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 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 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
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.
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 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.