Those seeking a true island paradise and the experience of an authentic Caribbean culture should consider Bequia island. Until 18 years ago, Bequia was only accessible by boat and has thus far been saved from overdevelopment. There are no imposing resorts obstructing the view or wreaking havoc on the environment. Instead, there are simple, yet comfortable guesthouses, villas and intimate hotels that blend in seamlessly with the natural surroundings.
Bequia belongs to the island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is seven square miles and home to 6000 people who have had a long and enduring relationship with the sea as sailors, fishermen, boat builders and whalers, all of which are carried on today. Boaters can visit the Sargeant Brothers model boat factory or sail onboard the only remaining Bequia-built schooner Friendship Rose. ‘Gumboat’ (model boat) racing is a favorite island pastime and can be seen from the shore at La Pompe where the men gather every Sunday to race and bet on these miniature vessels.
Bequia has plentiful services for yachts located in Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay including Daffodil Marine Services for water, fuel, laundry and garbage pickup. Bequia Marina has a dockage, water and electricity available for use. This is the main port of entry and the island’s only town. There are moorings for rent, however, they may not have been insured, inspected or authorized by the Port Authority, and are to be used at the boater’s own risk. If anchoring at Princess Margaret Bay or Lower Bay, boaters are required to remain 200 yards off shore as these are designed swimming areas.
Port Elizabeth’s colorful ramshackle buildings house the town’s restaurants, gift shops, banks, and stores. Once ashore you get around by rental car, foot, Dollar Van, or land or water taxi, which is the recommended mode of transport.
For provisions try Doris’ Fresh Food Market, a gourmet grocery owned and operated by Doris who has catered to boaters for 22 years. She stocks lovely chocolates, cheeses, wines, fresh baked goods and delectable treats you will not find at the local grocery, Knights Trading, which is perfectly suitable for staples. There are fruit and vegetable stands housed under a crude wooden structure run by Rastafarians. They have been known to put more in your bag than you want or need and insist on payment. Further down the main drag, past the shops, you will find a woman selling similar goods from a cart under a tree. She uses a calculator and a scale, and does not try to hide over ripened fruit in your bag.
If you hear a conch shell blown, follow the sound back towards the Rastafarian market. The fishermen are bringing in their daily catch. If you miss the conch shell, you may find a fisherman later in the day saddled up next to your boat eager to make a sale.
Near Port Elizabeth, head to Princess Margaret Beach or go to Lower Bay. Lower Bay has open-air restaurants including De Reef where traditional island music is often played live on Sunday afternoons. They serve ice cold beer and delicious local food. It’s a great place where locals and visitors alike mix socially. It’s the venue for the Bequia Music Fest at the end of January.
Friendship Bay is on the island’s windward side and while it is sheltered it is not as tranquil as these other beaches. It looks to be an inviting anchorage but be prepared as it is “rolly.” Industry Bay has remnants of when it was a sugar plantation with a more rugged coastline similar to neighboring Spring Bay. While these two bays offer no services, they make up for it in privacy. Wherever you go with the exception of swimming in Admiralty Bay, you can be assured of clear, clean, turquoise water.
Other points of interest include the Thursday night barbecue and jump-up at the Frangipani Hotel; the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary; dive trips… But the best thing to do in Bequia, is nothing at all!
Caryn B. Davis is a seasoned writer and photographer whose images and articles have appeared in over 60 publications. She is an avid boater and world traveler. www.cbdphotography.com