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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Passage to Montserrat
Randy
06/23/2007, Little Bay

Saint Kitts is a nice place, but unfortunately for us we spent all of our time in a concrete marina (thanks to me and the flu, or whatever it was). The perfect anchorage may lie just down the coast, who knows. To get perfect anchorage status for us the anchorage must be a protected anchorage with not too many boats, it has to have inviting "jump in" water, a nice beach and good snorkeling/diving/fishing near by, and finally, a waterside café with fresh bread and WIFI, serving three meals a day. Not too much to ask? So far we have found pieces but not the whole place.

So today we're off to Montserrat. The Saint Kitts Port Authority referred to the island as Monster Rat. Cute. I guess a little inter island humor should be expected seeing as how Nevitians (those on Nevis) and Kittitians (those on Saint Kitts) have quite a rivalry going and they are from the same country. Nevis tries to succeed every once in a while but from what I hear they don't want to take their part of the national debt with them when they go so things are at a general impasse.

The weather has been tough for our entire stay in Saint Kitts and today is not really much different. Twenty knot winds and pretty good sized seas. We sailed south along Saint Kitts and then along the narrows between Saint Kitts and Nevis. The narrows between the two islands are famous for being a tricky place to navigate with strong currents and lots of rocks.

As we sailed along the coast of Nevis the wind came around and we either needed to tack our way up to Montserrat or motor sail. So motorsail it was.

About half way across the channel between Montserrat and Nevis is an Island called Redonda. It is basically a huge, inhospitable looking, rock. While it formally belongs to Montserrat no one really goes there except the occasional dive boat. At one point some interesting folk from Antigua claimed the rock and renamed it the Kingdom of Redonda. Apparently the king comes by now and again to climb to the top of his kingdom and then goes home to Antigua.

As we approached Montserrat it materialized out of the clouds and haze like an apparition. This is the one island in the Caribbean I have wanted to see more than all others. The volcano erupted as recently as this last winter, spewing ash into the sky that dusted our boat as we were crossing the south coast of Puerto Rico. It is an intriguing island, with the smallest population of any nation in the Caribbean at 5,000.

The entire southern part of the island has been wiped out or marked off limits. This is sad because Montserrat used to be known as the emerald of the Caribbean, and the area in the south was where the main port and all of the larger settlements were located. The only port of entry now is Little Bay. I assure you that it is a little Bay.

When we arrived around three in the afternoon the Bay had about four or five other boats anchored and there was precious little room for too many more without crowding. We anchored and lowered the dinghy to see about clearing in. In the French islands if customs is closed, no big deal, grab a bite at a café, shop a bit, just make sure that you clear in at the first opportunity. The British islands tend to be a little more uptight. I walked up the quay and approached the only person in view on the entire island. He had on a uniform and was tending a shack just inside the large chain link and barbed wire fence.

I asked him if we could clear in and he was very friendly. It was Saturday at four in the afternoon so no one was handy. He made a few calls but couldn't raise anyone. I said thanks and that we would come back in the morning first thing. Then I asked if it would be ok for us to go ashore to grab a bite to eat. A cloud passed over head. No, you must stay on your boat, was the response. Check.

So Hideko, Roq and I marveled at the intriguing island from the bay as we welcomed Kelp Fiction into the anchorage.

Montserrat
One more day
Hideko
06/22/2007, Saint Kitts

We talked about leaving today but giving Randy, and the weather, one more day to get better seemed like a good idea. I went to the marina office to close out our bill and on the way picked up Chinese takeout for dinner. Yum.

(photo looking south over the apex of the Saint Kitts hour glass toward Nevis)

Saint Kitts
Chicken Soup
Hideko
06/21/2007, Port Zante

Today Randy finally started to feel better. Kelp Fiction kept checking in to see if Randy was Ok. They didn't need to wait for us but they did. Good friends. Cindy even made Randy some chicken soup.

We were all getting antsy to move south. We were three weeks into hurricane season and still pretty far north. Our insurance requires us to be south of 12 degrees north by the first of July which is right around the corner

(This photo shows the botanical gardens on Saint Kitts)

Saint Kitts
The Hospital
Hideko
06/20/2007, Basseterre

Today we are going to the doctor. The dock master told me that medical services at the hospital are free of charge. Saint Kitts has socialized medicine and medical services are fairly inexpensive throughout the country. I was going to take Randy to a doctor on call at the drug store but the doctors were there only at night. So the hospital it was.

We had Junie, the same taxi driver who took us on the tour, pick us up at the boat. Junie told us to go to the emergency room at the hospital for faster service. That saved us about two hours. We were still there five hours.

The doctor gave Randy an IV to hydrate him. Randy didn't really want an IV but was too tired to fight. The first nurse stabbed around for a few minutes trying to find the vein and then finally gave up and started over. Not pretty. Randy almost threw up during the process.

While I was waiting for Randy's tests to come back a medical school intern from India came to talk to me. She thought I was a Chinese girl that she knew. It was interesting to know that the Saint Kitts Medical School has many international students, mainly from India. It just so happened that the international students were having a tour of the hospital. The hospital was pretty crowded.

