03/08/2011, Montserrat: sailing past the southern tip
It looks like two different lands, sailing past it! The northern side a lush green in contrast with the awesome Soufriere Hill dramatic starkly beautiful volcano, barren and smoking against the skyline! The ruins and remains of the capital Plymouth reminds you of the forces of nature pounded on humankind over the years.
The whole town with all its houses, windmill towers and buildings buried to their roofs in volcanic ash! Boulders the size of large houses scattered around the town lying miles below the summit! We did not stop here and in contrast with the suggestions in the sailing guides, we went around the southern part closest to the volcano (which is very much active and boiling as we speak!). Due to the fertility of the ash, new growth forms pretty quickly over it which makes it difficult to see just how severe the ash deposits are!
The first eruption in 1995 destroyed the capital city of Plymouth. I assume they had ample warning as no lost of lives are mentioned but it resulted in a mass exodus of nearly 2 thirds of the 11 000 population - Leaving a ghost town behind. In 2003 the huge volcanic dome collapsed -0 a sign that the volcano will go to rest. This lead to the reopening of many areas (there is still restrictions to where you can go and how close you can sail to it!) - Several feet of ash were removed from the roads. People started repairing damaged houses and getting their lives back on track again. Then in the beginning of 2006 another spurt of dome growth was notice with lots of activity and a major event is now imminent! The exclusion zones are back to where they were and some areas were evacuated again.
From the sea it looks spectacular and I hope the pictures (that was taken in very bad light - almost sunset hours) using the entire zoom on my Nikon that I have will do justice to the dramatic sets of the scene...
03/08/2011, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis:
After the last few "dryer" islands, most of St Kitts was a covered in green lush and looks tropical again...that is the larger northern part....the very southern tip of the island ...is dry and we joked the night we were anchored there that we could have been on a big dam in the Karoo (South African dry hinterland) or the Outback (in Australia)!
We anchored in Basseterre for a very rolly two nights - we could not get into the marina (small and very amateurishly operated by whoever is happy to be the harbour master...sort of!) There are not any other options if you want to be close to a town. So we just stomach it for the two days.
The marina will hopefully be upgraded as soon as the new development of shops and tourist cruising ship dockings has been completed. It has potential and the development looks great. The square in the middle of this town has an exact replica of the green Clock Tower on Piccadilly Circus in London - complete with the red Telephone booths around the square!
What amazed us about St Kitts is the general architecture! The shutters and the artistic use of colours and detail patio and balcony railings just had a different fresh look!
This is the island with the only surviving railway in the Eastern Caribbean! The double decker train is running right around the edges of the island and is probably not worth every cent of the $89 pp that you have to pay for it (unless you take 2-3 free cocktails..which is not easy at 9am !!) but it was fun. We met Nick and his whole married family from the yacht Scott Free - thanks to the Captain - I did not attend the cocktail invitation aboard their super yacht! Well - I will keep trying to broaden my network as we go...if the Captain will allow me!
The 2 ½ hour trip gives you an idea of how big the sugarcane industry used to be (not producing any sugarcane anymore) and to see the countryside in a "flash".
This is not a tax free island, but with proof of being a foreigner, you get your purchases still tax free - and that is almost the last of the cheap quality shops before heading back home!
Cheap shops are everywhere in the Caribbean - all with the same stuff... very much like one of the T-Shirts is stating...."Different Island....Same Shit"!(excuse their French!) And that is a fact!
Our last 2 nights was spent at anchor in Whitehouse Bay in the south of St Kitts - lovely water to snorkel in - a wreck and a few coral and calm waters made it worth the effort to get there. We were planning on making a quick visit to Nevis in the morning but Captain J decided that enough is enough - we HAVE to give the Code Zero a go seeing that it will be light conditions tomorrow!
More on the Website about Code Zero and the Captain!
|St Kitts and Nevis||
03/08/2011, St Eustatius - Oranjestad
It certainly lives up to the claim to be "The Caribbean's Hidden Treasure"! We anchored off the main town called Oranjestad! As the name of the town indicates - it is a Dutch Island. The customs officials were intrigued by the captain's Afrikaans! They understood every word he said and it sounds like they enjoyed the little interaction on a different level! (Dutch is the origin of Afrikaans...for the once not familiar with the lingo...)
An interesting little town - it reminds me a lot of St Helena - the architecture and how well the old buildings are used and maintained! It strikes you how small the entrances to the old houses are...they must have had n average height of about 5ft 6" ... I looked like a giant standing in one of the doorways... and Johann looks pretty gianormous going through the doors of the office at the forte! From the design of the street lamps to the names of the street and the detail on the houses - all makes you feel that it was purposely build to be small and cute ...like a doll house town...or a miniature city in maxi size...
The Dutch names of the streets are so funny to see...it is like walking in an Afrikaans town! Although the official language is Dutch, the people are fluent in English and a lot of them can converse in French and some Spanish. The locals are warm and friendly ....this is an Island slightly off the beaten track - so tourists are treated with warmth and genuine friendliness.
The History of Oranjestad is very interesting - it has changed hands at least 22 times between the Dutch, English and French (with an amazing Forte that was built for that purpose). The Dutch took possession and reclaim some extra land in Oranjestad and became a major trading centre. 20 000 inhabitants and a 1000 ships calling at her shores made it the only link between Europe and the American Colonies trading as a free port. So...countries that were not allowed to deal with each other could deal with Statia...so station papers were attached to many things produced elsewhere...e.g. Statia only produced 600 thousand pounds of sugar but exported 20 million pounds! It was officially approved smuggling which enriched a lot of traders and merchants. Statia became known as "the Golden Rock"....but it did not last forever!
When the Governor of Statia returned a salute to an American ship (the first ever entity to acknowledge the Americas - 177) - all hell broke loose and Admiral Rodney (from Britain - who did not want the Americas to be acknowledged as they were mostly English Colonies) attacked the island, confiscated all ships and warehouses and looted everyone and netted him and his crew a fortune! In the 19th century the economical climate in the Caribbean changed and Statia was not the only "Shopping Mall" of the Caribbean anymore! Massive emigration resulted and neglecting of maintenance of the town. The sea wall that was built on sand sank and subsequent hurricanes destroyed the lower town.
You can still snorkel around the beach to see the remains of the city, the wall and the ships that sank there 100 to 200 years ago!. ..Johann went diving on shipwrecks of 200 years old and was absolutely amazed by it! That is how and where we met Leslie and David (from the US). The cocktail we had together developed into a very interesting but way too short a conversation! Hope to see them again...although they are not into sailing - they love diving and we might see them in the Great Barrier Reef one day!?? ;-)
Statia was a first for a few things that happened to us....first for diving on 200 year old wrecks, first fully Dutch island we visited and... our first encounter with the Dutch Coastal Guards! That was an experience to be noted ...I will have to do keep that for a website side-story to go with my pictures! Ha! Quite an experience! Overall a worth wile place to visit...and I sincerely wish them the best for the future! May you soon get back on the prosperity tract again! The Dutch government is doing a great job with the restoration of their history...that is a brilliant start to the future! We loved Statia.....