March 23rd – March 25th 2014 (-4 on UTC)
We sailed the 33 nautical miles from Montserrat to Nevis with the genoa and full mainsail. A great downwind sail and the first (downwind) since we left Trinidad at the end of last season. This allowed us the first chance this season to use the spinnaker pole; \”wing and wing\” or as Nikki says, \”goose-wing\”. We passed close by the west coast of the small island of Redonda (which is connected politically to Antigua). This mile long scrubby and very steep sided island was once a mining facility for the extraction of phosphates. The mining was abandoned in the 1930s and the island has been uninhabited since then. It didn\’t look very inviting, there are no anchorages and its coastline is nearly 1000 ft of sheer cliffs.
An interesting side story was that an Irish Montserrat merchant, claimed Redonda for his son in 1880. His son was 15 at the time. He landed on the then uninhabited rock and declared his son \”King Filipe I – King of Redonda\”. Along with the Bishop of Antigua and some other friends, they all had a good time and consumed much in the way of \”Caribbean Spirits\”. Believe it or not, eventually Parliament in the UK actually approved of such a move as it kept the every changing alliances of the islands of the Caribbean more to their liking.
We arrived off Neviss main town, Charlestown and anchored at Pinney\’s Beach. This is a long stretch of sandy white beach with yet another up-market – Four Seasons -resort. At that end of the beach, the \”yachties\” are not encouraged to frequent! Pinney\’s beach has a couple of famous beach bars, one of them being Sunshines home of the Killer-Bee cocktail. No we didnt get there, the walk from town was too long and the steep wet beach landing was enough to keep us away, so we enjoyed a G&T on board \”Beach House\” instead and listened to the music from the beach – we must be getting old! For those who follow in our wake, the dinghy ride is almost a mile to the dinghy dock – each way.
Next morning we went ashore to check in and explore. Nevis has a history of sugar plantations, most of which have been converted into high end boutique hotels with good restaurants attached. The island is also famous for two of its former residents; Fanny Nesbit married Lord Horaito Nelson here and Alexander Hamiliton was born here. Hamilton left at the age of 9 and was mostly raised into his teens on Jamaica before emigrating to the colonies. The rest is history. There are two museums on the island giving a piece of both Lord Nelson\’s and Hamilton\’s life stories. Neither \”museum\” was much to see, but it was interesting nonetheless to read about both nations heroes of a bygone era.
We decided to go and visit the Golden Rock Plantation up in the foothills of Nevis Peak. Nevis is an English bastardization of the Spanish – \”Nieves\”. Nieves means snow! When Columbus first sighted the island on his second voyage of discovery in 1493, it appeared covered in snow and hence the named it after his favorite Cathedral – \”Nuestra Senora de las Nieves\”.
We negotiated an (expensive) taxi ride for the 25 minute drive into the hills. Nevis is a pretty island and seemed unspoiled overall with locals who welcome the recent expansion of the airport and the big hotels coming to town. The water front seemed to have been tidied up over the last few years and the entry facility definitely geared up to receive the smaller cruise ship crowd. Thankfully on this island, they have maintained most of the Caribbean style architecture from the original. The Golden Rock Plantation had been renovated and was looking very good. The food was good but cold. The service strictly \”Caribbean\”. The views to the north of St. Barth\’s and St. Maarten\’s were fabulous. A day ashore was all we felt we needed to do some justice to Nevis so we headed on to her big sister, the island of St Kitts the next morning.
St. Christopher (St. Kitt\’s) – 25 March 2014
The islands are almost joined together so we motored the 6 miles into the main anchorage – Basseterre which means \”lowlands\”. It didnt look very tenable and so we hailed the local marina and they replied that they had space for a 51 ft. Catamaran inside. Unfortunately their idea of space was the end of the main dock. We side tied along a small cargo pier which was 5ft higher than the deck. As we were on the \”outside\”, we couldn\’t reach the water and power, but it did have security at the gate and we were able to walk into town. Oddly, despite St. Kitt\’s and Nevis being the same nation and only a quick trip from each other, we had to check in and out with Customs and Immigration from both islands. As we were adjacent to the main cruise ship dock, this was fortunately easy.
