Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nevis

As do many of our posts, this one could have had several different titles. I already used "Sailing Sucks" (parts one and two, no less) so that was off the table. "Rhumb line, Squall line... Same Line" was another. "Get Me Off This Boat!" was another, and "Saralane For Sale", was put aside after we had a quiet night or two post passage.

I've opted instead for the simplest one, "Nevis" which focuses on our short but really pleasant visit to Nevis and mostly overlooks what was undoubtedly the worst sail we've ever had. We hadn't been to Nevis before and while we were waiting out the wind (we thought) we stopped in for a look. So... Nevis.

Just in case we were wondering where we were
We sailed the short distance from St Kitts to Charlestown, Nevis and cleared in on a Saturday morning. The town was pretty sleepy when we arrived and by Sunday it was completely asleep. Perfect for walking around and being able to see both the brightly painted buildings as well as the worn down facades and also for conversations with locals relaxing on their days off.

Clockwise from top L: bright orange firetruck, a few bright orange flamboyant blooms, the 'N' of Nevis, shops closed up tight.
From the center of town we walked north and saw the monument to the more than 200 islanders whose lives were lost when the inter-island ferry M/V Christena sank on August 1, 1970. The overloaded ferry boat sank in the Narrows, the passage between St Kitts and Nevis and remains upright on the sea floor.  


We followed the road out of town for a few blocks but quickly gave in to the smell of curry coming from a small cafe. A young Guyanese woman tended the curry while her two young girls chased each other around, trying their best to help, but mostly just ending up in their very patient mother's way. They came to chat with us for a while and gave us some guidance about what to see around the island. Her chicken roti was pretty tasty, but we couldn't talk the recipe out of her. 

Inside info from the chef and her two little ones
Also pretty tasty was the mango and spicy dipping sauce she set out for us
Sunday baseball game under Nevis peak, quiet streets, John H obeys the sign and remains unlocked at the dinghy dock.
Stag - apparently it's a man's beer.
Trying to stay cool.
Swanky hotel under the cloud shrouded peak
Tiny crab digs in the black sand beach
Nevis claims the oldest tourist hotel in the Caribbean, The Bath Hotel, which was famous for it's volcanic hot springs that people swear by for treatment of just about anything that ails you. Built around 1780, the hotel has had it's ups and downs and now houses the island's government offices. 

We're big fans of hot pools... but as it turns out, the difference between 105 degrees and 110 degrees (besides the obvious 5 degrees) is the difference between being able to just sink right down into the water, or having to very slowly inch down into the water. Yowza. This water was HOT. I think having a cold pool nearby to cool off once in a while made a big difference too.

Hot stuff.

Enter at your own risk (and please... no soap!)

It was quiet at the hot pool when we were there, but the locals we did meet said some evenings there are so many people wanting a soak that there can be quite a wait to get in. We met older Nevisians who swore by the healing properties of the water as well as young professionals that come once a week for their soak. 

Our two night stop didn't allow for much time for exploration here, so we're putting Nevis on our re-visit list and hope to be back next year for a better look. We left the anchorage in Charlestown and anchored on the north end to be better placed to leave for Antigua early in the morning. We were sailing in tandem with an Aussie single hander we'd met in the customs office in Nevis, both of us deciding to take what was to be the "least worst day" to make the 40 mile trip to Antigua. 

View of Nevis peak from the anchorage in Tamarind Bay on the north side.
Zoomed in on part of the lush green mountainside.
This would be the time to change the title of the blog to one of the above mentioned. I guess I'd go with "Sailing Sucks, Part Three". We rounded the tip of Nevis and looked around for the forecast 15-ish knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. We tacked out through the South Channel of the Narrows and never really did find the comfortable seas.

Early morning fishermen, north side of Nevis
From the start seas were 5 to 8 feet, with short intervals between and with the occasional 10 footer in there to keep things interesting. True wind was 18 to 25 all day with more than 30 knots over the deck often enough to make us both really crabby. The problem was not so much the forecast, but the squall line that ran along our rhumb line drawing in the wind and increasing the wind speed for the entire trip. We crashed through the crummy conditions with water pouring down the decks for 10 hours and arrived in Antigua with no desire to sail anywhere ever again. Even Barbuda. Yep, it was that crappy. We're counting on having short memories though, so we'll get back to Barbuda soon enough.

It looked pretty to start out with...
...but turned bad in a hurry.
One of many water spouts that dropped down out of the squall line. Montserrat barely visible below the spout.
Our Aussie friend, Bruce, arrived in Jolly Harbor an hour or so after us, looking a little stunned. Bruce bought his boat just a few weeks back and is single handing, and sailing in the Caribbean, for the first time. He wasn't really sure what's thought of as normal here and when he asked what we thought of the passage and we said things like "It was just awful!" "The worst trip ever!" "Just terrible!", he was pretty relieved to know it wasn't all in a day's sail for us too. We were chatting on the radio on the passage, but you don't tend to say things like "Isn't this the worst passage you've ever done?! I hate sailing!" to anyone while you're all just trying to get through it!

