Day 156, Year 6 Bequia Tour
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Weather: Sunny Morning, Sprinkles in Late Afternoon; Wind E 20 knots
Location: Admiralty Bay, Bequia
We’re still here. We had planned to leave this afternoon for Walliabou on St. Vincent, but by the time we finished our tour, checked email at the internet café, had lunch at Mac’s Pizza, and checked-out, it was almost 2 pm when we returned to Windbird. Daffodil Services came right at 2 pm with the laundry, but then we asked them to send their water and fuel boat over so we could fill up our water tanks and extra jerry jugs. There’s so much wind in the Caribbean that we never need to motor and therefore water making takes more power than the wind generator and solar panels generate. Of course, they also have to power the auto pilot and computer and cockpit monitor used for navigation purposes. So getting the water seemed like a good idea. The rain had started while we were checking out and it continued while we were taking on water. By the time we finished it was after 3 pm and that meant we would arrive in Walliabou at sundown. With the squally weather, we decided this was a bad idea. So we have scrapped St. Vincent and will leave early in the am and head directly to Soufrierre on the southwest coast of St. Lucia. We will stop there for the night, do a little exploring the next morning, and then will probably do an overnight to Dominica. It is possible that we will decide to head to Martinique first, but that discussion will happen once we are underway tomorrow morning.
At 9 am this morning we met Curtis from Challenger Taxi and Tours at the Gingerbread. This is a hotel and restaurant with “gingerbread house” trim and a high wooden roof supported by mast-like poles. The roof is bright orange and can be seen from anywhere in the harbor. The have a great dinghy dock, so it was the perfect place to leave the dink while we went on our little tour. We had asked to be taken to see the houses in Moonhole but were told that it is no longer possible to tour the homes, but we could drive out and get close enough to get a glimpse. We also wanted to see Paget Farms which is a fishing village and that was on the way, so off we went. The road climbs fairly steeply out of Port Elizabeth to the other side of the island to Friendship Bay. Curtis explained that this part of Bequia used to be a huge plantation, but it is now dotted with vacation homes and tourist rentals, with the Friendship Bay Beach Resort still front and center and looking like a plantation. From Friendship Bay we could see the whaling station on the island just out of the bay. The station used to be on Petit Nevis just south of Bequia, but when all the old whalers died off it was brought closer to the island. Bequia’s natives still have the right to whale and are allowed four whales per year by the IWC, International Whaling Commission. Curtis’ older brother is a whaler and Curtis explained that some years they get none and some years they get their quota. They are really not whaling for money, but rather to keep the tradition alive. The famous Bequia whaler, Athneal Ollivierre, is no longer living and his house has been sold off by his children. But Curtis showed us the house and explained that it was a gathering place for islanders to learn about whaling and about the island from Athneal.
From Friendship Bay we went on to Paget Farms which is a traditional fishing village. There is a huge fish processing building on the waterfront where all of the local fishing boats are pulled up on a concrete ramp when not in use. From Paget Farms the road takes you to the airport that was built on reclaimed land between 1990 and 1992. The landing lights start out in the bay and bring the planes on the flat, reclaimed landing strip. Beyond this point, the road deteriorates and we went through a huge quarry area and then another piece of swamp land that is being reclaimed to build a huge resort right on the water. At this point, the road is dirt and we traveled on a bit further to reach Moonhole.
The story of Moonhole is fascinating. In the early 1960’s a man named Tom Johnson, an American architect, found this piece of paradise at the end of Bequia island that is not easily accessible. There were no roads and no anchorages, but he chose this place to build his Moonhole houses. The area is called Moonhole because there is a natural arch and it was under that arch that Tom Johnson built his dream home. He used only rocks found naturally in the area and mixed the concrete with salt water as there was no source of fresh water. That was the big mistake, as the salt-water concrete did not stand up under the test of time. The first disaster was when a huge boulder fell from the ceiling of Johnson’s original home and crashed into a thankfully empty bed. The story of the Moonhole homes is long and convoluted but the short story is that some of the natural stone structures have survived, most with no glass, just open areas with huge arches, fantastic views, and lovely open areas. There has never been electricity on this end of the island, so refrigerators and other amenities have always been powered by gas. Tom Johnson is no longer living and the place is changing, but it was quite a delight to be able to get close to a couple of the homes and see the building techniques up close.
So tomorrow we move on north. We will leave here at sunrise and hopefully make the 51 miles to Soufriere before sunset. Sunset in the bay there under the towering Pitons is pretty incredible. We were here in 2005 with our children who were visited for Christmas. I look forward to returning this beautiful little corner of the Caribbean.