Bequia, St. Vincent and Grenadines

On December 6, we left Union Island and had a lazy motorsail with the staysail over glassy calm water.  There was hardly any wind, and we were using the staysail more for stability than power.  Normally we don’t prefer windless days for travel, because we like to sail.  But the winds between Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are usually strong and out of the north or northeast–e.g. right on the nose, in the direction we were heading,  which makes for a very uncomfortable trip.  So we took advantage of the little break that nature gave us.   The water didn’t really start getting lumpy until we reached southern Bequia.  The trip from Union Island to Bequia was 28.9 nm and 4.5 hours.

While not a large island in terms of square footage, Bequia is the second largest island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, second only to St. Vincent itself.  Bequia is a thinner island that stretches diagonally from SSW to NNE, and its primary anchorage is in Admiralty Bay, off the town of Port Elizabeth.  We took a mooring there and ended up staying four days.

Port Elizabeth, and Bequia as a whole, is known as a favorite stop among cruisers, and we could see why.  There is a large anchorage in the southeast corner of Admiralty Bay right off of Princess Margaret Beach, and the scenery in the bay is just lovely.  The bay is ringed with tall, green hills dotted with brighty-colored houses.  Cottage industries servicing cruisers have sprung up over the years, and several businesses will send a boat out to your boat with ice, water, diesel, or laundry pick up/drop off.  There are several water taxis that ply the bay as well.  There are excellent dinghy docks staged throughout the town, and the ferry to St. Vincent leaves from the town center.

The view into Admiralty Bay. Gorgeous.

Port Elizabeth runs along the entire shoreline of Admirality Bay and up into the hills.  It has a charming main street that runs along the shore, lined with shops and restaurants.  Craft vendors set up small booths along the road and sell carvings, scrimshaw, coconut masks, jewelry, handcarved boat models, and all manner of interesting things.  While we were there we saw cruise ship passengers being brought over from St. Vincent by ferry, and we also saw a smaller cruise ship anchor in Admiralty Bay itself.  There are also a couple of nice boutique resorts.  The grocery and restaurant prices reflected that clientele, so we splurged on ice cream but generally ate aboard.

The street is on the left side of the median, and the sidewalk is on the right side, nearest the cars. Vendors set up along the sidewalk. We were pleased at how clean and litter-free everything seemed. A community group, Action Bequia, does a lot of work to keep the island looking good and to manage garbage.

SVG, specifically the island of Bequia and the town of Barrouallie on St. Vincent, has a long history of whaling and is still allowed by the International Whaling Commission to take up to four whales per year.  It is considered an aboriginal subsistence hunt, and the whalers can only use traditional means such as open boats and handheld harpoons and lances.  All of the whale is consumed: the meat and most organs are eaten, the blubber is used for oil, the bones are used for carving and scrimshaw, and the baleen is used for decorative items.  The only part of the whale not used is the gut.  Everyone has their opinion about the killing of whales, and it does not thrill me.  However, it’s also not a part of my cultural background.  We spoke with quite a few islanders on the topic, and I was struck at how reasonable and respectful of the whales they were.  They consistently differentiated their low-tech practice from that of Japan, where the whales have no chance at all.  In recent years, the whales have been winning the hunt, and none have been taken.

As ingrained as whaling is to Vincy culture, the handcarving of model ships comes a close second. The models are absolutely gorgeous, incredibly intricate, and a wonderful reminder of such a neat place.

After four days, we had a good weather window to head north to Martinique.  On December 11, we left Bequia at 1PM for an overnight sail to Le Marin, Martinique.  Along the way we passed La Soufriere, the volcano on St. Vincent that erupted in April 2021 while we were in Grenada. 

La Soufriere looked calm the day we passed, but you can see the various paths the pyroclastic flows took to the ocean. What you can’t see in this picture is that all of the brown area is covered in broken, burned, stick-like tree remnants.

The eruption was massive, causing the evacuation of 16,000 people to Antigua, Barbuda, Grenada, and St. Lucia.  Passing by the volcano and seeing the scarred hillside and the paths of the pyroclastic flows was really eerie.