Monday, February 25, 2013

Gibraltar of the Caribbean

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Ft. Brimstone was constructed by African slave labor over a period of almost 100 years back when the French and English were squabbling over control of the Caribbean.  It is strategically situated on the northwest corner of St. Kitts and from there you can see six islands including Saba, St. Martin and Montserrat.

The first cannon was hauled up the hill in 1690 by the British with the intent of capturing the French built Ft. Charles on the shore below.

After successfully recapturing Ft. Charles, the British quarried the local volcanic rock, produced cement using limestone kilns, and built walls that range from 6’ to 10’ thick.

By 1736, Ft. Brimstone had 49 cannons, many were the 24-pounders that were considered the most formidable weapon of their time.

The fort comprises 11 different areas sprawled over 40 acres on three levels.

The lower placements sit 100’ to 300’ below the citadel on the top.

The fortress looks impenetrable, but it was taken by the French in 1782.  Eight thousand French troops laid siege to the fort that was defended by 1,000 soldiers from the Royal Scots.  The battle lasted 30 days and bought valuable time for Britain’s Admiral Hood and Admiral Rodney to inflict heavy damage to the French fleet.

After the British surrendered, the French graciously allowed the British to march out with full military honors.

The Treaty of Versailles returned the fort to British control.  Ft. Brimstone remained an active British outpost until 1852 when it was abandoned.

The Society for the Preservation of Brimstone Hill was founded in 1965 and turned the overgrown ruins into a tourist attraction.  In 1973 H.R.H. Prince Charles re-opened the first restoration.  While we were visiting, archaeologists were busy digging near some ruins and were excited to find that the ruins were formerly a latrine.  They interrupted their labor when Pollie showed an interest and attempted to recruit her.  Should you be interested, contact Caribbean Volunteer Expedition at

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cruisers vs. Cruisers

Carnival Cruise Lines

The cruisers from cruise ships have a different experience than us cruisers on the little boats.  We only share our boats with our cruising partner and occasional guests, while they share their boat with 3,000 new friends and 1,000 crew members.

Cruise terminal at Port Zante, St. Kitts

The cruisers off the small boats are generally in better shape and not quite as white (better tans) as the cruise ship cruisers.

In the cruise ship areas you do not find very many dinning opportunities because food is included with the price of the cabin.

Away from the cruise ship area you can usually find a restaurant popular with the small boat cruisers.

Besides the duty free jewelry stores, you do find some bars offering cheap drinks and WiFi because both of those items are expensive on the cruise ships.

For real deals on food and drinks, the small boat cruisers usually try to find places the locals patronize.

Old Treasury Building

The dividing line between the new cruise ship area and Basseterre, the capital city of St. Kitts, is the old treasury building that is now a museum and gate to the cruise ship area.  We sat and watched as numerous people from the cruise ships would peek out into the bustling city and then return to the “safety” of the cruise ship area.

We find that we are hustled for everything from taxi rides to pictures of us holding monkeys the closer we are to the cruise ship area.

The Circus

Unfortunately, many of the people on the cruise ships miss what the islands have to offer.

While the cruise ship areas tend to be clean, safe, and look like a fun shopping experience, Pollie often complains that they have the same junk from China that the last island’s cruise ship area had to offer.  Nothing made locally.

St. George's Anglican Church

Numerous island tours are available for the cruise ship cruisers, and we almost took one, but found it more economical and adventurous to share a rental car with another small boat cruising couple.  This church (constructed 1856-1859), like many sights, was only a short walk from our marina and the cruise ship area.

Independence Square (formerly a slave auction)

Many other points of interest are probably missed by the cruise ship cruisers who tend to stick to the cruise ship areas, or take guided tours.

When the cruise ships pull out, the cruise ship area becomes a ghost town, but the real city continues at full throttle.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Leeward Islands

After enjoying watching the large yachts in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua it was time to move on.

We knew we were going to miss some of the dinning opportunities around Falmouth and English Harbour.

While in Falmouth we took care of some much needed bottom cleaning and zinc replacement.

Morris Bay, Antigua

But it was not all work; we did get in some R&R. 

 Our sister ship, the Izzy R arriving Jolly Harbour

To prepare to leave, we staged on the west side of Antigua at Jolly Harbour.  There we met our friends on the Izzy R and watched the Super Bowl together.


From Antigua you have a choice of going north directly to St. Barts or Sint Maarten & St. Martin, or going east to Nevis and St. Christopher (St. Kitts).

Pinney’s Beach moorings

We chose to go east and made our first stop at Nevis.  The small island did not have much to offer, and their customs official’s interpretation of the rules prompted us to move on after spending only one night.

White House Bay, St. Kitts

Our next stop was much more enjoyable.  With the clearance from Nevis, we were allowed to visit the southern anchorages on St. Kitts for 7 days before checking in, but staying more than 24 hours in Nevis required a second visit to their customs office (???).

Our quiet anchorage in White House Bay was occasionally interrupted by dive boats delivering very white tourists to one of the many snorkeling sites around St. Kitts.

If it was good enough for the tourists, it was good enough for us.  Besides, we could access it for the back of our boat.

There were several varieties of fish, but it was not one of the better dive sites we have found.

This was the happening place on the beach, and they had a nice dinghy dock for us.

Star Clipper

The next day, Carambola was not as happening after the ship providing most of the customers left.

But, on down the beach we found a Jamaican place with killer smoothies and jerk chicken.

After two nights, we moved to a marina at the port in Basseterre, St. Kitts/Nevis’s capital.  When the cruise ships are in, this is a bustling place.  Once they are gone, the area known as Port Zante becomes a ghost town.  Basseterre is quite charming as they have made an effort to preserve the handsome old buildings including The Circus modeled after Piccadilly in London.