Despite the relative death knell being sounded all throughout the Caribbean over the near-extinction of the traditional work boats upon which all inter-island commerce and communication were formerly dependent, you can still find and experience a handful of these amazing sailing ships in certain uncommon corners of the region.
The best of these, arguably: Bequia’s Friendship Rose.
The last wooden schooner completely built by hand in Bequia, the 100-foot Friendship Rose first hit the high seas in 1969, ferrying the mail and other assorted freight cargo from the mainland (St. Vincent) to Admiralty Bay. These days, though, her precious cargo consists entirely of adventurous travelers keen on exploring the Grenadines.
The captain and crew of the Friendship Rose offer day trips to both the Tobago Cays and Mustique. The Tobago Cays excursion departs Bequia at 7am, while the Mustique trip sets sail at 8am (not on the same days, of course), each returning at 5:30pm after a full day of sailing, snorkeling, fun, and exploration.
It was during the 5:30pm return of just one of these Tobago Cays adventures that I encountered the Friendship Rose for the first time, capturing images like the one above as she gracefully settled into her mooring for the night.
I had just landed in Bequia several minutes prior following a fine and comfy flight from Barbados aboard SVG Air. Some people, especially the wife, are squeamish about the small puddle jumpers operated by most regional airlines like SVG. Personally, as someone who grew up with Prinair, I’m good with them, especially when the destination is someplace as special as Bequia.
Seeing the Friendship Rose in all her romantic Old World glory, though, made me wish I could’ve arrived under her sails. The fading daylight still sparkling off her brilliant white bow was straight out of a dream to me, spurring my imagination to run wild with thoughts of spotting dolphin, whales, and turtles from her deck, each salt spray only bringing more smiles.
Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to experience the wonder of sailing aboard the Friendship Rose during my quick mid-summer visit to Bequia last year. All now, though, she’s luring me back, winking at me through my photos and filling my mind with more visions of the fun we might someday experience together at sea…
Friendship Rose day sails to Mustique are priced at US$140 per adult. The Tobago Cays trip goes for US$150. Kids under 16 sail for half-price, unless they’re five and under. Those little guys sail free. Also, one child 12 and under sails free when accompanied by an adult paying full fare – pretty nice bargains for families that like adventuring together.
Also, all these prices are all-inclusive, so you’ll get your fill of drinks, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and snacks while getting to enjoy as unique and traditional a Caribbean sailing experience as exists within our region.
For more information on sailing with the Friendship Rose, visit the schooner online.