|Leaving the BVI|
We sailed off the anchor and out of Gorda Sound just after lunch on Sunday1st April, passing north of Necker, Sir Richard Branson's retreat, the buildings on which are currently being rebuilt after a devastating fire that was followed by hurricane Irma! From here we sailed south east towards Saba, which was some 85 miles away, intending to sail through the night and arrive in the early morning. All went to plan with only one surprise. Just as the sun was setting I was sitting in the cockpit, relaxing and keeping out of Christoph's way whilst he was busy in the galley cooking supper, when behind me I heard a mighty “wooshing” sound. I turned round to be greeted by a whale breaking surface less than a boats length away. I am not sure who was most surprised by our encounter! I shouted for Christoph to come on deck and he arrived just in time to see it. Fortunately it simply dived again and that was the last we saw of it.
|Saba, Wells Bay and Pilot Rock|
Flashing through my mind were images of the South African boat who, having gone too close to a school of whales, had their boat all but destroyed when a whale attacked them landing on the boat. Phew!
On arrival in Saba we picked up a mooring in Wells Bay, northern end of the east coast, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and swimming. Nearby were the 800 steps (aka The Ladder) leading from the narrow beach to the inland areas, passing the old Customs House en route, we were not tempted! Until 50 years ago this was the only landing place on the island! The following morning we motored round to Fort Bay and the only harbour, if you can call it that, but to our dismay the weather was such that the moorings outside were untenable and the port does not allow small visiting vessels to enter without prior approval, something which is rarely given, hence we returned to another mooring on the east coast.
|Saba, Fort Baai (the only port/landing)|
Again we considered using the Customs House steps but came to our senses when we realised we would have to do 800 steps up, followed by a similar descent down to sea level to visit the Immigration and Customs Authorities at Fort Bay in order to get clearance to land on the island and then the same in reverse to get back to Kurukulla. Later in the day we were visited by the Marine Park authorities in their launch but on discovering they did not have the necessary paperwork to charge us they graciously told us we could moor for free, that is unless they returned. They didn't! For anyone intending to visit Saba it should be noted that the number of 'Visiting Yacht' moorings has been dramatically reduced after Irma and it is unlikely they will be replaced following an incident where a mooring parted and the boat owner is pursuing the Saba authorities for compensation!
On our third day we decided to give it one more try and although the conditions had improved the only two remaining 'Visiting Yacht' moorings were both occupied (one by the Marine Park launch!). The seas were still challenging for a long hike in our dinghy and so we opted to give up on Saba and move on to St Eustatius (aka Statia). The passage is only 18 miles from Saba to the best (and only) anchorage on Statia at Oranjestad.
By 1500 we had sailed onto the anchor at Oranjestad and were contemplating going ashore to clear in with the authorities and for a slightly delayed birthday lunch (my birthday having been the day before) however this involved landing on the beach at Oranjestad by dinghy, a process which did not go as smoothly as planned!
|Statia anchorage at Oranjestad|
We had chosen the small beach by the diving centre (Statia's economy relies on diving income!) and timed our arrival perfectly to allow us to pluck the dinghy up the beach before the next incoming swell; that was until I put my back out lifting the dinghy! After a few tense moments as the 'blue air' cleared I was able to stagger up the beach and we carried on with the programme but at a very much reduced pace! We were lucky enough to be introduced to Wade (aka Taxi No. 5) who gave us a comfortable and comprehensive windscreen tour of the island before dropping us back at the Old Gin House
|Ruins of waterfront warehouses, Oranjestad|
where I took a medicinally large measure before trying to get back onboard; and there I stayed for two days, lying on my back, whilst I recovered; it was not the first time I had done this!
By this stage I felt sufficiently recovered to have another foray ashore but this time we went right into the harbour and made a very slow and gentle landing, no rush! All went well for the first half hour by which time we were in the dive centre having a coffee. Their chairs were of the aluminium stool type with high seats and low backs,
|The old Anglican Church, Oranjestad|
not uncomfortable until you try to get out of them without thinking! Next stop was the local hospital, courtesy of the Diving Centre owner's car, and an injection of muscle relaxant and pain killer! No A&E queue and no wait!
