We spent a leisurely afternoon ashore and enjoyed the view to the anchorage from The Old Gin House…. We only had a couple of beers each as we’re diving in the morning – and went back on board to get our dive kit sorted in preparation. So a quiet and early night on board.
In the morning we are up really early as we have to be at the dive shop by 8.30 am – and made it on time. There was a huge, and unexpected, crowd there. We were really worried as there is nothing worse – in my opinion – than a crowd of 20 people on a boat and all doing the same dive with a varying degree of skill. Luckily the crowd – who were really nice people – were all from one dive club in Michigan so commandeered the large dive boat. No worries – we’ll go with a Canadian couple and dive master on Stumpy, the little dive boat. Fantastic – four of us plus Ray the Geordie lad who was leading the dive…..
Kitted up and ready to go but Richard had a problem with his BCD on the verge of going into the water – the high pressure hose would fill up his jacket with air and wouldn’t stop! So had to be disconnected and he was going to have to manage the old fashioned way of blowing the BCD up when he needed it inflated…. Oh well – no worries. Large giant stride of the back and he was gone to the anchor line – I took the easier way off the boat by doing a backward roll – and met up at the bow. Pretty lumpy out there…so descended down to our first dive of the day, at a dive site called ‘Hangover’. This was made up of lines and lines of lava flow which had been colonised by mainly soft corals and huge gorgonian fans…. As this is all marine park and maintained, the quality of the coral was stunning. Beautiful and vibrant swaying with the current with an aquarium of reef fish enjoying themselves moving in and out with the sea….and some strange shapes, some large sponges and some soft tubes which looked like mouth accordions! No underwater camera I’m afraid so no photos. This dive was down to about 20 metres with undulating rivulets flowing back to the cliff edge…. Stunning and a great dive site – visibility was complete – could see all the way to the surface and shadows were only made by clouds hiding the sun at times….. The best part of the dive, to me, was the fact that there was no one around and more fish than I’ve seen in a long while. The usual suspects were there – triggers, parrots, lobsters, angels and huge bat fish. Best of all was a massive barracuda and a formation swim of a large number of squid… They are weird and cute all at the same time!
Anyway…after 45 mins it was time to get back on board… Valet diving service with Ray helping me up with my gammy legs and the fact that I have to wear 10 kilos of weights around my waist as I’m naturally very very buoyant (no sniggering boys and girls!!!!)….. Back to get the tanks refilled and then we were into our second dive on a site called ‘The Humps’. Again larva flow out to sea only this time there was volcanic sand between the flows…. Descended down the line and straight away we saw a tiny little seahorse clinging to a piece of soft coral swaying in the breeze…. Oh my – this is pretty special…. seahorses are very difficult to find anywhere and to be able to settle on the sand and watch one close up was a magical moment. Anyway onwards and round the corner we come across a baby nurse shark under the outcrops. This just gets better and better. Then a huge variety of reef fish all around in every colour under the rainbow imaginable with sparkly spots, black eyes, stripy lips…you name, it was here. This has to be one of our most memorable dives ever. Absolutely wonderful and all too soon it was time to head back to the surface after a fantastic 54 minutes underwater….
Back on land and back to Morphie…. The weather forecast has been constantly predicting north swells so we are thinking that we’ll move her to a mooring ball (anchoring is forbidden here unless all balls are taken) further out as we are pretty close to the shoreline. Well – that was the theory anyway…. We dropped our current mooring – went out and picked up a pretty sturdy one – but was so unprotected it was like being in the middle of a washing machine on a fast spin… No way could we stay there! So we moved about half way into the anchorage and picked up another ball – this time it was in really poor condition and we weren’t happy about that….so ended up going back to the original one after all. What a waste of time! Oh well….. Anyway… we spent the rest of the day washing the kit, hanging it all out to dry, and lazing around. We could not be bothered to go ashore so we had another quiet night on board.
Wednesday we didn’t want to be too far from Morphie in case the swells did come through and made the anchorage dodgy. So weren’t up and about too early – and then we spotted this black rib coming into the anchorage from a large grey war-like vessel. Oh oh…it’s the coastguard. These guys – all dressed in black carrying guns – then boarded a boat and spent quite a while on board. We had heard about these inspections in Dutch islands – so I got together everything they would want to look at. Boat papers, flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets etc etc…. They worked their way around the anchorage and didn’t seem in any hurry – so went for a swim around the boat while we were waiting! Came back on board and carried on waiting… OK they have done everyone now….so it must be our turn. And guess what – they went off to join their mothership and didn’t come anywhere near us. We are the only European boat in the anchorage so maybe that was it? Or just that they run out of time? Interesting….
After all that excitement we decided to go for a hike up the hill to the top of the cliff which is where Oranjestad resides. To call it a town would be an exaggeration, it’s more like a little hamlet on top of the cliff with a one way road system and some very old houses and a fort. Fantastic views and so friendly that everyone stops and talks to us. Everyone wants to make sure we are enjoying our stay and just want to spend the time of day with us. Wow – amazing – this is the unspoilt Caribbean without any real tourism. Love it, love it, love it!
Back on board after a bit of food shopping and we decide to go snorkelling along the edge of the bay – and come across an interesting ridge which marks the remains of the old warehouses and city walls when this place was a vibrant sea port back in its day … we met loads of fish on the way and were astounded to come across a cannon and an ancient anchor. I knew there were hundreds of shipwrecks here but a cannon? A real one just sitting there in less than 3m of water? This just doesn’t get any better….
After resting up we went aboard Evensong for sundowners – we met Dan the owner in the BVIs. Him and Ruth have their friends Mike and Angela on board and we had a nice time with them before heading off on our own to The Old Gin House for BBQ night. We ended up chatting to the guys from the dive shop as well as some of the Mitchigan dive crew. The DJ was a bit random – didn’t expect to hear Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the Caribbean?!? Although he did get some people up dancing when he put on the reggae…. Smashing evening to round off a really nice chilled day.
This morning (Thursday) we headed out to pick up our hire car – $55 for a day including insurance, what a bargain – and we drove the whole island which is only 5 miles by 3 miles. Visited the Atlantic side to watch the waves and we were the only ones in the car park. Did I say car park? Think grass on top of a cliff with goats and cows for company only. Roads here have tarmac, in places, huge huge potholes and mostly just mud. They go up, down and around the mountain with sheer drops on the side at times… All a bit hairy in our baby runaround…. But great fun to explore this way. And Richard left his racing driver tendencies behind today thankfully…
Visited the botanical gardens and looked out for the rare iguanas, but didn’t see any. But we did watch a hummingbird flit from plant to plant – but no photos as they are just too small and too quick! We were also amazed at the view of our next destination St Kitts in the distance. Also went by an old English sugar plantation dating back to the slave days. After an enjoyable day out we came back on board and tidied up in time to welcome the crew from Evensong as it was our turn to host sundowners. Nice time was had by all – and we are alone now prepping for tomorrow’s trip to another island. We will be sad to leave Statia – this is a really chilled friendly place – and we have loved our time here.