Passage to St Kitts & Nevis
The Passage to St Kitts
As we pass St Barth’s by a few miles out on our passage to Antigua, one thing becomes very clear. The weather forecast we had so carefully prepared for was inaccurate and the tides were slamming against us. Faced with a choice in the middle of the Caribbean sea we had to decide whether to slam to Antigua and face a much longer journey whilst risking boat damage, or take ourselves off course in the direction of St Kitts. The later was not originally planned in our journey but fate called and we headed towards a comfortable passage to this most lush green and volcanic island. As we sailed through the passage between the island of Statia and St Kitts, finally we were greeted by a spectacular sight of about 15 dolphins hooping in front of us, which Nick deduced must mean they were on the hunt for dinner. It was quite special to see this on Tom Tom!
St Kitts itself is very much the mother of the sugar islands and was at one time Britain’s first port of call in the unfortunate days of slavery. Sugar mills and plantation litter the island and St Kitts in particular has some of the best historical sites in the Caribbean – probably also helped by its less touristy nature. The port itself was a marina come fishing port and the stench at times could be quite apparent! It was over next door to the main cruise ship area so we also had the joys of ‘Larry’s Diamonds’ and ‘Ole Jons Carib duty free’ alcohol shops dotted around amongst a few random bars and cafes. Hidden at the back was the main museum of St Kitts which we visited in anticipation of a school history trip. It wasn’t quite what we know as a museum however and was more information on walls about everything from the last sugar plant to close in 2006 to the information on what the local government is doing for the island.
We did however get our full fill of history in St Kitts as we hired a car for a few days. First stop was the stunning Rawlings Plantation in the north end of the island where we drove along a road high with old sugar cane swaying in the trade winds, and up a rough track to the most beautiful plantation house in blossom. This was where we treated ourselves to a gourmet lunch of ginger beef, fish stew, fresh salads and spicy dressings and ice cream for pudding. This is an old plantation which is now a boutique hotel and we would recommend that if ever anyone wants to go to St Kitts and is looking for a place out of the ordinary, a few days at this beautiful botanic and tranquil hotel is a real dream; overlooking the hills of St Kitts behind, with stunning views over the island of Statia, this really the picture perfect stuff! There are various little outhouses scattered around, and the owner, Kevin (a very keen sailor who made his money from designing the Sigma yacht) is eagerly expanding his boutique hotel experience in St Kitts by trying to bring back the original historical plantation charm. As a result, he has also bought a hotel nearby called the ‘Golden Lemon’ which is the oldest house on the island and was supposedly built by the Huguenots in the 16th Century.
After saying our goodbyes, we travelled on to the most famous and best kept fort in the Caribbean known as ‘Fort Brimstone’ which was built by the Brits to stave off the ever eager French. As we drove up the most incredibly steep hill, we could see right over the Caribbean Sea and St Kitts with again the most breathtaking view we could imagine – this really was our day! The fort itself had lots of informative information and was eventually captured in the 18th century by the French but then handed over in 1789 back to the Brits as a result of ‘The Treaty of Versailles’ which we presume might have had something to do with the French Revolution! It seams a continuous job for the tourist commission to maintain the building and it reminded us almost of an Edinburgh Castle in the sun!
The following day we took a drive around the island. It is not as spectacular for its beaches as some of the other islands we have been to but the South end is starting to develop with a massive Marriot and Golf Course dominating this part of St Kitts. There are a few beach bars scattered along the coast and we found that this was mainly the American tourist end of town. We also went to another plantation hotel called Ottleys which was just past a little village lush with palms and plantation which you would imagine was the Caribbean town of yesteryear, and although it was super lux with its swimming pool built in the shell of an old plantation house and a bar overlooking it, Ottely’s lacked some of the charm of Rawlings.
As a final stretch of our education, we visited Romney Manor which is again an old Sugar Estate ruin, but slightly different from the others we visited in that it also produced rum and had a cold stream running through it which would originally have been used to make steam for the boiler. Next door to the ruin which nature is quickly clawing away at, is a plantation house called Caribelle Batik where hand demonstrations of printing Batik are on show.
By our third day, we took the ferry to Nevis for a day trip which is just in the shadow of St Kitts. As we approached Major’s Bay in St Kitts to await our ferry over a game or two of scrabble, we were struck by how dreamy turquoise and sandy this little corner of the island is – by far the best beach, which is surprising that it has been turned in to the ferry dock. It is also clear that this end of this derelict part of the island is starting to be developed as the likes of the Taiwanese government placing their investments and Savills place their placards over the salt ponds offering promises of lux condo apartments in the near future. The crossing itself – usually 30 minutes took just under 2 hours as an oil tanker and vehicle with a generator kept us waiting while it steadied its cargo. However the wait was well worth it! Nevis is complete tranquillity where the main peak touches the sky and gives hints of its volcanic structure. The first port of call for us was the beaches of Nisbett’s Plantation which is a golden swathe of palm trees in a luxury tranquil resort. The wind was beating at this end of the island, so we quickly headed to the beaches of Pinney Bay where the Four Seasons has recently re-opened thanks to a large stakeholder investment by Bill Gates of a cool £500m. The local beach bar had to be relocated and now crowds itself of photos of celebrities who have visited for the famous ‘Bee Sting’ cocktail such as Julia Roberts in the 1990’s and more recently one Brittany Spears a mere 3 weeks ago having sauntered over from the villa she owns at the Four Seasons. After some lunch on the beach and a good swim in the bay, we headed back for the ferry – ticking off Nevis on our list, and commending each other on our increasingly improving Scrabble scores which we now play regularly on Nick’s new Christmas toy – an I Pad!
Having done all the trips available, it was time to prepare our departure from St Kitts on to pastures new. With our intention of getting to Guadeloupe, we realised that the volcanic island of Montserrat with its live ash spilling out since 1996 would be a great port of call to spend a few nights and break the trip up. We left the port of Basseterre passage.