Martinique to Bequia 13:00.5N 61:14.3W
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Thu 12 Feb 2015 15:05
10th February 2015
We left Le Marin southern Martinique last Saturday for a short sail (about 25 miles), to Rodney Bay, St Lucia for an over night anchorage. Although a great anchorage, it is the night spot of the island and with the disco blaring all night just a few hundred metres away, and with very little sleep, we might as well have sailed all night! We hadn’t planned to spend time in St Lucia, so by 6.30am we were sailing south again, making our way past the West coast, onto and past St Vincent, arriving at the beautiful island of Bequia. The days sail was one of contrasts, the winds weakening in the shadow of the higher peaks and strengthening as we approached the southern coasts and in the channels between the islands. Travelling a few miles offshore we picked up better winds and made good time, over the 70 odd miles. We prefer to arrive in new places in the light and we motored into Admiralty Bay Bequia as the sun set. The boat boys rush out to meet you offering their services to pick up a mooring, but forewarned by the guide books about some dodgy moorings, we picked up an official buoy.
The scenery on the trip down was interesting, although the lightening was tricky so we don’t have any good pictures until the afternoon sun. These will be posted in next photo blog! We were disappointed not to see any whales around the most recent islands, there is a permanent pod (or is it school, someone correct me please)! of whales off these parts and we have joined a whale watching project since our transatlantic experience and have not seen one since!
St Vincent and the Grenadines are a SSW curving arc of volcanic islands, all within a few miles of each other. Moving south from the main island of St Vincent, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Union Island are the biggest islands with many tens of small wooded rocky outcrops. Theses islands are more accurately the top of sea mounts and the sea becomes very deep within 1/4’ mile in many places. In others the reefs and sand banks give the water the most exquisite turquoise green colour and maddeningly it seems very hard to do this justice in a photo. But it does make negotiating the reef passages easier as they are colour coded so to speak, brilliant turquoise for the shallower areas, a medium blue as it deepens and ultramarine for the deepest waters. The water is so clear you can see all the way to the seabed over 20’ away, just breathtaking.
The islands are administered from St Vincent and apart from Mayreau, each have a short takeoff airport and a daily ferry service. (We have just watched a propellor plane land here in Union Island, coming in over the main town of Clifton, barely skimming the roof tops, there must be some interesting landings here in the high winds.) Goods arrive on the islands by coastal cargo vessels including most of the foods. Tourists and service related industries form much of the economy, although St Vincent has suffered from a crime ridden reputation which still dogs it today. Friends of ours did visit and were well rewarded by the wild, rugged and unspoilt scenery but they counselled caution in where you went and with whom.
Bequia is small, 7 sq. miles, just 9 miles from St Vincent. Like Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia and St Vincent it is formed of steeply rising hills, the tallest 881’ so much less than the lofty peaks of the previous islands. At first sight this is a place of relative prosperity, holiday home territory, the services are well run, craft street vendors and taxis, call out to you for your custom. We visited the small market in Port Elizabeth, they must have seen us coming. The stall holders rushed up, what do you want to buy, 2 avocados please as 4 thrust into your bag, you want beans don,t you, try this mango. It was like a verbal mugging and very expensive! We declined to pay 6.50 for a pineapple!
We have stayed an extra day to visit the Heg Turtle sanctuary on the East coast, Orton the founder and retired dive fisherman, was very knowledgable and persuasive. His efforts have appeared on TV and film and he has managed to encourage school visits from all over the Grenadines. The numbers of turtles have declined greatly over his lifetime and he blames this on islanders taking the eggs and not just a few, a whole nest and from turtle meat and shell industries. Turtle live for 200 years, coming back to the beach they hatched from, laying their 100-200 eggs in 2-3 batches, 2 weeks apart. The survival rate in the wild for a turtle to make it to adulthood is 1:3000 without man’s intervention. Green turtles are a protected species but this sanctuary assists Hawksbill turtles whose numbers have declined significantly and are not specifically protected. The open season for killing turtles includes 3-4 months when they lay their eggs so the decline is made worse. Orton would like to see a ban on all turtle killings and who can blame him. They are gentle, too easy to catch when laying eggs, and their killing is unsustainable. As an example of how one person can make a difference, Orton has released nearly 1000 turtles back into the wild since he started his rescue mission, collecting turtle eggs from the beaches and nurturing them for 5-8 years. His success rate is an improvement on nature at 450:3000. As turtles are solitary except for mating, there are some losses due to fighting in his spacious tanks. It was wonderful to listen to a man with such dedication to his cause.
Bequia also has a whaling station and is allowed to catch 4 whales a year but sometimes don't catch any. Personally my vote is with the whales but the whale bone carvings that filled the craft stalls are delicately made and there is a moral dilemma between supporting local industry and protecting the whale. There is also locally custom jewellery made from mother of pearl, conch shells and seeds and calabash carvings.
We had an early awaking today as our boat gently tapped another as we swung on our moorings, no damage to either boat, thank goodness. With the Panama schedule coming up fast, we have to miss many islands and cut short our time on others. So we sailed past Canouan, had lunch in Salt Whistle bay at the Northern end of Mayreau before moving east a couple of miles to the Tobago Cays. These are a group of tiny islands surrounded by coral reef and are a protected turtle area. Sadly this area is far too busy for sustainable outcomes, there are 2 medium sized cruise ships and maybe 30-40 yachts. The cays are the ideal islands, rocky wooded and palm fringed, too small for habitation other than the locals who come each day to hire you kayaks and paddle boards, sell you T-shirts and a beer. The waters are wonderfully clear, a perfect spot for snorkelling and Alan was rewarded when doing just that with seeing the colourful reef fish, a stingray and a turtle. We had hoped to see more turtles but it really was far too busy, with craft speeding through the waters. Boat boys come to your boat frequently, one offering live lobster. Freddy grabbed the waving crustaceans, (I had no idea they could make a sort of squawk), deftly so much for this one more for the monster size. So having a fancy for lobster, we purchased a small one (plenty for 2), but without a pot bigger enough to cook it, Freddy offered to grill it with garlic and off he went to the next bay and was back within an hour, at the equivalent of £20 it was a treat and we enjoyed it on deck as the sun went down over the Tobago Cays with a glass of crisp white wine, lovely!
Another boat boy came selling bread for the following morning, so today we had very good and still warm baguette for breakfast whilst at anchor. At nearly £4 for a baguette, (and it was very good bread) one winces a little, but the guy has brought it to our boat over a few miles of sea and we are happy to support local businessmen, just not too often! We have left Tobago Cays, travelling the few miles through reef corridors to Union Island (the southern most of the Grenadine Islands bar a few small ones and still only 36 miles from St Vincent), to clear out of the Grenadines Immigration and Customs, a necessary formality everywhere you go. If we do not clear out properly you get into all kinds of problems in the next country as they check your clearance papers. Again this is only a short stop as we are headed to Cariacou today to catch up with another OCC rallier, Dan in Escaton, currently lying in Tyrrell Bay.
If we were staying longer, I would visit the most amazing restaurant location here in Clifton. A restaurant has been built on the reef in the middle of the lagoon, wow!
Well, I think that catches up on all the news to date.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan