Tuesday, April 30

The one that got away

We left Bequia at first light....

We sailed passed St. Vincent on our way to St. Lucia....

Even caught a glimpse of the Pirates of the Caribbean I set....the dock scene...

Then Chris caught a monster Wahoo!

Then we saw a whale...

 More St. Vincent....beautiful and lush.....

Fish On!....

 A gorgeous black fin tuna!....

Craig unhooked it, put it in the bucket, Kate poured the rum down its throat and we thought we were golden.....until he made a jump for it as Craig scrambled to catch him before he flopped back in the water!  Damn!!  Craig said some not so nice words that can't be repeated on this family friendly blog.

Disclaimer:  PG-13 for bad language.

 A little while later, closer to St. Lucia, he caught a Cero....

Look at that beauty! 

Turtles, Boats and Friends in Bequia

Bequia (pronounced Bekway), Admiralty Bay, to be specific is one of the most protected natural harbors in the Caribbean.  At the back of the bay lies Port Elizabeth,  Bequia's capital.  It is more like a village than a capital.  The island itself is quite small at seven square miles and its 5000 residents.  It is charming with the pastel multi-colored wooden buildings that line the waterside pathway called the Belmont Walkway.  It runs past a string of bars and restaurants that lead to the town's main street lined with souvenir shops and a great little bookstore.  I can not forget to mention the random chickens strutting through town.  The wandering, wild poultry is the icing on the cake as I conjure up a picture in your minds eye.

This is a bustling town of sailors and boats.  Model boat building on Bequia is a specialty and has been for generations.  There are many boat building shops around town and they take great pride in their hand made carvings.  Erica and I visited Mauvin's shop one afternoon and witnessed one gentleman carving a bazillion pieces of wood.  On display in the front room were hundreds of model boats in all shapes and sizes.  Most of them were replicas of the whaling boats painted in bright colors adorned with every detail of a boat.  However, if you wanted them to build you a model of your own boat, they would do that too.

photo courtesy of roma.ws

Playing under the tent while we lock the dinghies to the town dock.

Friendship Bay, home of the whaling museum, is over the hill on the southern part of the island.  It was a hot, hot, sweltering day and we were tired of walking, so we never actually made it Friendship Bay.  We took a picture of the sign though.  As you can see, it's a long walk down the other side of the hill.  And you know what happens when you walk down a hill, you must eventually walk up the hill.  No way were going to convince the kids to do that.  The sun was INTENSE!   Plus, we weren't 100% positive the museum would be open, so we grabbed a taxi back to town - all of 2 miles.  Pathetic, I know.  The island has an active whaling station that is allowed to kill 4 Humpback whales per year.  We were right in the middle of the whaling season, between February and April.  Some years are better than others and when we visited, they had not caught one yet.  There are very few people that actually whale anymore, it is an incredibly hard job.

Feeding Mr. Goat

Rewarded with ice cream at the end of a hot day

Anna and Elias give us a tour of the Harvey Gamage.  

The Harvey Gamage, which is affiliated with the Ocean Classroom Foundation, is a 95 foot schooner.  They offer several curriculums including a semester at sea.  When we met them, they had sailed form Maine and were on their way to Trinidad.  We ran into the ships chef while at the dinghy dock.  He invited us on board for a tour after dinner.  Yes, yes, we didn't want to let that opportunity slip by.  Once on board, we were immediately surrounded by a half dozen high school students wanting to know all about us and what adventure we were on.  No time for that....we wanted to know about their adventure!  We also met the captain and the teachers aboard.  The students have 4 core subjects everyday and then of course, learn everything about the ship and sailing.  There are no electric winches or electric anything for that matter.  Everything is done by hand, even navigation.  We saw the galley and the eating quarters, the separate boys and girls cabins.  Essentially the students are all in one room with a bunch of bunks and one bathroom.  I believe there were 15 girls and 11 boys.  There is stiff competition to be selected for the semester at sea but perhaps our children will have an edge when they come of age.  By the time these students reach the US at the end of their semester, they will have actually sailed Harvey Gamage from Trinidad right into port all by themselves - no assistance from the captain.  Or at least that was the goal.  That's a pretty intense program but what a great experience!  The students are from all over the US and even far away places like Spain.  
I had a chance to steal a few moments of time from both a girl and a boy student, each while doing school work on their bunks when we toured their cabins.  I was most impressed with how well spoken they were and appreciated their candid comments about how hard things were.  They were fairly 'green' in their journey and had a long way to go.  I learned that the boy raced laser sailboats (a small dinghy sized boat) when he was younger and he felt that did nothing to prepare him for this (which is completely opposite of what he thought).  The young girl had cruised with her family as a small child for year and she was ecstatic to be at sea again.  They were all just as interested in us as we were in them and it was a great bonding experience.
Craig and I spent quite a long time talking with the captain about various subjects related to the students and the ship.  But we found it most interesting that he was one of the paratroopers that invaded Grenada back in the 80's.  This trip aboard the Harvey Gamage was going to be his first trip back to Grenada since then.  He was a little apprehensive about it.  We told him that we spoke to a local Grenadian who was grateful for the invasion and he had nothing to worry about.  When we were ready to leave, we found all 3 girls chatting it up with a small circle of high school students around them.  It was definitely a highlight of Bequia for us.

