Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Sun 28 Jun 2009 22:29
Geography: The island capital is Port Elizabeth. Other villages on the island are Paget Farm, Lower Bay, La Pompe, Hamilton, Mount Pleasant and Belmont. The total population is about 4,300, the native population being primarily a mixture of people descended from African slaves, Scottish farmers, American whalers and Carib Indians. The island is very small, measuring some 7 square miles. The main population areas are Port Elizabeth and Paget Farm which host the Ferry Terminal and Airport respectively. Other prominent areas of Bequia include Spring, site of a former coconut plantation and home to agricultural animals, Industry Bay and Lower Bay.
Bequia means "island of the clouds" in
the ancient Arawak. The islands
name was also 'Becouya' as part of the Granadilles. The islands' unofficial anthem is
considered to be 'Only in Bequia', by island native Raphael "Socony" Holder.
The island's hills are
much lower than the peaks of St. Vincent, 10 miles to the north, so they do
not receive as many rain showers. The main port Admiralty Bay, a large
natural harbour, and the "town" Port Elizabeth are situated on the west
Tourism: Bequia is popular among cruising yachts, expats and vacationers. One of the busiest times of the year being the annual Easter Regatta. Two Scuba diving stores run dive trips to twenty-eight identified dive sites around Bequia. There are several wrecks and shallow caves accessible to advanced divers. It is not unusual to see Hawksbill turtles, lobsters, moray eels and many kinds of fish when diving Bequia.
History: After the Treaty of Utrecht that settled peace between the Spanish and British empires, Great Britain obtained the lucrative monopoly over the Aciento slave trade. Runaway and shipwrecked slaves inhabited the island of St. Vincent in the 1600's and according to an early account of the French Antilles, Bequia was considered as being part of Grenada, Bequia was too inaccessible to colonists and Caribs or Arawaks used the island for fishing and some cultivation. A few Portuguese and Dutch slave ships on route to Stacia island from West Africa reportedly shipwrecked on the Grenadines reefs. Bequia had been under French control in the 1700's and during the war with England allowed their allied Spanish and Dutch ships to take on fresh supplies, while the British were banned. The Treaty of Paris of 1793 changed everything. St. Vincent, the Grenadine islands, including Grenada, were given to the British in exchange for Guadeloupe, Martinique and other islands. Petit Martinique's name derives from this era, and so does Petit Saint Vincent. In 1779 the French seized the island, despite the Treaty of Paris, and the British regained control soon after. In the early 18th century a healthy sugar industry emerged. Molasses, rum, coffee and indigo were other export products. The island gained world fame from its production of arrowroot. At one point in time, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was the single largest producer of arrowroot starch in the world. Presently Hairoun and Vincy strong rum are big export products to the European Union.
James Hamilton, father of Alexander Hamilton moved to Bequia from St. Croix, where he had raised Alexander as his son, in 1774 under a program instituted by the British government to give land to indigent settlers. The land lies along the shore of Southeast Bay. The elder Hamilton, whom the younger never visited on Bequia, lived there until 1790. James Hamilton likewise never visited Alexander in America, despite the latter's frequent sending of money together with entreaties at least to visit, if not immigrate.
The Main Road
It is said by some historians that the famous Captain Edward Teach had his base here too. The opening shot of the movie Blackbeard, Pirate of the Caribbean, made by the BBC actually displays a replica of his first ship off the coast of Bequia in the St. Vincent passage. According to some elder locals on Bequia some years ago, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was not only Capt. Edward Teach's base, which many decline the fact. Also Sir Francis Drake passed by from where he planned the famous attacks on the Spanish admiralty in Don Blas de Lezo's Cartagena. John Hawkins and Henry Morgan may also very well have anchored in Admiralty Bay as it was also at that time the safest natural harbour in the Eastern Caribbean to hide for hurricanes. Also of interest is the fact that Bequia was used as a repair facility for ships. Besides Nelson's Dockyard on Antigua and the Carlyle in Bridgetown, Barbados, there were no docks or shipyards in the area. Wooden shipbuilding and ship repair on Bequia was possible due to the presence of Cedar trees on the island and emphasizes the natural bond with the sea and international trade as a whole.
We explained "one careful owner" to our taxi driver Terry. He was happy to take us to the 'top three', he voted the last one as his favourite.
An old sugar factory
From the mid 1760's onwards, sugar was to be a major crop on Bequia. By 1827 there were nine sugar plantations on the island, employing just over 1,300 slaves. Although there were also numerous small holdings growing cotton and other cash crops, the majority of people on Bequia, from the slaves to the hundred or so "poor white settlers", were engaged in some aspect of sugar production and its export. As sugar declined in the mid 1800's, hastened by emancipation, the nine hundred or so remaining inhabitants of Bequia turned to the resources of the sea for their survival. The richly stocked waters made it a natural for the fishing industry, boat building and navigation. Rugged individualism and resourcefulness still flourish here, the sea and maritime activities will always be the lifeblood of the island and its people. Boat building remains an honoured calling whether in life or miniature size, using tools and techniques that have passed down from generation to generation.
The "lucky jawbone" seen outside many houses and restaurants. The local Bequia flag (whaling own blog).
The beautifully crafted model boats
Brother Orton and some of his charges. (turtles own blog).
ALL IN ALL A LOVELY ISLAND TO VISIT. A TRANQUIL BACKWATER WITH GREAT FACILITIES - FOWEY IN THE CARIBBEAN