Bequia
 
  
  "The port, its harbour cluttered with yachts, is the focal point of this small, seven square mile island ..."   

 

  
 
 

Nov 29

We had caught an early morning flight from Barbados to St Vincent and were looking to catch a bus to the ferry terminal. We stood beside the busy road outside the airport and were a little amazed when van-bus after van-bus passed us by. Finally someone told us we had to go up and around the corner to a bus stop. Good thing to know.

Once in Kingstown it took a few times asking for walking directions before we finally made it to the ferry terminal. Over the past few years, Kingstown’s new and impressive cruise terminal has attracted bigger and more frequently calling cruise ships and, thus, more tourists to spend money on St Vincent. The cruise facility has two deepwater berths while the adjoining ferry terminal has four berths with roll-on/roll off ramps for inter-island vessels. We purchased our tickets plus paid the $1 port tax and went to the upstairs restaurant in the yellow ferry terminal for some breakfast and to watch a town-sized cruise ship pull into harbour with a throng of passengers on the forward observation deck.

Sailing times for the inter-island ferries are flexible ... depending on the demand for freight space, the speed of loading and the mood of the captain.
We boarded Bequia Express I and from the aft passenger deck we watched the comings and goings of people and freight below.

Boys and men with homemade wooden, two wheel carts would help load goods for a small price. Trucks with large or more fragile items (like stacks of eggs or television sets), backed up onto the ferry, unloaded their cargo and then drove away. As the ‘expected’ sailing time got closer tempers regarding who-was-here-first got a little testy. Today everyone seemed to end up satisfied and we pulled away from St Vincent.

Just as we cleared the harbour, one of the crew members let out a fishing line.

The crossing is approximately nine miles and takes about one hour.

The fishing line was pulled in empty as we entered Admiralty Bay on Bequia (pronounced beck-way).

Amongst many expensive yachts the ferry stopped, turned 180 degrees and reversed the rest of the way into dock at Port Elizabeth where the ferry’s ramp was lowered and the bustle of unloading and loading began again.

It was a short and pleasant walk from the dock, to the south side of Admiralty Bay where we left the road and walked across a small patch of sand to a sea washed sidewalk which passed in front of the Frangipani Hotel. What an incredible setting. We couldn’t imagine anything nicer.


 
 The original shingle-sided home built by a Bequia sea captain for his family now offers two rooms (shared bath).

We were led to a two storey building on a gentle hill behind and up to the second level entrance. The room was constructed of local stone and hardwoods. Louvered shutters graced windows and large double doors opening up to a spacious balcony looking northwest over the harbour. There was a dressing room between the bathroom and bed/sitting room; a king-size bed, small table, bamboo chairs, small fridge and fan. We were delighted.

 
   
 
 

 

Leaving our room we went back down, passed the big round tub of water-lilies and a bench under a sheltering roof, to the shore to drink in the view and enjoy a bottle of St Vincent’s Hairoun beer. We looked into doing some snorkelling tomorrow but, in the places we tried, we couldn’t get snorkelling equipment for Sunday ... strange.

Back into town we went. A young boy was practising on a steel drum while his teacher gave instructions from where he sat upon the curb visiting with a friend.

 

 

A peek into St Mary’s Anglican Church. It was built using local limestone and imported bricks which had been used for ballast when nearly empty ships came to the Caribbean to pick up cargo. The church, built in 1829 on the site of an earlier church wiped out by a hurricane, houses memorial tablets recording the lives of some of Bequia’s earliest European settlers.

   
 
It would be nice to come for Sunday service but found a notice saying, "No Sunday Service"
... strange.
 
 
 
 
 
The port, its harbour cluttered with yachts, is the focal point of this small, seven square mile island of +/- 5,000 people, once famed for its boat-building industry. Today the residents put their creative skills into needlecraft, carvings, macramé, black coral jewellery and culinary arts. When the busy tourist season begins there will be small stalls scattered along the waterfront and shops will be open, today it is quiet; even the grocery stores have empty shelves. We picked through and bought some picnic items.
Back in front of the Frangipani, two women were fishing from the little ‘water-taxi’ dock used by people going to and from their anchored yachts. We looked in their bucket to find three small (about 18 cm) shining silver fish with lower jaws which extended out another quarter of their length into a long thin 'beak' with a red tip.  "What kind of fish are they?" we asked.   

"They are called ballahoo. People used to catch them in the bay at night by the light of a flambeaux [burning torch]. They are often used for bait, but are quite edible, if rather boney."

   

We watched the sun set behind clouds creating a golden lining and a pinkish-purple glow silhouetting sailing masts.   We were relaxed and would decide what to do tomorrow when tomorrow came.

 
Nov 30

It was a lazy morning ... as mornings on Bequia should be. We were still wondering what to do with our day as clouds gathered overhead. It started to rain and thinking about how to spend the rest of the day, turned into how to get back to the room without getting soaked. Terry ran ahead to unlock and open the door while Sherrie ducked under the shelter with the bench beside the tub of water lilies.

Drying off in our room, we opened the double doors. Rain reached into the room a tile width and we had a new appreciation for their choice of construction materials. Rain rattled against the metal roof like rain gods trying to play steel drums. The sky darkened and palm fronds danced the calypso. We laughed at our good fortune of not being out somewhere ... the room was comfortable and the experience was welcomed.  
 
Though we were not cold, soup on a rainy day seemed the right thing to have at Frangipani’s outdoor restaurant.

It was the right decision and the first time we had tasted callaloo ... a rich dark green soup made from a plant known by many names. This delicious concoction was created by African slaves. Recipes have been adjusted and added to through the years and may include coconut milk. Where callaloo or taro leaves are not available, spinach makes a good substitute.

No sunset to be seen tonight. We packed for tomorrow morning’s departure.

 

Dec 1

The sky was still overcast as we made our way from the Frangipani Hotel to the ferry dock. As we stepped from the sand onto the street we could feel a few raindrops and quickened our steps. Not quick enough; the rain started falling faster and heavier. We looked around for shelter thinking we might be able to avoid the worst of the downpour. The horn on the ferry blew ... a warning for ‘all aboard’. Seeking shelter was no longer an option. As we ran passed two people huddled in a doorway we heard one tell the other, "they’ll never make it". We ran. Terry faster than Sherrie; but if he could let them know she was less then a minute away, that would be good.

When we reached the ferry we were as wet as if we had stood in a bathroom shower. We laughed at our misadventure and were grateful our backpacks were with us. We had changed our clothes by the time the ferry actually pulled away from the dock; its departure delayed to allow late freight aboard.

This ferry would take us back to St Vincent where we would change over to the island-hopping cargo boat, MV Barracouda, for passage to Union Island.

 
 
Top of page            To Union Island           To Caribbean Home Page            To Travel Tales Home Page
   
©2008  www.traveltales.ca  and  www.bryan-thorne.com  All rights reserved.
The information on these pages ... writings and images ... may not be reproduced without the written permission from Terry and/or Sherrie Tho
rne.
If you have any questions or want reproductions of any photography on these pages please contact this site's Webmaster.