St Kitts & Nevis and St Maarten
Our next destination was St. Kitts, 120 miles from Dominica. Leaving early morning and sailing through the night, would make our arrival the following morning. But the wind wasn't in our favour. Listening to VHF radio, we overheard a radio conversation between two vessels. One of it was Checkmate, with Tony on board, our Kiwi friend. The last we met him was in the Canaries. Tony was in Iles des Saintes and this is where the wind was taking us. We altered our plans to catch up with Checkmate, heading to Iles de Saintes instead. After a boozy night in Checkmate we headed to Deshaies, stopping for a night. The following day we set off to Nevis. It was a great passage. The seas were flat and we had lots of wind, making it a fast passage.
While sailing past Montserrat, we saw the effect of the active volcano over the island and the lava flows. The arrival was 10 hours later at Pinney Beach, feeling quite rewarded for sailing the whole trip for once right up to the anchorage. We stayed only for one night, vowing to come back again. It was a beautiful sandy beach, stretching for miles.
It was time to meet Hilary, Graham's sister, arriving from UK. We headed to for the Marina in Basse-Terre, St. Kitts, 8 miles away. The marina was surrounded with barbed wire fence and armed security, that wasn't very scenic! The rumour around yachties was that St. Kitts currently has a lot of trouble going on. We found no problems walking around during the day, but it all changed at night, when we felt a bit of tension. We were very pleased to leave the next day and anchor 5 miles away at Ballast Bay. Only with a very few boats anchored here. The hills near shore were full of goats and cows, a perfect place for a beach BBQ!
The neighbouring island, Nevis , was the next destination and we were back again at Pinney Beach. From there to Charlestown was a good 30 minutesí walk, but well worth it. The capital of the island is pretty with brightly painted small buildings and malls.
With the Pacific crossing in our minds, there was a big list of things to do, in order to get Nomad Life ready for the next 7 months of cruising. The best place in the whole Caribbean for marine parts is St. Maarten, the cheap and cheerful tax free Dutch colony. We arrived on a Friday, unaware of the Heineken Regatta, held during that weekend. The bay was very busy, so we decided to enter the Lagoon the following day. Whilst we entered into the lagoon a mass of boats were leaving to take part in the race.
The huge Lagoon is home for a few mega motor boats scattered around 4 different marinas. The North part belongs to the French and the South to the Dutch. The entrance to the Dutch side is through a canal with a lifting bridge, opening for a short period four times a day. The Dutch side of the bay is very touristy with sports bars, casinos and "eat as much ribs as you like" restaurants. But it has a party atmosphere with a touch of Dutch tolerance and convenient for boat repairs.
Shrimpi's became our home in St Maarten. This is a crew bar with free WiFi, free beer on Sunday morning during the boat jumble and daily happy hours. Graham and Hilary were delighted to find a sports bar to watch the Champions League. Even happier when Chelsea won against Porto making the quarter finals!
Here we also bought a BBQ to mount on the back of the boat. That deserved a celebration and it had to be St Maarten style: eat as much ribs as you can BBQ party. Noel and Natalie couldn't miss it. We had no idea that they were in the Lagoon. By chance we all met in Shrimpi's. From then on, every night was party night!
But it was not all fun in party land. The week spent in St Marteen was actually very stressful due to the huge list of things to do and not enough time. With the regatta on, all of the specialized workers were busy and unable to fit us in.
Despite having our big list on the back of our minds, decided to take a day off and a visit Philipsburg, the Dutch capital. With 4 cruise liners in the bay, the town was full of tourists taking advantage of the duty free shops. The water front road was all set up for the cruise ship passengers, very picturesque and with expensive shops. While on the back road, all the cheap shops were situated. After a week here we sailed back to St.Kitts, where Hilary had her flight back ending her 2 weeks holiday on Nomad Life.