Monday, December 28, 2009
Ahh, Bequia Updated Version!
Map was lifted from here. Go visit the website, it's worth it!
So here we are, anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia. We were all the way in the back, by Princess Margaret Beach in in choppy Christmas Wind driven baywaters.
Not too fun, really. The first night was pretty hairy, the winds howled. I was wary of dragging anchor, but that didn't happen until the winds stopped. Then we dragged all over the place.
I called a taxi boat to take me ashore to check in, I show our documents and passports to the easy going Customs Agent and was given a permission of unlimited stay. Not too shabby, I really am starting to catch on to the slowness of life in the Windward islands.
Just to show what a regular joe I can be, I stopped into the Rasta Fruit and Vegetable market and let those guys clean my wallet out for three bags of veggies. I bought some "Christophenes", (what ever that is), which we dined on with dinner. All these nice veggies cost me about 35 Bucks, outrageous ripoff, but they never bothered me again when I walked by their hut. I figured that the Rasta's wanted their vig...
Hired a taxi boat to bring me back to the boat where we picked up the Spousal Unit for further transfer to see our friend Paul.
I asked the taxi driver if he knew "Paul", who was the skipper of a 70 foot sailboat and a hundred foot power vessel. I got a puzzled look in reply, the driver shrugged and called some other taxi boat drivers on the VHF in that interesting, almost unintelligible island patois. Someone on the radio replied a bunch of fast words where I picked up "Redpants".
"Ohhh, Mon, you mean 'Redpants'? I know heem, I take you dere."
Nobody uses their real names in Bequia. I think it adds to the confusion and concealment. For instance, my Taxi boat driver was known as "African". His real name was 'Winston', but he got real firm about being called "African".
African was pretty useful in that he knew everything about everyone.
We gathered the Spouse and flew to the sail boat that Paul (I mean Redpants) was supposedly onboard. We pulled up alongside and I shouted out "Paul!!!!"
I heard a little commotion below decks and I called his name a second time. That's when this apparition jumped from a hatch, naked. His girlfriend (a natural brunette, I might add) came up on deck in the raw, too!
"Arrrggghh, cover up!" I begged.
African moved close to the moored sailboat and we paid him as we climbed aboard.
Cold beer was pressed into my hand as Paul and his girl began cheering our arrival and the party soon began. Paul had been a member of the Little Ship Club for years and it was Paul who helped us when we purchased our sailboat and moved aboard in London. Us having completed an Atlantic crossing pleased him to no end, especially that we had traveled specifically to see him.
Redpants was his new name, since he always wore faded red shorts. His personality is one of bubbling enthusiasm, he is never unhappy and insists that life go along with him in a constant, crazy state of party. His beer drinking abilities are legend.
2009 note; I haven't spoken to Redpants in eight years. There is no doubt in my mind that I could run into him tomorrow, and we would hoist some "Green Teas" and continue on whatever conversation we had holding in 2001.
Redpants introduced us properly to "African" and a few other influential personages, and we were treated like old hands almost immediately.
That evening's party was brutal, but we got the taxi boat back to the 'Beest because I wanted to have a proper anchor watch.
The next day, we got our dinghy (purchased from Paul back in London!) inflated and the motor mounted and we were now mobile.
On the third day or so, we finally got a calm to stop the brisk winds. I noticed the Wildebeest had a boat dragging down on her, so I yelled the warning to the occupants who told me that we were the ones dragging.
So we were. Darn it!
I hauled in our anchor and called Redpants for assistance. Our anchoring spot had been scoured out by the recent hurricane, so holding was difficult at best. We chatted with Redpants and African, and we were given a mooring by the Frangipani Bar, conveniently next door to the "Whale Boner" bar.
At first, it was a really cool mooring it was costing ten bucks a day. But it was secure and 20 yards from shore, so we sucked it up and paid.
We soon got to know the locals and the Ex-Pats. Admiralty Bay was a buzzing hive of little boats driven by outboards, with Cruise Ship passengers ferrying back and forth and yachtsmen vying for position at the landing docks.
Every morning at 1100, Redpants and a few cruisers and local residents would meet at the New York Bar, which was called "The Office" during the day. At night, the bar reverted back to "Locals" only, meaning pale faces were not welcome past 1900. No real threats, but it was understood by us to just not be there. Besides, at 1900 you wanted to be at "Church" or over at the Frangipani, or maybe a couple other places for the evening "Jump Up".
Back to the evening activities, later. For now, we remain at the "Office" where we met the owners of the Moon Hole House (They were called "The Flintstones"), another fellow by the name of "Bill", who was the Chairman of the Board.
"Bill" was the most interesting person I had met on Bequia; He had been born in Palestine, served in WW2 in the Palestine Constabulary. After the UK had left Palestine in '48, he emigrated to the U.S. Once in America, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private and worked his way up to Captain. He retired in 1970. He married a Canadian lady and moved to Canada. Somehow, he got a commission with the Canadian Coast Guard as a Lieutenant, and stayed another 16 years until he had to retire due to age.
So this guy lives in Bequia, owns a beautiful home on the mountainside with two military pensions, and he lives well.
Typical morning at the Office. Bill is the distinguished drinker on the right. Redpants is on the left of the Spousal Unit.
View from Bill's house, overlooking Friendship Bay;
There were a number of folks who were on the Board of Directors at the Office. I thought it was a dubious distinction, at best. That honor indicated the bestowee was a drinker of the first order, something I always try to perform but never acknowledge. (The Navy frowns on alcohol (ab)use so one always denied their true drinking habits) Besides, drinking at 1000/1100 means that the day is completely shot. Redpants was the latest inductee to the Office Board of Directors.
