Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bequia: A Lovely Little Island

Bequia is delightful little island of friendly people. I can see why so many winter cruisers hang out there: many restaurants, laundry services, music, music and more music, customs open everyday and friendly, good island tours, good provisioning, and good anchorages. That is what we all seek!

It is also home to many traditional boat builders who still build boats on the local beaches. Today they are building more high tech crafts. At least, the young people are learning the skills and hopefully, the tradition will carry on.

Bequia is known for its whaling station! Yes, they are still killing whales. But before you get upset, there are reasons for it. Those of us who do not live in the various islands around the world fail to realize traditions and actual needs of the islanders. Hunting a whale with a hand-thrown harpoon in an open sailing vessel is a daring feat of bravery and skill. There are few people left with the skills. And it is a tradition they are trying to maintain and share with their young men as a way to demonstrate one's bravery.

By international agreement, the Bequians are allowed to kill up to four whales a year, but often don't kill any. The humpback whales pass on their way south between February and April heading to their winter breeding grounds in the southern hemisphere. The whaling season is limited to these months only.

If a whale is killed, it is taken to a small island on the southeast end of the island, Semplers Cay, for butchering. It is important to understand that every possible useable part of the whale is used and shared with the inhabitants of the whole island. They use the skin, the oil, the meat, the bones, the teeth, etc. for food and crafts and other traditional uses.

A whale had been killed just before we arrived and it was the talk of the town! The scrimshaw artists had new carvings for sale. There was excitement in the air. Unfortunately, one of the cruise lines scheduled to arrive at Bequia cancelled their stop because of the whale killing. Again, outsiders do not understand the significance of some of these traditions. I am not for trophy hunting types of killing wild animals, but I do support the age old traditions of different cultures around the world as long as there is some limits and an awareness of the impact on the species and the environment.

Bequians are a proud people who are descends of settlers from North America who arrived on whaling boats. Others came from farms in Scotland, as slaves from Africa and as freebooters from France. They all live in harmony and are a mixed race today. It is interesting that we don't see the animosity of the African descendants of slaves in most places in the world like those back in the USA. They have moved on and thrive with their focus on the future, not the past.

The four of us enjoyed walking around Port Elizabeth, the main town on the island, located on Admiralty Bay. They have a concrete walk way along the waterfront so you can get to all of the restaurants and hotels along the Belmont Walkway. The Princess Margaret Beach is a long white sand beach with nice swimming and a number of restaurants.

We enjoyed Jack's Beach Bar on the Princess Margaret Beach as it was just in from where we anchored and it has good free WiFi! Sailors are always looking for good Internet access and free is even better. It usually means you must by a beer or burger or something, but the price is right! And their burgers and fried chicken dishes are great!

While browsing in some of the shops, we came upon a new rum: Very Strong Rum! Yes, that is the name of it. As we read the label and laughed at the 180 proof (90% alcohol), a local warned us that we should not drink the stuff! He said it will do us in. Since we are not big rum drinkers, we accepted his advice. Actually, we weren't planning to buy it! But we thanked him for the good advice.

Bob and Merc when off on a hike and Dennis and I went lobster hunting! We were looking for a lobster lunch. And lobster sal
ad at the Gingerbread Café became our favorite lunch. While eating lunch, we noticed that some young men were practicing their swimming strokes.

Since Dennis and his three brothers were high school and college swimmers, he went down on the dock to speak to them. As it turned out, it was the local island swim team practicing for an upcoming inter-island meet. There was no coach or instructor around so he offered them some advice on the butterfly stroke they were attempting. That had been his main stroke when competing.

The next thing I knew, he was in the water, clothes and all, demonstrating and coaching them. I could see how attentive the kids were and willing to try what he was telling them. After a while, there was a marked improvement in their strokes. The team coach appeared and was delighted that the kids were getting some instruction as he only learned from watching You Tube videos! We are still wondering how they did in the meet.

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