Back in Bequia
Our last Caribbean sailing season ended in May. To avoid the hurricanes we had two choices: leave the boat in the Caribbean somewhere which the insurance company deemed safe (e.g. Curucao), or to bring the boat back to Europe. The first option would have been the simplest. But when we starting comparing costs of storage, maintenance and the planned upgrades it became clear there was a big incentive to be in Northern Spain (see note 1), rather than the Caribbean.
But, since May, there has been a lot of distance to cover. However, although I have enjoyed the sailing, it has sometimes felt like we have been constantly chasing deadlines. (The R&R time in the Azores, enjoying the company, cuisine and culture of Galicia and our week in Madeira were exceptions, of course). Fortunately, those deadlines are now behind us. We can start running on Caribbean time again.
Bequia is one of the larger islands in The Grenadines. It is remote enough to be largely unspoilt yet popular enough among the cruising fraternity to have a certain 'buzz'. Port Elizabeth, the only town on the island, looks out over a large, natural harbour (Admiralty Bay).
No excuse getting lost in the centre!
On the hill to the north, overlooking the anchorage, the obligatory remains of a fort makes a good short hike destination. The bay can also easily be followed southwards thanks to the Princess Margaret walkway (see top photo), which links the various beaches. The walkway is dotted with beachfront bars, cafes and the occasional boutique hotel. Many have a jetty to persuade cruisers to dinghy in to their particular establishment. Our favourite, from last year, is The Porthole. Locally owned and in the same family for two generations, it is a popular meeting place for coffee thanks to its location next to the chandlery. But the food is also good and excellent value; a lobster menu here is half the price of Tobago Cays beach barbecue and just as delicious.
Bequia has a sailing, boatbuilding and whaling tradition. It is one of the few islands where we have seen a sailing school for locals, run by locals. They use boats built on the island to 'modern' (60's-70's era) design. They have enough of these boats to organise an annual regatta at Easter which has now become a tourist attraction. The whaling station is on the north coast on a small island. When an international moratorium on whaling was negotiated, a few exceptions were written into the agreement. The Bequians were able to justify four whales each year, thanks to their longstanding tradition and economic reliance on the trade.
Apart from its attractions, there are other good reasons to choose Bequia as an arrival destination. It is a large anchorage with no hidden dangers which we know well. This gives us confidence to enter day or night.
It is also a 'Port of entry' for Saint Vincent and The Grenadines ( where you clear customs and immigration before visiting the other islands).
In addition, it can provide everything we need to re-provision after the Atlantic crossing. One of those re-provisioning points is Bequia 'marina', previously owned by a yacht charter business and now no more than a jetty with mooring for a handful of boats. However it offers good water from a modern purification system and diesel. Currently in ownership transition, toilets, showers and restaurant are out of action.
Other provisioning can be done in town which has a bank, supermarket, bakery, a plethora of small, Caribbean style shops selling fresh foods and the ubiquitous 'travelling salesmen' offering their fruit and vegetables. Gas bottles (for cooking) can also be filled.