St. Vincent and the Grenadines:  May 21-June 2, 2008

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

On the way south from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, we passed right by St. Vincent proper and stopped at Admiralty Bay, Bequia.   We had a number of interesting experiences in Bequia, including a nice walk east past the Old Hegg Turtle farm (click here for an account of an earlier visit) where we found fewer turtles than last year.

We had a dickens of a time anchoring in Admiralty Bay.   On our former visit, approximately a year earlier, the only wi-fi antennae capable of broadcasting out into the anchorage was in the northeastern corner, and so that was where we headed.   There is a nice shallow plateau there that just looks so tempting.   We tried to set the anchor three times in three slightly different spots before it finally held, only to be scolded by a nearby sailboat who thought we were too close to him.   Although I strongly suspect he would have been ok with a mere sailboat, and that he was intimidated by our size, and unaware of the size of our ground tackle, or of the diligent effort I had put into backing off strongly to make sure that the anchor was indeed set, it was indeed his call, and so we reluctantly moved again, just barely managing to suppress the urge to say something ugly and nasty as we left.  Took several more  attempts to get the anchor to hold in our newly chosen spots, but we finally dug in.   Later, over the next few days, we watched at least a half-dozen sailboats attempt to anchor in our original ill-fated spots.   One notable instance, having failed to hold there, finally "settled" in front of us just a little to starboard.   Not holding there either, they moved on out into the middle of the ferry passage!   When we got up in the morning, we discovered they had drug way out to the far reaches of the bay.   Several sailboats then took their dinghies out and boarded the vessel to help them get their anchor set.   The folks weren't taking advice very well, and their helpers ultimately left in frustration, stopping by our boat to do a little venting about the vessel's incompetence and bull-headedness.   Finally, one of the locals convinced them that they should abandon anchoring, and they were shamefacedly led up to take a mooring.  You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the anchorage.

Some of you may be interested to know how we check our anchor, in addition to backing off with increasing rpm and watching to see if we are dragging.   One method is to don snorkel gear, and to swim out and look down on the anchor and see if it is properly buried.   The other method is to use a "lookie bucket".   They can be obtained at boating chandleries, but most folks -- including us -- make their own.  Cut the bottom out of a five-gallon bucket, and glue in a sheet of lexan.  Take the lookie bucket out with the dinghy, and follow the anchor chain out from the boat to the anchor -- looking down through the bucket through its submerged bottom.   Sound easy?   You should try it when the wind is creating a chop on the surface of the water, and the side of the bucket is splashing back into the dinghy and the waves are threatening to tear the bucket from your hands.   And the wind is driving the dinghy off the intended path.   And idle speed is too fast.  And spouse number one is yelling at spouse number two about losing the chain, so that the dinghy must be taken back to the bow of the boat to attempt once again to follow the chain to the anchor.  My recommendation:  use the snorkel method.   :-)

Walk Past Turtle Farm

I did a number of runs to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary east of the village of Port Elizabeth in Bequia, and Barb and I took an extended walk one day well past the Sanctuary.  The concrete road eventually became just a trail.   We gave out before the trail did.

