Cheshire Cat in St Kitts and Nevis

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Idyllic beaches, sand and sunshine

Cheshire Cat approaching St Kitts

March 1

We escaped from the lagoon in St Maarten - at last!

It took some doing (four days to be precise – and four going away parties to boot!) The weather blew and blew. It rained. And getting out and about in the dingy meant taking a change of clothes with us, or wearing salty crunchy garments – ugh! Our last evening was spent in the St Martin yacht Club. And would you believe it – they were passing out free beer. It was an event not to be missed, the “kick off” party to herald the upcoming Regatta being held over the next three weeks. There were raffles an d Mike won a smart St Matins Yacht Club cap, I got the booby prize - a wonderfully ugly hat – with flaps and bits of elastic all over and bearing the inscription 23rd St Marten Heineken Regatta, 2003. It’s a treasure. There was some dancing on the bar, and Brenda and John on Willow made a poster for the Cheshire Cat Everyone signed it – including some complete strangers. The next morning we upped and offed, accompanied by hearty cheers as we passed through the 9 am bridge.

The island of St Kitts is quite different – tall hills, the tops often shrouded in clouds, with green and fertile slopes carrying down to the sea.The tallest hill is 3750 ft high. St Kitts was Visited by Columbus, settled by the Brits and the French who joined forces to massacre the resident Caribs. Sugar cane was grown on the huge plantations. There is a narrow gauge railway train which used to transportit around the island. The train is a scenic tour now for the many visitors that holiday on the island. We anchored in Basseterre where it was very rolly and not at all comfortable.

Traveler's palm

We met another Canadian boat called Bake Apple, but they soon left and we were left with Clyde a single hander, for company. It was a long hot walk to town – past one of the less affluent areas and the industrial area. As it was Sunday the pavements were all rolled up, there were very few cars and very few people on the streets. No beer for Mikey today! Everything was locked and shuttered.

Romney Manor is an old plantation house where we found Carribelle Batik. Here we saw fine Indian cotton being lovingly hand painted with wonderful colours and patterns before being and hung out to dry in the sun. One could buy glowing wall hangings, lengths of material or choose from a selection of clothes and accessories. The gardens were stunning, with gorgeous flowers, trees and shrubs in perfect condition.

Piccadilly circus is modeled on the London Piccadilly circus although here everything is much more laid back and tranquil! But there are some beautiful buildings – very colonial, with balconies and lots of fancy woodwork and ironwork. There are no traffic lights, no postal codes or multilane highways here – it was quite lovely!

Piccadilly Circus - a far cry from the busy throughfares of it's namesake

We joined Clyde who is single handler (he sails his boat by himself, no wife or crew) for a trip to the nearby British fort. He wanted to take a taxi, and it seemed like a good deal when we learned that the fort is on Brimstone Hill is a huge climb, and there were no busses.

We stopped briefly at the site where the Caribs were massacred by the French and English, and passed the spot where Nelson first landed on the island.

Orillon Bastion on Brimstone Hill

The fort is set high on top of a volcanic rock which juts up from the shore on one side of the island. It has a unique design and was built by the British in 1690 and using African slave labour. Stone was excavated from the volcanic rock, and local limestone used to make the mortar.

The fortress was completely self sufficient and housed a hospital, a cemetery, and a bakery, as well as the living accommodation for the soldiers, their wives and followers.

1,000 British soldiers withstood a siege against 8,000 French.


The road from Basseterre runs along the the raod that follows the shoreline on the lowlands of the island where sugar cane is still produced although in small quantities. I was quite surprised because I thought it would be a much taller crop but what we saw was only about waist high.

Outside the town there are no villages, but “strips”. The strips are a series of houses and shacks lining the road - mostly shacks, many seemingly uninhabitable. This was quite a different area from the gorgeous opulence of the plantation houses and their lavish grounds

When we left Basseterre we sailed a little further south down island to White House Bay. Not much to see there, apart from the salt ponds and a few cows. It is, apparently a great place to see birds, but we must have missed them all. We did walk in the scrubby land and on the beach but tired of that and went back to the boat.

I have to say that stainless steel is not. It stains, it rusts. We’ve noticed that the crews on the big boats spend a huge amount of time wiping everything down with fresh water and we have tried to do the same. But we still get the rust. So one of our regular chores is to clean it all up. This involves washing it down with fresh water, applying rust remover, washing that off, and drying it all. And as soon as one has finished doing this over a period of several days, one has to start all over again.

