Sunday, February 28, 2016

Statia

After bypassing Statia for years, we finally made a stop here to see the island. Officially, it's St Eustatius, also referred to as "The Golden Rock" for it's unique position as a center of commerce in the 1700's. Nations that were forbidden to trade directly with each other conducted business through this tiny island and when we visited Fort Oranje we learned that there might be a few hundred ships anchored out in the harbor all at once waiting to load or offload goods. I sincerely hope that the hundreds of ships anchored here back in those days did not experience the same roll coming in that we did in the few days we were here! It helped that we spent the days off the boat, but nights were pretty rough. 

VERY rolly anchorage in Statia
Fort Oranje with Saba in the distance
Fort Oranje is the historic centerpiece of Statia's capital, Oranjestad - it's a well restored 17th century fort with killer views and a gorgeous mango tree in the center. The guide there asked us where we were from and when Skip told him we'd come by boat from Rhode Island, his eyes widened and he said "Holy s***, that's a long way." Funny!


Statia is home to a large oil transfer and storage facility, and while we were there at least a dozen or so tankers were either anchored out waiting their turn, or at the dock loading or offloading their crude oil. Powerful tugboats and pilot boats zoomed around the harbor to help move the tankers, creating wakes that added an entirely different dimension to the already present roll in the anchorage. Busy spot. 

Tankers and sailboats coexist in Statia's harbor
Loading/offloading?
Storage tanks on Signal Hill at the island's north end
The same guide that was surprised at the distance we'd traveled by boat, told us proudly that Statia was the first to recognize the sovereignty of the new American colonies. In 1776 when the Andrew Doria, an American ship that had come to Statia to purchase weapons to be used in the Revolutionary War, fired a 13 gun salute (one shot for each colony), the governor of Statia fired a return salute, thus officially recognizing the sovereignty of our new country. We could spend ages here just absorbing the history of the island, but we wanted to wander the streets to see the old architecture and wander the trails to take in Statia's natural beauty too.

A little piece of Statia for sale
Statia architecture
The building with green shutters is the office the Statia Monument Restoration group.... made up of one very dedicated and knowledgeable young Statian man.

Cemetery overlooking the harbor
We started off early one gorgeous morning to hike The Quill, the dormant volcano that occupies the entire southeast end of the island.

Walking up the old slave road early in the morning
A long way from NY
Um... start here?
Hot and sweaty, and only half way up the trail
Oddly, this chicken was at the top of the trail where we stopped to look down into the crater
Who's photobombing here? Skip or the chicken?
The chicken was unusually friendly - and was happy to accept whatever snacks and water we offered
Sodas with fun swizzles at a local cafe - refreshing after our sweaty hike
As in Nevis, there was a small Jewish population in Statia and we walked up to see the remains of the old synagogue which was called Honen Dalim, meaning "she who is charitable to the poor". It was built with yellow bricks that were used as ballast in some of the trading ships that came to the island.

Ruins of the old synagogue
Standing inside the synagogue, imagining the small congregation that met here back in the early 1700's
There was also a Jewish cemetery that we looked and looked and looked for, but never did find. We got some interesting directions to it though.... one guy told us to take a right at the corner by the 'talking place' and then turn up a dirt path. The 'talking place'? "Yes," he said impatiently, "the place where everyone goes and talks." "Oh, the talking place. Thanks!" we said, as if we knew what he meant, and wandered off still confused. Sure enough, we came across a corner with old rugs covering patches of dirt, and tattered sofas and chairs strewn about with a few people sitting on them.... talking. So we found the talking place, but never found the cemetery.

We loved this little island but the roll in the anchorage was too much to take so we said our goodbyes to Statia and sailed for St Martin.

Getting a rare cloud free look at Saba's peak off our port side
We've been in St Martin for a few weeks now but the wifi here is so random and unreliable that another blog post will just have to wait. Next stop.... the BVI?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nevis and a BIG mahi

At last - a post that's not about Barbuda. Kind of sad, but made better by the fact that on our way from Barbuda to Nevis we caught a huge mahi. Gotta start with the fish photo...

Big fish

It's rare that our boat speed read out exceeds our depth read out - we usually don't move this fast! We were flying downwind wing on wing and really couldn't slow the boat enough to make a difference as we tried to reel this guy in. We dragged him along, reeling him in as quickly as we could and were happy to get him on the boat before any sharks spotted him. 
Flying!
Skip armed our new harnesses before we headed offshore
Wing on wing approaching cloud covered Nevis

Nevis anchorage sunset
The next morning a couple from another boat dinghied over to see if we would like some of the mahi they'd caught on their way the day before. We thanked them and declined, and of course, swapped fish stories. Seems the mahi were out and about, because a few days later when we arrived in Statia, still another boat came by to see if we wanted some of the mahi they'd caught on their passage! Everybody's freezer is full of fish lately.

When we visited Nevis last August, it was sleepy and still, but this time we found it bustling. We definitely wanted to go back to the hot pool but we wanted to hike a little, see more of the town and check out the Nevis Botanical Gardens.

