Some Observations - Crafts, Foods, & Signs


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Coconuts are a Useful MaterialCoconuts are a Useful MaterialCoconuts are a Useful Material

The sailboats on the left in the photo are just one more example of how coconuts are used.
Some of the craft and souvenir shops that you see on the islands are the same that you see anywhere. You have the typical jewelry, the T-shirts with numerous funny and not so funny sayings, handmade dolls and all of the other items you expect in a gift shop in any tourist town. The nice thing is that we have also seen many unique items – either due to the materials used or the skills involved. These are the ones that make you look again as well as buy in order to help to support the local craftsperson. The other difference is that some you find in shops, but the majority are found being sold by vendors along the streets (usually the artist themselves) or brought out to the boat by what they call “boat boys”. This term is definitely a misnomer as many of these are middle age men that have been doing this for years. They either have a rowboat, a wooden hand built fishing boat as in the case of St. Vincent or they have a locally built fiberglass boat with a motor that comes out to your boat (many times before you even have time to anchor)
Callabash ArtCallabash ArtCallabash Art

We just knew that this carved calabash would look great hanging up next to the setee. We wanted to add artwork to make it more of a home and this was the perfect size as well to fit in this space.
to sell their wares. The merchandise sold can be as varied as fresh bread in the AM, fruit, jewelry, vegetables, wooden carvings and anything else they have to sell. We did have a women come out in a boat for the first time the other day that picks up and delivers laundry. As Bob said guess this is considered women’s’ work in these countries!

Many of the guide books we have read as well as the cruiser’s we met warned us about these boat boys and how aggressive they can be in trying to sell to you. We were concerned that this would be a problem, but in fact we have found the opposite to be true. This has been a great way to met the locals and to get tips on how to choose the best fruits (and find out when they are ripe), as well as where to get a local meal or any other information that they want to share about their island. Each one introduces themselves by name and it actually makes you feel welcome to their country. Don’t get us wrong, there can be a few that are into the hard sell marketing tactics,
Ladybug SeedsLadybug SeedsLadybug Seeds

It is hard to see but this necklace is made from seeds that are a combination of orange and black. They are not painted but are naturally this color. I was told it was from the woha tree (he didn’t know how to spell it), but when I looked it up it appears a jumby seed (aka ladybug seed) from the ormosia tree
but luckily they have been few and far between. We were even lucky enough to have one of the guys (Joel) in St. Vincent give us a recommendation of someone in Bequia (Willie) to contact so we had a name to ask for when we entered the harbor.

We have discovered one thing about ourselves through this process. We would probably be called “suckers” and usually wind up buying from most of the boat boys (men). Luckily we have been impressed with many of the items they have for sale and have felt that they gave us a good price so feel good about supporting them with a purchase. We have been able to eat very well due to the great fruit that they bring, decorate the boat with some of the crafts we bought and have a few presents ready for when we come home.

The “flag man” in Rodney Bay introduced us to the best mango we have ever tasted. We always enjoyed the mangoes we had before, even though some of them were fibrous. Now, a new standard has been set. This mango was smooth, silky without any fibers, a luscious orange color and was
Dried Bamboo LeavesDried Bamboo LeavesDried Bamboo Leaves

This piece is made from bamboo leaves. You don’t realize that there are so many colors in the dried leaves until you see the pieces made from it.
amazingly sweet. The challenge now is to find any mangoes that can live up to this new standard. Luckily we met Godfrey, “the mango man” in St. Lucia. He rowed out to our boat in a wooden fishing boat and had only a few pieces of fruit but nothing that looked at all like the mangoes we were looking for. We told him about our quest for that ultimate mango and he said “give me a bag” and I will bring you what you want. Surprisingly a few hours later he came back to the boat with a very full bag of the biggest mangoes we have ever seen. He brought a total of 13 – when we told him that was way too many for only 2 people, he granted that would be the case if they were all ripe now, but he specifically picked ones in various stages of ripeness. Yes, I did say pick – he went to his mother’s home and picked them off the tree to bring them fresh to us. It couldn’t get better than that. He convinced us to buy all 13 and even gave us a present of a pawpaw (papaya) and
Model SailboatsModel SailboatsModel Sailboats

