Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to Bequia

We spent so long in Bequia that our flag was shredded.

The routine was standardized and set before long, and days turned into weeks and weeks to months.

One cool break was the Spousal Unit's Mom decided to drop into Bequia for a visit. The real nice surprise was that Sister of Spousal Unit snuck along without letting anyone (besides me) know she would be there.

On the visit day arrival, we took the St Vincent Ferry to the big island and stayed at a hotel, enjoying the amenities (like hot water, long showers, etc.). The flight came in about 1400 (2:00 PM), so we had time for some shopping and a hair cut for me.

Haircut story; We found a barber shop, but it was as prehistoric as can be. They did have one set of electric clippers, but the barber was young and did not really have much experience with non-kinky hair. I was happy to let him give me a Marine Corps styled "high and tight". The problem was really about the razor he used to shave the edges.

That's right. One of these;

He held the inside of the blade and slid it against my skin. Thankfully, I only had about four nicks. I paid about five bucks U.S. and got the heck out of there.

As I walked down the block with my girl, a youngish gent started calling for us from a block away, dodging and running by people as he gestured and motioned for us to stop.

He arrives panting and breathing hard, stops, stands straight up and says, "Welcome to St Vincent, Mon! "A pleasure to have you here!", sticks out hand for handshake.


I say, "Thanks, what do you want?"

"A dollar", says my new friend.

"Okay, why?"

"President Mitchell says that we St Vincent and Grenadians need to be especially welcoming of all tourists, because they will bring money!" Says our erstwhile host.

Who can argue with that, hmm?

I spent the next half hour reliving the scene from 1964's film, "Hard Days Night". Literally, we had to dodge aggressive beggars and panhandlers until we could get back to the hotel restaurant. It seems that tourism was way down that year, due to some earlier unpleasantness. A pale face was relatively rare in that town so people who lived locally got a little pushy because incomes were down.

Digression time;

This from the Hartford Press
Threats to Jurors in Murder Trial of White Couple
From Rick Halperin, 2 August 1997
ST. VINCENT - A missing handgun, telephone threats to jurors and the seamier side of life for some millionaire yachters in the Caribbean highlight the trial of a white American couple accused of murdering a black boatman.

West Virginians James and Penny Fletcher could hang if they're found guilty. The case has put St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the international spotlight. Not everyone is comfortable with it.

Many locals, known as "Vincys," were enraged by U.S. television reports they felt painted their island as corrupt and incapable of giving the Fletchers a fair trial under a justice system inherited from British colonizers.

Prime Minister James Mitchell - who was urged by President Clinton to ensure the Fletchers got "due process" - recently toured the United States to counter the negative publicity. No one listened, he complained.

"If I were to die tonight I would not make the CNN news," he said late Thursday. "They are not interested in our opinion."

The trial, which began Monday, is the talk of Kingstown. Residents drop what they're doing to hear the latest radio updates and discuss them.

Small crowds gather outside the old stone courthouse, with many offering support to Fletcher's parents, Robert and Kae, as they stoically take seats on the courtroom's wooden benches.

The trial's cast adds to its interest. The prime minister's chief political rival, Ralph Gonsalves, is Jim Fletcher's attorney. Prosecutor Karl Hudson-Phillips was the leading prosecutor in murder trials for the 1983 assassination of Grenada's premier, Maurice Bishop, and his Cabinet.

The victim, Jerome "Jolly" Joseph, was a popular 30-year-old boat taxi driver in Bequia, a northern Grenadine island popular with yachtsmen.

Then there are the accused: James, a 50-year-old former Huntington, W.Va., mining company executive, and his 3rd wife, Penny, 35. The wealthy couple sailed into a storm of controversy in Bequia on their yacht, the Carefree, in August 1996.

In early October, Joseph's body was found floating off Bequia with a .22-caliber bullet through the heart. He had last been seen 3 days earlier, ferrying the Fletchers to their yacht.

The Fletchers had registered a .22-caliber handgun when they arrived in St. Vincent. The gun has never been found. The couple claimed a deckhand, Benedict Redhead, stole it when he left his job in August.

But 2 witnesses have testified that Mrs. Fletcher boasted about shooting a gun only 4 days before Joseph disappeared. Others said the Fletchers tried to escape by sailing away.

"The guilty flee," Hudson-Phillips said.

Defense attorneys suggest the Fletchers were leaving to avoid an angry crowd. Locals had shouted "Murderers!" at their yacht when Joseph's boat was found abandoned, 2 bullets inside it.

Redhead the deckhand added to the drama Friday. He denied taking the gun and claimed he once caught Mrs. Fletcher hugging Joseph aboard the Carefree.

When he confronted Mrs. Fletcher, he said, she started screaming, accusing him of trying to rape her. Redhead said he left, fearing he would be shot. Redhead also said he saw Mrs. Fletcher throw a gun at her husband on several occasions.

Jurors haven't been allowed to hear locals' accounts of the Fletchers' hard-drinking ways and public brawls. In a crucial ruling, Eastern Caribbean High Court Judge Dunbar Cenac refused to allow testimony about threats Mrs. Fletcher allegedly made against blacks or a bar fight she instigated.

The trial nearly collapsed Thursday after 2 of the 12 jurors received telephone threats.

"I know where you're working. I know where you're living. ... If you know what's good for you, you will free the Fletchers," 1 juror was told by a man with a foreign accent, according to Hudson-Phillips. The 2nd threat came from someone with a local accent.

"Certain external forces are operating on this trial in order to bludgeon" justice, the prosecutor said. He called for a mistrial - which would postpone everything until the next court session in October.

The judge refused, but warned that if there were further attempts to tamper with the jury, he would have "no hesitation" stopping the trial.