Your Congenial Host "Boswell" and his "Massive At Arms" Kurt. I meant "Master At Arms". Kurt was a pussycat, but he was the muscle who kept things civil at the New York Bar. I like to think Kurt liked the Spouse and myself as friends. We certainly liked Kurt and helped him with learning to read.
Bill tried to talk us into emigrating to Bequia. Lovely place to wind up in, but there is nothing there. Just friendly people trying to make it the best they can.
One day, the owner of the "Frangipani" bar was in town for some stupid ass kissing/wealthy patron doogooder award. The owner is none other than the local Prime Minister-For-Life (Whom I think is an American Citizen, by the way). We were there for the ceremony because we happened to be having afternoon drinks. Some wealthy lady from the Hamptons had written some book about the "lovely people and Culture of Bequia". She was there to give the Prime Minister his copies and some of the proceeds from the sales of said books in America.
We did the polite grip and grin and moved on, after we took some pictures of the event.
To be continued...
At last, after twelve years of imagining, dreaming and hoping it could all come true; We were in an island paradise and the boat was completely safe and snug at her mooring off the Frangipani Bar.
Beautiful tropical music wafted across the harbor, serenading the Wildebeest in the warm breeze. Every Tuesday, the Steel Pan band would play "Feelings" at about 2130 on the dot. I hate that song. Our close proximity to shore gave us an incredible vista for just watching the show, both the musical and the people watching.
At 1700, every day, the Anchor Follies would begin the unintended comedy of watching tired tourists sailing in from Martinique on chartered sailboats, desperately trying to anchor as close as humanly possible to the shore of Elizabeth Town. One boat full of attractive young French ladies was anchored about 25 yards from the Wildebeest, placing us in danger of bumping when the tides changed.
I did not mind, they liked to take showers up on deck and perform other grooming tasks in the warm sunshine. Can anyone imagine trying to observe your neighbors peripherally, while making like you ain't paying attention?
Another boat moored to our starboard side, it was a beautiful old Sparkman Stevens wooden sloop that flew a English red duster. The couple living there had some real knock down, drag out spats in their cockpit. Sometimes, the fights would drift out to public places, on the main drag in town. Quite notorious. One day, the nice lady gathered her gear in a sack, hopped in the dinghy to go ashore while telling himself what a "not nice" person he was, and that she was leaving, for good.
She went to the New York bar where other cruisers consoled her and found a way off the island for this lady.
Post Script on the British Boat; About a week or two later, the skipper unhooked and without any farewells; Left Bequia. The boat was found sailing along, (By the St Lucia Coast Guard) heading north with the sails set and the self steering unit happily driving north with our aforementioned skipper dragging along 20 feet behind the boat, in his harness, dead of drowning.
As I wrote of above, we would rise early each day at sunup. "Jolly Joseph" would knock on our boat at about 0630 offering to sell a loaf of fresh baked bread. We paid two bucks and would have toast and coffee for breakfast. About 0830 we would jump in the Bay holding a tending line, and soap up our bodies in the salt water. We would climb back aboard and use a bucket of fresh water to wash hair and sensitive areas, rinsing the salt off. Then we would clean the boat and attempt to tidy up the wreckage. About once a week we did laundry, using three buckets for soapy, first rinse and second rinse. The drying of clothing was on the lifelines and the sun and breeze quickly made our clothes (T-shirts and shorts!) fresh and clean. About 1030, if we needed money we would get ashore to hit the bank, which had bizarre hours of 1100-1500, with an hour or so off for lunch.
Shopping for food became a new experience. All you could get was overpriced canned goods or chicken. The chicken came from the U.S., via frozen containers. The market also would get in pork ribs. I saw big boxes of frozen ribs, which were thawed for easy handling. The shop keeper would then cut the slabs up for individual packaging and then wrapped in plastic wrap to be returned to the freezer. Steaks were rarely found, maybe once or twice a month. Not worth it.
So we ate chicken. There must be 600 ways to serve chicken.
Lunch. What to do about lunch? We followed the locals to the back side of the main drag where there was a small roach-coach styled grill. They served fried chicken wing on roll for fifty cents, U.S. We would often have two each to get lunch out of the way. Dinner would be grilled chicken on the boat, where we would dine and drink wine and beer while watching the sunset. We would also play endless games of cribbage until about 2030. We would normally be in bed by 2100.
That's island living!
We made friends with various shopkeepers. Often, they would be people who cruised in to Bequia and needed to do something to keep an income. One couple, from Sweden and Chicago, had a photo art studio called "Da Gallery". They were very kind and we loved to visit and waste their time. Here is a picture of the Spousal Unit with a parrot; Animals Love Her!
We did a lot of hiking on the island, we made sure to walk around the entire land mass, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. (There was a small valley used as a dump) Other than the dump, they kept the island tidy for the tourists. We stopped by Industry Bay, a rocky beach on the Windward side of the island. There was a nice hotel which would serve us drinks in the jungle, and while you were enjoying the hospitality, you could recline on hammocks and easy chairs.
Oh, and they had cats. Guess who the cats visited?
Some of the views were wonderful. It was neat to see some of the other islands in the distance, knowing that we could be there in less than an afternoon.
View of South coast, Island of Mustique:
Friendship Bay, again:
Sometimes, we would spend an evening with cruisers and locals, one never knew who would be around the corner. We were walking back to the Frangipani Bar (where the dinghy was tied) and we ran into a Danish couple whom we had mnet in Portugal. They were cruising their Swan 50 and happened to just arrive in Bequia. The party began, yet again.