Thursday, 20 June 2013



Today is Tuesday 18th June 2013 and we are sitting down below with the lights on at 11:00!! Just as we were about to set off for water aerobics it began to rain and has not really stopped since. There are occasional wild gusts and heavy downpours but no sun at all in between.  It reminds us of sailing back home! Except of course Richard is wearing only shorts and I have on a little beach dress and we are not missing Rebels Webasto heater.

Bequia is a tiny island, 7 square miles, with lovely bays, hills and lowlands covered in green forest. We are anchored almost at the end of Tony Gibbons (Princess Margaret)  beach which is separated from Lower Bay by a volcanic outcrop forming a natural stone cave and archway. We had several  fun evenings  here when different  boats met for sundowners as the beach faces west.

The cave is also an entry for a lovely snorkel  towards Lower Bay. The reef is populated with many varieties of juvenile fish including damsels, parrotfish and grunts. Our best sightings were  spotted moray, yellowy nudibranches  feeding on yellowy algae, juvenile longfin damselfish and redfin blennies.

Port Elizabeth really has two streets, Front Street and Back Street with all kinds of shops from vegetable stalls, and craft workers to art galleries and sailmakers and chandlers interspersed with cafes and restaurants. The hub is a huge leafy almond tree (a local almond, not European variety) on the sea side under which the taxis wait and many stallholders gather. It is a lively and interesting  place to wander around.

There are several supermarkets with an amazing choice between them. There is a vegetable and a fish market so you certainly don’t go hungry here. Some of the vegetables are local and some come from St. Vincent – there is a ferry three times a day!

We went diving with Dive Bequia (they offer a  good discount to cruisers. Our first dive was round at Moonhole on the western tip of the island. Maximum depth was 14m but we were promised seahorses. At first there was a lot of rubble with sandy areas and it did not look promising, but then it blossomed.  It was not very sunny and the corals, sponges, many sea fans and seaplumes gave a beautiful and slightly eerie atmosphere.

There were dozens of banded and cleaner shrimp, and lobsters in every crevice.  A big spotted scorpionfish lay unmoving on top of coral confident in his camouflage. At last I saw Queen Conch moving on the sand, so far I have only seen them dead or curled up in their shell.

The variety of fish was really good and finally Steve, our dive guide, summoned us. A Seahorse!! But he was not being very cooperative and was lying along the sand, his tail curled round the base of a seafan and his face hidden in the growth. So, no good pictures

That evening I took the camera ashore, out of its housing to show the others the pictures. Getting back into the dingy as we were leaving I dropped it in the water, and now I have no camera! I feel as though part of me has been amputated.

On Monday we dived at Devils Table on the north side of the bay. A tugboat was purposely sunk 15 years ago in about 20m. As soon as I saw the wreck, I once again deeply regretted the loss of the camera. It sits upright and is covered in purple gorgonians with fish swimming in and out, and lobsters lying in rows under her bottom. The light shines through the portholes and fish dart out against a background of gorgonian silhouettes. We saw a tiny whitenose pipefish, and fireworms all over the wreck reminded us of Gozo. Big schools of Creole Wrasse swam at their usual fast pace only outrun by a school of Crevalle Jack, a pelagic fish we had not seen before.

From the wreck we swam over a bed of eelgrass populated by hundreds of tiny juvenile fish, mainly bicolour damselfish (Chocolate Dips in the Red Sea).The dive ended on a beautiful rocky reef covered in corals, sponges, shrimps and all the other reef life.

The board in the bottom of the gas locker which has two holes to keep the cylinders upright has broken in half. We found Caribbean Woods over in Hamilton who are making us a replacement  – next day service!  They are near GYE where we dropped off the propane cylinder to be refilled.

The propeller and prop shaft are covered in weed and growth again and there are small barnacles on top of the rudder and various other crevices. There are tiny crabs that run away when you pull off tufts of green algae. Yesterday when we looked underneath we saw that we have now acquired a small school of 2cm baby Sergeant Majors round the top of the rudder!  If we are not careful we will soon  look like the Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Caribbean.

So, yesterday we donned masks and fins and armed with brushes and green scourers  we went down to reclaim Galene’s bottom from the sea.

