Statia aka Saint Eustatius

This is a small island, part of the Dutch Antilles and famous as a trading port. I guess the island was not suitable for plantations. It is no longer duty-free but somewhat incongruously has a huge oil terminal and lots of moored tankers. There is no good anchorage. There used to be visitors buoys off the main town of Oranjestad but none were to be seen now, so we anchored in suitable depth, rolling heavily. It was calmer next day when we went to check in at the port. Sort of Handwashing facilities were provided. There is a steep climb up from the port area up to the main town, where you find picturesque half timbered buildings and neatly laid out streets all meticulously labelled with street names but no signs giving helpful directions (e.g. to the airport or anywhere). Everywhere was extremely quiet and sleepy as we wandered round the pretty town. Not sure if this was due to virus – there are warning signs everywhere – or the funeral of a local dignitary – flags were at half mast.

There is Fort Oranje on the upper level which is being restored, great views from the ramparts. Statia commemorates “the first salute” by a foreign power of a warship of independent USA by the guns of Fort Oranje in 1776.

ANITA ran across the island and climbed the Quill, the extinct volcano. Interesting path through the rain forest to the rim of the crater, steep climb and great views from the highest point.

On Monday we went to check out, to be told by Customs at the Port that we had to go to Immigration at the Airport. A kind person gave us a lift. Immigration at the airport said the island was now closed to yachts. We pointed out we were already here and wanted to check out. But she told us we had to do that at the port, apparently we should have used the phone provided there (it was broken and looked like it had been for some time). We did grump a bit about the wasted journey and set off to walk back only to realise that it is such a small island that it wasn’t that far at all. We finally managed to check out when Immigration lady arrived at the port, then went for lunch at the cafe there. We didn’t realise this would be our last meal out for 2 months. We watched a couple of yachts turned away while we ate, so when we departed next morning we were the last yacht at Statia.

Early March 2020

We sailed on from Antigua to Nevis and checked in with Customs etc there. We visited this island late last year so quickly sailed on to the sister island of St Kitts (same administration). There was some big swell and wind forecast for the following week so we ma de lots of phone calls to book a berth in Port Zante Marina at Bassê Terre. It’s a small Harbour with Dutch type box berths around the edge with some pontoons. Most of the boats are either for local fishing or trip boats or party cats. When we came in it was flat calm and we got directed to a nice berth alongside a big pontoon. Unfortunately by next morning when they insisted we move a stiff breeze was blowing. Our new place was one of the box berths, inconveniently across the strong wind, although marina guys came to take our shore lines what was needed was a rib to push us into place and to take lines to the poles at the back and it was all really stressful. Once we’d recovered from this we went for a look round the historic city of Basse Terre. There were 3 big cruise ships in, they can take up to 4 at a time. By this time it is 9 March, and the news of the Coronavirus spreading from China to Italy and the rest of Europe is starting to get serious, social distancing starts to be a thing. Slightly worrying going round Basse Terre among crowds of folk off the cruise ships. Next day we got a taxi tour to the Brimstone Hill Fort looking out over the coast furthered the island. Very impressive and almost nobody there. We also looked down on the Boatyard where they have a travel hoist and dig you a custom pit to put the keel in. On the way back we visited some gardens and the Batik studio.

Historic church Basse Terre

Next we moved on to Statia, aka Saint Eustatius. Saw on AIS and talked to Dave on Mischief by VHF en route, unfortunately they were going south as we were heading north, maybe this is appropriate social distancing, but a great shame we didn’t meet.

The Leeward Islands

We did the Windward Islands (Grenada up to Martinique), now working our way through the Leewards (Dominica north). The distinction was historic presumably depending on where in the chain you arrived first and slightly confusing as the Dutch put their Windward Islands in the region called Leeward by the British.

From Dominica we went to Isles Saintes mooring at Bourg des Saintes. These lovely small islands are French so it was back to Euros, driving on the right, croissants and French bread. Then on to Deshaies in Guadeloupe, also French. Here we went the excellent Botanic gardens again, we did not see any murders or Humphrey or the Comissioner, but did see the set for the police station and Catherine’s Bar.