That's one thing almost nobody wants, including U.S. authorities, who are closely watching the case. They don't want a prolonged trial to jeopardize their "good working relationship" with Mitchell's government, including efforts to combat drug trafficking.

Mrs. Fletcher's health is a concern. She has fainted several times during her confinement in a century-old prison, and has been treated for a possible pre-cancerous condition.

Each morning, the Fletchers sit inside a small, wooden defendants' dock, facing the jury and a portrait of the queen. Mrs. Fletcher hunches up against her husband, who drapes an arm around her shoulder. The courtroom interludes are the longest they have been together in months.

"How are the folks back home? Are they with us?" Fletcher asked reporters Thursday.

Rick Halperin

Note: Jolly Joseph's boat was used by his surviving brother, who brought freshly baked bread out to our boat, every morning. We felt very awkward, being an American boat.

Digression Off.

Before sailing to the Caribbean, this case had been scrutinized and thoroughly discussed (gossiped) in the Sailboat Cruising community. Everybody had an opinion and were divided as to innocence and guilt. The Wildebeest Crew chatted with the taxi-boat drivers in Bequia about this and we leaned towards the locals on this case, but we don't know the real facts other than the fact that visitors to St Vincent were staying away. Bequia, on the other hand, was still thriving.

1400 came and we got a taxi to the airport where the Spousal Unit had a grand reunion with her Mom and sister. Off to the ferry and away to Bequia!

An hour or so later, we collected up our still present dinghy and motored out to the Wildebeest.

I will post photos (when I find them!) as an update.

Mom and Sister had a great time and we all had fun doing the island on our own feet. There were coconuts out at Industry Bay, a visit to the Flintstones at Moon Hole, and we took a nice cruise around the island sailing in the warm spring breezes. After about ten days, the guests went home and we had to ponder our status as cruisers.

One morning, while enjoying "elevenses" at the Office Bar, Bill Sadler asked the group if it was time to appoint two new Directors to the board. Herself and I were nominated to join the Board as full resident members, to enjoy all the benefits of such membership.

We were honored, in a back handed kind of way. It had been about ten weeks and we had seen everything Bequia had, and more. Bill had been making quiet offers to the Spousal Unit to consider working in Blind Rehabilitation at the island medical center... to be voluntary at first, but maybe, if grants were found as a paid employee.

It was a nice thing to imagine, us helping the very poor, but would that keep our fridge stocked with food? Not to mention $16.00 U.S. for a case of cokes or $24.00 for a case of Hairoun beer.

Green Tea:

We needed about $150.00 a month for beverages on our boat and food was double that.

A job that paid money was needed now, our credit card debt was now about $3K and it was looking like our expenses were hovering at $2K per month and we enjoyed an excellent lifestyle. But the debt would be due, soon, so planning would enable us to be ready.

Bill was unsure of any time line leading to employment on an island that has no jobs other than B.S. art and macrame kiosks.

We decided to depart within the week, so we declined the generous offer to have our names printed on the Board of Directors.

There was a loading of fuel and water on the 'Beest. We held 210 gallons in two water tanks. The water seller claimed we held 260 gallons. And he wanted money for that quantity. I'm not sure if we got gouged for diesel, but I was sure unhappy for being cheated on water. If they wanted an extra $20, why not ask for it? Whatever. This ain't America and nothing is fair in a land where they live in tin huts without water or electricity.

The morning of our departure, we woke up at the crack of eight, due to the two nights of "farewell parties" held in our honor at the New York bar and the Frangipani. There was a knocking on our hull, and it was Red Pants.

"Hey, get up! They got a whale at Petit Nevis, and they are holding an island wide "Jump Up" and whale barbecue, it'll be great!!!"

Bequia is one of the few places who still collect whales on this planet, but they do it the old fashioned way with row boats and human powered harpoons. It gives the whale a fighting chance to either get away, or go down fighting with tremendous risk of the hunter losing his life.

I thought quickly... Wouldn't it be totally cool to be able to say that I have eaten whale meat? I heard it tastes like manatee, only more fishy. We had checked out officially from the Grenadines, and if the Customs Officer catches us, we could be liable to pay (at minimum) reentry fees. Maybe a fine, depends on how they are feeling that day.

Sorry Paul, we are out of here. Good bye, good luck, and enjoy the party!

And with that we were heading to Martinique. The journey would take about 36 hours and for the first time, I felt no nervousness about our sailing. Our boat was working (and had been!) perfectly, and there had been no problems since the bilge pump failed on the way to St Lucia. What a wonderful thing to be heading North in beautiful weather!


JihadGene said...

mmm-mmm good. manatee and whale meat.

Barco Sin Vela II said...

mmm-mmm good. manatee and whale meat

I heard that manatee tastes like Eagle, too.

Buck said...

...and for the first time, I felt no nervousness about our sailing.

Why do I have this "uh-oh" feeling?

re: Your expenses on Bequia. I could do that and have lotsa money left over, based on the current cash-flow situation... and especially considering my single status (which might could change down that way, tho). You tempt me, Darryl. You REALLY tempt me.

Barco Sin Vela II said...

If'n you think you might be tempted to try the boating thing, let me know. I can find you some adequate sailboats for reasonable prices, and I have two other retired Navy friends who would help us get it down Bequia way.

Buck said...

Thanks for the kind offer, Darryl. But I know my limitations... chief among them being an aversion to things mechanical and the effort required to maintain said things. Unless it's mo'sickle mechanical things. I'm reasonably adept and competent in that particular space. But ya can't live on a mo'sickle, can ya?

I know from reading you that life on a sail boat would require more attention in the maintenance space than I'm willing or able to give. It's a nice daydream, tho!