Site of Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on beach in Bequia

Lava run -- east of the Turtle Sanctuary

Possible sunken crater of volcano that created the lava flow

Healthy bull along the road near the Turtle Sanctuary


One of our cruising acquaintances was able to arrange for a tour of the famous Moonhole homes.   Built by Tom Johnson, they started as a picnic site under a natural arch called Moonhole.   Picnics evolved into overnight camping, which required a little more shelter, and that evolved into extended camping which involved yet more shelter, and soon Tom decided to buy the site.   That turned out to require that he purchase 35 acres.   So he did, and he then built a home under the arch.   No running water.   No electricity.   Everything of stone and concrete, with no straight lines and lots of arches and lots of glassless windows with a constant breeze.    Soon guests were coming for extended visits, and so the idea was proposed of building an additional house, with the same philosophy, on some of the abundant property.   And then another.   And then another.   Until today, there are 19 units in the Moonhole settlement, still without an external source of electricity.   (A few units have a battery bank, solar panels, and inverters, and are able to have a few hours of 110 vac per day).  All of the units are designed to merge into the landscape and to be simple and pure.  The original owners have now passed on, and the inheritors are mostly still involved with more conventional lives, and so most units are only occupied a few months of the year, as vacation homes.   But Tom's son Jim and Jim's lovely wife Sheena now live there as full-time residents.  They gave us our tour.  The guide books describe Tom as an architect, but Jim says that he was not.   He was just an imaginative individual with a vision.   An artistic individual as well, as is evidenced by all of the whale-oriented art in the Johnson's residence that was created by Tom.  Jim brags that all 19 units were created without plans.  Tom just worked with the construction crews and spontaneously created the flowing forms.   The local government was so happy to have so much employment occur that they did not require the filing of plans, etc.   How much employment?  Jim says between 150 and 200 laborers at one point.   That would have meant an incredible financial boon for the local community.

When Jim was about 16, a large boulder broke loose from the arch and fell onto an empty bed.   That was the end of the occupancy of the original moonhole unit.   Tom's wife was glad to move; she had never felt comfortable under the arch.   They moved to a unit just adjacent to the arch -- a lovely unit now occupied by Jim and Sheena.

Waiting on the beach for all tour members to show up

Sign on fence just outside moonhole

Under the arch that covers the gate through the fence protecting moonhole

The current manager and son of the original developer: Jim Johnson

Jim's wife Sheena

Whalebone rails on porch outside one of the units

Whale bones are used extensively for decoration

Stairs to another entrance to another unit

Creature along a path

Salvalged float balls (washed ashore from overseas) used as decoration around a door

"Bare" unit currently without residents -- hence no warming cushions, etc.

On the roof of one of the unoccupied units

Bar (with whalebone rail) in the unit used for conferences, parties, and entertaining guests

Artwork in Jim and Sheena's unit -- created by Jim's dad Tom

More ...

...artwork... Tom

Tom and his wife -- now both deceased

Cushions used to soften the room in one of the living rooms

Jim and Sheena's bedroom

You can see the reason for the canapy!

Looking down on an open-air shower

The top of the shower is open at the roof

Along the path to the unit under the moonhole arch

Looking down to a lounge area on left -- under the pyramid -- and Jim's former bedroom on the right

Sheena tells us about the original unit under the moonhole arch

Looking up at the rock ceiling formed by the arch

The conspicuous triangle is where the large boulder dislodged and fell onto an unoccupied bed

Up on the roof of the Johnson's unit ...

...we gathered for rum or lemonade after the tour

Hammock on a roof of Jim and Sheena's unit -- note the turtle: he gets under, stands on his tiptoes, and rocks Sheena!

Hot pursuit!

The arch is indeed dramatic

Moonhole in early morning light -- from the bay as we leave

Morning sun shining through the moonhole

Another of the enivronmentally-integreated units...

...and yet more on a ridge

Ferry to St. Vincent

Early one morning Barb and I and Lin and Bruce (Alize) took a ferry from Bequia to St. Vincent in order to spend the day touring the island (with taxi-driver/guide "Cheeky").  The round-trip fare from Bequia to St. Vincent was EC$35 (about US$14).   As soon as we boarded the ferry we realized it had been purchased (used) from Norway -- the signs were in Norwegian and English.   Even the trash can had been retained!   Alas, the snack area was not selling vaffler -- or anything else.

We saw lots of these trash containers in Norway -- advertising a Norwegian icecream.

Why change perfectly understandable signs?

Or why change signs not-so-understandable? (It says: exit to boat deck)

Noticed this on the side of a sister ship run by the same company.

A competing ferry leaves at exactly the same time and goes to exactly the same place. Strange.

