Saturday, May 28, 2016


17 May 2016  

Bequia has long been one of our favorite islands.  It is popular with most folks cruising the eastern Caribbean.   The island has a unique vibe and the people are friendly and almost always have a smile for everyone if you smile at them first.  The island has been isolated enough to remain relatively unspoiled.  It is still a delight although we noticed that there are likely twice as many homes on Bequia as there were a decade past.

Almost every day these 2 little boats would race around
 the bay.  Note that steep driveway in background.
Bequia is traditionally a whaling island.  By International Whaling Commission agreement, the local whalers can take four whales per year.  Some years they do not get any.  In fact, many years they do not get any.  When we were last here they had not killed a whale for the previous 4 years.  But they did get one whale in 2015.  I know there are many people who believe that no whales should ever be killed by mankind, but this whaling is different than the Japanese commercial whale killing.  This is a cultural tradition for a sparsely populated isolated island. These local islanders build small whaling boats by hand.  These are sailing craft, not engine assisted vessels.  Bequia currently has two small whaling boats, one named Preservance and the other named Why Knot.  

The guys loved hanging off the side to balance this
tippy little boat.  Again, see that driveway!
Each small boat has a crew of seven men ranging in age from early 20s to early 50s.  When a whale is sighted within range, these two small boats set sail and those men manually throw hand-built harpoons to kill the humpback whale.  If successful, that whale is then towed by those two small sailing boats to the nearby tiny Semplers Cay just off Friendship Bay on the southern side of Bequia, where it is butchered.  Every bit of the whale is used by these islands in centuries-old ways.  Even the whale oil is used for charcoal enhancement.  It is a daring feat in a small, open, engine-less sailing boat, using hand-thrown harpoons, which requires skills.  Hunting as in the olden days of man against animal for survival.  These islanders might not require the whale for survival today but they do still use the entire whale when one is killed.  I have no problem with allowing this tradition to continue.

Showing off for the camera?

We stayed in Bequia for a full week.  There was a 3-day holiday weekend during this period and we just mostly chilled out on our boat listening to music from various restaurants and bars surrounding the large bay.  We walked around town and along the shore a few times, visiting once again The Whaleboner and The Frangipani.  We gave a miss to Tommy’s Cantina this time.  In his newest 17th edition of the cruising guide for the Windward Islands, on page 261, Chris Doyle writes: “When you get tired of local food, Tommy Cantina specializes not only in your favorite Mexican dishes, such as tacos, enchiladas, and burritos, but also in seafood and lobster (in season).”  That is not true.  The only Mexican type item on the menu today was a plain quesadilla.  Oh…and I was so looking forward to enchiladas or tacos, especially maybe fish tacos.  This is not the first error I have found in this newest edition of sailing guide.  I think this guide has been updated so many times that it is time to stop updating and write a new guide from scratch with current information.  Heck, this newest guide does not even have an index!  The 2006 guide by the same author which we previously used had an index.  Not including an index in this newest guide is laziness, pure and simple.  It is time to re-write the book and stop attempting to update old information and getting so much wrong.

Note those 2 upright white things just to the right of the catamaran.
Those are whale rib bones marking the entrance to the Whaleboner Bar and Restaurant.
When we first visited Bequia there was a tiny strip of white sand beach just in front of those whale bones.
 Today that strip of beach is beneath a foot or more of water.    How many more years before the entire
shore side is submerged.  Cannot deny the climate is changing; as ever.

The last time we were in Bequia the Rastafarians operating the produce market were not so nice and I vowed never to go back there to shop.  But this time on our final morning at the island the other veggie vendors who usually have tables set up along the main street were late and we did not want to wait around any longer.  They are much nicer than the Rastafarians have been in the past and their produce costs are the same, so why not do business with the happy people rather than the angry people.  But since they were late this particular day I returned to the Rastafarian produce building and was pleasantly surprised to find that the angry Rastas have apparently stopped working here.  The older women who sold me various veggies were just as nice as could be.  And the single young Rastafarian from whom I did not buy anything still had a smile on his face and joked with me about not buying anything from his table.  The last time I did not purchase anything from a particular Rasta man he got so angry that I feared a physical confrontation.  Maybe the nicer Rastas realized that this angry attitude was driving people away from their market and made the angry ones move elsewhere.  Whatever the reason, the people there are much nicer now.  The sailing guide encourages cruisers to avoid the Rastafarian market; please ignore that outdated advice.  It is not the only outdated advice in this newest  edition of the sailing guide for the Windward Islands.

For several days we kept hearing someone blowing a conch shell.  Sailors know this often is a tradition of ‘blowing down the sun’ or announcing sunset and declaring it is time for a sundowner beverage of your choice.  This conch was being sounded over and over for what seemed like all day.  This went on for several days, off and on at various hours each day.  One day we were walking ashore and came upon four young men, one of whom was blowing a conch shell loudly.  They were selling fish!  They were using the conch sounds to notify others on the island that they had a fresh catch of fish available for sale!  Apparently, another of their traditions.  Who needs an expensive cell phone when you have a conch shell.  On our final morning in Bequia, they were blowing that conch with a series of sounds.  This series of sounds were repeated numerous times so obviously this series of sounds was intentional.  The only explanation that I could think of is that the different series of sounds indicated a certain type of fish or seafood that they had caught and were selling that morning --maybe shrimp or swordfish or wahoo or something specific like that rather than their usual small silver fish which we could not identify.

The Mandalay anchored in Admiralty Bay at Bequia
As we departed Admiralty Bay we passed the Mandalay lying at anchor once again.  This ship arrived in Bequia on Tuesdays and departs early on Wednesdays.  Goodbye one again, oh bearer of fond memories.

That door next to the large window was our first room during our
fist voyage aboard the Mandalay.  On our second trip we had one
of the 2 cabins which open to the stern of the ship, beneath that
green awning.  Like having our own private patio. Only those
2 rooms share a bathroom.  Our neighbors kept forgetting to
unlock the door when finished.  Otherwise, great room.

Far out on the southern point we passed Moonhole.  I have written about Moonhole years ago, so will not bore anyone by repeating that information.   Suffice it to say that this is a unique place only a few might appreciate.   Google for images; these are unique.

Next stop would be Mayreau.

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