Tuesday, February 28, 2017

St. Martin's Carnaval

Carnaval is celebrated twice on St. Martin / Sint Maarten.  The french side (St. Martin) just finished their celebrations. They have several events over the span of a week, and finish off with a grand parade...








Carnaval is celebrated again on the dutch side of the island in April. Too much fun on St. Martin / Sint Maarten!

Friday, February 24, 2017

St. Martin & Sint Maarten

St. Martin / Sint Maarten courtesy flag above HYC's burgee

Half French and half Dutch, this small but busy island is a cruisers’ hub. There are sooo many of us! Partly it may be because this island has a huge land locked lagoon, which provides shelter from the ocean swells, and ensures a good nights’ sleep for all boaters choosing to anchor ‘inside’.  It’s wealth of white sand beaches, European influence and duty free shopping also contributes to its’ popularity.

We arrived while friends from home, Sandy & Gaston, were vacationing here. They rent a studio apartment, located on the beach of Marigot Bay, for the month of January. We anchored right out front!
To visit, we had only to pull our dinghy up on their beach. How convenient. 

Gil & I with friends from home, Gaston & Sandy

Together, we explored some modern day ruins of one upscale hotel complex which was abandoned after hurricane Hugo…

…. we went plane spotting on Maho Beach… ('gotta find the photos?)

….. mega yacht oogling from Simpsons Bay Beach….

….  adventure sailing on Serenada to the neighbouring island of Anguilla

…. with a snorkel stop at Creole Rocks in Grande Case Bay

Lots of fun with these two!

Every island in the Caribbean seems to have the ruins of a fort, and we seem always to explore them. 

Fort Louis was built on the hill which overlooks Marigot Bay, but the lagoon and Simpsons Bay can also be viewed from it. 

Stunning views from Fort Louis.

Someone had a very bad day…

Though we’ve visited St. Martin several times in the past; this was the first time we chose to anchor inside the lagoon (after Sandy & Gaston returned home). It was certainly more calm and peaceful ‘inside’ the lagoon than ‘outside’ in the bay. 

We dropped anchor in the far northwest corner, on the French side, near Pinney Beach.

Here, we found friends Jo & Gregg on Serenade, Sue & Dave on Triumph, and Cathy & Bill on Dream Maker. We enjoyed spending time with them and catching up; particularly because we’d spent enough time with just each other on the smaller islands we’d come from! As I write this, though, all have left for the Virgin Islands….

Gil and I have chosen to linger around St. Martin \ Sint Maarten, and the surrounding islands of Anguilla and St. Barth’s. We have decided to haul out Serenada at TOBY’s  (Time Out Boat Yard) at end of March, and return home while we wait for our promotions, to grandma and grandpa!

The other day, we went to shore to stretch our legs. We tied our dinghy up to a dock in front of The Art Lovers Hotel. It was unique, and again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking….






One other day, we dinghied over to the Simpsons Bay Yacht Club, which is located at the lift bridge between Simpsons Bay and Simpsons Lagoon. This is where people go to watch the boats stream in and out of the lagoon, at specified bridge opening times. Some of the megayachts have only inches to spare to clear the bridge. My favourite sight, however, was this creative beer bottle holder, built into the railing!

I think we may just have to adopt that idea back home.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The islands that “brush the clouds”

 Statia, St. Kitts & Nevis seen on route to Saba

We visited, for our first time, a series of smaller and younger volcanic islands, all of which rise steeply from the sea until their peaks touch the clouds. St. Kitts rises to nearly 4000’, St. Eustatius to 2000’, and Saba to just over 3000’. Their high mountains trap passing moisture, which keeps them lush and green.

En route to these islands that "brush the clouds," between Montserrat and Nevis, lies Redonda Rock, about a mile long and 1000' high. In the late 1800's about 100 people actually lived on this rock, which was mined for phosphate.

Redonda Rock

evidence of its' past, when it was mined for phosphate

En route between Redonda and Nevis, Gil caught dinner!

"Dine and Dash."  The culprit escaped.

Well, we thought he had. Fortunately, the next one was boarded whole - a tuna.

2 dinners, but only one for us

St. Kitts & Nevis' flag above HYC's burgee

Most of our stay on St. Kitts was spent in Majors Bay, on its’ south shore; as it afforded the best protection and greatest comfort from the large north swell and strong northeasterly winds which we had for several days.

Serenada anchored in Majors Bay, St. Kitts (Nevis in the background)

 It’s very picturesque, as Nevis’ peak was viewed from our cockpit, and an unspoiled white sand beach lined the shore. 


This was a relatively quiet time for us, as this anchorage is remote from most anything on the island, except that it is the terminus for the Sea Bridge ferry to Nevis.

Sea Bridge ferry between St. Kitts and Nevis

We had some beach time. We also hiked, but as there were no trails, we trailblazed our own; at times a thorny experience!

trailblazing through the tall grasses, while avoiding those thorny green bushes

our reward - the views!

back down to the boat

one of several ruined windmills used on the sugar plantations

Once the winds went more east / less north, and settled some, we moved over to Friar’s Bay on St. Kitts’ west coast. 

