Eduardo and I met up with two staff from the Ministry of Planning; Tony Bowman who was the overall project coordinator, and Dornet Hull who was a chief technician, at the ferry dock at the eastern end of the waterfront. We chugged over on the hourly ferry to Admiralty Bay, chatting about various aspects of the project and life in general. These field trips are often useful to build the personal relationships with your clients; and this project had struggled for a long time to get through to this stage. When you are being formal over the phone or by email, it is difficult to understand the context of the people you are meeting, and of course you do not get the visual clues to client’s moods or concerns. A day in the field away from all the formality of office bric-a-brac helps break down any barriers and explore around the work.
With islanders though, they are often distracted. Everyone knows everyone else and there was at least three other people that Tony had to talk to while we made the short crossing, which cut up our time to focus together.
On arrival at the small jetty in Admiralty Bay, we were met by a driver from the Ministry of Planning based in a sub-office on Bequia itself. We were driven all over the island that day, mostly places I had seen on my previous visits, but again with different people and with a different purpose, you saw new perspectives. We drove into Friendship Bay, the largest settlement on the south coast of the island. In the two years since I had last been there, I could see how new housing was both infilling in the bay area, and reaching higher into the hills at the back. Zigzag roads up to each property were cutting into the rock, backhoes were sitting around on roadsides all over town. We walked over one slope which has been subdivided and now earmarked for development. The initial clearance of the dry shrub had occurred, but so far this was the extent of any work; indeed the dormant time which is so common in any Caribbean development – whether it be big government projects or small residential builds, had allowed the natural vegetation, or at least the weeds, to cover the ground once more.
We drove up the eastern side of the island, dropping in on Brother King’s turtle hatchery that I had visited a few years previously. This side of the island at least still looked the same, although Tony pointed out several locations where people had plans, in particular government wanting to subdivided some old palm plantations.
We looked up at the north end of the island above Admiralty Bay. Here on an exposed ridge were more plans to subdivide. At the top of a small pinnacle along the ridge was a metal pole with what looked like an oil barrel on it. I correctly assumed it was a trig point, but boy what a survey mark. Trig points in many countries are small concrete pyramids that surveyors point their theodolites and rangers at to get a fix on their locations. This was a big fix – indeed it was an oil drum, turned upside down, cemented on the end of the metal pole and painted white and red. It was large enough that it could be seen in St Vincent 15 kilometres to the north. The trig points are meant to be accurate to the centimetre, but I wondered what the accuracy of these posts were; the target was enormous and the pole was at about a ten degree angle from the vertical. Tony, with his usual phlegmatic “this is how it is in the Caribbean” said that the trig point network in St Vincent was old and not maintained well. Another problem for us pulling together accurate mapping of the islands.