Going Dutch

Everybody seems to call Sint Eustatius by its nickname, Statia. It was a nice downhill run under genoa only from the top of St Kitts – a couple of hours and we were there.

At one time Statia was one of the biggest ports in the world as the Dutch exploited its geographical placement and its neutrality and status as a free port with no customs duties. The island was known as The Golden Rock.

Statia is also known as the place where the first international acknowledgment of American independence took place as the Dutch Governor gave an 11 gun salute to a USA Frigate in 1776. Nearly half of all American Revolutionary military supplies were obtained through St. Eustatius. Nearly all American communications to Europe first passed through the island. This tended to piss off the British and resulted in a war between the Dutch and the British which ended badly for the Dutch.

We spent a very pleasant day and night there on a rolly anchorage exploring the historic harbour town of Oranjestad, which is divided into Lower Town along the waterfront, and Upper Town with its restored historic buildings and forts overlooking Lower Town.

Once again, we caught up with Tim and Sarah from Gloria for dinner and drinks at a nice waterfront restaurant. We listened intently to their story of the 48m   super yacht Elsa breaking their mooring and ending up on the rocks at Saba. They had to endure a night of grating metal on rocks as the hull continuously bashed itself against the rocks.

Next day it was up early and off to Sint Maarten.

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Alexander Hamilton Waz Here

After a frustrating “not much wind to write home about sort of day”, we reached Charlestown on Nevis just as the wind decided to get up for the day. We were being tailed by Andy and Allison on Venture Lady who had come across from Jolly Harbour. We motored just south of the town to the mooring field off Pinney’s Beach and picked up what looked like a good mooring (but who knows here in the Caribbean).

We then had a choppy dinghy ride into town and tied up to the dinghy dock, just south of the Ferry terminal. You can’t lock dinghies up but everyone says it isn’t a problem here.

Andy and Allison passed on the long dinghy ride and instead put their dinghy on the beach and walked into town.

Due to the profitable Slave Trade and the high quality of its sugar cane, the island soon became a dominant source of wealth for Great Britain and was given the nickname “Queen of the Caribbean”.   The cane juice from Nevis yielded an unusually high amount of sugar and this made Nevis very rich and very influential in the British Empire as the plantation owners bought themselves seats of parliament back in England.

The check in was easy, and the Customs, Port and Immigration folks were really nice – something we came to see with everyone on this island. After exploring the town, we headed into Pinney’s Beach and Sunshine for one of their famous Killer Bee rum punches. None of us stuck to the recommended dosage of just the one – something we regretted the next morning.

Hence next morning, a swim was required to clear our heads. The water was nice and clear with a weedy bottom and lots of turtles. We swam to shore and walked through the Four Seasons resort where all the rich and famous supposedly stay. However having failed to spot even a minor celebrity, we swam back to the boat and headed into town for some touristy stuff.

The main attraction is the house where Andrew Hamilton was born and spent his early childhood, which has now been turned into a nice museum with lots of stuff about the guy who helped engineer the US constitution and the modern financial system before being killed in a duel. Interesting stuff after just watching the HBO series on John Adams, the second American President, who had a lot to do with Hamilton.

As well as Hamilton, Nevis’es other famous historical figure was Horatio Nelson who was stationed here as a young sea captain, and is where he met and married Frances Nisbet, the young widow of a plantation-owner from the island.

Next stop was the hot springs that flow through the town but these turned out to be too hot and I got as far as my knees before giving them a miss. The view from the old building behind was worth a look see.

We then checked out the local music scene and found that a band was playing at Qualie Beach that evening so we up’ed mooring and meandered up the coast 5nm to the shallow anchorage off Qualie beach. It turned out to be an excellent move as the owner of the small resort and bar was really into his music and we were treated to a succession of good musicians, some of which just seemed to materialise from the crowd. We did the proverbial dance the night away to a whole heap of our favourite rock and roll tunes.

Next morning it was up early for a sail up to St Kitts. We were heading to St Kitts Marine Works on the north of the island to get our SD50 sail drive looked at. The alarm for water in between the seals was going off, and it wasn’t lying when I pulled the sensor off to have a looksee myself.

Marine Works advertises itself as a marina but really it’s a good boat lifter and yard where they bury keels and tie boats down for the hurricane season. The mechanic they dug up for us didn’t instill us with much confidence, they couldn’t work out how to order the necessary parts and La Mischief was getting pulled and battered tied up to the surgey dock – so we said our goodbyes and checked out of St Kitts and Nevis. Marine Works had a customs office on site but I needed to catch a local bus to the police station to get our passports stamped out.

So off we headed to St Eustatus, which we could make before nightfall, on our way to Sint Maarten where we knew we could get our problem attended to.

Sailing Past the Kingdom of Redonda

We left Montserrat in light winds and tried very hard to sail but it was not to be so motor sailing it was. We were heading for Nevis but with an interim objective as well.

