Maintenance in Island Time

There is no such thing as a quick maintenance job here.

The hardware stores in Port Elizabeth might not have the part you need, which means you usually have to take the ferry across to Kingstown, St. Vincent, and try any or all of the hardware stores in Kingstown, which means walking all over Kingstown, then if none of them have the part, you have to source it online and either have it shipped in, or have it sent to a friend to have them bring it with them.  Sometimes a store clerk might suggest another store that might have what you need, but that is rare, usually the response is ‘all finish’ and if you ask when they will have it again, they shrug and say ‘me nah noh.’   If you are able to let your fingers do the walking and source what you need over the phone, then you have to send a cheque across on a ferry, or make a deposit to the stores account at the bank on Bequia, and the store will send the item across on a later ferry.

What would be a 5 minute repair job if you have the part, can end up taking 5 weeks or 5 months. Of course this is a great improvement over pre internet days when you’d call a friend or relative to tell them what you needed and hope they got the right part, or you’d wait until you were going to Canada or the USA and take the old part with you to make sure you got the right replacement part.

I used to think that if you bought what was locally available that that might help with getting replacement parts, but that doesn’t work either.

Maintaining a car is somewhat of a challenge too, something is always needing attention.  We both carry jumper cables in the back of our cars, as well as basic tools and bottles of oil, rad fluid, wiper fluid, water and rags, and I’m not sure what else.  My husband makes sure I have what I need and when I have a problem I just go and grab the appropriate bottle from the back. I’ve learned a lot more about cars here that I ever knew when I lived in Canada.  Here I’ve had to learn how to check to make sure my battery contacts are clean, how to use jumper cables, and how to top up all the fluid levels, things I never did before moving to Bequia. Fluid levels must evaporate somewhat here, as there is no leak and yet the fluid levels seem to need to be topped up regularly. Car batteries generally don’t last more than 2 years.  Our roads are rough concrete which are hard on tires, so tires need replaced about every other year. Because our island is all hills, brakes need repaired quite often as well. The rubber on wiper blades only lasts about 2 years as the rubber gets hard and stops functioning properly. Fortunately we have a great mechanic and he’s rescued me on several occasions, meeting me on the side of a road to change a hose, coming out to the house to check the car and bringing back a new battery or whatever part needs replaced.

Many of the roads in Bequia are narrow and if you have to go off the shoulder to let somebody else pass, your vehicle might get scratched, so you don’t want a new vehicle here.  We both drive really old cars, mine is a 1993 and Gregs is a 1991, both are Suzuki jeep type vehicles, and they are ideal for the road conditions, rough windy hilly narrow roads.  If you mistakenly get a tire stuck in one of the road side gutters, they are light enough that a few strong guys can easily pick it up and move it back onto the road.  Plus when you drive an old vehicle you don’t care if it gets sand in it after a day at the beach; and with our cars being used for property management, and sometime construction management they often get more than sand spilled in them.

When we lived in Canada we kept our vehicles spotless inside and out.  Here, not so much. I had a construction worker who I’d often give a lift to and he showed up one day and said he was here to clean my car for me because it was dirty.  Since then I take it to a guy to have it washed and vacuumed once in a while. Somehow it’s not much of a priority.

We joke that bumpers are meant for bumping, because everybody’s bumpers are a little cracked or dented from backing into a wall or stone outcrop on the side of a road when you are turning around, and side mirrors are often a little battered from cars passing too close and ‘clicking’.

Collage above is one of mine…




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