St. Kitts / Nevis: May 6-10, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Like Saba, St. Kitts, more correctly St. Christopher, has its head in the clouds.  But it is much bigger, with a length of approximately 23 miles and a maximum width of 5 miles, encompassing roughly 68 square miles.  The island's highest point, some 3,792', is atop Mt. Liamuiga, a dormant volcano that last erupted in 1692.  Unlike Saba, the shoulders of the island are gradual, and therefore constitute land flat enough to be suitable for cultivation.  Much (all?) of that land is apparently owned by the government, which until recently used it for sugar cane production.  Prior to the election in 2005, the opposition party pledged to close down the sugar production, since it was costing the government millions of dollars a year keep it running in the red.  The incumbent said "over my dead body", and was subsequently re-elected.  He then promptly closed down the sugar production, and the fields have lain untilled and unused ever since.  No one seems to know what the long range plans are, except to say that the government appears to be banking heavily on creating a more robust tourist economy.  Meanwhile, as our taxi/tour-guide explained, foreign governments are making substantial "gifts" to the island.  Schools and school buses and hospitals and athletic fields and gov't buildings have been given to the island by such countries as South Korea, Taiwan, United Arab Emeritus, etc.

The island has two rather unique features:  a narrow gauge railroad that circles the island and that used to be employed in the sugar cane harvest, and that now is used as a tourist train, and secondly, a population of green monkeys that have inhabited St. Kitts for over 400 years, ever since they were brought here by slaves from East Africa between 1560 and 1650.  Today, the 125,000 wild green monkeys outnumber the humans on the island by over 3:1.

We engaged a taxi driver to show us a bit of the island, and visited parts of the Wingfield Estate, the only estate on the island that had an aqueduct and which was owned by Thomas Jefferson's family before they sold it to the Earl of Romney.  Located on the grounds of Romney Manor is the Caribelle Batik Factory, a local artisan's center that was founded in 1976.  Working with silk or with locally-grown Sea Island cotton, the artists produce tie-dyed batik and hand-painted creations of all sorts.  An old keeper of some sort greeted us on our arrival, and showed us through the drying sheds. There were no other workers, since we were there on the islands' Labor Day, a national holiday.  The Manor is also the site of five acres of gardens.  We saw the 350-year-old Samaan tree (which had flowers on it just like what I would call mimosa.)  We saw an old bell tower which used to toll for the start and finish of the workday on the estate.  We saw a stand of "pain bush", which allegedly can be wrapped around a sore joint or wound and will banish the pain.

We visited, for far too brief a time, the dramatic Brimstone Hill Fortress.  The driver had his schedule, or we would have spent the entire afternoon at this fascinating set of structures, sitting high atop a volcanic outcropping.

Our first night at St. Kitts was in an uncomfortable, rolly, noisy anchorage right next to the Coast Guard dock in Basseterre.  The next day, after our tour, we skedaddled on down to White House Bay, where we joined two other vessels in a much quieter and peaceful anchorage.  No buildings along this shore.  Just the ruins of an old dock, and lots of cows and goats and monkeys on shore.  We were near a road, however, and occasionally a car-load of young folks would arrive and do some snorkeling, and then disappear again.  A section of the road was gloriously flat as it circled a large salt pond, pink with crustaceans, and Chuck very much enjoyed that flatness on a morning run.  It had been a long long time since he could find 2 1/2 miles of flat road on which to run out and back.  The road was also useful to Barb and Audrey, who set out intending to hitch along it to Basseterre, only to (a) have it start raining and (b) have a taxi drive by (which they gladly paid for!).

On the morning of May 9, we arose early and hurried back to Basseterre, where we loaded Audrey and her luggage into the dinghy and Barb took her in to the dinghy dock, where a taxi was waiting to take her to the airport for the first leg of her trip back home to Kansas after having spent two weeks with us.  The visit went by amazingly rapidly, and we can only hope that she enjoyed the time with us as much as we enjoyed having her.  She makes a first class guest on a boat.  Not only did she pick up quickly on the "rules" and "practices" that constitute cruising style, but she had an iron constitution, which was a darn good thing considering the amount of rolling we sometimes endured.  Audrey, we'll miss you.  Come again any time.