We were keen to pass close to Redonda, a small uninhabited island that is a mythical Kingdom, with quite a few “Kings” claiming to be the rightful heir to this piece of mythology dreamed up by an author called M.P. Shiel in a promotional leaflet for his books. Since the late 1800s the title has been “passed down”, to various literary figures and continues to the present day where it gets a bit murky with multiple claimants from Bob the Bald to Michael the Grey to a friend of Dee’s from California. The Caribbean’s own Hutt River Province.

For the record, Redonda is really a dependency of the country of Antigua and Barbuda but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

From Dire Straits to More Dire Straits

Montserrat used to be an idyllic tropical island where famous bands used to come and record famous albums in Sir George Martin’s famous Air Studios.  Maybe Jimmy Buffett knew something when he recorded Volcano about the then dormant Soufrière Hills volcano on the island.      

Let me say now I don’t know I don’t know
I don’t know where I’m a gonna go
When the volcano blow

The volcano did blow and nowadays the southern part of the island is deserted – and it’s where most of the people used to live and work.

So with Barry and Ramona on board, we set off for Montserrat, 26nm away. It was another nice broad reach doing 8s and 9s under a single reef.

We arrived at 1.30pm to find one engine alarming with the water intake light. So we anchored quickly on one engine and I headed in to check in. There’s an online check-in facility called Sailclear that makes life easier – except when you have people leaving the boat in Montserrat. It took me two return trips back to the boat to complete the process. Finally at 4pm, we were able to walk out the gate and off to the bar.

Check in finally completed, we headed for the bar to give the skipper a well deserved drink. Little Bay isn’t much of a town, just a port. We wandered further afield and found a T20 cricket game happening between all the expats that had returned for the festivities and the locals who had stayed on after the eruptions. It was interesting to see people from Boston playing cricket.

Next day, we hooked up with Joe and did a tour of the island. Wayne and Ali from Blue Heeler also joined us and we headed firstly to the Volcano Observatory where all the scientists work. We saw a great short film on the volcano and the devastation it caused.

Joe himself lost his house in the eruptions and had to start again. A lot of residents took advantage of an offer to relocate to the UK.

The highlight of the tour for me was visiting the now disused Air Studios, set up by Sir George Martin in the mid 70s.

Elton John recorded three albums at the Montserrat studio in the 1980s. Dire Straits recorded their successful Brothers in Arms album between 1984 and 1985. Other artists such as Ultravox, Paul McCartney, The Police (Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity), Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Little River Band, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton and Supertramp have also recorded albums there. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated the island and the Montserrat facility was severely damaged and thus forced to close. We were able to clamber up a wall through a hole in the fence and have a good sticky beak at a piece of music history.

Next day we lucked on St Patrick’s Day in Montserrat. It’s a big thing here and through no planning Montserrat’s Irish heritage dates back to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The island’s first generations of European settlers were predominantly Irish, forced out by religious persecution by Oliver Cromwell and his henchmen.

Since then, the sugar industry started up bringing an influx of African slaves, who In 1768, rebelled again their inhumane treatment. The revolt took place on St Patrick’s Day. It failed, but the association lingered – a cry for freedom.

So here in Montserrat, St Patrick’s Day has a dual purpose in celebrating the freedom both the Irish and African heritage craved.

This legacy of St Patrick’s Day has carried through to present day where St Patrick’s Day became an .officially designated national holiday in 1985. The whole week is one long celebration with many Montserratians that live abroad in NY, Boston and London returning to party.

The place to be for the day was Salem where they had a big parade. Salem gets the gig because its the closest habitable village to the parish of St Patricks, which is in the exclusion zone these days.

After a great tour of the Island and a day spent at St Paddy’s celebrations we still had a few days to kill so we motored south to have a closer look at the devastation of Portsmouth from the sea. We nearly made it before the fumes and the threat of ash that was blowing out over the sea got us to turn back. We anchored for the night at Old Road Bay, technically in the danger zone but only when the volcano is active. It was a lovely anchorage except for the surf beach which we decided was not for our dinghy. Dee and I snorkelled in and checked out the very nice bar with live music that night. Shame we couldn’t get in.

Next day it was back to Little Bay to do a bit of snorkelling before a quick last meal with Ramona and Barry before we waved them goodbye as they caught the ferry back to Antigua.

Next morning we headed North West to Nevis.

 

Birds and Beaches

It took a lot of patience to wait out the high winds all week, waiting for that elusive weather window that would allow us to sail the 30nm over to Barbuda. We ended up taking off a day earlier than most of the rest of the mob, some of which were delayed by some Rugby team who have been doing well lately, probably because they are coached by an Australian.

The sail over was exhilarating, doing 8s and 9s with a single reef in a tricky 2m swell over 30m shallow water. Once we got close to the island, the water shallowed up and it was simply stunning – clear and beautiful. You could see the bottom in 8m of water. We dropped the sails and heading into shore on the recommended approach as per the charts and motored along the coast 100-200m out from shore. As we approached our anchorage at Low Bay, the water turned that cloudy milk colour that we had experienced on Antigua. The locals say it’s because of the ground swell. Disappointing. We SUP’ed into shore and checked out the resort that was closed and Codrington Lagoon that was across a narrow sand spit.

