March 26 - April xx, 2008: From Montserrat - Nevis / St. Kitts
We departed at 0900 this morning, after a leisurely breakfast. Dietmar and Larry, his friend, left last night after dinner around 2130. I cleaned up and went to bed around 2230. It was a slow ride today with rather variable winds from ESE to mostly East with windspeed ranging from a low 8 knots (apparent, downwind - almost) to over 25 knots as we reached Nevis (at a broad reach - about 90 degrees apparent). We had not had lunch by 1500 when we picked up a mooring. So we decided to clear customs and immigration tomorrow morning (they close at 1600 and earlier at times). Nevis has lots of moorings, all free, to avoid boats anchoring in order to protect their seagrass etc. The moorings are new, very well put together, easy to reach - long lines with a float and a gooseneck to put once's own line through. We fastened within two or three minutes and no hectic or accident - remember Dominica???
We had lunch. I checked for WIFI service - there is none, and we read in the meantime that the Four Seasons Hotel is not very hospitable vis-a-vis yachtees. So, we will have to visit any one of the three internet cafes in the town of Charlestown (where we also need to clear customs and immigration) tomorrow morning. Now, we are enjoying the beautiful scenery, the clear water, the much lighter (by now) winds and calm seas and lots of room around us - no motor boats, no jet skiers (they are not permitted here) - Paradise!!!
April 1 - but not April Fool's Day! We spent a wonderful few days on Nevis, took an island tour by cab with a driver by the name of "Cinderella2" - why, we never figured out. He showed us the first hotel of the island, a rather attractive stone building which is situated up above Charlestown - now a government building. A hot spring is right near it (therefore, the hotel was the perfect type of place for its guests to enjoy a "natural hot tub". Unfortunately, when we stopped by, some local was just washing himself - not too attractive to even think about... We stopped at a number of plantations, a "heritage village" which depicted small homes for the former slaves - freed by then. They seemed to live in close proximity to the whites at the time - no segregation then.... It is a picturesque area outside of Charlestown - could use a little sprucing up though. We went into the rain forest area and saw a large number of vervet monkeys, also called greenback monkeys, because their backs have a green sheen to themselves. I was ill prepared for this sort of thing as the monkeys had been written up about St. Kitts, not Nevis. For landscape photography, I did not need the heavy zoom, particularly since I ws also carrying my computer. We had checked emails again AND I uploaded some additional documents to the printing firm in Maine. The docs went through so that I diid not need to send the DVD which I had burnt the evening before, just in case. Thank God Juergen had his video camera with him which has a pretty decent zoom. So, while we don't have any good monkey photos, at least we will have good shots of monkeys on our video!
Back on the boat, we took advantage of being in crystal clear water, made water and did laundry - two loads on Friday, the day of our island tour, two loads the next morning. On Saturday, we decided to leave Nevis to sail over the slightly over 5 nm to Whitehouse Bay in the Southern part of St. Kitts. We sailed out of the anchorage, just under genoa, and made excellent speed of between 5.9 to 6.9 knots for the hour (almost) it took us to get there. At 20-25 knots of wind, it was a great little sail. Two catamarans were anchored there already. We found a good spot not too far away but enough to leave everyone sufficient privacy. It was gorgeous. We sat in the cockpit, then went closer to shore to snorkel and swim. The water had its typical turquois color, and we could see "for ever" it seemed - Juergen thinks we could see about 20 feet down. With our goggles, the visibility closer to shore was wonderful, and we saw lots of little fish, different types of coral even without going all the way to the shipwrecks. They were marked with small white buoys - and thus easy to avoid while looking for our anchorage. I still am not totally comfortable snorkeling and like to be near the dinghy or even hold on to it. For some reason, every three or four breathing cycles, I suddenly have salt water in my mouth and need to go up for air... why, I do not know. Juergen does not understand this...
