compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Friday, February 12, 2004

Even a sailor can get a little tired of the wind. At different wind speeds, different noises appear. A howl is easily achieved, it will increase in pitch as the wind picks up. Shuddering vibrations from the bimini seem to occur at about 25 knots and the listing of the whole boat to leeward occurs at about thirty with the angle increasing with wind speed. The boat motion is not too bad if there isn't a long fetch for the chop to build up, just a kind of gentle hunting back and forth on the anchor chain. However, the captain doesn't sleep well when thinking/dreaming about all the things that could go wrong and put our little home on the rocks - or worse, on one of the incredibly expensive yachts who seem to prefer anchoring downwind of us. It also makes dinghy excursions exciting and wet and ruins the snorkeling. We spend a fair amount of discussion on why they call it "blowing like stink" and congratulating ourselves on the complete lack of mosquitos. Its been windy.


Passages have been quick. We took off from Sint Maartin close hauled for St. Eustatia, known to her admirers as "Statia". As we couldn't quite come that close to the wind, we ended up sailing quite near Saba which is an inverted cone of rock with a cloud permanently impaled on its peak. A fine place to visit by all reports, but no where to shelter from the wind and the closest dinghy landing is 2 miles from the mooring. Lovely place. Two towns: Bottom and Windward Side. 20 Knots of wind and 4-5' chop. The sailors among you will forgive us for sailing on. 8 hours after leaving Sint Maartin, we put down our anchor at Statia in Oranjestad Bay, described as one of the busiest harbors in the world in the 17th and 18th century. Statia has history but things have quieted down since it was known as the Golden Rock. Still a rock, but considerably less golden. Lower Town is now a long beach with a few restored buildings and a whole lot of ruins dating from the 17th to the 20th century. The very, very steep slave road climbs on an angle up the cliff to Upper Town which is extremely historical and offers fine views and a great Dutch fort. Upper Town has considerably more buildings with intact roofs than Lower Town. The whole thing is overseen by "The Quill" which is a perfect volcanic cone with a large crater. Missing his native Alps, and looking for a little exercise, Hansruedi climbed up to the rim and came back down dusty and scratched for his trouble. As the bay is on the west side, we got some protection from the wind but the waves just wrap around the tiny island and cause considerable rocking when the captains stern anchor doesn't hold.
    Statia is the first country to recognize the United States by replying to an American ship's canon with a friendly canon salute from Fort Oranje. This may have been the result of confusion or it may have been in honor of the American terrorist/patriots considerable purchases of illegal weaponry from the merchants of Lower Town. This is the island where George Washington bought the weapons and through which Ben Franklin routed American post - both in direct violation of the British blockade. The Dutch had made this the free port of the Caribbean and weren't that fond of the British and anyway, their money was green too wasn't it? Now that the glory days are over, Statia's main economic activity seems to be as a fuel bunker for tankers coming from Liberia to the US. You can't eat history nor live on past glory.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts is just down the road and started looking good after a second semi-sleepless night. It looks on the map like its big enough to break the waves and has a large enough harbor for tour ships. Plus, its just down the road a short hop to the South East. Light winds in the Caribbean generally come from the South East and are generally a result of a storm breaking the pressure gradient between the Atlantic high and the Columbian low. Yup. 9 hours later we pulled into Basseterre (the capital) having sailed 30 miles in 10 knots of wind directly from the direction we wished to go. I'm not sure about God, but there is definitely a Murphy.
    We arrived late Saturday, put out a stern anchor to hold us into the south swell and went to bed and slept well. Sunday we dinghied to the beach just south of the cruise ship dock and joined the throngs of tourists pouring into town. The path from the cruise ship to the town is lined with people passing out various rum drinks and blocked by a kind of covered market selling trinkets. Between the rum, and a barrier made more formidable by the heat, few tourists make it past the market. As it is Sunday, everything
