Aboard Royal Clipper: Seafaring in Bequia

Royal Clipper in Admiralty Bay Bequia
Royal Clipper in Admiralty Bay Bequia
A good guide can make all the difference in how you experience a port of call. I lucked out in Bequia with Donnaka O’Fionnalaigh.
“Call me D,” he said in greeting Bill and me at the marina on this island in the Grenadines.
The Royal Clipper had not planned organized shore excursions for the few hours we were on the island, choosing instead to send separate tenders to the beach and marina for passengers to explore on their own. We’d had a lot of beach time the day before, so I wanted to do some touring and came upon D and his company, hiking-bequia.com, in some online research.
Bequia
Bequia

 

An Irishman by birth, D had spent a few years doing aid work in Africa and in St. Vincent where he married a local woman. He went back to Ireland for a few years, then returned to SVG and has been here ever since. With a long, blond ponytail and blue eyes, D proved to be something of a Renaissance man with vast and varied knowledge in subjects from carpentry to geology to photography to history all of which he shared during our hike on the island.

 

 We started with a taxi ride—which in Bequia is a bench seat on the back of a pickup—to a headland. D chose this point for its excellent view of the Royal Clipper sitting resplendent at the mouth of Admiralty Bay and helped me set up just the right shot as the sun gleamed off the crossbars on the ship’s five masts.
The circle of cannons atop the headland got him started on a history lesson. The French and British fought over these islands, he said, but, though well armed, Bequia never saw a battle. The pirate, Blackbeard, made a name for himself here, however, when he commandeered a slave ship, hauled it into Admiralty Bay and quickly converted it into his man of war vessel “Queen Anne’s Revenge.” He gave himself the title of commodore of the fleet and went on a tear up through the Caribbean before finally sinking his ship off Charleston, S.C.
Model Boat Shop Bequia
Model Boat Shop Bequia

I looked down at the Royal Clipper imagining such a voyage as an 18th-century passenger. There was probably plenty of rum on board but none of the Royal Clipper’s niceties like king-size beds, flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi, a spa and big lunch buffet ending with an entire table of desserts. Chocolate mousse, anyone?

As we started our hike down the headland, D explained how the Caribbean islands formed when the glaciers that covered much of North America melted, how two Indian tribes fought for prominence before being wiped out after Columbus brought news of the New World to Europe sparking colonization. He even played a guessing game with us, linking a prominent figure in early U.S. history to Bequia. I won’t spoil the surprise by giving the answer; you’ll have to book D’s tour and learn it yourself.

Bequia waterfront
Bequia waterfront

 

For PBS nerds like Bill and me, D was a walking delight, encyclopedic in his knowledge but never boring or pedantic. And the hike was good exercise helping us work off some of the calories we’d been consuming on our cruise.

On our way back to the marina we stopped at a model boat shop where craftsmen create wonderful replicas of sailing vessels, including Britain’s legendary Britannia. I wondered if they had thought of building a replica of the Royal Clipper. I’d buy it as a lasting memory of this unforgettable voyage.

Article and photos by Katherine Rodeghier

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