Occasionally when we have been doing water aerobics we have had tiny stings from an invisible creature. Sometimes they leave a little red lump, sometimes not. They are Sea Ants, larvae of the Sea Thimble, a jellyfish.

Well, I went down and began to give the rudder a good brush. There must have been a colony of Sea Ants in the weed because I was stung all over my face, into my hair, my neck and even under my arms. I went up and dowsed myself in vinegar which helped a bit, but had a red rash all over the stung area, I suppose because there were so many stings. I put antihistamine cream on and took an antihistamine tablet but I was in excruciating pain for several hours. The funny side – not that I thought so at the time – was that because of the stings under my arms I could not put them down as it hurt more, so I was lolling in the cockpit with my arms folded over my head. Not very comfortable.

Anyway, this morning it is mostly gone, just now and then I get a little tingle here and there.

There is a cruisers radio net here on Ch. 68 at 0800 each day, run by Cheryl who also runs the Fig Tree restaurant, which is good at keeping us all informed of anything happening in Bequia.

 Cheryl also runs a reading group at her restaurant for island children every other Saturday afternoon. She asked for volunteers from the cruisers and we decided to go along. I had the youngest group 3/5 year olds and Richard had 7/8 year olds. It was quite hard work keeping the little ones entertained for an hour, but Richard found his got very involved. Then all the groups got up in turns and reviewed their books. A very rewarding afternoon as the children really seemed to be enjoying the group. Afterwards Cheryl told us that she believes some children have no books at home! They are allowed to borrow three each week, and can swop them as long as they bring them back which she says is teaching them responsibility as well. They all get a drink and a cup cake afterwards and can then play scrabble and games until home time.
Six of us did an island tour by taxi and went round more or less everywhere in 5 hours including lunch at Sugar Reef overlooking a lovely beach. We both had roti, Richard fish and I had chana aubergine and they came with a delicious pawpaw, raisin and chilli salsa. We drove up to Fort Hamilton which is now only foundations, but there are a few English and French cannon, reflecting their slightly tumultuos past.
We saw Friendship Bay where boats have been built on the beach since the 18th century. This is also the home of the whalers and the whale boats. Our drivers(Lubin) brother is the chief whaler and we could see them down on the beach near their boat. Bequia is allowed to catch 4 whales per year as an aboriginal right. This year they did catch their quota but many years they do not get any. Everyone we spoke to loves whale meat!
 Fortunately, this is slowly dying out because they can only use traditional methods and apparantly the youngsters are not really interested. The whaler has to throw the harpoon by hand, so they have to get really close to the whale which is bigger than their boat. The whales are butchered on small island in the bay and everyone comes to get a share.Lubin says no-one eats their last piece of whale meat until they have more! Traditionally, what is not eaten is salted to keep.
We had a short stop at the Whale Museum, which is very homespun and most exhibits showing their age. There are some good apparantly new paintings of whaling on whalebone and quite a few old whalebones lying around. A teenage girl showed us around, another whale meat fan.
Next stop was Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. Brother King,an ex- turtle-spearfisherman, collects baby turtles and raises them until they are 5 years oldwhen he releases them. They then have a much better chance of survival in the wild. There is one turtle who has a hole drilled in the edge of her shell and I asked him why. She is 25years old, his pet. When he goes diving to collect food for the turtles he takes her along on a lead.
It was a very interesting outing and a glimpse of a completely different way of life.

One day, hoping to make town in between the showers we watched a smalll local sailing boat capsize in a sudden gust. The three teenagers on board tried unsucessfully to right her as she was completely full of water. We went over to help, collecting their dagger board on the way. Another dingy arrived as well and the two if us towed them to the beach. During all this it started pouring with rain so we arrived in town completely soaked. It is a locally made wooden boat with a bamboo mast named "Ark Royal", so we are probably the only dingy that can claim to have towed the "Ark Royal". 

We are still here because there have been two Tropical Waves going over causing big swells and high winds. It should all be over by Thursday when we will leave for Mayreau  or Canouan.

We can't seem to upload the photos so we are going to publish without and try the photos somewhere else.


  1. Sorry to hear about your camera Rowena! Hope you will be able to find a replacement soon. Anita and Cliff x

  2. Oh Dear Rowena without a camera!! It's like losing a third hand.
    VIC Sutton Mariner