Island hopping 2. Bequia

Tue 9 Jan 2007 21:05
Young Island. St Vincent.
A very frustrating trip ashore in the morning to try for water, EC dollars,
and make some calls, failed on all. Set off for Bequia, which can be clearly
seen looming through the mist 5 miles away, into the gale straight from the
Atlantic which whips between the islands at 25 knots. Felt a bit funny,
mostly due to the rum slopping about from the night before, so lay down
across the cockpit, leaving Sue to sail the boat, navigate, make tea, keep a
lookout and worry about the dinghy slithering to and fro behind. A big wave
over the side an hour later ended my sloth and wet me through to me smalls
so back on the job ignoring Sues smirk. We were in the lee of the island
after an exciting surf around the north end and into calmer waters. All the
vegetation on the steep slopes is severely bent in the direction of the
strong wind, just as is in Cornwall, only much more of it. It still feels
strange navigating on the local charts, the distances are so small after the
Atlantic crossing where a pencil dot can represent a mile or more. Yet
another breathtaking scene as we rounded the corner into Admiralty Bay and
Port Elizabeth, much posher than more recent harbours, a more well heeled do
all around. Met by a man driving African Pride, we were soon on a 40 EC buoy
and feeling great after such a short and easy crossing. Fished for a while
with some dead bait scrounged from J and J in Willalibou, caught nothing as
usual so went ashore to explore. We are having to do some more detailed
planning now as we have to be back in St Lucia for Sue's plane departure on
the 12th. Spent Saturday exploring the small town with its vegetable market,
a few bars and hotels plus the usual semi grand municipal buildings, also
had a swim in the same place Princess Margaret is said to have taken the
plunge resulting in the little bay being named after her. Our plan to visit
some of the other islands it looking a bit unrealistic in the time available
we are enquiring about a schooner which does an all day luxury cruise to the
Tobago Cays. A bit expensive but sounds like good value, all food and drink
thrown in. The trip would enable us to do it in one day instead of two.

Sunday 7th Jan 07. 7am departure on the Friendship Rose, a 40 year old
wooden schooner built by the captain and his two brothers on the beach in
Friendship Bay, she is now owned and run by an English couple, the wife from
Falmouth would you believe At a guess I would say she was somewhere between
80 and 100 ft long (the ship, not the wife). Apparently she used to be the
local ferry between the islands but made obsolete by much bigger steel ones
which plough in and out of the harbour daily. Nice that the captain is still
with her. Bit of a squally and brisk day. She hugged the coastline till
clearing the end of the island where the sails were raised and course set
for the Tobago Cays. Many islands could be seen rising up in the distance,
we could identify some of them from studying the chart before we left, the
main one nearby being Mustique. As usual the gap between was quite choppy so
the 50 or so people on board enjoyed a quite spectacular ride and view.
Every effort had been made to provide creature comforts, breakfast of fruit,
juices, coffee and hot pastries, many pillows and small canvas covered
mattresses were available so everyone soon had a corner, bench or hatch
cover to spread out on. Some needed to lay down for other reasons that their
pallor made obvious. The crew had their own stations to handle the sails and
prevent accidents but many of the passengers were soon hauling ropes and
generally getting involved. A very enjoyable three hours during which we saw
Dolphins and caught a biggish Barracuda, or rather the crew did. The chart
of Tobago Cays could chill a sailors heart and the reality is as bad.
Breaking water all around, near and distant, the water beneath us seeming
only 10 to 15 feet deep. The skipper showed us the transit points which make
it easy to find
the channels through, and we were soon swinging at anchor among the many
private yachts and schools of snorklers. The Cays are straight out of a
picture book, low sandy islands with palm trees, scree covered rocks rising
up about 100 feet with little sandy bays around the base, strange and
majestic seabirds gliding around, the shallow water giving the sea the most
startling blue we had yet seen. The waves breaking over the reef half a mile
away was a boatride for snorklers wanting to explore it. It is world
heritage site so the rule is strictly look but don't touch. The policy seems
to have paid off as the reef is still in quite good condition with delicate
sea fans, rare corals and exotic fish surviving despite. The water is so
inviting that many of the younger passengers were jumping or diving over the
side, too impatient to wait for the boat to ferry them across to the island
we were anchored near. The sea temperature is like warm milk so we wallowed
and swam for a couple of hours before going back on board for lunch. Sue
snorkelled for the first time, splashing and pounding along with me hanging
on to her bathers for security, We covered quite a lot of ground quite
quickly, a kind of multi directional exploration of the sea grass, driving
living thing before us. Made me smile to watch her. Lunch on board was
excellent, well organised and satisfying, a plentiful supply of beer and
rum punch for those who wanted it.
I can only describe it as a perfect day, the trip back was warm and
comfortable, a far cry from bouncing along in dear old Thisbe. Many of the
passengers slept the whole way back, rum punched out cold till the last five
miles when tea and coffee with warm banana cake was served. If you are ever
in the area that trip is a must. In the evening we decided to visit the
Plantation House restaurant which came recommended. Yachties needs are the
same as shore dwellers but not as easily dealt with, so facilities ashore
have to be exploited. First impressions were good, access was via a well lit

