Sailing the Windward Islands Day 5 – Admiralty Bay, Bequia
“The cure for anything is saltwater — sweat, tears, or the sea.” — Isak Dinesen
Day 5 – Admiralty Bay, Bequia
We set a quick pace in our sail the next morning, as the trade winds were at times gusting to 25 knots. Steering the captain’s wheel in the stiff wind forced me to brace my foot against the seat bench for balance. It was a satisfying day of pulling, paddling, furling and roping, all while the boat was heeling at a steep angle. After a few hours we arrived at the anchorage at Admiralty Bay, off the town of Port Elizabeth, which is busy for a Caribbean port. But we found a more quiet location closer to the Lower Bay to drop the hook.
Bequia proved to be one of my favorite places. It is the second largest of the Grenadine Islands, just about 15 nautical miles south of St. Vincent. It is sometimes referred to as the “jewel” in the Grenadines. The water and air temperature are very warm, and the trade winds are awesome.
As we tidied up the boat from our rolling sail that day, a couple of boat boys pulled up alongside. “Hey lady, are you coming to the jump up?” they eagerly asked. We answered with a resounding “yes”. They offered to pick us up later in the evening. A “jump up” of course, means to jump up and dance. Once a week one of the town’s small restaurants would have a barbecue and a jump up with music provided by local musicians.
The jump up was a blast — a large bonfire on the beach, the beating of steel pan drums, free-flowing rum, and graceful bodies swaying to the music. Even as we returned to our boat, I could hear the steel drums long into the night. To this day I associate that sound with the Caribbean.
“Why is the rum always gone?” — Captain Jack Sparrow
What I needed the next morning was a wee bit of “the hair of the dog that bit me”. The Hairoun Beer, locally brewed in the Grenadines, was just the antidote for my hangover. After a little recovery time, we decided to go shopping and sightseeing on the island. Port Elizabeth is a very quaint Caribbean town with a few open-air markets and small stores. I entered one shop and a piece of scrimshaw caught my eye. Scrimshaw is an old sailing tradition, dating back to the early 1800’s. It is a true American folk-art form. Yankee sailors would occupy their long hours at sea engraving ornate designs into whalebone. I bought a beautiful pocketknife with a whalebone grip, adorned with scrimshaw by an artist named Sam McDowell. He had a small place on the island and is one of the world’s top scrimshaw artists. Bequia has its own sailing tradition, hence the whale on its flag, so it was a fitting location for McDowell’s shop. I considered myself a capable sailor, so a scrimshaw knife was a nice prize.
With the steel drum music still playing in my head, I wanted to find a place to buy some of the local Reggae and island music. We passed the “Bequia Bookshop” and the “Local Color” boutique when I spotted a small sign that read, “Kenny’s Music Shop”. We followed the direction of the sign, but when we got there it was a grocery store. We scratched our heads and wondered where the music might be hidden. Just then Kenny appeared, “I have music at my shop down the street,” he said. “My cousin let’s me put my sign here.” We followed Kenny to his shop, which was honestly more like a shed. But when he opened the door, the walls were covered with album covers — Island Music, Rasta, Reggae, Steel Pan Music, Suca — the same music I could hear drifting out across the water to our boat at night. I bought a few of his cassettes and considered the day a success.
As we returned to our boat we were asked the same question, “Are you going to the jump up?” We wanted to, but I for one was tired from five days on the water — sailing, snorkeling, rigging, rowing, hiking, dancing and drinking. Tonight we would pass on the offer. We rested on the deck of the boat and watched the mast lights bounce off the water as the steel drum music lulled us to sleep.