Deshaies
Botanic Gardens
Set for Death in Paradise
The real police station

The next island is Antigua. First we anchored in Falmouth Harbour (the dock is full of superyachts) and visited historic English Harbour and Nelsons Dockyard. We walked up to Shirley Heights for more history and a fantastic view. The whole area is now a National Park.

View from Shirley Heights
More history
Superyacht leaving Falmouth

We moved on to Jolly Harbour, a very convenient place to get provisions, fuel and chandlery. It was great to meet up with friends here: Bones and Anna of yacht Emily Morgan, Anita and Richard of Sea Topaz and Laurie and Ruud of Blue Pearl.

Dominica

We finally managed to leave Martinique on Thursday, water maker all fixed thanks to Thierry and Steven of YES (Yacht Engineering Services) in Marin. The seals on the HP pump had to be replaced 3 times over before it stopped leaking. We had a boisterous passage across to Dominica in a very gusty wind, still getting vicious gusts when moored at Portsmouth in sheltered Prince Rupert Bay. This morning we went on a tour up the Indian River. Parts of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were filmed here. Our guide was Providence aka Martin Carriere. He was great, very informative about wild life and botany. The guides have to use oars on the river so it is very peaceful. We saw various birds, fish, crabs, geckos, iguana and stopped at the Bush bar for a quick juice. We did the tour once before 10 years ago. The vegetation was even more over hanging then – Hurricane Maria changed a few things. The local tour guides formed themselves into the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS). They take turns to meet the boats coming in ( so you don’t end up part of some mad competition) and provide mooring buoys, security, tours and a Sunday night beach barbecue that we will go to tonight.

Swap blood wood
Buttress roots
Bird of Paradise
Male Gecko displaying
Hummingbird

January 2020

After new year we headed south, crossing back to St Lucia. After a quick stop in Rodney Bay catching up with more friends we went on south to Anse Cochon and Soufriere. Nice snorkelling in Anse Cochon and Bat Cave, interesting watching local fishermen early in the morning, one person jumps in with a snorkel and mask to locate the fish, they drop the net in a circle while others throw stones into the water to scare fish into the net. Then back to Rodney Bay for Andrews last night (pizza at Elena’s), next day we saw him off to the airport in the taxi with a large chicken roti for sustenance. He has been with us for 6 weeks, has been in 4 different countries with stamps in his passport to prove it (except Martinique) and we’ve sailed 341 miles including one night sail.

Next we watched the start of World ARC 2020 from the deck of our friends catamaran, Anne and Norman on Glorious Daze, quite spectacular and we do know 3 of the boats. Then spent time trying to fIx the wind generator and ended up buying a new one. Finally able to leave to sail to Marin in Martinique and catch up with Glorious Daze again. Brian on his Amel Maramu Jamesby ( who was in the next berth in Rodney Bay) overtook us en route and took some nice pics of Timshel under sail, while I took some of Jamesby. It is nice to get photos of your boat under sail.

Christmas and New Year

As soon as the ARC stuff was over we headed north to Martinique, which gave us time for a quick shopping trip to Marin to stock up on French bread, wine and cheese, also Jambon de Noel and other goodies for Christmas. Then on to Grande Anse d’Arlet for Christmas Day – we spent Christmas 2015 and 2016 here too. There are still turtles swimming about, good snorkelling and lots of boats. We sailed on round the coast to Fort de France the capitol. The anchorage is behind Fort St Louis, and this time we managed to get on a tour of the fort. Much of it is still an active Naval base. We returned to Fort de France for the New Year fireworks which strangely take place on the evening of December 30th. They are set off from the fort so in the anchorage (which by this time was very full and small boats were buzzing around everywhere) we had a ringside view. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more spectacular display. On the 31st we went on to St Pierre at the north end of the island. This was the capital that was destroyed in 1902 by the eruption of Mont Pelee killing something like 28,000 people. One man survived in the town jail. Only one ship of the many anchored in the bay managed to get away with only half the crew alive, the rest were sunk. We looked at the ruins and went round the museum which has been recently refurbished and is very good. The restaurants seemed to be closed so we saw the new year in on Timshel. The church bells rang out at midnight and we contributed our foghorn and Auld Lang Syne (that Andrew was streaming on Spotify).

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