and flag bedecked jetty where we tied our dinghy and tried to tidy ourselves
for going posh. A few diners were squeezed into the corner of the terrace as
far as possible from Les Dawson being murdered by throttling at the piano.
Not too bad a menu and lack of neck to walk out after coming ashore by their
private pontoon prompted us to take a seat on the terrace. As it turned out,
creating a meal form the menu meant combining A with B or C to come up with
a reasonable plate of food by which time the zeros on the price would make
it impossible to choke down. A fat nosy man came and stood beside our table
and told us he lived on the island and congratulated us on our choice of
such an excellent eaterie, he also asked where we came from, my few words of
reply plus the way I was holding the knife made him move on to stand beside
Les on the stage. We had ordered a Tuna something in an effort to be thrifty
which was about five out of ten when it came. Les was on his break which
lightened my mood a little so the management put on a record at twice the
volume. I explained loudly to the waiter that we couldn't hear one another
speak and would he mind turning it down a bit. He explained loudly with his
head close to my ear that another excellent pianist was coming the following
week and I had to be sure not to miss him. He looked a bit sour when he
finally got my drift and went off in the direction of the stage. Halfway
through our Tuna Revolt it started to rain, the waiters carried our table
to cover but twenty feet closer to Les who had just started up again. I
figured I had eaten enough to keep myself alive till the following morning
so placed my
knife and fork in the finished position as we had been taught always to do
many years before. The waiter immediately came to take the plate away while
Sue was ploughing manfully on, she had to put her elbow into her dinner to
clarify her intention to finish what she had left. By now the noise from the
stage, purporting to be romantic, was becoming unbearable, perhaps the time
had come to make full use of the facilities to which I asked the waiter to
direct me. Down to the pool and turn right. Not too bad, dust blowing
around, dirty sink, no lock on the door or loo roll holder, cubical just too
big to be able to hold the door shut with a foot making discovery a near
created tensions which in turn made a successful outcome well nigh
impossible. Cutting my losses and abandoning the quest for a vesuvial
happening, went to the sink to wash up and prepare for the foray back into
polite company. The hot tap came off in my hand and the cold one was seized
solid, the appearance of the bowl leaving me in no doubt that it hadn't seen
water since a year after its manufacture in 1938. I was very unhappy !
Washed in the swimming pool on the way back and collared the waiter for the
bill which came scribbled on a bit of old paper. We left to a chorus of
'hope you enjoyed and come back soon', I'm sure the ramrod stiffness of my
departing back plus the uncontrolled emission of gas must have told them
something, or perhaps not.
Which brings me to Monday, up early to fish around the bay, caught nothing
! some boat maintenance then ashore to hire bikes and cycle to Spring Bay,
stopping off to explore the old sugar factory which is now an art studio,
pottery being their speciality, and the Turtle sanctuary where turtles are
raised from hatchlings to about five years old before being released back to
the sea, 831 to date.
Visited Cornishman Peter and wife Sylvia Moss aboard their Nic 32,
Tradewind we had spotted anchored in the harbour. Plans have now hardened up
to leave here early on Wednesday for the
two day trip back to St. Lucia and Sues departure for the UK.
Ho hum, its a hard life. Manny