27. There and Back Again

Bonjour from St. Martin!  When we last checked in, S/V Delancey was about to leave Bequia for points north.  Weather had kept us pinned down in Admiralty Bay for over a week and we were itching to get a move on, so when the forecast reduced the seas to 5-7 feet (down from 7-10), we jumped.  To make up some time, our plan was to make a single 50 mile run right past St. Vincent and on to St. Lucia.

Didn’t work out that way.  As soon as we poked Delancey’s bow out around the corner of the bay and into the open water between Bequia and St. Vincent, we discovered that pounding into 5-7 foot seas is not our kind of fun.  When raising the mainsail, I let a batten pocket (it’s part of the sail) get caught on a lazy jack (it’s a bit of rope) which tore it partially off the sail.  If raised, the torn sail would have flogged itself to death, so we had to motor for the passage.  After a couple hours of slow, teeth-shattering progress, we started looking for somewhere to duck into along the south coast of St. Vincent.

Such were the circumstances that led us to a mooring at the Blue Lagoon Resort and Marina.  We spent the next week getting the mainsail repaired, catching the minibus to Kingstown, and making good use of the resort's gym and pool.

  The menu looks expensive until you realize that $1 EC (Eastern Caribbean dollar) equals about 37 cents in USD.

The menu looks expensive until you realize that $1 EC (Eastern Caribbean dollar) equals about 37 cents in USD.

Finally, the weather moderated for real and we were on the move again.

We spend one night on a mooring between the Pitons in St. Lucia and another in Le Marin, Martinique where we took on fuel and water before continuing on to St. Pierre, Martinique.  In early February, when we were heading south, we spent an evening anchored off the town of St. Pierre without going ashore.  We were looking forward to visiting this pretty French seaside town on the way back up.

This is actually the second iteration of St. Pierre.  In the 19th century, St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”, with an opera house and 30,000 residents.  One day in 1902, all but two of those residents, and every single structure, were destroyed when the nearby volcano erupted, covering the city with pyroclastic debris.

Evidence of the volcano damage is evident throughout town, from specific archeological sites (the prison, the opera house) to pre-volcano walls woven into individual buildings thought the town.  Beyond the volcano, St. Pierre is a lovely village that only reinforced our bias in favor of the French islands.

Shortly after arriving, we were joined in the anchorage by S/V Barefoot, a Whitby 42 ketch.  Wandering Alaskan fisherpeople Pat and Renee introduced themselves from their dink, and we invited them over for sundowners.  Pat and Renee purchased their boat in Florida and were on their way to Trinidad, where they’ll keep it for visits during the fishing off-season.

  Pat and Renee of S/V Barefoot

Pat and Renee of S/V Barefoot

The next day, the four of us caught a bus for a volcano hike.  The hike, up to the rim, down into the crater, back up the other side, and down the opposite slope, was the most challenging we’d taken on this trip.  (It probably didn’t help that, unlike every other person we met on the way, we elected to do the hike wearing sandals.)  It’s certainly the first time I’ve had to climb a “trail” with both hands and feet.  Approaching the top, whipping winds and a heavy mist (cloud, actually) kept us pressed to the slope and limited visibility.  The interior of the crater was like a rainforest, dense with lush growth.  At the opposite side, the slope slowly flattened as we descended toward the sea.

The trail deposited us in a lonely car park two miles from the nearest town.  Fortunately for us, we were joined by a small group of veterinary students on spring break.  Nina, Stephanie, and Abby introduced themselves and generously offered us a ride.  We all squeezed into their tiny rental car to repay them in beers at a nearby bar, followed by a return to our boats for aquatic frolicking.  It was a really good day.

  Future veterinarians Abby, Nina, and Stephanie   with Deb and Renee

Future veterinarians Abby, Nina, and Stephanie with Deb and Renee

But that wasn’t all!  The next day, we were reunited with our Aussie friends Deb and Scott of S/V Expedition.  Ever since first meeting in St. Martin, Deb and Scott have popped in and out in our lives all over the Windward and Leewards.  Deb and I will be going about our business in a vegetable market/chandlery/bar when the Expeditions will simply appear before us, as if materialized from the ether.  It’s all pleasantly jarring and usually ends in a nice lunch.

Nice lunch consumed, we were off again!  We spent one night at anchor in Portsmouth, Dominica.  Approaching weather was threatening to keep us stationary for a while, so we elected to get stuck somewhere we’d not yet visited, which explains why we elected to make a 24-hour overnight motorsail to Nevis.

  Nevis

Nevis

  Downtown Charleston, Nevis

Downtown Charleston, Nevis

A little over a year ago, we started listening to the cast recording from the Broadway musical “Hamilton”.  We’re not Broadway folk, but we quickly became obsessed, reading the Ron Chernow biography used as source material and memorizing the lyrics to every song.  So there was no way we were going to be “dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean” without visiting Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace.

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Later, we took a ferry to St. Kitts to visit Basseterre, the capital of the country of St. Kitts and Nevis.  Once escaping the cruise ship duty-free-shopping ghetto, a thorough walk around the city took nearly an hour.  I arbitrarily take this moment to note that in all island cities we’ve visited, traffic is more congested than any I’ve experienced in 25 years of living in New York City.

  Baseterre, St. Kitts

Baseterre, St. Kitts

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Didn’t you go to any beach bars?”  Fear not, my friend.  We went to bars, beach and otherwise.  The notable beach bar on Nevis is Sunshine’s, a collection of buildings and pavilions on Pinney’s Beach between the town of Charleston and the Four Seasons Resort.  Sunshine, the proprietor, has a signature drink, the Killer Bee, with a secret recipe and regularly holds court at the outdoor bar (Sunshine’s : Nevis | Foxy’s : Jost Van Dyke).  Beach your dink and have lunch.  I recommend the ribs.

  Sunshine's

Sunshine's

Weather moderating, we set sail for a beam reach to St. Barthelemy (a.k.a. St. Barth, a.k.a. St. Bart’s).  We’d heard that the anchorage outside the main town, Gustavia, was crowded, exposed, and rolly so we planned on skipping it in favor of a more protected anchorage to the north.  As we were passing the town, we decided, what the hell, let’s check it out and see.  We’re very happy we did.

  Gustavia, St. Bart's

Gustavia, St. Bart's

We found a spot and set our anchor in the clean sandy bottom below 30 feet of the clearest water we’d seen since the Bahamas.

  Follow the chain all the way down.

Follow the chain all the way down.

We spent the next couple days strolling around town, sitting in cafés, and visiting the little shelly beach.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Gustavia, on the third day we rented a car and drove all over the island.

It probably sounds a bit like saying, “Antarctica is kinda chilly,” or “Eating food is popular,” but St. Bart’s is really very lovely.  I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the international luxury brands (with “New York, London, St. Barth” on the shopping bags) and that stuff does exist, but the scale and layout of the town, with its red hip roofs surrounding the inner harbor, are charming.  As Deb observed, Gustavia feels like a tropical Nantucket (we love Nantucket).

And now, one short and lazy sail later, we’re back in St. Martin!  S/V Delancey is anchored in Marigot Bay, the same place we spent last Christmas and New Year’s Eve, awaiting the arrival of Deb’s sister for a week’s visit.  We feel familiar with St. Martin and are looking forward to showing her around.

Time to clean the boat.