Port Zante, Basseterre is really a duty free stop off for the large cruise ships. We found some decently priced wine and the cheapest Bombay Sapphire gin we had seen since we bought it (also) duty free in Darwin Australia two seasons ago. It took us two years to drink two & half bottles, so we stocked up….and bought two…:-)
The big attraction on St Kitt\’s in the Brimstone Hill Fortress. This fortress gives the island it\’s nickname,The Gibralter of the West Indies\’. We had the afternoon left and decided to get a taxi and have a look round the restored fort. The view from the top was of St. Eustatia (Statia) and Saba to the northwest with St. Barth\’s and St. Maarten to the northeast. We learned about the history and conflict that the English and French had here in the late 1700\’s and a bit about how the various wars and lands were divided up in a few important European treaties which are for the most part, still in effect today. St. Kitt\’s also has a train which does a few hour tour. We would have done it but couldn\’t get tickets as the cruise ship had it fully booked.
We came back and bought some (likely locally produced) DVDs. The guy who was selling had Nikki in hysterics. We thought he must have got his college degree in marketing. He told us the plot of every film we picked up off his stand. He kept pulling more must see before you die\’ movies from under the counter it was pretty funny! We finished off looking round \’The Circus\’ in town, a small area designed with Piccadilly Circus London in mind. Apart from a derelict red London phone box – we could really get the connection! We decided to go by the guidebook, (famous for misrepresenting restaurants; especially those that advertise in their guide). We had tea at the Ballahoo Restaurant. The food was pretty mediocre but a pleasant setting to watch the world go by around \”The Circus\” roundabout below. The waitress at the restaurant was right out of the 1970\’s film, \”Five Easy Pieces\”. She couldn\’t imagine that we would ask questions and actually expect her attention. We were one of two tables seated in the restaurant. She clearly couldn\’t be bothered. Unfortunately, some of the locals are quite jaded (especially to the cruise ship crowd which she assumed we were from). After our lovely experience we met an American chap in the marina who said we should go to the \”All American Bakery\” the next morning…\”it was to die for\”, he said. The next day, I went early and found the place. It was clear that – first, the waitress from last night\’s experience had a daughter who was working the counter and second, the product was in effect..Winchell\’s Donuts.
The island has it\’s strong points, but don\’t ask me for them. Let\’s say, it wasn\’t one of my favorites. The other funny experience we had at the Marina was running into a very stuffy Brit and his wife who were a bit too posh for Nikki\’s taste. The \”chap\” told us that he sailed his (very nice) Benateau 50 over \”on the ARC don\’t you know\”! For those of you who don\’t know, the ARC is the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers which leaves the Canary Islands with about 200 mostly European boats heading to the Caribbean for the season. He was all about knocking down catamaran\’s. He asked how we \”pointed\”? Pointing is how close to the wind a boat can sail and cruising cats (which he knew ahead of time), are notoriously bad at it. It\’s really our only weakness. So I told him essentially \”not very well\”. I used my analogy, which sailors will appreciate. I said, \”as well as a 50 foot shipping container with a mast could…:-)\” I did my best not to \”get into it\” with him and fortunately succeeded. The highlight of this experience was when the next day we set sail together. There was no doubt that from his perspective, \”the race was on\”. I\’m quite sure the chap thought he\’d sail right past us \”pointing\” to St. Barth\’s. We flew right by him, arriving almost an hour ahead in the 22 mile journey. When he got to Gustavia (the main port of St. Barth\’s) he somehow kept avoiding us….:-) Funny, we saw him again the other day at Norman\’s Island Bight (BVI – where we are now) and yet again….he didn\’t say a word….:-)
Next…St. Barth\’s! This would be one of our highlights to date in the Caribbean.
Scott and Nikki