Wednesday, 18 June 2014

St Kitts & Nevis

St Kitts and Nevis 

After Easter we are off to St Kitts. There looks like a good weather window for a week or so, we will take advantage and explore some islands we haven’t been to before.

St Kitts should be an easy downwind sail. We are planning to sail between St Kitts and Nevis through The Narrows. This is a shallow channel between the south of St Kitts and the north of Nevis, last surveyed in the 1800’s with a lead line, with minimum depths of less than 2m in places and a couple of rocks (some just awash), so could be quite a challenge. The backup is to sail around the south of Nevis and up the west coast to St Kitts.

There is no such thing as an easy downwind sail! We have either too little or too much wind. We use all combinations of sail and poles, gybing to get the best angle on the wind. We cannot sail easily to the narrows, so we are on plan ‘B’, to the south of Nevis. The pilot book says give the south coast a mile offing as there are many shoals and shallows. They are not kidding! While the depths are nothing to worry about the numerous rocky shoals have given rise to ‘fish float city’. We gingerly pick our way through the floating maze thankful that the sea is calm and we can see all the floats, in any swell most of them are drawn under the water (more on that subject later!) Rounding the southern end of Nevis we lose the wind and decide to motor to Charlestown to pick up a mooring for the night before continuing to Basseterre (St Kitts) in the morning.

'Picadilly Circus' - I kid you not!

Basseterre is a charming town and we have a good walk around, but being Sunday everything is closed except the Customs office at the Marina, the Marina office, a Chinese supermarket and restaurant!

The town may be charming but the anchorage was not! It was very rolly off the marina but there really is nowhere else as you have to go there to check in or explore the island.

Guess where we ended up having lunch! An excellent Chinese lunch in an unlikely setting, overlooking the cruise ship complex.

On Monday we have to go ashore again to finish our formalities with Immigration and the Port Authority. We also want to book a taxi tour of the island and visit Fort Brimstone a former British fortress now a world heritage site. The berthing master at the marina is quick to ask us for the US$5 (for 24 hours) for leaving our dinghy in the marina, but doesn’t have space for us and ‘Vivace’, still at least we can use the showers, dispose of garbage and our dinghy is secure while we go to town.

On our way to the Immigration we are approached by Junie a local taxi driver who specialises in tours for yachties. For US$100 he will give the four of us a tour including the fort it will take about 4 hours. We agree and off we go a quick trip around town, we had already walked most of it anyway. On our way to the fort we stop at the War Memorial, Bloody point where the Brits and French combined forces in 1626 to massacre the Caribe, an old sugar factory now partially restored as an historic site

Sugar Mill ruins

and Caribelle Batik on the site of an old plantation house.  

Caribelle gardens

 We also get to see our first petroglyphs – one looks a lot like a monkey.


Strange because although the island is full of Green Vervet monkeys, the French brought them from Africa.  I (Rowena) enjoy seeing them as they remind me of South Africa –

We saw these all over the island

Our Grey Vervets look very similar.

Rainforest road

There are fields of abandoned sugar cane as the island’s state owned sugar industry has closed as it is no longer economically viable anymore. Finally we get to the fort.
A commanding view

This is really impressive, partially restored but with a lot of ruined buildings it covers a huge area on several levels on the hillside. Built by slave labourers taken from the farmers with British military engineers overseeing the work it must have been a massive undertaking, with a commanding view over both the land and sea. It was almost impregnable, only surrendering after a 30 day siege by 8000 French troops in 1782.

The remains of the Officers Quarters

When St Kitts was returned to the British the following year, lessons had been learnt and the fort was expanded, never to be taken again!  

The 'Citadel' Fort Brimstone
 Our tour continued to the North coast to Dieppe bay where there were plans to build a marina; unfortunately the architect of this plan is in jail accused of murder so plans are somewhat on hold! We continued along the ‘Atlantic’ coast to North Frigate Bay and the ‘strip’, home to the Royal St Kitts resort and golf club and the Marriott resort along with a clutch of bars and restaurants, all aimed at the ‘well heeled’ tourist.

We return to Basseterre town to find a more ‘local’ restaurant for supper before returning to our rolly anchorage.

No more rolly anchorages for us, as the next day we are off to White house bay, reported to be good for snorkelling and a lot less rolly. It is truly a beautiful bay, but not much beach. The snorkelling is excellent on the south side among some big rocks and the remains of a wreck.

A ciliated false sqilla - only 5cm long! Sitting on a piece of fire coral on the prow of the wreck like a tiny figure head
A sleeping turtle

On the shore there is a construction site, part of the Christophe harbour development it will be a beach bar and restaurant. The dingy dock is impressive built for ‘Super yacht’ tenders to drop off their passengers to use the bar I presume. We are told by the Head of security that there will be moorings for 30-40 Super yachts in the bay but a dinghy dock will be provided for us mere mortals! We nod politely and admire the plans.

Sunset in Whitehouse bay

The following day we walk around what will be the harbour development and across the peninsular to Sandy bank bay. Here has been built a very exclusive members only beach club. Funny we saw no members, hardly surprising as the development has only built 6 houses, but lots of staff!

The only guests being a couple of Egrets!

 I would love to see the numbers on that place! There are plans to build a marina with Superyacht berths and a marina village complex.

The site of the proposed marina complex

Also a hotel in Banana bay on the south coast. This place is miles from anywhere, has no locals living anywhere near it, no transport links and no shops, very strange. Still it takes all sorts I suppose and good luck to the developers. The only part we are really interested in is they plan to have a customs post there, so we won’t have to go to Basseterre again!

The dreaded swimmimg maker buoys!

Cockleshell bay was our last stop on St Kitts south coast, unfortunately the holding is not that good and we dragged our anchor. We awoke at 0300 to being alongside the buoys marking the swimming area off the beach, pretty scary! Fortunately our anchor had dug back in and we were able to drag ourselves forward before starting the engine and re anchoring close to where we were before.


The sail from Cockleshell bay St Kitts to Charlestown on Nevis is short and pleasant. We pick up a mooring opposite Sunshine’s beach bar (anchoring is forbidden). It is about ½ mile to town from here by dinghy and you need your dinghy anchor to keep you from going under the dock. Charlestown is very neat, no litter anywhere a very quaint town with probably all the shops you need.

Charlestown town centre

We walked around and saw the Alexander Hamilton museum – we had run into him in St Croix – he was one of America’s founding fathers - across the road from the old Anglican Church. Nevis’ main claim to fame is this is where Fanny Nisbet lived, who went on to marry Nelson.

St John's Anglican church - The oldest Anglican church in the Caribbean

You can see their marriage certificate in one of the churches, but a taxi driver assured us that he has definite proof that they were never married in church, but under a tree in her Uncles garden!

Six of us took a bus up to the Botanical Gardens which were quite small but interesting. Their main collections seem to be palms and orchids; there were hundreds in flower, so very pretty. Strangely, they had Buddhist type sculptures around the garden, not quite sure what the connection is. There was also an agricultural section with various fruit and nut trees, where I discovered that macadamia nuts are part of the Proteacea family.

A Rainbow gum tree

 I had no idea, even though we grew them in South Africa.  We ended the day at Sunshine’s beach bar for sundowners and a nice supper.

Sunshine's beach bar

Our last day we had good snorkelling on stone breakwaters that the hotel had put up to protect their beach. There were lobsters in every crevice and many hamlets, black headed gulls, imperial terns and boobies roosting on the rocks.

Sun Anemone shrimps - can you spot them?

Caribbean reef squid

Then it was time to ready Galene for the next day’s sail to Montserrat!

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