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Date: 26 Feb 2009 11:19:41
Title: 17 17N 62 43W

Basseterre 24th February. Tuesday morning we headed off for the Bitter End Fuel Dock just before 0900 in the hope of a quick turnaround - we only wanted to top off on water. As usual with these docks this was not to be and having hovered for a while and viewed the chaos at the dock we decided to head off with what we had - which was anyway plenty for our needs. Weather was calm and very pleasant in Gorda Sound and the forecast was good so it was shock to find we had 25 knot winds as we exited the channel between the reefs and turned east for a small gap between the islands. This gap was a short cut which was quit narrow but would save us about 5 miles. Although it was quicker - the saving turned out to be not as great as expected. The seas were large as they piled up into the gap between the reefs and there was 4 knot current against us which left us with a snails pace. It seemed to take for ever to get through the two mile passage. Windswept left at about the same time as us but made the decision to go around the island and head north so they had a better lay line for St Martens which is well to the north of our destination at St Kitts. Once we cleared the channel and the 1000 meter depth line the seas became manageable but we still had a strong head wind. We were able to get about 60 percent of the mainsail working but our course line was too close to the wind for any of the headsails. We had always known that this passage would be a pain as it is always to windward and straight into the trade winds and had decided before hand that rather than tack our way across we would motor sail. Initially the headwind was so strong - in the mid twenties - that we were not making much more than 4 knots but for once the weather forecast was correct and the winds dropped off around mid day and settled down to a reasonably comfortable 15 knots which allowed us to get up to a hearty 5.5 knots with main and engine running at 1800 RPM. After the great sailing we had on the way there the noise of the engine was annoying initially but we soon became used to it. Seas were still straight on the bow so the ride was bumpy and did not please Anita much. Our average speed to nightfall was only 4.5 knots but rising - though still a long way from our usual average of 6.5. For the night passage Anita took over the berth in the pilot house and John stayed up for the night, dozing when he could. Temperature dropped quite a lot as the sun went down and it seemed quite chilly at 17 degrees.Motor sailing to windward is always a pain and the night seemed to be a long one. We passed Saba at 0200. This is a very small but steep island with a height of 860 metres on a bases of only about 4 miles radius - stands up like a sore thumb. John decided to go down the leeward side of the island and pass between it and Saba Bank - a see mountain that rises to a water depth of 20 metres in surrounding depths of 1000 metres. There is plenty of room even thought he charts do suggest its better to stay on the other side of Saba. The seas build up very steeply on this bank so its is best to stay as far from it as possible. At dawn we were passing close down the southern side of St Eustatius and by the time Anita was conscious we were closing in on St Kitts and thankful for the approaching end of this passage. We were into the shelter of Zante Harbour at Basseterre by 1100 having completed the trip in 1 hour over our 24 hour budget. The port was busy with a large passenger vessel berthing (they have one a day here during the season) and we performed our usual harbour tour to see what was available in the way of anchorage and buoys. As a result we decided to see if we could get ourselves a berth in the new marina as this was strongly recommended by the pilot book. Took us some time to establish contact with them and when they did we were asked to hover in the bay whilst they sorted out a berth for us. Anita drove the boat around the bay whilst John rigged the fenders and mooring lines. We were not a little concerned that we could not find out what type of berths the marina had and nothing we said on the radio would elicit this information. This concern was merited as and hour later when we were called in we found that the marina was only really equipped for vessel much smaller than us apart from a couple of outer super yacht berths on the sea wall. We were truly a giant in this place and we inched our way into a piling berth where the harbour master was guiding us in almost in the same way as ground staff guide in an aircraft using paddles. It was not really a problem and in half an hour we were tied up securely having used just about every mooring line we had to keep Osprey in the centre of her piles. With the dinghy still mounted on the davits there was no real choice but to berth bow in though it would have been easier to go stern in and use the anchor which is not anyway allowed in the marina. Anita is not at all impressed with this sort or arrangement and several times suggested we go back out and anchor. Anita was of course wide awake after her nights sleep and quite vociferous. Once berthed Anita quickly had the high pressure hose connected to the quay supply and had the boat washed down to get rid of the salt which she dislikes so much. Water tanks were also topped up, shore power connected and the air-conditioning on board put into overdrive.

Once done and both hand long hot showers we headed up to customs who had fortunately opened a new office close to the marina. Otherwise we would have had quite a hike to the commercial port. At customs we met some great customs officers - very jolly though they gave us a shock when they gave us a computer printout saying Osprey had been in Dominica in April 2006 and was suspected of people smuggling and having arms on board. Even they didn't seem to believe their own database and had a laugh - especially when we showed then USCG documents showing we were in Maine at the time. Gives one a good idea of how much damage these erroneous databases can do. After customs we had a walk around the town of Basseterre. Its a lovely place and probably the most tidy and picturesque we have seen in the islands Lovely building that are a mix of the French and English heritage and beautifully painted in pastel colours. We checked up on Anita's train ride (the main reason we are here) only to find that it only covered a small part of the island and did not stop anywhere. It also would have cost USD180 for the two of us. So we booked a different tour in a minibus which would allow us to stop and look around the places of interest and will leave on that at 1000 tomorrow. In the evening we walked up the quay in search of food and Anita quickly recognised the smell of Indian cooking. Then followed what must have seemed very strange to any onlookers. We followed this smell around the back of buildings and up alleyways until we found the source. This was a large extractor fan on the roof of a building and we could see an Indian chef at work through the upper floor window. Down another alleyway and up some stairs and we were at the door of the Star of India. Food was great although the staff were not the friendlyiest we had met and we had a great meal and were back on the boat (now almost a refigerator from the A/C) for a needed early night at 2130.

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