Next day we up’ed anchor and headed off in search of that wonderful clear beautiful water we’d seen on the way in. We found it 11nm around the bottom of the island at Cocoa Point, where we dropped anchor in 3m of stunning water.

We spend the rest of the day snorkelling and walking on the beach. The reef at the point looked interesting but wasn’t that great. The beach has being unofficially renamed Lady Di Beach because she evidently loved it there. As well as Cocoa Point resort, there’s also another one that’s currently closed called the K-Club that De Nero and Packer have purchased – but is currently the subject of a court case surrounding the extra 180 acres of land that got thrown into the deal.

As usual our social calendar was impromptu, depending on who turned up in the anchorage. As we were swimming back to the boat, we saw Venture Lady pull in. Gloria pulled in as well so 8 sailors meant sundowners one 5 o’clock on La Mischief, with a call to reconvene on Venture Lady for the subsequent 5 o’clock somewhere session.

Next day, we organised a tour to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. We caught a taxi into Codrington and then hopped onto a small boat with Junior as our tour guide and zoomed across the lagoon to the mangroves where the frigate birds were mating and breeding. There were thousands of them hanging out of all the trees. We were able to get up quite close to the cute chicks and their parents who were gliding about on their 7 foot wingspans.

 

After two glorious days in Paradise it was time to up anchor and head back to Jolly Harbour to pick up Ramona and Barry and head off to Monserrat.

Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots of Wind

Cricket over and done with, it was time to plan to see some of the rest of Antigua, even though it was blowing its t–s off. We toyed with the idea of using a small weather window to shoot up to Barbuda and sit out the bad weather up there; but we stuck our nose out into the swell and quickly decided this was not an option. Instead we kept inside the protective reef system to the north of Antigua and made our way around to Long Island.

Long Island was stunningly beautiful – a fact picked up by the up market resort that had taken over the whole island. Landing was forbidden by the resort ( As Chris Doyle says “Security is as tight as a cramped sphincter”) so we stayed on the boat and tried some snorkelling in Jumby Bay. Once again the water was cloudy and not great for snorkelling. It seemed that this was the case everywhere on the sheltered west coast of Antigua, where the fine shell grit was stirred up by the ground swell. Disappointing.

Next day we decided to up anchor and go around to Parham, which has seen better days. The holding was exceptional and the local fishermen sold us 3 huge crays for 80EC, but after that I’ve run out of anything else to say about the place. We had intentions of eating all three crays but they were so large that we were pretty full after the first and the other two were dispatched to the freezer for another day.

The pick of the places on the northern side appears to be Greater Bird Island so we motored out there and checked out the moorings, but just like the cat that got there just before us, we decided it was just to blowy and decided to head back. We checked out the anchorage in Davis Bay on the south coast of Long Island but decided to give it a miss and head back to Deep Bay on the West Coast.

Heading West, all we needed was a genoa and we were soon there. We anchored in 2m of milky water tucked into the bay. We contemplated snorkelling the wreck in the bay but it was just too blowy so we dinghied to the beach and climbed up to the fort instead. Nice views.

Friday Night at the beach bar in Jolly Harbour was beckoning so we only stayed a night in Deep Bay before heading back to anchor outside of Jolly Harbour in Mosquito Bay. Good news is there was no mosquitos in mosquito bay in this wind.

We gathered up Peter and Jenny, Peter from Stormbreaker, Andy, Alison, Fiona and Steve and headed to Castaways for a beach BBQ and a band.   Another great night with the B50 crew, plus some other yachties that we’d met along the way.

With the weather on the improve, it was time to set our sights northwards to Barbuda.

Dreadlock Holiday

I don’t like cricket oh no
I love it – Dreadlock Holiday

We left English Harbour on a windy day and headed downwind towards Jolly Harbour, which was much closer to the cricket stadium. On the way we were passed by Lionheart, a “J” that was on its way to St Martin.

We got to Jolly Harbour and anchored outside near the boat channel. It was a longish dinghy ride into the marina passed all the houses on the various canals. We caught up with a few of the B50 fleet that were there along with Venture Lady who were also going to the cricket.

Its fair to say that some of us were looking forward to the cricket more than others. Dee for one was unimpressed how the shortened form of the game could still go a WHOLE day. Meanwhile the English contingent were pretty confident given the West Indies these days can’t seem to get a lot of their good players to play for them.

Me, I was just excited to get to see a cricket game in the Caribbean. And given I was going with some Pommie friends it was indeed necessary to barrack for the West Indies, my current home for the moment.

Anyway it turned out to be a fun day, despite my adopted team just failing to beat those dastardly Poms. Besides the cricket the highlights included the yummy well priced street food – Ribs, Pork and Chicken all delicious and meeting Ritchie Richardson and Sir Andy Roberts. Even got Sir Andy to smile.