Captains Bruce & Skip talk about better passages
Two days later... swimming off Jolly Beach Antigua. Squalls still haunt the stretch between Nevis and Antigua
We managed to get out of Jolly Harbor at least for a few days and are comfortably anchored in Carlisle Bay where we watched a wedding on the beach last night and snorkeled with lion fish and puffer fish today. We waved Bruce off this morning and we'll head back around to Jolly tomorrow to get Saralane ready to be hauled later this week.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Playing Tourist in St Martin

Saralane spent two weeks in a mostly empty marina in St Martin while we both went back to the states. When we returned we decided that along with the usual St Martin chores (boat stuff, provisioning, scrounging for wifi etc) we'd spend a day playing tourist. We rented a car - which at $25 US was pretty cheap entertainment - and found that instead of playing tourist, what we really wanted to do were boat chores that we couldn't do as easily on foot or by dinghy or bus.

A few weeks back, Skip noticed that the gauge on our hydraulic panel (which controls the tension on both our boom vang and back stay) was starting to fill up with hydraulic oil and a little drip was snaking out from below the panel. When we got to St Martin, he removed the panel and we took it (by dinghy and foot) to FKG, a rigging shop in St Martin, and had a new gauge put in.

Reconnecting the hydraulic panel with the new gauge. 
Though we really don't need anything for the galley, I always have to check out what's become my favorite store in St Martin. (And, bonus - it's only a two minute walk from the dinghy dock at Budget Marine where we usually need something.) PDG is the go-to shop for anything you need/want/dream about for the galley on your mega yacht. Our mini yacht may only be 40' but I always find something there that I can't live without.

You can find dishes in any size or shape, as long as they're white.
Everything and anything you can imagine for baking, including about 25 different pastry brushes. Yes, please!!
Fancy stuff...
Most days they have free espresso going all day and this time we discovered that on Fridays they have free gelato and sorbet! I LOVE THIS STORE. Good thing we can reach it by foot and don't need to rent a car to come here.

Mango sorbet while you shop

Out doing chores, we walked by this hot pooch trying to stay cool on the French side.
Great market in Sandy Ground for Frenchy foods
Now for the touristy stuff. According to some unnamed sources (and they're really the best sources aren't they?) the number one touristy thing to do in St Martin is: go to Maho Beach (aka: Kerosene Beach) and watch the planes come and go. Actually it can be much more than watching the planes come and go - it can be as much of a full on drunken-cling-to-the-fence-and-get-blasted-with-sand-dirt-and-jet-fuel-experience as you want it to be. We opted to just watch. Part freak show, part international frat party, part jet fueled thrill... it was entirely entertaining.

Small crowd on the even smaller beach at the runway's end
You can see people with heads down, clinging to the fence in the center.
The blast from a taxiing jet rips up the surface of the water, and blows off more than a few items of clothing
This umbrella didn't stand a chance
The biggest plane to come and go from St Martin.... KLM's 747 direct from Amsterdam three times a week
KLM arriving two hours late
As we already know... I'm not great shooting things that move quickly (see: ALL my photos of wildlife) and I didn't do too well getting shots of the big one landing but Skip shot some great video on the iPad. It was going really well until the iPad pinged up a little helpful warning that said something like "Ha ha! You only have one chance to get this shot and there's no room left on here for you to record the landing!!" It's still a pretty cool video... make sure to turn up your sound.

video


A view from the hills
Driving over the new causeway bridge toward Philipsburg
There are so few boats in the lagoon this time of year it really feels like a bit of a ghost town. At one point we were the only boat anchored on the Dutch side, which is usually full of boats. There are a few yachties that are here year round, including the crazy guy who swims across the lagoon and threatens to set people's boats on fire, but transient yachts like us are few and far between. Our friends Daryl and Adri on Leila are almost here too much to be considered transient... but we were happy to catch them before we all headed in different directions again. 

Another goodbye to Leila... this time in Grande Case, St Martin 
We sailed to St Barth's, picked one of the free mooring balls in Columbier and got in a snorkel before the sun went down. We waited out a few squalls in the morning and set off with plans to head directly to Antigua. When the wind picked up and the waves became too close together to make for a comfortable sail to Antigua, we opted to sail to Whitehouse Bay in St Kitts, where there's nothing but a beach bar, a promised giant new marina and, for some strange reason, free and fast wifi. So... here we are... after a lazy morning, a good snorkel and a nice sunset on it's way. 

No drought in the mountains on the north end of St Kitts
The out-of-the-way marina in the north end sits under Brimstone Hill Fortress
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship dwarfs everything in Basse Terre
Here's a sampling of what's under the sea here in Whitehouse Bay in St Kitts. If I've ID'd anything incorrectly, I'm hoping that our friend Lili from s/v Heron will correct me!

A nice surprise under the boat in St Kitts - hundreds of baby conch!
School of silvery fish
One of the under appreciated 'beauties' of the underwater world - a sea slug.
Another beauty
I know it's just two sea urchins, a few rocks and a star fish but doesn't it look like a face?!
Nassau grouper
Sea urchin and little spider crab
Skip spotted this octopus hiding out flattened under a rock, with a spider crab for company
Anemone
Beach bar seen from my snorkeling point of view

Beach bar seen from Saralane. There's literally nothing here but this bar and us. So close, but yet so far.
Maybe next time we pass this way we'll actually go ashore and see the fort and visit the town and have a drink at this little beach bar. Tomorrow we'll be off to nearby Nevis to do some visiting there. Eventually we'll get to Antigua.