3 Cruise ships and 1 sunken ship

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Sat 22 Jan 2011 01:22
17:14.922N 62:39.619W White House Bay, St Kitts, Friday night

We all started the day with a leisurely breakfast in the Ballahoo cafe in the centre of Basseterre. It's on the first floor above the "Circus" right in the middle of the town. Four roads meet at that point and there's a clock-tower cross thing in the middle. Being an ex bit of England, they've made it into a roundabout but, being the Caribbean, they also use it as a car park and general meeting area. I spent ages just watching everything going on beneath us. One guy, in particular, had cultivated a power-saunter which, combined with his enormous woollen hat, allowed him to walk straight across the melee whenever he liked and all the cars had to just stop. Impressive stuff.

On the way to the cafe, Andrea and I had walked through the shopping mall next to the marina. The whole place was built to attract cruise ships and there were three of them in port today. It was heaving with elderly, overweight Americans. As we walked through the throng, we were offered taxi rides, tours of the town and photographs of ourselves with monkeys - all politely declined. It really put us off cruise ships. The idea is attractive enough. To see a different place each day is wonderful but you always see it with 2000 other people and, at least here, you only see the places that have already been redesigned to take your money.

As we had our drawn-out breakfast - saltfish and potatoes in my case - we discussed what we wanted to do for the next few days. Last night was really annoying with the mosquitoes in the marina and I had a bad-tempered scratching session in the middle of the night as a result of all the bites I received. We were enjoying Basseterre but I didn't really want to spend another night in the same place. We decided to spend a few hours exploring the town and then leave to go to a nearby anchorage. Kali went off to change some money and do some shopping while Andrea and I visited the town museum.

There were displays of various artefacts from the pre-Columbian and Colonial times and a whole room dedicated to the more recent struggle to gain and then deal with independence. Originally, the British wanted all the West Indian islands to form one giant entity which seems like a good idea to me but the disparate natures of the peoples meant it was a short-lived dream. In the end, St Kitts was bundled up with Nevis, its neighbour and Anguilla many miles to the North as a single country. The Anguillans soon began a campaign of civil disobedience in order to leave the new State, culminating in a mini-coup attempt with a dozen armed Anguillans and a couple of US mercenaries invading St Kitts. That was soon seen off but Anguilla managed to re-attach itself to the UK as a dependency and the other two islands carried on. Nevis is still a reluctant partner in the association, at the moment because it's apparently doing rather better than St Kitts economically.

I'm not sure what I think about all these places fracturing into ever tinier countries. Some of them have managed to create economies for themselves by going in for tax-haven status or even internet gambling but that all seems very short-term to me. A guy we spoke to on Statia about the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles into St Maarten, Saba and Statia was very sad to see it going that way and put it down to politicians wanting to rule their own little empires rather than co-operate with each other. Some of the new countries are even trying to invent new currencies which seems bonkers. Everyone really just wants US Dollars and here's St Maarten trying to invent a new currency when all its own citizens ignore the one it already has. I think that, in the end, the islands are going to have to work together as each of them is far too small to support a viable economy on its own.

Anyway, all that looking at exhibits had made us hungry again so we went for a short walk around town via the park. By now, it was getting hotter and everyone was out and about. The streets were lined with impromptu stalls, many selling vegetables and fruit but some with radios and others with clothes. Lads tried to hawk bags of raw sugar cane or coconuts. We were heading for a cafe that Andrea found in the Lonely Planet guide. It's tiny, with only four tables, and serves mostly vegan food influenced by the owner's feelings about Black Power and Rastafarianism. There was a TV showing a film about Marcus Garvey above the counter. The walls were decorated with Rasta flags, pictures of Haille Selassie and magazine articles about how the US Thanksgiving festival was a celebration of genocide - and I can't argue with that. The woman serving there was incredibly nice to us - perhaps realising that all the decor could be taken as something of a criticism of two white tourists. The food was great and we even got three extra portions of the veggie curry to take away with us.

We walked back through town again, really enjoying the sights and the colourful life. It's so much more vibrant than sleepy old Statia and more pleasant than the Casinos of St Maarten. Saxon Blue was sitting waiting patiently for us so we got her tidied up ready for action while Kali cleared us out with the Customs. We got away with no problems and headed out into the bay past the docked cruise ships and towards our anchorage on the other side. The best places to anchor up are spaced around an arid peninsula which makes up the South East corner of St Kitts. As we got close to the first one, we could see a few yachts anchored up but with plenty of room for us. There was a wreck marked on the chart as "Position Approximate" so I did a thorough survey with the Forward-Looking Sonar before we dropped the hook.

We're in a shallow bay but the shape off the headland cuts off all the ocean swell and the wind off the beach doesn't have enough fetch to create significant waves. The breeze keeps us cool and I hope the distance from shore is too great for the damned mossies to find us. We decided to go swimming straight away. Andrea did her usual turn around Saxon Blue while Kali and I got our gear on to swim over to some rocks nearby. There was a counter-current so it took me a while to get there. Just before the rocks, there were a couple of rough buoys so I thought they must mark a lobster pot. As I swam on, though, I was so surprised that I nearly dropped my snorkel. The buoys marked the site of a massive shipwreck.

The vessel must have run into the rocks that we'd seen and promptly broken up. I could see the engines and other pumps, along with the shape of the steel hull and the ribs sticking up almost to the surface. The propeller was there with gouges out of it, still attached to the drive shaft. I'm sure it's a very tame wreck by diving standards but I was so surprised to see it there that it took me a while to come to terms with it. It felt like something alive, like the ribs were going to try to come up and get me. Kali swam over to me as she'd found a lobster. They're not like European lobsters as they don't have claws so they're more like a giant crayfish. This one had a lair under the hull plating so I swam down with Kali for a look. It was massive with antennae a couple of feet long and was just looking out at us.

I dived down a few more times, once to the propeller, through shoals of iridescent fish and then we were both getting cold and tired so headed back to Saxon Blue. Andrea was amazed at our adventures as there is no sign whatever of the wreck from on the boat. I had a shower to warm up and then we had the Rasta Curry for dinner with brown rice. It was as good as it had been at lunchtime. We watched the sun set and the cruise ships leave Basseterre, then looked at the brilliant stars. Once I finish this blog, it's time for some Battlestar Galactica action and the end of another great day.


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