Ricky and Leon visit Sabbatical III

Overlooking the harbor

Bequia and Passage to Tobago Cays with Leon and Ricky

On Sunday night, swells entered Admiralty Bay, Bequia and
the boat rolled uncomfortably all night. First thing in the
morning, we picked up anchor and moved from our picturesque
location off of Prince Margaret’s Beach to a more protected
location off of Point Peter on the north side of the bay. We
spent the morning doing some boat maintenance and cleaning
before McCarthy, our water taxi driver from 3 years ago, picked
us up to take us to town (Port Elizabeth). We did the check-in
at Customs and Immigration, bought some fruit at the Rasta
Market, and then bought 3 hours of time at the Lenroc internet
cafe and tried to catch up on email and the news. We had a
delicious and cheap supper at a local Creole restaurant called
Porthole. The next morning (Tuesday) I spent some time with the
floor boards up trying to figure out the source of a persistent
leak of sea water in the forward compartments of the boat, while
Laura prepared the boat for the visit of her brothers. At 1 pm,
McCarthy picked us up and delivered us to “Indian” and his
“Faithful Taxi”, a pick-up truck with seats and a sun cover in
the back, for the ride to the airport. Ricky and Leon arrived
on an incredibly small plane from Barbados and got hung up in
Customs for a few minutes over the Chemex drip coffee pot and
assorted other stuff they were bringing to us. After big hugs,
we showed them the boat, went for a swim, and that evening we
had supper at Gingerbread House.

Wednesday, after adding the boys to the crew list at Customs
and Immigration and visiting the Rasta market, we went on a tour
with Indian. He went out of his way to show us some of the
unusual “highlights” of Bequia such as the power plant, the road
leading to a church, the solid waste disposal site, the gravel
pit, his wife, an old fort with five cannons and a t-shirt
seller, before finally arriving at Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. We
were the only people there except for the guide who only told
how old turtles were in each pool. We ended the tour with a
trip up Mount Pleasant which had beautiful views in all
directions. We actually loved the tour, appeciated the
idiosyncratic tastes of our guide, and found the island to be
beautiful. After a late lunch, we did some major provisioning
at the Rasta market and one of the stores in town. We shlepped
all our goods to the dock where “Good Choice” took us and our
goods back to the boat. While on the boat, we saw a pod of six
sting rays swimming in formation while occasionally breaking
the surface.We watched the sunset and saw the “green flash”
before going back to shore for supper at the relatively upscale
Frangipangi. On the way to town, a sting ray leaped three feet
out of the water with its wings spread wide.

Thursday we had a great sail to the Tobago Cays. The seas
were down and the winds were moderate, and the “boys” did not
suffer from any seasickness as we had feared. It was intensely
hot as we anchored in front of Horseshoe Reef, and we went below
to have lunch and rest while out of the sun. At 3:30 we put the
dinghy into the water, dropped the outboard onto the transom,
and went off to snorkel the reef. The water was crystal clear,
and the coral and fish were spectacular. We ate on the boat and
went on deck to watch the moon and the stars. Leon and Ricky
thought it was the most beautiful night yet. This morning
(Friday), we snorkeled the reef again and then spent a couple of
hours in the afternoon dropping and folding the 110 % genoa
sail, and replacing it with the much bigger 155% genoa sailin
preparation for our upcoming passage to Bonaire. The biggest
problems were folding the sail on the deck (which was
accomplished on the second try), and hauling the big sail out of
the forward sail locker. In unrolling the big sail out of the
sail bag, where it had been since September, we found Ben’s
sandal which mysteriously went missing on the day he helped me
put that sail away. After it was up and furled on the headstay
we all clapped and hugged, as did the people on the boat next to
us. As we finished the delicious meal that Leon prepared this
evening, the wind gusted up and a series of strong squalls swept
through the anchorage. We sat in the cockpit as the rain pelted
down and told stories.

One of the most interesting characters we have met so far is
McCarthy, our water taxi guy in Bequia. When you pick a water
taxi in Bequia, that person has proprietary rights over all
subsequent transactions including tours, land taxis, and boat
services. It was McCarthy who set us up with “Indian” for the
trip to the airport and the tour of the island, and it was
McCarthy was brought us home baked banana bread in the morning.
He insisted that we only use his taxi services, which we were
happy to do. One evening we called him on channel 68 and
another taxi responded saying McCarthy was home resting and that
he was his cousin and had been delegated to transport us. It
turns out that this was a lie and he had stolen McCarthy’s
customers. Later that night when we went to call the “cousin”
for a ride back, McCarthy came storming in to tell us that the
other taxi was an impostor. On more than one occassion, we have
seen driver taxi drivers shouting at each other for poaching
customers, which is rather unpleasant for the customer.
McCarthy is a very emotional person with a distinctive deep
voice that occasionally turns into a whispered falsetto while
telling us a story. While driving us to or from “Sabbatical
III”, he suddenly slows his boat down and leans forward to tell
us a story in his Creole inflected English. He is like a
Shakespearean actor as he relates his tale, acting out the parts
with expressive body language. His eyes fix on us while doing
30 knots without lights through the crowded anchorage. (We
figure he knows what he is doing — after all he is a
professional). On the last trip to town, he told us a story
about coming eye-to-eye with a huge whale while taking his small
boat to St. Vincent. This was almost a religious experience to
McCarthy and he did not hold back in telling us details about
his run in with the whale, the meaning of the ocean in his life,
and how the sea cures pus filled sores and makes one a strong man.

Tomorrow I hope to put our new crew to work helping us clean
the boat under the waterline, as well as snorkeling the Tobago
Cays reefs. We are hoping that Ricky remembers to duck his head
in the companionway and under the boom as a large goose egg has
arisen on his head from at least a dozen hard knocks.