Mike hoping the big gun still fires

And laundry. It can be difficult, not to mention expensive, to use a Laundromat, so I often use a bucket on the boat. It sometimes feels that every time one jumps into the dingy to go somewhere, one gets a good salt water bath. And salt water doesn’t dry. So clothes have to be washed and rinsed in fresh water. The good news is that we seem to be able to make water at the rate advertised by PUR, and when the wind blows and the sun shines Mike is happy enough to run the water maker. Our next real job is to strip off the remaining varnish that I so lovingly applied in Midland. It is all cracked and is peeleding and looks really tatty, so has to come off. I want to leave it clean, just plain wood (silvery teak) but Mike wants to stain it. We’ll see!

Salt ponds at Whitehouse Bay

White sand and palm trees - what more could we ask for!

Nevis is only about 3 miles away from St Kitts, and we had a relatively quick sail on one tack with only the jib out. The island has a tall hill which is often covered by clouds. The beach we chose to anchor beside is beautiful – lovely golden sand, fringed by tall palm trees. Once we were snug and made sure everything was tickety boo, we jumped into the dingy and went to town – Charleston.

Again – lots of English/Caribbean architecture. Many houses were painted in lovely colours others were built of stone. There were lots of balconies, wrought iron, and beautiful little shaded squares within the rectangles of a few houses. Very narrow streets seems to be the norm and open gutters everywhere. Of course it rains every day – short sharp squalls, so even in winter as it is now, there are trees and bushes in full bloom. The central square has a beautiful red “flamboyant’ tree in full bloom shading the benches where one can sit and watch the world go by. Near to the shore there is a small fruit and vegetable market where we made a couple of purchases.

Somewhere in town we bumped into Clyde and had a quick beer with him at lunchtime. Afterwards I had an opportunity to look in a few shops – one in particular was full of terrific paintings and bronze sculptures, all done by local artists. Oh to have for more room to collect treasures!

We stopped by a friend’s catamaran on our way back to the CC. Chris and Sacha are a young South African couple whom we first met in the lagoon in St Martin. We’d listen to the morning “net” radio which tells cruisers what local and cruiser questions. One day somebody came on the air asking for the loan of a generator, and Mike talked to Chris and lent him ours. Chris wanted to install a water maker in his catamaran. He brough the 45 ft boat from the Moorings charter company. It has four cabins, each with private bathroom. There is a very attractive large circular eating area and a wonderful galley. Two 50 hp engines power it They have two little children – 2 yrs and 5 yrs and another on the way. Just the cutest blond babes ever! They’d caught a huge fish and invited us on board for the ‘tour’ and to give us a generous portion of their catch. We had some this evening, pan fried with rosemary and lemon. Mmmmm!

The beach near Sunset's Bar

In the evening we took the dingy ashore to the Sunset Bar. The beach shoals very quickly, and getting the dingy up is quite a trick. Keeping it heading straight is difficult, but if you don’t you’re likely to capsize (and loose the shoes, oars, tools and bags that always accompany us). Mr. Sunshine himself welcomed us – all white teeth and eyes, and we chatted briefly with a couple from Holland who are sailing here for a year. Once ensconced at a table we were joined by other yachties on a big boat called Loon, very friendly. They had a visitor who hadn’t heard about the Green Flash, so he borrowed our (my) binoculars, and saw it for the first time ever. Of course getting the boat off the beach was another story. And once again, there I was, salty wet up to the armpits.

We had a terrific tour around the island looking out especially for the vervet monkeys. we didn't see any unfortunately, but we did see some of the beautiful plantation houses which have been lovingly maintained and are now very nice luxury hotels, complete with pools, tennis courts and all the amenities. The very first Caribbean tourist hotel is located on Nevis - the Bath Hotel. It is associated with remedial thermal springs and was the very first spa, popular with European aristocracy and royalty in the early 18's. The springs were still in use when we saw them pity we didn't have suitable clothes with us so we could have enjoyed a quick splash!

Horatio Nelson lived for some time in Nevis, and met and married a local widow, Fanny Nisbet. There is an interesting little museum documenting these events.