St. Kitts and Nevis, are two islands a short daysail from St. Barts but dramatically different. Both islands are part of a chain of volcanic islands which rise abruptly from the ocean, and are striking to sail towards. St. Kitts, at almost 4000 feet high, and visible from a long ways out, is lush and green. It is covered in rainforest because it attracts so much rain due to its height. The island is surrounded by turquoise water and white beaches and it’s coastline is spectacularly beautiful.
St. Kitts joined with Nevis to form a fully independent state after being fought over by the British and French for centuries. Today the main industry is tourism and it is easy to see why once you near the coast. There are the remains of old plantations and sugar cane mills around the islands and both have done a good job preserving the architecture and history.
Our destination was the capital city of St. Kitts, Basseterre, where we could clear customs. We had no plans and were uncertain where we’d put our anchor down for the night but once we arrived at Basseterre we decided it was not a good location. I’ve yet to address the finesses of spending a night at anchor, but suffice to say Basseterre was not a good anchorage because it’s incredibly rolly due to the swells that come in from the ocean. A monohull sailboat in a swell means rolling and your sailboat turns into a rolly-polly raft where everything slides and to and fro, including you!
We anchored outside Basseterre, jumped in the dinghy and raced to the customs office before they closed. It was your typical small office, with friendly staff who processed us and directed us to the immigration and port authority offices to pay the fees required to enter St. Kitts. Every island is different and some charge more, some charge nothing. St Kitts fees were reasonable at $24 US. They have come late to the tourism side of attracting cruisers and mega yachts and some fees are high, for example it was $5 US to get ride of a bag of garbage but I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon enough. The Port Authority were very helpful and told us about a couple of harbours further down the coast where we’d find better shelter and consequently less rolly conditions. With our passports stamped, we headed back to Ingomar and headed for calmer waters.
Our destination, Ballast Bay was a quiet, secluded bay and as we closed in we saw several yachts on anchor. Always a promising sight to cruisers. We got settled away and invited Agnes and Bas (S/Y TiSento), who had also sailed to St Kitts that day, to come over for an anchor beer; a new tradition for us but standard for cruisers.
It’s A Drag
The next morning we awoke and found that our anchor had dragged, which is not a good feeling when you wake up. Although good in most conditions, our Bruce anchor is not the best in areas where seagrass covers the ocean floor. We haven’t dragged before so after this incident we set up an anchor alarm to alert us to any dragging.
The problem with dragging is your boat can end up on shore, or bang into another boat or foul another cruisers anchor, and any of these options aren’t ideal. And it usually happens at night! So we learned our lesson and now use an anchor alarm. We use the app Drag Queen, on our iPhone and it is effective and easy to use.
When you come into a bay there is often a choice to either pick up a mooring ball or put the anchor down. Mooring balls cost money and anchoring is free so most cruisers opt for anchoring. The problem is more and more places are putting mooring balls in so they can charge and make money. Sensible but it is squeezing the cruisers who wish to anchor and can make for some very gnarly situations. Frequently, the mooring balls are set in the optimum spaces near shore in water that is not too deep, 15-40 feet and in the most sheltered places. On Ingomar we have 200 feet of 3/8” chain and a 44 lb Bruce anchor, as our primary anchor. We try to set out enough chain for a 5:1 ratio, meaning sufficient chain length to meet the water depth you’re anchoring in. So if we put our anchor in 30 feet of water we put out 150 feet of chain and ensure we have enough room to swing 360 degrees when the wind or tide changes, which it always does. If we can get more chain out then we put it out because its more valuable out than in the chain locker. If boats are too close this can result in collisions or fouling another boats anchor.