This is just a very small section showing the numerous wooden boat models made by hand on the island of Bequia.
3 more mangoes that were ripe “just now”. We now have “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” and for those that haven’t read the book with this name, you should as it is one of the “bibles” that most cruisers have onboard. Luckily for us the author not only talks about their cruising in the Caribbean, but has some great recipes to try using some of the more unusual fruits and vegetables of the region. Luckily the first mango we cut from the “mango man” was excellent and came in a very close second on the mango scale of quality. We are looking forward to enjoying the rest of the mangoes. Since then, any time someone comes by to sell us fruit we tell them we would be interested in looking at everything except mangoes. We never imagined we would have this type of problem (is that what it really is??) on board!

Some of the jewelry we have seen are made from local materials – anything from volcanic rock that is highly polished to coconut shells to a large variety of seeds found on the trees that grown locally. We have seen model sailboats made from coconut shells (some rustic
A commissionA commissionA commission

The artist was commissioned to make a replica of the owners boat. He was working from photos of the boat which makes it much harder than from line drawings, but he is making great progress on it.
and others well executed), batik clothes and pillowcases, carved calabash, woven baskets out of palm leaf and strangler fig vines, pictures out of bamboo leaves, and even metal sculptures out of scrap materials (for those in the TBurg area they are similar to those made by Gordon). Maybe by the time we get to Trinidad we will change our mind as every island may start to look the same with similar crafts, but for now we are enjoying the uniqueness we are seeing.
Unfortunately we have also seen tortoise shell bracelets, hair combs and other jewelry. It's not the locals who are buying this jewelry, it's the Americans and the Europeans. It's apparent from watching these people purchase that they have no idea that they are encouraging the destruction of an endangered species. There is enormous effort on the part of the government and private individuals to reestablish and protect turtle populations in this area. What we don't understand is why Americans and Europeans don't know this. All too often it appears to us that some tourists seem to leave their conscience at home.

Bequia is known as an island that does quite a bit of boat building. One
Only Hand Tools UsedOnly Hand Tools UsedOnly Hand Tools Used

This workshop houses 7 artists which build boat models. It is quite an industry on the island of Bequia.
craft that we saw yesterday was model boat building. The men that we met have been doing this for over 25 years. Most of their work is commission work where they make an exact model of your boat. Some of them are able to get line drawings of the boat from the builders and they can then make the models to scale from those. The more difficult is when they have only photos, but they seem to manage. All of them are made using only hand tools and one craftsman takes it all the way from cutting down the gum tree for the wood to applying the paint and the numbers on to the sails. The details that they incorporated were impressive, even down to the point of putting fenders on the life lines!

We have been impressed with the variety of fruits we are able to buy daily. As you have heard numerous times before we have been buying mangoes, but we also have tried some other fruits that are new to us. Most of them are easily available back home (especially if you live near a Wegman’s) but now we can purchase ones fresh off the trees
Uses for the Red ClayUses for the Red ClayUses for the Red Clay

In Trois Ilets, Martinique the red clay is used in the making of roof tiles but it is also used for numerous wall hangings and home decorations.
at a reasonable price. We have been trying passion fruit, pawpaw (papaya - we had this in Botswana, but have found that putting lime on it really brings out the flavor), star fruit, guanabana (also called soursop), cashew apple (the cashew nut grows out of the apple), plantains, dessert figs (these look like miniature bananas) and sugar apple (sweetsop). In the area of vegetables we have been incorporating christophene regularly (chayote - similar to potatoes), and just tried callaloo and breadfruit for the first time the other day and enjoyed it (at least the way this restaurant prepared it). When we looked up callaloo we found that “it must be cooked as eating it raw or undercooked has much the same effect on your mouth and throat as one imagines chewing on raw fiberglass would have”. We were glad that we hadn’t read this first or we may have been leery of eating it, but it was delicious. It has been very enjoyable to have such fresh fruits and vegetables to add to our diet on a regular basis. We also are learning from the vendors how to fix many of these and how to decide if they are ripe
Lots of Wares for SaleLots of Wares for SaleLots of Wares for Sale