A couple of other sailboats arrived in the early evening hours while one of the catamarans left for Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, yet another 4.5 nm away. The next day, Sunday, we again went snorkeling / swimming after lunch, then sat in the cockpit, enjoying the sun, the warmth, our (almost) daily rum punch, a little lunch, some Backgammon... it was just another beautiful day in Paradise. I also worked a little on my business venture. For this it is actually quite good that it gets dark between 1830 and 1900. But I have not always waited for the darkness of the evenings. I have often worked during the day as well, either sitting in the cockpit, straining my eyes to see the monitor, or even sitting down below, curtains and hatches covered to avoid any sunlight from entering the main cabin. A lot of things are done, at least all of those that require printing (except Juergen's business cards which Kinko's will have to do - they are faster and definitely cheaper - might not be as high quality...). I still have some other things to do in preparation of the trade show, but those I (hopefully) will get done in time in the next three to four weeks, i.e., just in time before we head over to Bermuda.
On Monday, April 1st, we left beautiful Whitehouse Bay to go into the Port Zante Marina in Basseterre. We called
ahead of time to ensure that there was room for our boat. The weather forecast included strong to very strong Northerly winds and swell for the next few days which would make a sail to St. Barts (and anchoring there) rather uncomfortable. The short trip to the marina was over in no time - this time, we did not even bother taking the genoa out. The harbor basin is very well protected. It was improved after hurricane Lenny (1999?) destroyed a number of waterfront buildings. Now, there is a new cruiseship dock (another one is planned) and an entire "village" of dutyfree shops (how much shopping can cruiseship tourists do from island to island to island???) We are wondering about this, particularly since the merchandise and even the store names are all the same - boooooooring!
Docking was a lot more comfortable, practically "St. Croix style", i.e., we went bow-to, through two pilings which we needed to tie our stern lines to, bow lines ready to be handed to the two dock hands. There is a small finger dock from the main dock. Thus, we can just climb over our lifelines and are on a firm dock - easy, comfortable!!! We had a little trouble getting the port stern line over the piling as it was a little too far away and too high for me to reach over. Our portside boat neighbor came to the rescue with his boat hook, and we were tied up properly in no time. We chatted with our starboard side neighbors for a while before they invited us over to their boat. We, however, wanted to go into town, check with customs (we were told that we did not need to do anything until we wanted to clear out in the next few days - it is not clear when exactly we can leave due to the heavy winds which are to start tomorrow or Thursday). We walked around town - very cute, typically Caribbean. Basseterre even has a mini Piccadilly Circus which they call the "Circus" (no "Piccadilly" in the name). We had lunch in one of the restaurants right there and, on our way to the RAM supermarket, we were caught in one of the heaviest rain squalls we have experienced in the Caribbean to date - well, until last night when it poured for hours on end, very heavily.
Because we had declined to go to our neighbors' boat during the day, Juergen invited them over for drinks - we had hoped to sit in the cockpit, but the heavy rain forced us to go down below. By 2200 they left. We quickly made a bite to eat and went to bed to read. The night was dry so that we could keep our hatch open uninterrupted - a rare occurrence (normally, I have to dash up a few times during the night as there are usually mini rain squalls coming through. I guess, it rained so much that there was no more humidity left in the air).
This morning, we went back to the Ministry of Tourism to check out information about the much described Scenic Railway tour. At US$ 89 a person for a 3 hour trip, we declined, particularly since the lady at the office hinted at a taxi island tour with an excellent driver for "only" US$ 80 for the two of us - that sounded a lot better, particularly since the tour was just for us, i.e., we could stop wherever we wanted. Earl will pick us up tomorrow morning at 0900, right at the marina entrance. How much more comfortable can this be?
We walked around Independence Square which is a little park where slaves used to be traded. A church and the courthouse flank this park to the East. In the North of the park, there are supposed to be some galleries - we have not found them yet but will try again. We passed the local prison which is adjacent to the immigration office (how appropriate...) and the police department.
