Friday, January 24, 2014

St. Kitts to St. Eustatius

Easy hop from St. Kitts to St. Eustatius (Statia)

After waiting three weeks for a boat part and good weather, we cruised over to St. Eustatius (Statia), an island that we had not previously visited.  The guidebooks warn that the mooring field can be subject to swells.


In the 1700’s Statia was the trading capital of the West Indies.  The water’s edge below the cliff was lined with shops and warehouse where one could buy goods from all over the world.  While other nations struggled to get along, Statia remained a neutral port.  One of Statia’s best customers at that time was the pesky American colonies.  Most of the guns used by the revolutionaries came through Statia.

Fort Oranje built by the Dutch in 1636

All good things must come to an end.  For Statia that happened on November 16, 1776 when they inadvertently became the first country to recognize the upstarts calling themselves the United States of America.  The American ship Andrew Doria under a rebel captain entered the harbor and gave a salute.  Not knowing it was an American ship under a rebel captain, the garrison at Fort Oranje returned the salute thus being the first to officially recognizing the new American nation.  The British were not amused.

Motivator and Sea Cloud  in Oranje Baai

The British, lacking any sense of humor, and because they were further irritated by the fact that Statia was selling arms to the American revolutionaries, declared war on Holland and sent Admiral Rodney to attack Statia. 

 Cemetery on the grounds of the Dutch Reform Church

After impounding the ships and their cargos in the harbor, destroying the harbor’s breakwater, and sacking and burning the town of Oranjestad, Admiral Rodney noticed that for a small population of merchants, they were having a lot of funerals.  Rodney ordered one of the coffins to be stopped and inspected.  It was full of coins and jewelry.  A little more digging in the graveyard revealed much more.  One hundred Jewish men were exiled to St. Kitts.

Ruins of the original shops and warehouse

Today most of the original trading infrastructure has slowly sunk into the sea or has been destroyed by hurricanes.


Among the ruins, some of the old warehouses have been restored and found new uses.  One guidebook author commented that each time he visits Statia he sees more evidence of restoration projects.

Lower and Upper Oranjestad

The small town of Oranjestad is divided between the Lower Town and Upper Town.

The Slave Trail

The walk between the two levels is somewhat arduous, and not clearly marked.


The town, however comes with a guide dog to show tourists the way.  We later found out the dog’s name is Crook, and for some reason he has taken on the duty of guiding tourists without wanting food or water.  The locals seemed to think he is somewhat of a pest.

Water diversion project

Also linking the two levels is this impressive water diversion project that we were told was built in the 50’s.

Brick sidewalks and stone streets

The most striking thing in upper town was the clean stone streets and brick sidewalks.  We noticed several infrastructure projects in progress as we strolled around.

Street maintenance project

Maintenance of the stone streets seemed to be ongoing.  The guy with the backpack’s job was to scrounge around for the correct size stone among the ruins, while the mason fitted the stones then grouted them in.

Many structures remaining from Statia’s merchant and plantation past are quite impressive.  The island seems to be promoting small scale ‘get-away” type vacation resorts rather than the large intrusive resorts found in so much of the Caribbean.

All of Statia coastal waters are part of a marine park.  The diving and snorkeling is reportedly excellent, and strictly controlled by The Statia National Marine Park.

More goats then people on Statia

Statia is what I call a two-day island.  Walking one can see almost everything in two days.  You should try and make those two days Thursday and Friday because with the high concentration of Seventh Day Adventist most everything is closed on Saturday.  On Sunday through Wednesday there is not much happening either.  We found that three nights of rolling from the swells was all that we could take – the guidebook was right.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Les Saintes to St. Kitts

First leg: Les Saintes to Deshaies

After waiting for a suitable weather window in Les Saintes, we decided to do a big hop to St. Kitts.  On a previous trip we had spent some time in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s yacht haven, but were not inclined to do a repeat.  The island(s) of Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly, with Pointe-a-Pitre “at its ass,” according to one guidebook author.  I somewhat agree.  Our first leg was the 32 NM trip mainly in the lee of Guadeloupe to Deshaies where we anchored for the night.

Guadeloupe to St. Kitts

Using the narrow weather window provided, our second leg was to St. Kitts 80 NM away.  Previously we had visited Antigua (see: archived posting, Tots to the Queen, May 28, 2013 ).  While we enjoyed the island, we felt that we had seen most of the sites because on previous visits we found that we were weathered in for extended periods.  Besides, with the prevailing wind and waves out of the east or northeast during the winter, visiting Antigua feels like fighting to go east to eventually go west.  By heading to St. Kitts we had comfortable following seas.

2 NM Maritime Exclusion Zone

We had hoped to visit Montserrat on our trip north, but it was not in the cards for us.  In 1995 and again in 1997 eruptions from the Soufriere Hills volcano led to the exodus of nearly two thirds of the population.  In 2003 the dome collapsed and some of the population returned as restrictions were relaxed.  However, today there is a 2 NM maritime exclusion zone around the south side of the island and eruptions spewing steam and ash still occur.

Montserrat, not looking too inviting

The eruptions have destroyed the capital, Plymouth, and filled in the original harbor.  Visiting yachts now must anchor at the northwest end of the island which affords little protection from a north swell.  When I called to inquire about the possibility of a mooring, the harbor master said that due to the sea state it had been several days since he had be able to launch his boat.  We decided to give Montserrat a pass.

Carnival Ribbon Dancers

This makes our third visit to St. Kitts, and we always find it to be fun although the marina is not what one would call world class (see: archived postings Gibraltar of the Caribbean, dated Feb. 25, 2015; Cruisers vs. Cruisers, dated Feb 15, 2013; and Leeward Islands, dated Feb. 11, 2013).  St. Kitts was in the middle of their Carnival when we arrived (see: archived posting, Amplified Music, dated Aug. 4, 2013).  The New Year’s fireworks were quite impressive.

View from Twist, our favorite restaurant

The biggest downside to St. Kitts is Internet access.  The Port Zante Marina provides free WiFi, but when the cruise ships dock at Port Zante their multiple WiFi signals destroys the marina’s weak signal.

This posting completed at Rituals, our morning coffee shop.