The Grenadines, divided politically between Saint Vincent and Grenada, are a string of 100 tiny, rocky islands and cays which stretch for 35 miles between the two.
Bequai (pronounced beck-way) is the nearest to Saint Vincent, only 9 miles south. It is the largest of the Grenadines with a population of more than 5,000, although it is only seven miles square. There is only one main town, Port Elizabeth, set inside the large sheltered Admiralty Bay on the west coast. It is a little off the tourist map but has been visited for many years by the sailing community. There is a rich history of boat building and fishing in Bequai and there are many boats in various states of construction on the beaches.
We spent a pleasant few days at anchor here, snorkelling in the clear waters and walking inland. We visited the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary at Park Beach, where Orton King has established a centre to try and protect the endangered Hawksbill and Greenback turtle.
We then moved the boat down to the secluded Friendship Bay on the south of the island, where the Caribbean’s only working whaling station is situated. The fishermen of Bequai are allowed to kill up to 4 humpback whales a year under the Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling agreement (although whaling only began here in 1875 by a Bequian of Scottish descent, and carried on by another local of French descent!) and this year they killed 3 whales during the season (between February and April every year). The fishermen of Paget Farm use traditional 28 ft open boats using only oars and sails and hand held harpoons. Many years they don’t catch any whales at all. The whale products are used locally although excess oil is exported to Trinidad and Tobago for cooking and candle making. Pat is not too sure how she feel about this, although Mike, being of farming descent, is more ambivalent about whaling. There is an interesting article about whaling on Bequai here, if you want to read it.
On 6th June we sailed the 28 miles to Union Island, passing en route Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau and the Tobago Cays. When we come north again next year we will, hopefully, get to explore these other lovely islands. We anchored in Clifton Harbour, a picturesque bay inside coral reefs. This is the last place you can clear out of Saint Vincent, although there is one further island, Petit Saint Vincent, which is privately owned, just to the south.
Union is only 3 miles wide by 1 mile long. Most of the nearly 2,000 population live in Ashton but Clifton is the busiest place with a picturesque square and market. It is more mountainous than the rest of the Grenadines and we enjoyed exploring the quiet byways of this pretty little island.
We made a friend of the cutest dog, Captain Twilight, who must be the luckiest street dog in the Caribbean. She has been spayed and has monthly worming and anti-tick treatments, all paid for by the store owners she ‘chooses’ to frequent. One of her benefactors tried to take her home but she escaped and returned to her life of freedom on the streets. There is a photo of her in the gallery this month.
After 3 days on Union, we left to return to Carriacou, where we had stayed for a few days in February on our way north. We were hoping to find that we could watch the World Cup there (football). Unfortunately, although there was cable TV there, the matches were being transmitted on terrestrial TV and the reception was atrocious. We stayed for 5 days this time. We met up with old friends from Trinidad - John (he of the trapped fingers in January this year) and Suzanne on their boat Demara. They are heading for Panama and the Pacific soon so we will probably not see them again. In between the football we did a little more exploring on foot. We looked at the map and decided that the bay over the ridge to the south of Tyrrel Bay looked nice, and that we’d walk over to it carrying our snorkelling gear. A half hour later, after forcing our way through mangroves and a mosquito infested stream, we came out onto the deserted, weed strewn beach. The bay was protected by a reef and we thought there would be good snorkelling but the water was murky and we didn’t fancy it! In addition, growing all along the shoreline were manchineel trees. In all of the Caribbean islands there are warning notices about these trees and they are usually marked with a red ring. The manchineel is one of the most poisonous trees in the world. It secretes a milky sap during rainfall which causes burning to the skin on contact. The Caribs used the sap as poison for their arrows and they tied their captives to the trunk to ensure a slow agonising torture. If the smoke released from burning the wood gets in your eyes it can cause temporary blindness and inhaling the smoke can cause lung irritation. Eating the apple-like fruit can cause severe stomach pains and even death. No the wonder this beach is deserted. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that Mike found out it’s name - Manchineel Bay!!!
On the 14th June we left for Grenada itself and anchored in the bay outside the Lagoon at St George’s. We had stayed on the pontoons at the Grenada Yacht Club back in February when Sheila and Jim came out but didn’t need to this time. We then spent the next couple of weeks watching the football in the club, interspersed with visits to chandlers, food shopping, washing clothes, cleaning, mending, cooking etc. See, we are not on a constant holiday! Mike had been promised a morning’s sport fishing by Badger on his boat, Surf ‘n’ Turf, back in February and, true to his word, he took both of us out one morning. Fortunately, Mike hooked a marlin but unfortunately, it got away! To make matters worse, Pat’s camera finally gave up the ghost so no more videos until she gets back from the UK in October! Mike tells you more about the fishing trip on his page.
The only other thing we have done of note is to visit the Underwater Sculpture Park in Moiliniere Bay, just up the coast from St George’s. You can pay for diving and snorkeling trips here but Badger told us you can just go there yourself and tie the dinghy to one of the buoys. This we proceeded to do yesterday. (The brochures state it is a 10 minute boat ride from St George’s - not in our little dinghy - it took us a full half hour each way). Of course the camera is broken so Mike tried to take some photos with a cheapie underwater camera he bought a while back. We don’t know how they have turned out as we will have to get them developed. If any of the photos are any good we will post them next month.
The park was created by sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor in 2006, in an area of coral reef which had been devastated by the Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004/5. The sculptures are providing an artificial reef and many fish are returning as new coral grows on the figures. Some of them have, unfortunately, been damaged by storms and tides but we managed to find a few of them. Some are in quite deep water where snorkelers can’t really reach - especially Pat! There are two good videos here - one showing the artworks when they were first installed and the second showing the changes since then. Mind the lady known as ‘Sienna’ is now in two pieces and some of the ring of children, ‘Vicissitudes’, have fallen over - shame!
So here we are. The end of June and we are just waiting for a change of wind direction so we can make the trip back to Trinidad. We can’t afford to wait too long. Pat’s flight home is booked for the 29th July.
The usual photos this month, also four movies (before the camera packed up)