One of the nicest things about revisiting some of our favourite islands in the Caribbean chain is that we already have happy memories of them. Bequia is one of those places that I would visualise if asked to imagine myself in a place that makes me feel happy. It was where we came to relax and recharge our batteries after the Atlantic crossing, hang out with Chris at Christmas and sample the relaxed vibe of the Grenadines for the first time. A real place of tranquility for yachties where all the bars and restaurants face towards the anchorage and you can have a drink with a view of your boat in practically any part of the bay. It was even lovelier than I remembered and a real pleasure to revisit it in the low season without the pressure of visiting cruise ships and just the right amount of boats in the anchorage; enough other folk that the place still felt alive but not so many that you couldn’t get into the dinghy dock. We are in great danger of becoming rather spoiled having spent time in the Grenadines in summer. Should we return in the high season during the Christmas period, I’m sure we would be shocked at how crowded the place is and indignant at having to share “our” favourite anchorage with so many newcomers. Hopefully we will be more open minded than that… until someone anchors too close to us, of course.
Bequia is part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and is just across the water from its larger neighbour, Saint Vincent. With its history of boat building and whaling, the island is a natural candidate to be geared up to welcoming visiting boats. The anchorage is large and generous, the people are friendly and the Belmont path which was built along the water’s front is a total delight. After a couple of days here, Simon pronounced that he felt as if he were “on holiday”. I encouraged this idea. Maybe time for a dive which didn’t involve hull scraping?
Dive Bequia are a great dive operation that really spoil the customer. We had our kit prepared for us and carried on and off the boat. Our dive master took us to a fantastic site with the most amazing coral. Even the skipper with 400 plus dives under his weight belt (see what I did there?) said that this site was one of the most pristine and impressive locations for coral that he had ever dived on. It made up for the fact that we didn’t see any sea horses although they are around, somewhere. However, I did get to see my first Scorpion fish, a real feat for any dive master to spot, as they are incredibly well camouflaged. As for the snorkeling here, it was a real revelation. I had enjoyed the marine life that I spotted at Christmas but saw so much more in summer! If you like fish that look like underwater bats with superhero capes as I do, then this is the place for you. Introducing the amazing flying gurnards…
We had a gorgeous sail down to Union and sailed right into Chatham bay, our favourite anchorage in the world (if we had to pick one). Knowing that three weeks later we would be in Chaguaramas, Trinidad, an industrial place famed for being hot, humid and polluted (but with great boat services) we appreciated every day that we could live on the hook in the anchorage which is the exact opposite; rural, temperate, with clean and clear waters and nothing around but the forest and the fish, even more diverse than in Bequia. However, I must mention Seke and Vanessa’s excellent barbecues on the beach which we couldn’t pass up, even if lobster is out of season! The chicken was delicious, too!
Chatham bay was the place of our first recreational dive together without a dive school to hold our hand (or refill our bottles and carry our kit!). The beauty of this bay is that you can anchor close enough to swim to a great dive site, although we did very well transporting our bottles and gear in Bagpuss (the name I have given to our dinghy, because it is baggy and a bit loose at the seams, but we love him anyway). Having a week at anchor to swim to your heart’s content means that I got to know the dive site almost by heart, like a dive instructor. It was more of a deep snorkel than a dive, as we stayed at 5 metres depth for most of the time. That’s where a lot of the great stuff is, anyway!
Seke who offers excellent barbecues on the beach told us that there have been various attempts by the government to sell this bay off to a developer. We feel very fortunate that up until now, these attempts have been unsuccessful, mostly due to the fact that there only a hiking trail which leads down to the beach from the hills (which were amazed and impressed that Seke drives up and down in his saloon car every day). There is a boutique hotel and bar at one end of the beach that is always deserted (Seke told us that it was built by an Italian who had fallen out with the powers that be on the island) and hopefully this is the way that the beach will stay, pristine and providing a living for a couple of enterprising locals who add to the authentic and laid back atmosphere of this place, instead of replacing it with a sanitised version for the tourists. We love the wild and undisturbed nature of this place, the welcome that we get from Seke and Vanessa when we come and the generosity that the small island of Union shows in letting cruisers like us come and enjoy the natural beauty of the place. It was a real privilege to return here and spend a week, us boat nomads who occasionally find it hard to leave places that have an extra bit of magic. This is one such place.