Utilitarian pottery is also made and on display at the pottery village near Trois Ilets.
or not. We even got a lesson yesterday when we were buying an avocado the other day – we were told never to shake an avocado as it moves the seed inside around and makes the flesh of the fruit black. As we told the vendor we learn something new every day.

We had been told before we left the US to stock up on a number of items as you would not be able to get them or they would be very expensive. We have definitely found this to be true. At times it was hard to get much in the way of fresh produce as the island hadn’t had its mailboat (really the supply boat) yet when you were there or the item was available but at a very high price. Most of those items were what we would call luxury items so it didn’t bother us. The biggest surprise for us has been the price of cereals. We find that many times you can find a box of cereal such as Special K or a nice Museli, but the price tag scared you away as it could be as much as $10 to $12 for one
A unique use for sandA unique use for sandA unique use for sand

The artist that made this sign out of sand told us that there are 227 different types of soil in Martinique and he uses all of them in his work. In this design which is in the shape of the island of Martinique he places the various colors of sand in the locations where it is found on the island.
box of cereal. Needless to say those did not fit our budget so we changed our breakfast menu for a few days. We have seen some shops with very little on the shelves and others that were filled as if they were a store back in the US with name brand items. You can tell which shops definitely cater to the cruising and vacationing community rather than the locals. For those with IGAs and ShurSave stores nearby, we have definitely seen many of these store brands in the islands.

In looking through our photos we noticed that we also had taken a few photos of interesting signs and figured we would share them with you so including them so hopefully you will get a smile from some of them like we did. Some of them may not amuse, but hopefully you will understand why we took those photos as well.






Additional photos below
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More Sand ArtMore Sand Art
More Sand Art

This is just a small sample of the artwork that was made with the various sand found in Martinique.
The Caribbean ColorsThe Caribbean Colors
The Caribbean Colors

Typical Caribbean scenes are the subject of many artists paintings.
Traditional DressTraditional Dress
Traditional Dress

Many hand sewn traditional dresses are seen in the markets in Martinique
What is in the bottle?What is in the bottle?
What is in the bottle?

The craft of making marketable liquids is extensive. Some are fruit juices, some medical and others your guess is as good as ours
Another for the CollectionAnother for the Collection
Another for the Collection

While sitting in a restaurant Pablo stopped by with these palm baskets that he makes. Any that know us are aware that we have a soft spot for baskets of all kinds so needed to add this to our collection.
Artistic BatikArtistic Batik
Artistic Batik

Just a few samples of the batik done here in Bequia.
What is it?What is it?
What is it?

Here is a close up of the sweetsop we bought. It should be ready to eat in another day or two. Locals typically call it a sweet apple
The larger the betterThe larger the better
The larger the better

Just a few of the mangoes Godfrey picked for us in St. Lucia
How an Avocado GrowsHow an Avocado Grows
How an Avocado Grows

A beautiful avocado growing in the back yard of our tour guide in Dominicia.
ShurFine in the IslandsShurFine in the Islands
ShurFine in the Islands

The ShurFine raisen bran sells for 15.50 EC which equals $5.81 US –this is much cheaper than we have seen in other places.
What is your guess?What is your guess?
What is your guess?

This is the cashew apple with the cashew attached at the top. You do not eat the cashew nut this way as the covering of the nut is toxic.


18th June 2011

Ithaca news
Your blog is bringing back fond memories. Hope to see you in Ithaca. I think it will stop raining soon and be safe. Sherry & Lee

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