This was followed by a prescription for various other medicines to take over the next few days and an invitation to return the next day, to see the doctor, if required. By now it was 1700 and what time does the pharmacy close..... yes, 1700! This was where Wade and his taxi came into his own, the hospital telephoned him and asked him to pick up the medicines, pay for them,
and we would reimburse him when he arrived to take us back to the port. He was fantastic, as was the hospital. 15 minutes later he was at the hospital, having collected the medicines and helped to get me back into his car.
From here we went to the port where again he did all he could to assist in getting the dinghy afloat and me in it, not easy! Then of course …... the outboard wouldn't start! Poor Christoph, after a frustrating 5 minutes trying to start a flooded 2 stroke, opted to row back out to Kurukulla.
|The Old Gin House, Oranjestad|
A slow and painful return onboard was followed by another 4 days on my back in my bunk. Thank goodness for crew. The first time I did my back in I was onboard, single handed and in Croatia, fortunately in a very well protected anchorage.
Having intended to leave Statia for St Kitts on the 6th of April we finally got away at 0600 on the 14th! It was a very tentative 18 mile passage, under heavily reefed mainsail, with a forecast of 18kts gusting 44kts from the east.
Fortunately we were ably to lay St Kitts in one tack and the gusts were nothing like as strong as forecast.
|Arriving St Kitts|
Half of the journey was in the lee of the island of St Kitts making it almost flat sea sailing, almost! By 1030 we were anchored in the bay at Basseterre, St Kitts but unfortunately there was no space available in the marina; it is small and chocked with local fishing boats and large 'trips round the bay' catamarans.
Thus it was at 1500 we weighed anchor, moved into the marina fuelling berth, and contented ourselves with watering and refuelling during which time I set off to get us legally into
|Buildings around Independence Square, Basseterre|
St Kitts. Authorities available until 1800 said the pilot. The harbour-master and Customs were on site, no problem but Immigration were 100m away and they closed at 1600, i.e.5 minutes before I got there! Apparently, one person covers both port and airport and thus, in the absence of cruise ships, availability times at the port depend on flight arrivals at the airport. Right! Fortunately the next day a berth in the marina became available and all was sorted out.
We cleared in and then enjoyed a walking tour of Basseterre town followed by a quick haircut in a local barbers shop returning onboard for a light supper.
|RC Cathedral, Independence Square, Basseterre|
Next day it was a visit to the chandlers, Flow shop for yet another data SIM card and a final trip to the supermarket before we said our goodbyes and set off for the anchorage at White House Bay four miles south of Basseterre. Here we passed a pleasant and quiet night, notwithstanding several yachts in company and a live band on the beach, before moving on to Shitten Bay, only a mile further south for the following night. Shitten Bay, with it's wreck at the northern end, we had to ourselves until the arrival of the “Round the Island” tour catamarans the following morning.
|Central Street, Basseterre|
Rather than be surrounded by swimmers and music over lunch we again moved to Major Bay which is on the southern coast of the island and rather more exposed. Good for lunch but too exposed to spend the night in the prevailing conditions. At 1500 we set off again to cross the straights to Nevis, only some 4 miles away.
|Shitten Bay, St Kitts|
Almost the entire west coast of Nevis is one long sandy beach; we chose to anchor for the night near Lowland Point and Ashby Fort. Between the two is a spring where Nelson would send ship's companies ashore to fill water barrels from a pure water spring when in the area. I was also here that he married his first and only wife Frances Nisbet, (not to be confused with Lady Hamilton his mistress and mother of his children).
The following morning we moved the 2 miles south to anchor off Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, where we planned to spend the next 48 hours, day onere laxing (my back is still reminding me of the need to take things slowly!) and day two visiting the island and in particular the Botanical Gardens which were established, by a 2nd cousin of a friend, some 50 years ago.
The capital, Charlestown, is small but lively and very friendly. We opted to check out with
|Lunch in Charlestown|
Customs/Immigration before for taking lunch in a local bar/restaurant; this was followed by a taxi ride to the gardens which were spectacular, adorned with trees and plants from all parts of the tropics.
From here it was back to Charlestown and a quick trip into the local produce market to top up supplies before rowing back to Kurukulla for a light supper and preparations for departure early next morning for Montserrat.
More when we arrive ….....
|Self in Botanical Gardens, Nevis|
|Botanical Gardens, Nevis|
|Botanical Gardens, Nevis|
|Botanical Gardens, Nevis|