St. Vincent Tour

Botanical Gardens

We arrived at the Botanical Gardens so early that the regular guides -- fellows independent of the gardens who have versed themselves on the plants so as to be able to give, for a fee, informative tours through the gardens -- had not yet arrived.   So a clerk in the office gave the tour, assuring us that she had worked at the gardens for over twenty years.   Maybe so.  But she could do little more than read to us the names that were affixed to/near the plants.   I am starting to feel about botanical gardens in the Caribbean the same way I came to feel about churches in Europe:   enough is enough.

Our "make-do" guide, illustrating the seed pods of the "Rasta Plant"

Water palm, so-called because its shape gathers water at its core.

"walking tree" and sleeping "worker"

Mango tree

In a corner of the gardens is a captive breeding setup for St. Vincent's gravely endangered parrots

Hard to get a decent picture with the mesh fence in the way


In 2003 this bay became famous as the main location for the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" starring Johnny Depp.  Many parts of the structures are still standing.   The adjacent restaurant was remodeled for the movie, and is still operating.

The still-operating restaurant

Restaurant now houses the mast used in the movie.

This sign explains the significance of the mast

The blacksmith shop

Bunches of caskets from the movie

The "stone" buildings" are fake -- look how thin the veneer is

Dock structures in the movie are now crumbling

Arch on the north end of the bay that also was in the movie

Upper story is fake. False front on a prior building below.

The current owner is collecting old phones for some project, and is storing them in the building behind the "stone" facade

Other sites and experiences on the tour

No sooner had we gotten off the ferry in Kingstown than we took Steve and Ann's (Receta) advice and went searching for DNA, the stand at Market Square that features Trini-style doubles, which we learned to dearly love and appreciate during our extended stay in Trinidad.   David and Nichole, natives of Trinidad, remembered Steve and Ann, and were delighted to get our greetings from them.   And the doubles were some of the best we have ever had.   What a breakfast!

Before we left Kingstown we popped in to see the famous stained glass window in St. George's Anglican Cathedral, which was built around 1820.   The window was originally commissioned by Queen Victoria to honor her first grandson.   But when she saw the result, she declared that angels should be in white, not red, and so the piece was placed in storage in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, were it remained until the 1930's when it was brought to St. Vincent as a gift to the bishop and the diocese of St. Vincent.

The island of St. Vincent is wild and mountainous.   There are no roads across the interior, and the roads along the edge do not even circumnavigate the island.   There are few white-sand beaches, but there are some gorgeous black (volcanic) beaches.  We toured up the west side, and stopped when the road did, at a very interesting instance of local entrepreneurs.   Squatters have taken over a particularly rocky beach area, and are busy collecting, sorting by size, and piling rocks up away from the beach along the road for resale along a stretch that must run for at least a half-mile.  The piles ranged from large rocks (bigger than a bread basket) to pea-sized to black sand.   I asked Cheeky if they owned the land.  "No", he said, "the land belongs to the government."   "What prevents the government from expelling the collectors?" I asked.   "In St. Vincent, the government belongs to the people", he said.   "Our representatives understand the situation when they are elected, and they would not get re-elected if they forgot."

David and Nicole, at their Trini-style lunch stand

Queen Victoria's rejected angel in red.

Sign at the site of the Layou Petroglyphs

Puzzling (modern) concrete structure at the petroglyph site

Young boy looking under rocks for (edible) fresh-water crawfish

Sign at the Darkview Falls

Suspension bridge over to Darkview Falls

Nice picnic area under bamboo at Darkview Falls

Barb and Lin at the base of the falls

Relaxing location

Guide "Cheeky" chilling

Wooden pipeline that delivers water from a high river to a power plant down by the sea

Of course, wood can spring a leak or two.

She sorts rocks down at the shore, puts them in the bucket, and takes them to the appropriate pile (based on size)

On her way to the correct rock pile.

Rocks for sale!

Rocks and more rocks!

And more rocks!

A view of the cloud-obscured Soufriere volcano, over 4000' high, which last erupted in 1979