store, was a glass fronted wooden cabinet with various first aid items including tubes of Pakistani produced Bonjela!

Choices are limited too – stock cubes are Maggi chicken, lemonade in bottles bigger than single servings is illusive and then only Sprite. I am jealously guarding our last litre of tonic for sundowner G&Ts. Butter is usually margarine of the type that does not need a refrigerator, still plucking up the courage to purchase some, the tubs are big and I have a feeling it won’t taste pleasant on toast in the morning. On the other hand what can be better than a loaf of bread so hot and fresh you hardly hold it, purchased late on a Sunday afternoon from Hamilton’s bakery across from where we anchor!

Examining a double ender ashore

A mix of high, low and make-do technology

Got to love these mast racks

On the waterfront we stopped to admire the boats of the Bequia Youth Sailing (who needs a club house, just a strip of sand scattered with palm trees a tarpaulin for shade and a big banner). As well as a collection of donated opies for the younger members there are several double enders in various sizes up to about twenty feet, based on N American whaling boats for this island was once a whaling station. In fact Iron Duke is an original whaling boat from the 1870’s and everyone here is very proud that it still races!  With fully battened well made gunter rigged sails and three or four trapezes the Bequian double enders seem an odd mix of old and new sailing technology. Fast and furious and unforgiving of any mistakes when sailing the local teenagers love them even when they turn turtle and are swamped – getting wet is not an issue when the water is warm and the sun hot. A couple of older locals are busily training up a new generation of sailors to ensure that Bequia’s boatbuilding and whaling past is not forgotten. Every day after school we see one or more boats out on the bay. The Bequia YC also has a fleet of double enders owned by its members plus an Etchell and what we think is a Sunbeam – the latter two are sailed most afternoons by youngsters racing each other out beyond Hamilton point and back.

Port Elizabeth from Hamilton Fort

Hamilton Fort – named for Andrew Hamilton
who later signed the USA Declaration of Independence

Three cruise ships and a masted trawler

Temptress anchored near the orange fuel/ice/water barge,
the inter-island ferry (black hull) just leaving

This place reminds us a little of Salcombe – built up on one side, Hamilton & Port Elizabeth and glorious sandy beaches on the other with steep hills all around and it seems the whole population are into sailing – model boats makers, chandleries and marine services abound.  Everywhere below Hamilton and in town sailing boats are pulled up on the shore. Between the town and the beaches is a lovely area called Belmont, a quaint waterside narrow pathway lined by old buildings set back in gardens. Mostly they are cafes, dive shops, hotels or bars and in keeping with the local multi-business thing, all seem to have some sort of boutique though the Gingerbread (so called for all the fret work under its eaves) has what in France would be called a “cave” selling vintage wines from all over the world. Each wooden building has own unique architectural style but difficult to capture in a photo because of all the exotic trees out front. On windy days the waves lap over the path ensuring you won’t arrive at the Green Boley or the Fig Tree with dry feet!