To Statia and on to Saint Kitts
15 June 2007 | Saint Kitts and Nevis
We got up early to get the boat ready so that we could clear out when the Saint Barts office opened at 7:30. We had been keeping close tabs on the weather as we always do but with extra trepidation now. It is two weeks into the official Hurricane season and two weeks until our insurance requires us to be south of 12 degrees north for named storm coverage. 12 north is 350 miles from here.
After clearing out, Swingin' on a Star headed into the Caribbean Sea making way for Saint Eustatius, also known as Statia. We were going on cruising guide information only. I was interested because it sounded remote like Saba, but it was more on the way. Both Statia and Saba are supposed to have wonderful diving so I was looking forward to getting in a dive or two as well.
The wind was up around 15-20 and we were on a shallow broad reach. The seas were up a bit, but on the quarter, so not so bad. Kelp Fiction was already cleared out so we had to play catch up. We could barely see them on the horizon as they heckled us on the VHF. Once we found the groove Swingin' on a Star stepped up to about 9 knots and we started to reel them in.
At noon the two boats rounded the north side of Statia together. Statia is a big rock, ex-volcano, with a big oil operation and typically several tankers filling up the bunker. This happens via off shore lines to huge moorings (don't hit one of these!). We were watching the tankers on our AIS as we approached.
We tried to avoid the restricted zones around the tankers as best as possible while still sailing in the fluky winds wrapping around the cape with gusts up to 30 knots. As we closed on the main anchorage and only port (pictured) there was a group sigh.
Not the highly protected beautiful scenery of the Bahamas. I'm sure that it would have been fun to explore for a day but the anchorage was not as advertised and the little breakwater was packed with commercial boats. Any of the questionable moorings we took (assuming you'd rather not anchor in 50 feet of water) would be pretty rolly.
This is anathema to the Kelp Fiction crew. I've know folks who like flat anchorages but Fred will sail for a month rather than stop somewhere that rolls a bit. Fred motored by as we were surveying the bleak coastline, quacked some colorful language over the winds howl and headed south. Saint Christopher here we come.
By one o clock we were heading down across the channel to Saint Christopher, Saint Kitts for short. It was a close hauled sail and decidedly less fun than the nice reach to Statia. Once we came along the north western tip of Saint Kitts the wind did its standard gust like crazy while backing trick, then flat died. We motorsailed in the gusty lee of Saint Kitts down to Basseterre, the capital.
We didn't really see any nice anchorages on the way down and the cursing guide was not very optimistic either. Basseterre was kinda bleak but it did have a big industrial looking cruise ship dock and a small marina. The town itself is large and has some really nice areas. There are also some not so nice areas. Stay out of New Town and Irish Town.
I don't really like marinas, unless they are un-marinas like Saint Barts. The whole fun of being out and about on a boat in beautiful far flung places just doesn't come through when you are in a marina. Good for working on the boat and loading/unloading guest but not for me in general. This marina looked like the only shelter here however and it was getting on towards four in the afternoon.
We were a little bit ahead of KFII so we hailed them and all agreed to park for the night. It was pretty windy as Hideko and I maneuvered on to the fuel dock to fill up. Hideko is getting great at handling the lines and her throwing arm is impressive. She used to chuck the lines two feet out right into the water while we were still 10 feet off the dock. Now she waits until we're on and hands them over, or in this case as the bow was blowing off, does a clean 7 foot side arm toss right into the dock hands chest.
Kelp Fiction came in and we helped them on to the dock. Everything here is stern to with mooring balls for the bow line. It is nice to be a cat because the mono hulls have to go two to a slip, your neighbor may not tie up as nicely as you do. Unfortunately a fairly rude day charter skipper took my spot as we were getting ready to move. The dock master was fairly upset but the guy just parked and left. We ended up on the fuel dock for the night.
Everyone was tired from a long day but the dock master insisted we go to clear in. It was six PM and I was a little skeptical. Cindy and I did as we were told however and went over to the cruise ship dock. Surprisingly customs and the harbor master were both in. The customs officer was a character. He was fun and informative to talk to but I think a little sleep deprived. He works 48 hours on and 72 off. In the end he didn't have the right forms. So back tomorrow. We stopped at the harbor master and checked in with them for about $20 EC. It is 2.67 eastern Caribbean dollars to the US dollar so that's pretty cheap. All of the former British colonies use the EC. The French folks are pretty much Euro these days. Everyone takes US, though they may work you over a little with the exchange rate.
After wrapping up with the harbor folks we headed back to the marina. The security at the marina is great. Concrete walls and wire fences with full time guards. Not all that pretty but you certainly feel safe. The cruise ship pavilions packed with duty free stores and the Caribbean's 4,367th watch, jewelry, booze and perfume stores are somewhere between done and half way done. There's a lot of construction on the warf.
No problem for me, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.