This place is growing on us

Up early Friday morning – returned the hire car and checked out with customs and immigration. Dropped the mooring line and headed out eventually about 10 am. Would have preferred to go earlier but Statia will not allow you to check out the day before and the office doesn’t open until 9.00 am. Oh well – rules are rules.

Anyway….winds were immediately strongish at 23 knots so we reefed down and started our run on a beam reach. Making good way then suddenly the wind died. Oh here we go again. Shook out the reefs and floundered around – then the wind changed direction. And not in our favour either. But at least it picked up to around 15 knots so we are now beating into the wind and waves. We persevered and were taking a heading out to get some miles under us and then we had to tack because we had a huge oil tanker bearing down on us – so we got out of his way pretty quickly. When we tacked in towards the island the wind fell away again and we are floundering and making no way against the running sea. Tacked back out quickly and the wind picked up and we’re flying at 7.5 knots….until it died again. By this time the day is ticking by and we really need to get into the marina soonest as we don’t want to lose our reserved slip. So for the last eight miles out of 33 in total for the day, we motor sailed in.

Arrived at Port Zante marina, Basseterre, St Kitts around 4pm but no-one would answer the radio. So we don’t know where to put our fenders…. Eventually they did answer and told us that we had to go into a slip with one (tiny) finger pontoon on starboard bow with two pilings to hold our stern. We hate these pilings and we are not happy as we had specifically requested an alongside slip. But they have no others, so we have to go for it. Well it wasn’t pretty but no damage was done to the boat or ourselves so that’s the main thing!

By the time we are tied up and secure it is getting late. So quickly get ready to go to customs and immigration at the cruise ship dock nearby. Customs were home and cleared the boat in. But immigration had left for the evening – so we asked if we could check in with them in the morning. The answer is no – so we have to go to the airport! This cost us £15 by cab return. When we got there they made us sit and wait – even though no planes had landed and there were no queues – and the woman official was definitely not the friendly or welcoming sort…. Welcome to St Kitts – another British island!

Back eventually hot and bothered to the marina to find that Evensong – who were well into their sundowner drinks – had been asked to move and back into a slip further down. Not an easy place at all – but they managed it brilliantly even though they were pretty fed up. They had also found a place to go for dinner in town and invited us to join them – so we quickly went back on Morphie and got ready and we all headed into town. As we were walking to the restaurant – and this is 5 mins from the marina in the main circus area – we noticed two youths coming up behind a couple of the guys…clearly looking to lift a wallet or two. So we closed ranks quickly together and went into the restaurant. Service left much to be desired – although our food was fine – and instead of asking us whether we wanted dessert / coffee or even more drinks, they presented us with the bills. I guess we got the message, paid up and left. Walking back to the boats we stayed closely together. Have to say not a great first impression of this place!

In the morning we gave Morphie a lovely leisurely bath – making the most of the unlimited water supply on the dock. This is a great deal – $15 one off payment for all you can use for an unlimited period – so no meters to be read or nasty surprises when we check out. After our own leisurely showers we went for a wander into town – having taken advice from the security guys about which areas are considered ‘safe’. Wandered around and the cruise ship terminal is full of shops selling the same stuff – that said I managed to spend some money on a few items of clothing and a new pair of shoes! We also took advantage of the duty-free shop to get some different rums.

Basseterre has a range of ancient English built properties and some French influences with beautiful colonial styles all mixed up with almost a shanty town….and that’s the no go area! Anyway…. the vibe changes as you turn street corners – so we quickly worked out where it was OK to wander. But we enjoyed our first real glimpse of St Kitts, which is more heavily populated than islands we have been to recently. Having sorted out a taxi tour of the island tomorrow we settled into a bar in the cruise ship area and bumped into Charlie and Troy from the marina – they stopped and had beers with us and gave us a potted history of the island. Really interesting guys…. Then the Evensong gang came along having had a torturous morning replacing a broken macerator – think poo everywhere! So they were ready for a scoop too. After a pleasant afternoon we headed back to Morphie with sundowner plans – we are eating on board tonight as we don’t fancy going out after dark – and ended up having drinks on the back of a large motorboat called Motivator with this other cruising couple as well as the Evensong crew. Lovely lovely time was had by all….

This morning we headed off to do a tour of the island by taxi having said goodbye to Evensong as they continued their run down island. Didn’t think hiring a car here would be the way to go as it would be very easy to wander into the wrong place by accident. We had a great tour with Junie – and learnt a lot about the history of the island.  Visited historic sites such as Brimstone Hill Fort – which is now a World Heritage site and home to the British army and a contingent of slaves for many years; an old Sugar Plantation; an old Manor house with beautiful botanical gardens; along with stunning scenic shots as we went around. Oh yes, and being Sunday, there were churches overflowing everywhere with beautifully dressed families in spectacular clothing spilling into the road after services.

Sobering to note that the English and French managed to massacre 2,000 Carib Indians on this island when they settled here – and then went on to build most of the infrastructure, including the huge fort, with slave labour. The French introduced the velvet monkey, which are not indigenous – and the story goes that they were pets that escaped and bred. But Junie’s version that the French bought them over to release them to eat the English farmer’s crops appealed to me! They are also popular pets when they come down to forage for fruit – and we both had a close encounter with Timmy today….

Had a really nice day and went back on board for a lazy evening. St Kitts has grown on us over the past couple of days.  We are going to stay here today – Monday – and perhaps tomorrow if the weather is as predicted….   The plan is to head down to a beach anchorage further down the coast and then onto Nevis….    But today there are two huge ships in so the place is absolutely rammed and hopping! 

Bye for now