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is closed in town anyway. This was pointed out to us by the Click for a journal entry list very rare passerby. The old buildings and fine supply of churches kept us walking around all the closed shops until we heard some music coming from speakers placed in the window of a falling down old cottage with long, rambling signs with paintings of a bearded patriarch charitably described as "primitive". We were greeted by the proprietor of this museum and cultural center and personally invited to a guided tour. Flattered, we determined that contributions were voluntary. The patriarch of the picture who, like many elderly people, had clearly never thrown anything away. After he died in 2000, his house and stuff seems to have been inherited by a younger fellow who now runs it as a "cultural center". He has the old man's car which is now rusted to the frame (still turns over, goin ta get it running again - though the remnants of the wooden spokes crumble in his hand). He has a shed with a collection of rusty sewing machines, kitchen appliances, jars and piles and piles of old papers. He has a monkey, turtles, various birds and all the old man's belongings stuffed into a tiny house and yard. He seems loony as can be talking nonstop about his big plans for the museum and how students come through and how they do genealogical research, while picking up and putting down pieces of the jumble of junk. We were followed on the tour by two ladies with cell phones who were each wearing one high heel and one low heel shoe and a couple of kids who seemed mute. He's going to open the basement for exhibiting the 2000 pieces of art and he's going to move that pile of rocks so he can move in a pair of peacocks to share the pen with the turtles. He did show us a video of the neighborhood in a hurricane where everyone was walking in flooded streets wearing shower caps and plastic bags and waving at the camera. Weird, but well worth every cent of our donation.
    Basseterre, St. Kitts might well be a fine, hardworking, god fearing town but we found it weird and moved a little farther down the Group W bench. Whitehouse Bay provided good snorkeling with a fine wreck in shallow water for our entertainment. By this time, the low shielding us from the winds had moved on or died and we moved on to Major's Bay at the southern end of the Island which was described as very sheltered. There was an oblique reference to a bottom apparently made of black ice. It is a fine, large bay which we shared only with a wreck of a fishing boat, a very large barge which had been beached and quite a few head of cattle and goats. It blew like stink. To anchor here, hit the white spots of sand or join the barge and/or fishing boat. Beautiful landscape and a great time to take a land excursion. We did a very wet dinghy ride around the point and beached at Banana Bay. This is a spectacular resort which has been given over to the goats. Tennis courts, cottages, stunning beach, palm trees, large lawns. The only sign of human habitation was a guy fishing from the semi-wreckage of a beach bar/ dock who quickly left when we arrived. We hiked on over to Turtle Bay, which seems to still be functioning well enough to provide us with lunch and provide some very white people with rum and Cuban cigars. Nevis is just across the narrow sound and is beautiful Another perfect volcanic cone and very green.

Nevis vs. St. Kitts

    The independent nation of St. Kitts/ Nevis is the smallest member of the United nations with a combined population smaller than a medium sized suburb, the largest portion of which is on St. Kitts. Nevis wants to secede. Figures. There has never been an actual war such as the one between St. Kitts and Anguilla but the two islands clearly fit together more comfortably in the plans of the British colonial office than in the minds of St. Kittiens or Nevisians. Everyone was very coy about what exactly the source of friction is but in my mind the charm of Nevis and the undeniable weirdness of St. Kitts should be more than adequate grounds for divorce. Maybe they could agree to split their vote in the UN.
    Nevis has the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. Nevis has a lot of very cute cottages. Nevis has monkeys descended from those who accompanied the slaves on the middle passage. Nevis has a lot of really beautiful plantation houses and sugar mills. Nevis has more goats than people. Nevis has a rain forest. Nevis has the very long, undeveloped Pinney beach off which we could anchor directly in the lee of its volcano. Nevis has a fruit and vegetable market. Nevis does not have a cruise ship dock. Irreconcilable differences.
    For the history impaired, Alexander Hamilton is the founder of the Coast Guard and graces the face of the $10 bill. His birthplace now serves as the seat of Nevisian local government.

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