photo courtesy stargazershalo
The Harvey Gamage silhouette at sunset

The Friendship Rose used to be the ferry between islands.  Now it's used for day sails.

The town dock looking at Admiralty Bay anchorage

Our motto exactly!

Going up the hill in the bus looking back at the anchorage

Maggie (not our Maggie) shares with us how she makes  pottery in her "Spring Studios" shop.  She is actually an artist and does a lot of painting as well.  Her husband is responsible for most of the pottery sculptures.  She was just about the sweetest person we have met.  She just took us in, unannounced again, and spoke with such enthusiasm.  It was inspiring!

One of the beautiful creations that I would have loved to buy and bring home.  

Our open air bus

Looking at the windward side of the island

"Brother King", in the red, hat tells us all about his turtles.  We thoroughly enjoyed listening to this retired fisherman explain how he nurtures baby Hawksbill turtles before releasing them.  He was full of great fishing stories from the old days too.  We could have stayed all day, hanging on his every word.  Our small entrance donation goes directly toward the cost of feeding and housing the turtles.  He runs the show pretty much by himself and is trying to teach his grandson so that he has someone to take over when he gets too 'old' to do it anymore.  His words, not mine.

Here are some facts the kids learned:
They have a beak like a hawk
They grow up to be over 100 years old
The babies fight with each other and sometimes eat each other because they are territorial
Some of the bigger ones have been at the sanctuary for 3-5 years.  
He takes them out to the ocean (on a leash) to stay acquainted with ocean life until they are ready to be set free.
They are considered critically endangered 
They used to be killed for their beautiful tortoise shell, but now it's against the law
The female can lay as many as 120 eggs each time and she may nest up to 6 times in a season

A 6 week old baby turtle.  Isn't he just the cutest little thing you have ever seen?!

Watching the bigger turtles swim in their pool.  Some of them are injured or rare, which is another reason they might be in the sanctuary.

Beachcombing for shells

The beautiful east coast of Bequia

Walking towards the small resort to enjoy a beer and meet our bus driver

Enjoying a refreshment as we gaze at the sea

Windjammer cruise all lite up for the night

Sleepover on Anything Goes

Homemade chocolate chip scones and fruit for everyone

Putting up the sails at day break, as we leave Bequia

Full Moon Party, Tobago Cays

Moving up the Grenadine Island chain, we ventured into the Tobago Cays (pronounced KEY).   The Tobago Cays consist of 5 small, uninhabited islands surrounded by a horseshoe reef.  These reefs protect the turquoise anchorages from the pounding surf.  The wind howled while we stayed here five days.  The sea spray was thick and covered everything in a not so fine layer of salt.   There were plenty of boats in the anchorage but it didn't seem crowded, if that makes any sense.  There were no stores, no marinas, no resturants of any kind on any of these beautiful islands.  Well, I take that back, there were a couple of outfitters selling t-shirts and jewelry on one particular beach.  We filled our days with school work, swimming and snorkeling.....perfecto!

Looking at Palm Island as we leave Clifton anchorage on Union Island.  

Following Patronus into Tobago Cays

Liv watching for reefs

View from our anchored spot off of Baradel Island, right next to the turtle watching area.  It was marked with linked buoys and we snorkeled around and saw tons of turtles, big and small.  This was almost as much fun as swimming with the dolphins in Les Saintes.  They move so slowly and effortlessly through the water and don't seem to mind if you are there watching them.  Craig and I saw a ginormous turtle, he was bigger than the circle of my arms.  

The water is sooo clear!

Looking at Petit Tabac - the only island outside the protected reef.  Does it look familiar?  Read on....

One of the few boat boys that sell flags, fruit, veggies, t-shirts, BBQ dinners on the beach....you name it, he sells it.

Chris and Craig working on their fishing gear.  That big bottle of rum in the middle of table is for the fish, not Craig or Chris.  Just in case you were curious about the amount of alcohol on the table in the middle of the afternoon.