Local art in the Charlestown Gallery
We started walking in the general direction of the trailhead that leads to the ruins of the old Mountravers Estate one morning and a tricked out offroad mini jeep/safari driven by a young woman screeched to a halt beside us. As luck would have it, she was a hiking guide on her day off and she was more than happy to drive us to the trail head and give us some tips on places to hike. Nice!

Hiking to Mountravers
Field of old satellite dishes we passed after we left the trail
The woods were full of green vervet monkeys, but as we all know by now, my wildlife photography skills are limited and on top of that, the monkeys are really shy. At least the ones we saw were. Monkeys outnumber people on the island and can be pretty annoying to the locals. My one monkey photo came from the botanical gardens where the fruit trees were too hard for them to resist.

Cute!
I haven't done much with flora/fauna photos, lately but I'm so pleased to have gotten even just one monkey photo so I'll fill in the rest with flora photos from the Nevis Botanical Gardens.

 
 




In the middle of the gardens is the aptly named Oasis Restaurant, and we treated ourselves to lunch making a long lazy day of it.

My hibiscus mojito.... very tasty.
Spring rolls - also really tasty
Beautifully plated and really yummy pad thai
Nevis had a small Jewish population that came from Brazil in the late 1600's to work in the island's sugar industry and the old Jewish cemetery here is well maintained.  We walked through and read what we could of the faded inscriptions. 

Dates noted by the Jewish calendar too


Leaving behind a stone
No trip to Nevis is complete (for us) without a trip (or two) to the hot pool. On our first trip we met a woman who told us the water temp was 109.6 degrees. Pretty specific. So on our second trip we brought along our handy little thermometer. Sure enough...

Clockwise from top L: Skip at the pool, the outdoor pools, boys in hot water, it really is 109.6 F
Adding water to our tanks in Nevis
Saralane sits below Nevis peak
We walked, ate, soaked and wandered on Nevis enough for now and we move on with green vervet monkeys on our mind and mahi in our freezer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Barbuda (again!)

I've got one more Barbuda post here if you can bear it. While we really love the beaches and crystal clear blue waters around Barbuda (I guess you know that by now), we'd been keen to go back to the frigate bird sanctuary. We'd been there once before, but only after the fuzzy chicks had hatched and we wanted to see it during the mating season when the males are in full display.


 Silhouette of frigate bird in flight
Before sailing back though, we rounded Antigua, making stops in Green Island, Falmouth, Jolly Harbor and Jumby Bay, where we caught up with our friends Bennett and Susan on Pratique; we headed north to Barbuda together. 

 
Around Antigua, from top L: Ackee fruit, classic schooner, helicopter wrapped up on deck, baby goats grazing







Bulldozer dwarfed by the big cliff coming out of Falmouth Harbor
The forecast was for high winds for the days we'd be in Barbuda and when we arrived there was also a swell running that made Coco Point untenable so we headed for Gravenor Bay on the south side. 

Pratique anchored in Gravenor Bay
We'd made arrangements to see the frigate bird sanctuary one day with Barbudan guide George Jeffrey, but had a day before that to walk the trails and the windward beaches. We marveled once again at the power of the surf crashing over the reefs there. Loads of junk washes up along this shoreline.... most of it plastic.

Skip and Bennett on the windward beach
From top L: donkeys, landscape of rock and scrub, Bennett and Skip, close up of rock surface
Bits and pieces mixed in with the seaweed
Not that we ever need a reason to make another trip to Barbuda, but making a special trip to the see the frigate birds during the mating season was well worth it. I have far too many photos from the trip, but here are a few of my favorites.




video





Our gentle natured guide George Jeffrey
Hopefully the video works and you can hear the tapping and drumming sounds the males make with the inflated red neck pouches to attract the females.I think you can also hear the voices of the two Russian couples that shared the tour with us

It's a busy time for touring the lagoon here and George needed to get the boat back to pick up another group, so we whizzed back into Coddrington and walked around. Skip and I had gotten permission from customs in Antigua to clear out of Barbuda, and the customs office was appropriately small for this sleepy little town.


Our one chore completed, we wandered around town and had lunch near the lagoon before catching our ride back south to where we stashed the dinghy along the shore by Spanish Point.

From top L: Barbuda day care center, B & S on the way to the frigates, building facade, palm grove

We have the Food Pyramid... Barbuda has the Food Pineapple for guidance on good health. The local beer we had with lunch is not in the Food Pineapple.
These two school girls came for ice cream on their school lunch break and were very curious about us.
They were shy at first, but warmed up pretty quickly - trying on Susan's and my hats and posing for the camera.
They decided Susan's hair needed some work and they got in as many braids as they could before the school bell rang and they ran back off to class.


Not bad!
It's unanimous that Barbuda has just about the prettiest sand around. It's their biggest export and we passed the sand mining operation along the road out of town. There are environmental concerns about the impact of the mining and it's an ongoing topic of debate in Antigua and Barbuda.


The weather was in our favor and it was time to move on, so we said our goodbyes to Pratique and left for Nevis. We'd promised ourselves we'd revisit Nevis after our brief and unexpected stay back in August and the conditions looked good to keep our promise. 

It's easy to spot the reef on the way out Gravenor Bay
We've been in Nevis since Friday, so the next blog will be all about Nevis... and maybe there will be something about a fish we caught on the way too.