Junie came by a few times to see if we were ready to leave but IVs take a while to soak in. When the tests finally came back and the IV was done the prognosis was that Randy had the flu. We picked up some more vitamins and had Junie take us back home.

(This photo show the view from the British Fort north to Statia, aka. Saint Eustatia)

Saint Kitts
The Deal
Hideko
06/19/2007, Saint Kitts

Over the counter drugs work sometimes but Randy was still running a fever this morning. I suggested seeing a doctor but because Randy hates going to the doctor (and generally doesn't) I made a deal with him. High fever for three days straight and you go to the doctor.

This picture is of Black Rocks, an eroded set of volcanic rocks on the northeast coast of Saint Kitts.

Saint Kitts
Down for the Count
Hideko
06/18/2007, Port Zante Marina

When I woke up this morning Randy asked me to check his temperature. For the first time I can remember he had a high fever, 103 degrees! Before we started cruising I stocked up on many over the counter medicines and one of them was a fever reducer. Although Randy didn't have an appetite I gave him a piece of bread and made him take the medicine (he hates to take medicine). He spent all day sleeping and I felt helpless not being able to make him feel better.

What do you do when your husband is sick? Go shopping! Well not for shoes but to get better medicine and healthy groceries. Cindy, Jill and I went to explore Basseterre and look for a drug store. Monday was very lively in the main circuit. We were stopped by many fruit sellers on the street. We paused at a place that sold unfamiliar fruits where Cindy bought Star Fruit and Sour Apples. We have since come to love Soursop and Sour Oranges (like an orange crossed with a lemon) as well. Nothing better than Soursop juice.

After picking up some medicine at the drug store, which was well stocked, and shopping at the market, I went back to the marina to check up on my sick husband. His favorite meal when he's sick is a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup, not the most nutritious cuisine. So even though I would have preferred to cook something more nutritious, I made him a nice Grilled Cheese to go with Alias.

(This photo shows the view from the Plantation north to Saint Eustatia)

Saint Kitts
Touring Saint Kitts
Randy
06/17/2007, Saint Kitts

We took a tour of Saint Kitts today. The typical way to get a tour of most of the Lesser Antilles is to simply hire a cab and tell him to take you on a tour. Some islands have some quality control in this area and others don't. It's best to talk to anyone you are considering for a tour and ask them a few straight forward questions about the country's history and environment. If you find yourself needing hip boots in response to questions as elementary as, "when did your country gain independence?", you might want to check with the next driver. I find that the older guys usually know a lot more about the history and nature of a place. Never can tell though.

We had two choices for our tour. Alfred, an older gentleman, and Junie, a younger go getter. We were walking to the marina office on our first day in when two cab drivers both started talking to us concurrently. Soliciting our business and arguing with each other in alternating bursts. We ended up using both throughout the week but Junie happened to be on hand this morning.

We started out with a little tour of Basseterre. Like most towns settled by the French, English and Spanish, there are churches marking the center of town. Sometimes Catholic, sometimes Anglican, sometimes otherwise, but always one of the oldest and grandest structures in the area. Basseterre has a little town center that is rumored to be modeled after Piccadilly Circus in London. I didn't really get that but it is a neat area of town.

Saint Kitts is a good sized island and has the shape of an hourglass with the north portion much larger than the southern. The northern part has large volcanic peaks covered in rain forest, lots of sugar cane fields in the lowlands, and small villages dotting the rocky coast line. The southern part has the sandy beaches and is where the tourist resorts are located. Basseterre is the only real city and it sits at the bottom of the leeward side of the northern part of Saint Kitts just above the apex of the hourglass.

We drove up the west coast of the island and through many nice little villages making our first stop at an old sugar mill then on to the botanical gardens. The farther up hill you go the greener everything gets. We had lunch at an old plantation house with sweeping vistas of Saint Eustatius to the north. Many of the plantation houses in the Caribbean have been converted into bead and breakfast places.

I spent a bit of time in a hammock with Roq at the lunch spot. One reason was that they didn't allow dogs in the dinning area, but also because I was starting to feel like I was coming down with something. I hate being sick in a foreign country.

The sugar cane farms that stand in disrepair all over the island have almost all been shut down. This is an unfortunate affair because it used to be Saint Kitts' number one business. The sugar was shipped to various places but principally the UK. As other parts of the world got into the sugar business, Saint Kitts found itself producing the cane at a loss. The government owned all of the fields and over the last two years they shut the entire industry down. Some of the fields have been burned to make way for new crops or other uses for the land. Others fields just grow wild. There is a Sugar Cane train that has turned to tourist duty but it only runs during high season, mostly for the cruise ship folks, at $85 a head.

The colonial powers were good at building churches but also forts. There's a nice one here on Saint Kitts. The fort is high on a rocky bluff and affords spectacular views west and north. You have to pay a few Eastern Caribbean Dollars to get in but like most attractions on Saint Kitts the experience is fairly organic.

We wrapped up the day with a drive down the rugged windward coast and a little trip around the touristy south node of the island. We had enjoyed good food and seen a great many interesting sights covering most of Saint Kitts. The tour cost $150 (US) for the 5 of us, plus food and park fees.

Saint Kitts

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