Nevis and St Kitts proved rather uneventful. Despite a colourful description in the guide and promises of luxurious restaurants with international cuisine, both islands were a bit of a let down. The compulsory moorings on Nevis were a mile away from the dinghy dock and it took us a substantial amount of time to get to town with our temperamental outboard. The charge for them was three times as much as the guide had advised. The bay itself was windy and not very inviting for a swim. We did enjoy one journey up to an old plantation, Golden Rock in Gingerland, which had the ruins of interesting old dwellings, windmills and cooking houses. They had a map that guided us on a four hour hike up to a small spring that took us up the side of Mt Nevis.
The rainforest was interesting towards the top but we have been spoilt with Dominica’s fine example of tropical rainforest and it still left us wanting. The climb became steep and challenging which was quite exciting. We had good views of the Atlantic Ocean and the rugged eastern coastline of the island. We had a small picnic at a waterfall that had a rickety old metal ladder sitting beside it which was the next leg of the journey to ‘the source’. Valuing our safety and good health we decided against risking the ladder and after half an hour of sitting in the cool surrounds and having our snack we turned back along the track.
We had a welcome swim at the plantation’s pool and lunch over-looking Montserrat, the volcanic island that lost its capital to eruptions from 1995-1997 and the latest being only in 2010. Half of that island has an exclusion zone due to the ash and the risk of further eruptions. There are parts of the island that can be explored and we might have a look on the way back south after we visit the British Virgin Islands. It was a nice walk from the road where we got dropped off from the bus and there were some wild monkeys in the trees. These aren’t native of Nevis but were brought there as pets and then set free. They haven’t multiplied beyond a small number so they remain a novelty for both tourists and locals.
After Nevis we went to St. Kitts where we anchored in front of Basseterre, a popular destination for cruise ships. There were some old wooden buildings and a modern cruise ship terminal. A small wander through town had revealed its major sights. We had a good sail along the coast of St. Kitts in a hope to visit a small anchorage at the northern end. There were forts and countless old chimneys from old sugar mills on the ruins of plantations along the way. After the 16 mile journey, we could see that the anchorage was getting some extra swells and was quite treacherous with lots of shoals to navigate through so we decided to head back to Basseterre where we went out for an enjoyable dinner. We were seeking a nice anchorage where we could swim and snorkel so the next day we checked out and headed around the southern corner and found what we were looking for. There seem to be plenty of wrecked yachts and other vessels in the bays throughout the Caribbean – constant reminders to set the anchor alarm. The wrecks create interesting reefs where fish and coral find suitable homes.
St Barts was our next destination and after a hairy exit from St. Kitts through the shoals in big seas, we had a quick crossing but the big seas remained throughout. We found the bay at the capital, Gustavia, very inviting and snorkelled around The Saints, some small rocks amongst the anchorage. Here we were lucky enough to see a group of four cuttlefish swimming in sequence with each other. Several barracuda swam past us without giving us a second glance. On land, the township of Gustavia was a classic village of the French West Indies with quaint wooden and stone buildings with a few remnants of their shared Swedish history. But this place is the cruising Mecca of the rich and famous. It appeared that everyone there was trying to look like someone who might just be rich and famous and had me trying to rack my brain to think of who they might be. Can’t say there was anyone I could recognise. We did catch up the mega yacht, ‘A’, the ugly submarine looking boat that Thomas pointed out to me in Palma, Mallorca. We decided that they must be stalking us across the Atlantic.
After checking out of St Barts we headed for a small uninhabited island, Ile Fourchue, before we went to St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St Martin, (the French side). Luckily, Thomas noticed a large rock at the entrance of the bay that had been omitted from our charts. We had a good snorkel around the bay where we saw some more barracuda, stingrays and a turtle. The outboard let us down as we were motoring to shore for a hike and we ended up rowing to shore. We walked up to a high rock where we could see the battered eastern coastline of this small island. Some strange looking cacti littered the dry landscape and some adventurous cruisers had climbed the rocks and built piles of stones that resembled hikers from a distance. It was a quiet bay and we had a relaxed evening.
No wind and the need to make some water had us motoring the hour and a bit to get to St. Maarten. It was bad timing as there was a big regatta and the bay was very crowded with boats quite close to each other. After several attempts we found a space and have settled here whilst Thomas remains in communication for business back in Germany. A huge lagoon beyond a bridge wasn’t tempting and we’ve remained outside although it’s a bit shaky. The old outboard has been replaced. We were wooed by the Commodores in concert on shore on Sunday night after the regatta and visited the French side with our new motor yesterday. A visit to the beach at the end of the international airport today was interesting as all sorts of belongings were blown into the water by the jets of the planes as they got ready for take off at the end of the runway. The planes came in quite close as they landed too.
Our regular stalkers that we keep running into in the different bays since Martinique is a Danish school that sails with teenagers and some fun crew. They travel in an old wooden ketch and entered into the lagoon when the bridge was raised. Once inside they were searching for a suitable anchorage when the harbour master contacted them by VHF and told them to stop the suspicious sailing around the harbour. They had a good laugh at this strange request. Since then they have dragged anchor and run aground several times with the tide. Needless to say it is a bit shallow in the lagoon. I did some English lessons this morning that included a bit of Australian history and some games on their boat. Tomorrow, Malou, the only female student, is coming over for English lessons on Qi and cooking lunch for the seven of them and both of us. It will be interesting to see how Qi handles nine people on board at once. They’ve become our Caribbean family and familiar friendly faces as one or the other sails into a harbour.
Well I haven’t got to the internet to post this so we have already had our lunch with the Danish crew. We had a Mexican feast and crepes with Nutella, strawberries, banana and cream for dessert accompanied with good old fashioned New Zealand/Oz fruit punch. Malou did a great job following the English recipe for Chilli con carnie on her own and helping with everything else. It was fun to have another person to cook with.
She’s a lovely young lady. At one stage she asked me if she could have a smoke break. I said to Thomas that I wasn’t used to students asking for smoko. I told her to find a shed to smoke behind like I had to at school. Anyway, we had a lovely lunch with everyone and they enjoyed visiting Qi and the effort Malou and I had gone to. The Captain was his normal charming self and entertained our guests wonderfully.