The biggest thrill and surprise came, however, when we passed by a picture of an elder gentleman and a sign that he was / is a national hero, Edgar Challenger, on Central Street in Basseterre, where a local (Winston "Zack" Nisbett) was standing outside his home. We started chatting. It turned out that he himself is a sort of "national hero" and has received a number of honors including a cash award of US$ 5000, a crystal trophy, commemorating his activities in support of local history. In his little property (garden and house) he harbors thousands of original documents including land deeds, wills, maps, drawings of plantations, slave trade documentation, etc., etc., dating back to the 16th century and beyond. The wealth of historic information that is hidden in his file drawers, not properly taken care of, but highly treasured, is unbelievable and indescribable. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to take any pictures because he has "something big planned". He took a good half hour showing us around. The reason why he has all of these documents is that he took care of the pictured "national hero" until his death and - we assume - inherited his property including such documents. I really wished I could show you what this looked like - unfortunately, we may actually have to wait until he gets his "big thing" off the ground. All of his activities (and he seems to be famous, arranging for major sports events as well as lecturing to students at the local college, providing supporting documentation for others' lectures - as we were there visiting with him, a local lady stopped by to ask for something for her afternoon lecture) are self-financed (largely through donations). Of course, we also made a contribution to his efforts.
He sleeps in the room with all the filing cabinets, has a tiny office with lots of old medical and other books and artifacts, a computer, a scanner. Now, he is saving up to buy a digital camera... Just incredible and impossible to describe properly. We are both in awe... and want to come back in a few years to see what has been done with this wealth of information.
April 2 - Wednesday. It has been a day mixed with lots of rain (particularly since the mid afternoon) but also sunshine. Earl had not shown up at 0900 but - as we learned a few minutes later - had been there to do so. The issue was that, impatient as I am, I had walked away from Juergen to ask the security guard to call the Tourism Bureau (the lady who had arranged our tour). Earl knew he was supposed to pick up two people, only saw one, and drove off... Well, a few minutes later, he came to pick us up. He drove us all around the island, including Brimstone Hill Fortress, famous as the "Gibraltar of the Caribbean" for its strength and (almost) invincibility (well, the French finally took it anyway, but it took many years for them to succeed), Black Rocks, a rock formation resulting from volcanic activity 400 plus years ago - gorgeous. It reminded us of Pointe des Chateaux on Guadeloupe, remember? We visited a former sugar cane plantation for lunch - it was quite picturesque, and the food was delicious with an Indian twist. All three of us enjoyed it very much. We drove by Earl's farm, a 5 acre piece of land he cultivates with the support of some government entities from the UK and Italy (why, we could not figure out). He drove us past the airport to Frigate Bay, actually to a very narrow strip of land from where one can see both the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean Sea side. Unfortunately, it was raining by then, and my lense shows lots of raindrops.
We also stopped by another old plantation with gorgeous trees including a "Bismarck Palm" and a 350 year old tree . It houses a famous Batique boutique with many rather tastefully done pieces of clothing, pillow covers, etc. Both Juergen and I purchased a few items, I a summer dress, a wrap skirt and a blouse, he two shirts. I am sure you will see us in some of these over this summer.
We saw lots of nature, including young egrets all sitting on one tree by the road - they were largely hiding in the leaves, but I managed to catch one fairly well. We saw lots of goats, particularly as the day progressed and it seemed to be time for them to venture back home (wherever that was), donkeys, some cattle. We passed by the railroad tracks of the scenic railroad, a tourist trap - we think - and not particularly interesting. When we saw it in action, we were even happier that we had decided against it. Now, I found out that Juergen had not wanted to take it in the first place (if he only ever said what he wanted...).
By about 1500 we were back at the marina and dashed into the boat to avoid the incredible downpour... In the meantime, all the photos are uploaded onto the computer, the camera battery is being charged, and we are trying to prepare everything so we can upload the Nevis-St. Kitts section on our website tomorrow. Happy reading!