We went directly from Basseterre in St. Kitts to Charlestown, Nevis, where we anchored just north of the ferry dock and south of Pinney's Beach. 

When we went ashore that afternoon, we visited a grocery store and Barb went looking for wi-fi so we could later send in this update.  As we strolled down the sidewalk, Chuck said "good afternoon" to a lady.  She smiled, and said "Are you enjoying your vacation?"  Silly woman, he is not "on vacation".  He is "in retirement", but of course that looks (and feels) a lot like vacation.  But how did she know that he was not a local?  Easy.  Firstly, almost all cruisers dress alike.  Sandals.  Shorts.  (I know long-term cruisers who haven't worn long pants in years.)  T-shirt with an inscription like "St. John Donkey Diner -- Kick Ass Food", or gaudy flowery shirt.  Cap or hat.  Sunglasses.  Almost none of these things are true for locals.  Men NEVER wear shorts.  They seldom wear hats or caps.  They seldom wear sunglasses, and they NEVER wear gaudy flowery shirts.  Well, almost never.  (We've seen a few stoned men who wear whatever they can scrape up.)  Men seldom wear sandals and often wear work shoes.  The ladies often wear heels, but sometimes wear sandals.   And then there is the issue of skin color.  We have seen almost no black cruisers.  Yes, an occasional black captain on a charter vessel that is furnished with a captain.  And an occasional young black female that has become the companion of an older white boat owner, but -- with the major big-time exception of Puerto Rico -- no black families or couples out on an extended cruise.  On shore, however, the situation is often reversed.  St. Kitts and Nevis, for example, are almost entirely black.  So, on this island at least, it is very easy to understand how, if you say to a local, "good afternoon", she might reply "having a nice vacation?".

Stay tuned to this web page for further sophomoric philosophy, and maybe even an update on Nevis, and for the further adventures of "Barb and Chuck go cruising."

The shoulders of St. Kitts slope gently to the sea

Contrast this shoreline with the steep shores of Saba

Sugar cane fields along the fertile shoulders of the island

The Circus in Basseterre, in the style of Picadilly Circus in London

Drying shed at Caribelle Batik

Apparel drying at Caribelle Batik

Audrey and the factory guide/guard/keeper

Such a smile!

Batik generator

Garden at Romney Manor -- note bell tower in background

Flower in the garden

Another view from another camera

Chuck and the keeper

Large gnarly tree in the garden

350-year-old Samaan tree in the garden

"Pain Bush" planting in the garden

Petroglyphs created by Amerindians

Sign at the petroglyph site

Audrey and green monkey at the petroglyph site

"Hurricane Hole" behind a reef at northern end of island

Remnants of a lava flow

The volcanos that created the flow

Taxis often bear an individualized name; the one ahead is "Rug Rats". Note sugar cane fields off the road

Sugar factory ruins on the Wingfield estate -- once owned by Thomas Jefferson's family

Sign at the factory

Another sign

The only aqueduct in the Lesser Antilles

Smokestack at the ruins

Aqueduct, smokestack, and fixer upper

Audrey taking pictures at the ruins

Recognize the location?

A series of photos from Brimstone Hill Fortress

Statia in the background

Citadel of the Fortress

Audrey and Chuck

Barb and Audrey

Sign inside the Citadel

Cricket game in Cul-de Sac of Fortress

The Fortress as seen from the sea

Tusen Takk II at Pinney's Beach, Nevis -- note flopper stopper engaged and Mt. Nevis in background

Crane at dock at Charlestown, Nevis

Sign about the crane

Fishing boat at dock of Nevis

Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.