25. March 2015 · Comments Off on Beautiful Bequia · Categories: Sailing Blog

What a week!

We are now officially PADI Open Water Scuba Divers!
Having gone for a stroll along the shores of Admiralty Bay, we decided to stop into the local dive shop and inquire about scuba diving courses and signed up there and then for a for a taster session last weekend. We turned up and were kitted out with all the gear and covered all the basic skills in shallow water in the morning and then, to our surprise, got taken out to a nearby reef to actually dive. What an experience!! Needless to say we decided to enrol for the full course. So this week has seen little time for any real exploration of the island.

We are anchored on the north of the bay quite close to the shore.

View to port.

View to port.

View to starboard.

View to starboard.

The anchorage is very busy with ferries from St Vincent arriving and departing throughout the day and cruise ships drop anchor at the mouth of the bay. Port Elizabeth actively welcomes Yotties and the people a friendly and the boat boys, that come and offer you a mooring as you enter, are not at all pushy…….a pleasant change from our first taste of them in Union Island!

Ashore all the businesses are centred around the ferry terminal and along the waterside. There are a few shops, bars and the bank that operate along the other road that lies behind the strand. This is the only town on the island, which is only 7 square miles, and on our stroll around we found all the public services………….schools, hospital, police station, cricket pitch and a back street pub with a pool table! Marcus played several frames  with the bar man, who is the island’s champion……..needless to say all the years spent in the pub paid off…………Marcus won!!

The Porthole mini market and restaurant.

The Porthole mini market and restaurant, overlooking the sea.

This was  our lunch stop on our way round the bay. There are numerous eateries along the way. Some are definitely catering to the visitors palates and pockets and others serve up local food at affordable prices. Bequia feels like you’ve stepped back in time to the 50s. The pace of life is slow, the people are relaxed and friendly and they seem to have a communal pride in their island.

Port Elizabeth's Book Shop.

Port Elizabeth’s Book Shop.

There are some unusual buildings……all simply built and well maintained.

Bequia is one of the few places in the world that is still allowed to hunt whales, due to whaling being deemed a pivotal part of Bequian culture and heritage. The local whalers go out in small boats with hand thrown harpoons and are allowed to catch a maximum of four whales a year. There are restrictions on which whales they can hunt, leaving the old ‘lone males’ as the main targets.
The whales have started their annual migration and ‘spotter boats’ are out daily. Some of the divers we have been talking to have actually heard the Whales’ songs underwater.
Whaling seems barbaric to us and we would far rather watch them than kill them, but whaling maintains the age old traditions and associated cultural and artistic activities that Bequian’s take great pride in. There is a bar called‘The Whaleboner’ on the waterfront which has a bar made from a large bone, bar stools from vertebrae and an archway made of two ribs.

The Whaleboner Bar with its whale bone bar and bar stools.

The Whaleboner Bar with its whale bone bar and bar stools.

Along the waterfront and at the back of the beaches, there are stalls set up selling local handcrafts using banana leaves, coconuts, turtle shell and scrimshaw on whale bone and whales teeth.

Local handcart stall at the back of the beach.

Local handcart stall at the back of the beach.

There has been a recent push to make Bequia more accessible for locals and tourists alike and we walked along the new path to Princess Margaret’s beach.

Artistic shot on our walk  to Princess Margaret's Bay

Artistic shot on our walk to Princess Margaret’s Beach

The newly opened walkway round the cliff.

The newly opened walkway round the cliff.

And under the cliff.....not a guard rail or warning sign in sight!

And under the cliff…..not a guard rail or warning sign in sight!

Someone's home or Fishermen's shelter ?, tucked in right next to the walkway

Someone’s home or Fishermen’s shelter ?, tucked in right next to the walkway

Another proud tradition in Bequia is boat building. There are loads of locally built boats around the island. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fishing boats and some are much bigger sailing boats that are now skipper chartered or used for tourist day trips to the nearby Mustique or the Tobago Cays. We saw a poster in the bookshop of the launching from the beach of a boat built for Bob Dylan.

Locally built boat. Size S.

Locally built boat. Size S.

Locally built boat. Size L.

Locally built boat. Size L.

Bequia is really geared up, in a very low key way, for tourists and in their typically laid back way they advertise themselves Bequia style.

Literally Drumming up Business at The Bistro.

This gut literally drums up business every evening at The Bistro.

On the beach to the north of the bay is much less touristy and one evening we watched as a local fisherman arrived on the beach with his share of the day’s catch…..part of a very large shark. A crowd of locals gathered, presumably to buy or claim their share and the fishermen divvied up the catch right there on the beach.

Dividing up their share of the day's catch .........shark meat.

Dividing up their share of the day’s catch ………shark meat.

Having walked along the bay as far as we could one afternoon earlier in the week, we took the dinghy around the headland to Lower Bay to explore the remainder of the bay.

Lunch stop on Lower Bay.

Lunch stop on Lower Bay.

The beach was almost deserted, but we did spot our first bit of graffiti!

Graffiti, Bequia style!

Graffiti, Bequia style!

What a change from the ubiquitous ‘angry’ graffiti that we have seen, daubed on every surface, all the way down through Europe, The Canaries, Cape Verdes, Brazil and Trinidad.

As I said at the top of the blog, we spent the week learning to scuba dive. There was a lot of nervous tension and high levels of anxiety on board all week, but with a great deal of patience and understanding from our teacher, Cathy, we both made it through to our last dive, which lasted an hour and went down to 40ft!

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Ready for our final training dive.

Ready for our final training dive.

Marcus with his endlessly patient mentor, Cathy.

Marcus with his endlessly patient mentor, Cathy.

 What better way to celebrate than taking advantage of Happy Hour, just along from the Dive Shop, and watch the sun set.

It has certainly been a week to remember, but Marcus can’t remember rum punches number 3 or 4, nor how he got back to the boat!!

I keep telling him he’s so lucky to have me to fill in the gaps!

Happy Hour celebrating being Scuba Divers!

Happy Hour celebrating being Scuba Divers!

Beautiful Bequia!

Beautiful Bequia!

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