The 'Strip' on Friar's Bay

From here, it was much more convenient to explore the island. Some time was spent in Basseterre, the capital. There seemed always to be 2-3 cruise ships in port, which made for bustling streets.

The Circus

St. Kitts is home to Brimstone Hill, a world UNESCO heritage site, of the largest fortress in the West Indies. We spent much time here, as it was impressive. I’ll let the pictures (probably too many of them!) do the talking….

water catchment and cistern

the lime kiln

my fearless Captain Gil on the rim of the lime kiln

St. Kitts (and Nevis) are also home to thousands of African Vervet monkeys, descendants of a few originally brought over as pets by sugar cane planters. One of my disappointments was not seeing any in the wild. I did see some, but they were wearing jackets! (for the tourists)   A local woman we spoke with described the monkeys as a huge nuisance, as they raid people’s gardens. She explained that many people have dogs to deter them, but sometimes the monkeys and dogs befriend each other!

The day came when we said good-bye to St. Kitts to sail further north to St. Eustatius (Statia).

a passing barge, en route to St. Eustatius

St. Eustatius' flag above HYC's burgee on Serenada

St. Eustatius  (Statia) lies just north of St. Kitts.  It has a population of under 4,000. It’s a small island with a large history. In the mid to late 1700’s, Statia was the West Indies’ trade capital and one of the world’s busiest ports. The Dutch, who owned Statia then as now, opened Statia as a free port to all countries. European nations, many at war with each other, and not allowed to trade directly, could trade  and deal through Statia.

cobblestone streets in Statia

Times have changed, but Statia remains unique. As we approached, we saw numerous oil tankers, container ships, barges and tug boats anchored off its shore. This small island has a huge fuel loading dock, and huge oil storage facility.

fuel loading dock below oil storage facility in Statia

Statia only has one anchorage, in Oranje Bay, site of its’ past and present port and capital. Many ruins can be seen along the shore, below the cliff edge, where at one time there was a sea wall which protected a long street of shops and warehouses.

ruins of a once bustling port

two story buildings are now buried

restored warehouse, now a bar

Up on the cliff top sat Fort Oranje, now beautifully restored by the Dutch government.

Fort Oranje

Serenada as seen from Fort Oranje

This way to the Quill

Statia’s peak, which we hiked to, is at the rim of  the Quill (Dutch: kuil = pit), a dormant volcano.

Whoa! Which way? 

.... this way .... getting there

at the crater's rim

... where we met a friendly rooster

A side trail took us from the crater's rim up to a panorama lookout, which afforded us incredible views of the island.

Saba can be seen on the horizon, from the peak of the Quill volcano on Statia

A difficult side trail took us down into the crater. Many rope lines aided the descent (and ascent) over boulders and rocks.

Inside the crater was a lush evergreen seasonal forest, closely related to a tropical rain forest, with the tallest trees reaching 40 meters. Trees found inside the crater included the prickly silk cotton, and the large leafed trumpet trees.

silk cotton tree


cheerleading with trumpet tree leaves

strangler fig

Upon returning to Serenada, we smiled at the sight of some of the islands' goats...

After time on Statia, and with the weather remaining very settled, we continued on to Saba.

a becalmed Caribbean sea, the perfect time to visit Saba

Saba's flag above HYC's burgee on Serenada

Saba is essentially an enormous rock..  A mere 5 square miles, it reaches a lofty 3084 feet. It has a population of only 1500.  Until the early 1940’s Saba was almost inaccessible. Everything had to come and go via Ladder Bay.

The old Customs House at Ladder Bay, Saba

This extraordinary landing provides scant shelter from ocean swells. Some 800 steps are cut into the rock. The steepness and elevation can be appreciated from the sea by looking up at the old customs house, which is only half way up! Boats could only land when the sea was calm. 

Fort Bay, Saba's port landing today

Saba's runway - the world's shortest!

Saba boasts the shortest airport runway in the world!  It’s akin to landing on an aircraft carrier. Flights are weather dependent, as crosswinds can negate take-offs or landings. We spoke with one person, who related the story of a friend’s stay which was extended by 3 days while waiting for a flight out.

From the sea, Saba looks like a rock, but up high in the hills, it is lush and scenic. Saban cottages are all whitewashed, green trimmed and red roofed; and the streets are spotlessly clean.

Sabans must be very pragmatic people, judging from the names of places. The two towns are named Bottom (guess where?) and Windward (guess where again?). Mount Scenic is its’ peak, and Ladder Bay rather explains itself also.

Mt. Scenic, as seen from Windward

It’ll be no surprise to learn that Gil & I hiked up to the peak – we seem always to be drawn to them. The trail had over 1,000 steps, but it was very well maintained. The tropical rain forest was the lushest of any we’ve seen in the islands, and the views were spectacular; a great reward for our effort. Again, I'll let the pictures do the talking....

dwarfed by the lush vegetation!

finally, the peak!

Windward from Mt. Scenic's peak

1,084 steps to the peak

it's over! .... done like dinner

Some cute shots from Saba...

gate to a daycare center

recycled tires made beautiful

Saba proud

I'll leave this blog post with Saba sunset photos...

Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis, and even Montserrat!