Sunday, November 25, 2012


Half a century ago the trade routes of the West Indies were still being plied by wooden sailing schooners built on the island of Bequia. Today only one remains.

The Friendship Rose was built entirely by hand on the beach at Friendship Bay, framed with solid Bequia white cedar and Guyana green, she is strong and sure. Norway pine masts, replaced this summer as one broke through rot, 80 feet tall as fat as two rugby players, brace the 600 yards of sail that power her. Took 3 years and 4 men to build her. Built strong she was. Searched Bequia's tallest hills to find the right trees they did. Still strong she is, after 40 years of work.

Built to carry cargo between the islands. She was the Bequia to St Vincent ferry, the mail boat, a working trading schooner She continued to work as the mail boat, carrying goods and passengers, under sail until the early 1990's.

This entirely traditional, gaff rigged, two masted, wooden sailing schooner is now being maintained in Bequia using the same local timbers and traditional methods.

Where planks are being replaced on the Friendship Rose the original spikes are found in great condition, tight in the timbers. The replacement traditional boat nails are being supplied by Glasgow Steel Nail Co Ltd.

Sailing in the old time way on an old time wooden sailing schooner is hard work. Raising 600 yards of canvass and the upper boom, in a gusting wind, takes skill and muscle. There are no winches and powered gear as in a modern sailing boat. Manpower lifts the sail as winds wrestle the canvas and its rigging says captain Lewis, “40 years sailing.

One, two, three, and pull. Tighten the grip and take up the slack, Ley is falling on his back. Tighten the grip and take up the slack. Pull the sheet to set him back. Tighten the grip and take up the slack, hoist that sail before we tack.!.

"She was launched without an Engine”, he explains, “but after we drifted for eight days with no wind on a trip to St Lucia, we added the engine”.

The Friendship Rose now enjoys a more relaxed life, making day sails for visitors to the nearby Tobago Cays and the island of Mustique.

Turtle Man It was with great apprehension, after our previous experiences on Grenada, that we hired a taxi to take us to the windward side of Bequia to see The Turtle Man. As it turned out the taxi was spotless, as was the driver....and he was gentle with his cargo. The drive was scenic as we passed some posh homes with lovely landscaping as well as an old sugar mill that was part of a plantation along the way.

The original 'Turtle Man',
was located on a breathtakingly beautiful section of shoreline. Housed within the simple building were tanks holding various ages of turtles from six weeks to 15 years. For the whole story we will invite you to go to:

Most of the turtles we saw were Hawksbills with a couple of Green Turtles and a small collection of land tortoises.
They were exceedingly beautiful creatures to see, especially the Green Turtles. One of the key discoveries that Brother Orton made was that baby turtles could be raised on canned tuna fish. The pictures will tell the rest of the story of our visit!

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