St. Vincent and The Grenadines Flag.  As Kate would say, "it's a perfect flag day" (when the flag flies straight back).  It was really windy in Tobago Cays.  There were no mountains to temper the howling.

Visiting Petit Tabac, the 'deserted island' featured in Pirates of the Caribbean I.  Do you remember the scene where Jack Sparrow got kicked off the ship onto a deserted island (the second time) and Elizabeth discovered he had a stash of buried rum?  She promptly unburied it and set it ablaze to attract her rescuers.  That was filmed here!   Of course we wanted to experience the deserted island for ourselves, so we piled in our dinghies, armed with Chris’s iPhone navigation, meandered through the shallow reefs, through a narrow cut, trying not to get pounded by the huge surf on either side and zipped across the way to Petit Tabac Island.

Clearly, Bryson has been in the Caribbean too long if he can climb a palm tree to retrieve coconuts

The kids are exploring the beach.  We could walk around the entire island in 45 minutes or less!

Starting the painstaking process of removing all the braids in Olivia's hair.

A group photo on Petit Bateau, later that evening,  ready for our beach BBQ.  

The story takes much longer to write out than it actually is...so hang in there....One of the students we met at the elementary school, where we worked in the library, told us her mother worked in Tobago Cays.  Curious about what work she did, knowing there was next to nothing in the islands, we bombarded her with questions.  Come to find out, she does beach BBQ's on Friday and Saturday.  Sign us up!  We asked Demollie to let her mother know that we would be headed that way and would love to give her our business.  Once in Tobago Cays, The Conway's went ashore in search of Demollie's mother to make the arrangements.  They indeed found her, Batelle, and spent several hours lingering on the beach, listening to her life story.    Perhaps Erica will write about that in her post : )

On to the beach BBQ.  Batelle was hard at work when we arrived at the beach.  Her teenage daughter, boyfriend and Demollie were all there helping in the preparations.  The sun was setting over the small island and we had the beach to ourselves.  There was a stiff breeze and a layer of clouds that cooled things off quite a bit.  It was obvious that this was not just a casual "oh, let's just throw a small beach party and sit around a campfire".  They had quite the permanent set up with a huge BBQ grill tucked up close to the hillside, protected from the wind, covered with a canopy and tables to work on.  There were large picnic tables set up with table cloths and strings of lights everywhere to enhance the ambience (run by a generator, of course).  It felt like something right out of the movies.  We had portable speakers so we could play music and we brought some painkiller mixer to accompany the rum.

The kids with Damollie

Retrieving the fresh lobster in cages on the side of their boat.  This is the boat they use to travel back and forth from Union Island.  It's no small distance in open ocean for such a small boat.  I'm not sure I could make that trek every day.  Talk about a commute!

Batelle's boyfriend gets the lobsters ready for the grill

The food being cooked on the huge charcoal grill

Getting our groove on while we wait for dinner.  As you can see, we were trying out the popular dancing moves from Carnival!

Sitting around our table ready to enjoy

Our feast: grilled lobster (chicken for the kids), fried plantains, veggie rice, mixed vegetables and grilled potatoes with a pepper relish on top.  It was all soooo delicious, seasoned perfectly with garlic and seasoning peppers.  We totally and completely gorged ourselves until we couldn't even roll down the beach to our dinghies.  Oh and we had a plethora of fresh fruit for dessert too - that was also devoured on top of our already bulging bellies.

The following day, we spent all afternoon at the beach on Jamesby Island.  Erica and I checked out the snorkeling scene, which turned out to be great in a few spots.  There were several big rock piles near shore that numerous fish called home.  The fish seemed to stay close to the rocks, swimming between all the crevices and holes.

Beach Bums!

Surfer Girl Olivia plays in the waves!

Chris and Craig chillin' out, reading soaking up the Caribbean sun

A full moon rises over Tobago Cays, as we are anchored between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau.

It is popular practice in the Caribbean to celebrate the full moon each month.  Which is basically yet another reason to party until the sun comes up.  We have yet to go to an "official" full moon party and we were so close to sailing back to Union Island for their Full Moon Party.  But in the end, we decided to stay put in Tobago Cays and have our own full moon party, Anything Goes and Patronus Style!  After we gorged ourselves on grilled lobster and danced on the beach to reggae music, we put the kids to bed and got naked!  Oh sorry, too much information for the family friendly blog.  What I meant was we adults did a little skinny dipping.  The next morning, the kids were all freaked out and very curious about what we had done the night before.  "You mean you were naked, like totally naked?".  "And you got in the water with the Conways?"  "Where they naked too?"  "Ewwww, that's just weird".  "Can we do it too!".  Enough said.