Of whales and other tall stories

From Grenadine Medley

Of all the Grenadine islands , there is one that stands out as being completely different. Mustique has long been the haunt of the rich and famous and is I think privately owned – or at the very least owned by a private company. Thus , when you land , there is none of the hustle and bustle , the slightly run down rubbish strewn buildings and roads , and in a funny sort of way you miss it . Landing at 0700 the only people about were sweeping the roads , and as far as I could see there was no rubbish to be swept , but they were tidying up the flowers that had fallen off the Bougainvillia bushes!

There again , all the other islands have free anchorages , or cheap buoys to moor to – if you dare trust them , as they may be no more than a grotty piece of rope tied to coral! On Mustique you HAVE to take an ( immaculate) mooring and pay the huge sum of $200 for the privilege. My first impression was of a sterile rich man’s playground and the prices in the local bar did nothing to change that image.

Gradually the feeling began to change. As Mike remarked , it felt remarkably like Tresco on the Scillies ; tasteful buildings hidden in the trees , beautiful clean beaches , palm bedecked and backed by undisturbed mangrove swamp and fresh water marsh. Conservation of the environment is apparently enshrined on the Mustique companies contractual obligations and on our evidence it seems to be paying ( natural) dividends. On a walk round the coast we chanced upon a birthday party and were immediately invited to take a beer and join in the celebrations. They were Vincentians who had taken employment on the island and were buying their houses there. From what I understood this made them share holders in the company and thus sharing in the considerable profits made out of the likes of us and the many Americans holidaying on the Island , and they were obviously delighted to live there .Later on I saw a less well off fisherman paying a fraction of what I paid for supplies at the local shop so perhaps Mustique does work for the locals as well.

There was certainly a complete absence of the begging and hustling that is endemic elsewhere . We are getting used to it and even give it marks out of ten for style and originality. The lowest mark were awarded to some school kids walking along the road with their school master who said nothing whilst they openly asked for money. Best mark so far was the old man (nearly as old as me! ) who came swimming past us in the anchorage off Canouan , having come from a reef half a mile further out to sea. He had a spear gun and ( unusually ) had caught no fishes . He claimed to have lost the rubber band that powered his gun – and could I give him $25 to get a new one so he could feed his family. So far – so usual – but the master stroke , the piece de la resistance was a little Labrador puppy that was swimming alongside that he said was getting tired. As he spoke the puppy swam into his arms and gazed up at us with sorrowful eyes and we paid up immediately . The performance was so good that we didn’t even feel cheated when he swam past the next two boats for an encore but just applauded as they paid up too!

The Island of Bequia is less obviously affluent , although the huge numbers of yachts calling there mean that it doesn’t do too badly. Amazingly the tradition of whaling still lives on , and they are allowed to catch two whales a year using the 27 ft sailing and pulling boats that are little changed from the whalers boats of the 18th century that called here from Nantucket. I photographed what I took to be similar vessels on a beach , then spent an enjoyable afternoon yarning with a boat builder , and finally was delighted to see a boat itself as they sailed into Mustique ( upwind of the whaling ground) to climb the hill and watch out for the whale blows from the hilltop. Sadly we saw no whales themselves , as whatever I may feel about whaling , to see one being hunted with open boat and hand thrown harpoon would have been fascinating.

From whale and peli hunting

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