So you think you want to live on an island in the Caribbean. Here are some of the realities of life in Bequia. Other islands will have most of the same conditions, though some are drier, some get more rain, some get hurricanes.
Just about everybody says ‘you’re living my dream,’ but that dream is usually based on ideas or memories of a romantic resort holiday in the sunshine, with palm trees swaying and water lapping at the shore, and no pressures other than do you go barefoot or wear flip flops.
Sun: The sun shines just about every day which is wonderful, however the sun is relentless, not only does it burn unprotected skin quickly, it fades and blisters paint, fades and rots fabrics, it fades posters and prints, fades roofing materials, dries out wood, and if there is no rain for a while it burns up a lot of the plants, plus with the heat it’s been known to happen that tiles will just pop off the floor in a closed up house with no ventilation. A benefit of the sun though is that we have solar hot water tanks to heat our water, solar pool pumps, and solar air conditioning units are now available if you want a/c. Solution: have as much shade around your house as possible, large wide roofed decks, and be prepared to paint and or varnish yearly.
Humidity: On top of the heat from the sun, and it’s about 90F everyday, there is the humidity. There is so much humidity year round that there is no need to use moisturizer as it just slides off. Cosmetics just melt off your face, and sometimes even your sweat has sweat. From May through to September the humidity is so thick that you get out of the shower and by the time you are dried off you are sweating already and feel like you need another shower, the rest of the year isn’t too bad for humidity. Solution: have a swimming pool so that you can be in and out of it all day long, or go to the beach.
Sea: The sea is always beautiful, gorgeous shades of turquoise blue with white foam crashing over the rocks out at the opening to the bay below us. The combination of wind and sea foam creates ‘sea blast’ and the water particles are lifted up high in the air and carried ashore where it lands on everything in it’s path, then the moisture in the air is attracted to the salt in the sea blast and everything feels greasy. If surfaces aren’t cleaned weekly, the sea blast etches glass, and allows rust to start quickly. From our deck we can see sea blast like a thin mist blowing through the air across the valley below. Closed doors do not keep the sea blast out, as it will make its way through any cracks and the essential breeze blocks and into the house. It will even make it’s way into cupboards, so we don’t just spring clean, we are always cleaning. The sea blast corrodes wires, so that the phone line, the cable line, and the electrical lines where they connect from the pole to the house are frequently needing repaired, and appliances just don’t last very long. Solution: Clean often, but the corrosion of the sea blast on appliances and other metal surfaces is part of the cost of living in paradise.
Sahara Dust: Have you heard about Sahara dust? You wouldn’t think that dust could blow all the way from Africa to the Caribbean, but it does. A sand storm in Africa elevates the sand to such a height that the dust blows in the wind all the way across the Atlantic. When it lands it leaves a reddish dust film. Solution: Clean often
Wind: Being in the windward islands, and on the Atlantic side, we almost always have breeze, and in a couple of the months of the winter, we have wind. The breeze is wonderful for keeping you cool, and for drying the laundry on the line, but when the wind blows, anything that will blow needs to be weighed down, otherwise it will go flying. Any lightweight decorations need either to be put away or moved out of the wind. Forget about candles, they just blow out unless they are right out of the wind. The obvious benefit of the breeze is the cooling effect so ideally your house should be oriented to take advantage of cross breezes. Solution: if you are on the Atlantic side and haven’t sited your house correctly you may have to get hurricane blinds that allow you to see out, but cut the wind completely.
One of the major benefits of the location of Bequia is that we are south of the normal hurricane path. Storms tend to cross the Atlantic, hit Barbados and veer north west from there. We rarely get a hurricane and in the past 18 years we’ve only had a couple of category 1 hurricanes, and that’s not a big deal, it breaks a few branches but that’s about it.
It’s not a bed of roses, but there are many benefits, you can dine alfresco every day, your wardrobe consists solely of light summer clothes, swimsuits, and sandals, the views are incredible, and you can swim every day of the year. We can’t imagine being anyplace else.