The next day we spent a better part of the morning trying to find a good set for our anchor. Because our Bruce just wouldn’t set well we set our second anchor to ensure we didn’t drag. Having two anchors out can get quite literally, tangly because if you turn they can get twisted up. Our secondary anchor is a 33lb Bruce with 65 feet of chain and 200 feet of 5/8” rode. The spot we chose was relatively quiet and away from other boats and the setup worked well for us while we were in Ballast Bay, ie., we didn’t drag again. After coming to terms with our anchors we took time to explore. I went for a swim and discovered the snorkelling was pretty decent, seeing many conch and sea urchins on the ocean floor. I have not picked up any conch yet to cook, a delicacy in the Caribbean because the processing aspect of eating conch is labourous. And quite frankly I’m fine with rice and pasta these days. Also, there are many areas where it is prohibited to take conch as they are in marine parks. Al took the dinghy into the mega yacht dock to explore the area and see what was available.
The entire southern portion of St. Kitts has been purchased for private development, 2,300 acres, for an upscale development called Christophe Bay, with a mega yacht marina, bar/restaurant, golf course, many luxury homes and new roads. We went ashore and found the small resort had a stellar bar and restaurant called Salt Plage. The menu looked promising, they had 2 happy hours and decent wifi in a very chic and comfortable setting. The bar was masterfully designed and a cool place to settle in for a sunset happy hour. Our vegetarian based diet is great but we were both craving a burger. The food was delicious and after several beers we headed back to Ingomar and Filbert.
The following morning we were delighted to find ourselves in the same spot we’d gone to bed the previous night. We did boat chores, as all responsible cruisers do and were happy to be pulled from this drudgery by Agnes and Bas who suggested a hike. Tally-ho! and we were off. I saw my first monkey, and he was big but no pics because he was shy and I did not want to harass him. African green vervet monkeys were introduced to St Kitts by settlers as pets and have since multiplied into the thousands. We walked to a pretty beach that looked like it had great surf potential, and then headed back to Salt Plage after our rigorous hike for a few well earned beers 🙂 There was a band set up with steel drums and a singer. They were great musicians and eventually the lovely Salt Plage turned into a dance floor.
The next day we hauled our contrary anchor and headed for Nevis, which loomed tall and lovely in the distance. It was a sunny, warm and salty sail and as we neared the town of Charleston we wished it could have been a little longer. Nevis is only 10 nautical miles from St Kitts and people often boat to the opposite island for dinner. Filly, who loves sailing these days, settled in quite nicely for our quick jaunt across the blue waters.
Nevis is beautiful, as are the people, who were warm and friendly. Nevis has a ‘no anchor’ rule because they are trying to protect the marine environment and anchoring intends to destroy coral. They are also doing a stellar job at preserving architecture and the old plantations that were once the mainstay of the island. Many have been turned into resorts with hotels and fantastic restaurants. The custom fees covered the mooring ball costs; for 2 nights at $20 US, it was a deal. We walked around downtown Nevis and loved the bright buildings and narrow streets. We stopped at a cafe, used the wifi, bought some provisions and headed back to Ingomar. We settled in for a quiet and secure night just off Pinneys beach with the tall mountain of Nevis looming behind us. A huge rain shower passed over the mooring field that day with wind squalls but because we were on a mooring ball, we had no worries. Whenever we pick up a mooring ball we always dive to check them because you have to ensure they are secure and this one was good.
The next day we dinghied into shore, walked the length of beautiful Pinneys beach, picked shells and stopped at Sunshines, a cute little beach bar. Sunshine himself was there to greet us and when he found out we were Canadians, quickly led us over to the wall where a photograph of Premier Justin Trudeau was displayed. Trudeau and his family had visited over Christmas in 2015. Sunshine said he was very nice and he highly approves of him as he is legalizing marijuana. We sat at the bar to try the famous “killer bee”, a rum concoction and met several lovely couples. A word of warning – if you find yourself on Pinneys beach in the afternoon and try the “killer bee” I suggest you stop at one! I did not and ended up back on Ingomar, asleep at about 3.
Sadly we had to leave Nevis the next day because a big north easterly front was headed towards the Leeward Islands and there is virtually no anchorages around Nevis that are protected. Ina northerly swell it becomes untenable to stay there. We set our compass for Antigua but intend on returning to Nevis to see more of the beautiful island. And their carefree moorings 🙂