It has been raining very heavily in Bequia over the two weeks we’ve been here. Glorious days of sunshine have been interspersed with tremendous tropical thunder storms, with dark rain clouds and sqally seas.
Bequia itself is a great spot. We spent time here in the summer and just had to come back. It is a Mecca for yachties, without an airport, the island depends on the sea and has every technical service required, for a price…
Luckily, Sam, from Knock Refrigeration by the marina, is a dab hand at his trade. I have unfortunately been making a habit of breaking the cool plate. The first time just before we dashed to Trinidad to avoid Hurricane Matthew, was the overly robust use of a hammer to defrost. On this occasion it was defrosting by the use of a small knife, which may have stabbed it to death, with no hope of resurrection this time. Not only did we need a new cold plate, but we had drowned the compressor by the rapid defrost. After a few days of self help to no avail, we managed to get hold of Sam. He cobbled together a new fridge from a second hand cold plate and an old compressor, and at a price that didn’t break the bank. Ta dah! We now have refrigeration – back to the wonders of milk, butter, cheese & cold BEER! Sam’s last words to me were ‘Mistress, please don’t use any more kitchen utensils, just defrost with hot water…’!! (The sad tale of the fridge is not over..more to follow on the next blog!!)
Unfortunately the bad weather has reduced our power capacity at the same time the ‘new’ fridge is still incredibly power hungry as it cools down. We rely heavily on our solar panels to charge the batteries, with the wind turbine as an additional input. The constant rain over the last few days has meant for the first time in our four month trip we had to supplement the renewable energies by switching on the engine for an hour or two, which is tantamount to heresy for a cruiser!
The bonus of the pouring rain was free water. In our planning for this trip we decided not to install a water maker aboard Syrena. It is a significant investment, upwards of £4k, and because we are only anticipating a 12 month trip with no really long passages we don’t really need one. We hold over 600 litres in our water tanks and have a great drinking water filter so we get gorgeous tasting clean water direct from the tanks. This can last up to two weeks with economic use, and if we were frugal probably a lot longer – but we’d have to put up with the grotty yachty smell!
During our time in Bequia our lovely friends with water makers, Avanti and Party of Five, supplemented us occasionally with water, filling our jerry cans when they made their own to save us buying it in. The benefit of the rain however was that we were able to collect our own free water. With a significant amount of canvas covering our decks we have devised a strategic method of catching the run off, using very high tech pots and pans from the galley. A mandrolic process is initiated involving emptying the pots into a cleverly designed device called a jug, which is used to fill the water jerry cans, which then fill the tanks. Simple and effective, our basic drip catchers filled our tanks from half full in less than two hours, collecting over 300 litres of water!
There is a better way to achieve the same result with less work. All the water falls to the decks and runs in gunnels along the rail. We need to temporarily fill up the holes that allow it overboard and dam around the water tanks to allow the water to drain into them naturally. This would save us running around soaking wet for two hours, but wouldn’t be as much fun! Given I was already drenched I also decided to use the free water falling from the sky & have a quick shower!
Before the cash from the cruisers and holidaymakers flowed in to support the island, Bequia made its money from whaling. The small island nation are very proud of this heritage, all of which was done in the traditional way, from open top boats, man against whale. This was not industrialised slaughter but an island surviving on knowledge & skills passed down the generations. Undoubtedly their small yearly haul of whales contributed in its way to the decimation of the global whale population, but when in the midst of Bequia culture it’s hard to condemn this small island for still pursuing the trade of hundreds of years, which was in its way sustainable. If everyone just took what they needed to live from the oceans, rather than the consistent pillaging and wholesale destruction of our marine life then our grandchildren’s grandchildren might also get to glimpse the majestic awe of a pod of whales as we have done. To see the video of Syrena’s encounter with whales in Grenada click here!
Bequia have a yearly whale quota, but recently they have rarely succeeded in catching even one whale. Whale memorabilia is still for sale, but yacht services, tourism and fishing have now become the mainstay of the economy. In our anchorage, just off Princess Margaret Beach, there were frequently fish feeding frenzies, where a multitude of large fish would come to the surface and eat the smaller schools of fish. It was a great sight to see and a few of the intrepid fishermen amongst the cruisers would drag a line behind the dinghy through the throng of fish & occasionally bag one or two.
Then the Bequia fishermen arrived. From two very small wooden boats they threw out a vast net, actually encircling Chris & the kids who were in the dinghy. Initially it seemed pretty unfair for them to come over and just net all the fish in the current frenzy. But after watching them for two hours as they carefully closed the net, using men snorkelling down (amazingly deep) to bring the net in, it was often not certain they were going to bring in the catch! Incredibly they did, and it was more of a haul than they could actually fit in the two small boats. They brought in as much as they could and the rest swam free. It was amazing to see them just grabbing the fish out of the net with their hands to put into the boat – nothing industrial about this fishing trip. Click here to see the amazing underwater footage we got of the fishing!
For our snorkelling help (occasionally keeping the net up so the fish didn’t all escape!) the fishermen kindly gave us a whole load of Crevaille – which Party of Five served up as a very, very tasty dinner for three families.