Staying in Bequia’s Port Elizabeth anchorage is always a good time. It is hard to pick a favorite island, but Bequia is up there at the top.
You can imagine that being confined to a boat that is 40′ long and 13′ wide doesn’t leave much for the way of getting exercise. Sure the usual scrubbing the decks, lifting sails, and schlepping 5 gallon Jerry cans of water and diesel back to the boat takes some effort, but we still look forward to long hikes once on land. It is not unusual for us to take off in the morning and wind up hiking 6-12 miles before returning to 5KNOTS.
A short distance from the heart of Bequia is Fort Hamilton. The fort was built in the 1700’s and sits at 300′ at the entrance to Admiralty Bay and Port Elizabeth. The strategic placement of the fort atop the mountain definitely protected the harbor entrance from enemy ships. It is a great hike with outstanding views of the harbor. We usually finish our outings with a stop for a late lunch/early dinner and this day was no different.
We wound up staying in Bequia for 14 days this time, in order to what? If you said to wait for the bad weather to pass you are correct. We have learned to go when the weather is good for sailing and when there isn’t enough wind to just sail, we fire up the Yanmar and motor sale. The key is always travel when weather is good and hide from it when it turns bad.
The next island north of Bequia is St. Vincent and we hadn’t stopped there on our way south so we were hoping to hit it on this trip. Even though from the harbor in Bequia to St. Vincent is just 9nm, the thought of taking 5KNOTS out directly into the teeth of the 25-30 knot winds and 9-12 foot seas did not seem like a good idea. But that’s why they have a ferry that will take us there. So we arranged a island tour with Fraser Taxi & Tours (www.frasertaxitours.com). Our tour guide was Fraser himself and he said he would pick us up at the ferry dock in St. Vincent at 7:00am. This meant that we had to leave Bequia on the 6:00am boat. Not a problem because it was just a short dingy ride to shore then a short walk to the ferry dock.
Take a look at the picture of the ferry plowing through the wind and 10+ foot seas. Can you imagine doing this in a 40′ boat? No thank you! We normally make our ferry rides from the outside decks. This day we tried but got drenched by ocean spray. So we retreated to the air conditioned area inside. Much better.
Fraser was waiting for us as we disembarked the ferry and then we picked up three other people along the way that also booked the trip. The main purpose of the tour was to hike the Le Soufriere Volcano that tops out at 4,049 feet. It is the highest point on St. Vincent as well as all of St. Vincent and the Grenedines. The French name Soufrière means sulfur and you find the name Soufriere associated with many of the volcanoes in the Caribbean, especially on the French islands. La Soufrière violently erupted in 1718, 1812, 1902, 1971, and 1979. The Saint Vincent eruption of 6 May 1902, just hours before the eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinuque, killed 1,680 people. The death zone, where almost all persons were killed, was close to entirely all of the remaining Carib natives.
After a 2.5 hour hike to the top we found ourselves in 30+ knots of wind, fog and sleet. Disappointed that we could not see into the crater or the magnificent views of the surrounding areas from there, we still had a great time walking through the bush, and getting all the local knowledge from Fraser.
We spent the remainder of our time in Bequia exploring new areas of the island that we hadn’t seen before, snorkeling the reef between Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay and Renée took advantage of the three grocery stores in town to re-provision for the next month or so. In the USA, we take water for granted because you either drill a well or get it from the city. On the Caribbean islands, getting water is not always easy. On islands with a more developed infrastructure, water is sometimes supplied by the municipality and often stored in large 900 gallon holding tanks located outside of the home. Others not so fortunate, will rely on a cistern. They catch water from their roofs when it rains also filling holding tanks. In this case, the water is not potable and drinking water has to be purchased at the store. However, one thing you find in common is the way they get hot water. There is a small holding tank and solar panel mounted on the roofs. The solar heats the water in the tank thus providing it to the house. The problem with this approach is when there is no sun, you have no hot water. Fortunately the sun is usually out in abundance and this is not an issue.
Knowing that we wanted to have 3 good days to spend at the Tobago Cays Marine Park, we didn’t want to spend any of them traveling. So we decided to stage the trip to the park from the island of Mayreau which is about 30nm south of Bequia but only 5nm from Tobago Cays. We arrived at Mayreau and found a nice easy anchorage in Saline Bay. We were greeted by Timothy who is one of the locals and he gave us the skinny on what’s happening on the island. Timothy’s family runs Ranch Escapades which is a restaurant located just a 15 minute walk from the anchorage. Timothy showed us the way and we got to meet his whole family, mother, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins. We had a great time and the food was fresh made and awesome. The place has a great vibe and you can’t beat the location. You can see Tobago Cays just a few short miles away. We visited the Ranch several times while hiking the small island.
The other anchorage is Salt Whistle Bay and we were happy we chose Saline for our anchorage. Salt Whistle is a small anchorage and looked to be overcrowded. We did walk over twice and is worth the visit.
After the next round of large seas we found our window. Tobago Cays here we come, finally! We found a mooring ball just a few rows back from Horseshoe Reef in about of 11 feet of water. The place is amazing! Chrystal clear water with starfish, rays, fish everywhere, white sand beaches, hiking trails and snorkeling. So we did what we do best, hiked, swam and snorkeled. Right in front of where we were moored, is a turtle habitat so there were turtles around us the entire time. These were some of the largest we have seen.
At Tobago Cays, as is true with most all Yachtie anchorages you find the locals greet you as you come in and offer their services. They range from renting the mooring, provide fresh fish and lobster, island tours and just about anything you can imagine. We heard about the lobster bake that is held on the island each evening and just how wonderful it is and you better not miss it. So it was an easy decision to partake in the Lobster Bake. It was the best meal we have eaten in all of our sailing travels. It included a round trip from 5KNOTS to shore which is an added bonus. Having to dingy back in the dark is usually not that much fun.
We spent three days here at the Cays and then heading north again we will stop at Bequia for just a few days for water and a few supply items.