Return to St Kitts

Darrell Jackson and Sarah Barnes
Tue 11 Mar 2014 12:50
17:14.98N 62:39.61W

Making an early start on Friday, as we left Gustavia for St Kitts, was not difficult as we had had such an uncomfortable night. The swell had been working its way into the harbour all day and was in fine form all night. The seas as we left St Barths were uncomfortable, big and confused, that is to say there was no pattern or rhythm to the waves. We were on a beam reach, with the wind top end of a force four/five, so we had a reef in the main but to start we had the genoa fully out, although we put in a reef as we went through the straights between Eustatia and St Kitts. However, then the wind dropped and for a short time we went nowhere, so engine on and a burst of motor sailing, typically after about five minutes the wind picked up again, but had veered to more south easterly. This meant a close haul all the way down the west coast of St Kitts to Basseterre. We averaged well over 6 knots the whole 50 nm of the journey and managed to get to Basseterre well in time for customs.
The swell was still large and the wind gusting, which made launching the dinghy off the foredeck "interesting". However, putting the outboard on proved very tricky in the swell. Only Sarah's quick thinking prevented it having a dunking and she ended up having to cradle it in her arms in the dinghy until Darrell could get in to help re-position it as the dinghy bounced up and down: more bruises! But Darrell was able to make customs in Port Zante in good time.
Customs was straight forward and quick as most of the information was on the computer. However, they were concerned that we seem to have lost a crew member since last time when we were here (Christmas with Adam) but Darrell was able to explain his absence. Dues paid; two lots of 30 EC$. There was no way Sarah was prepared to stay anchored off Basseterre after our last visit, especially as it was ridiculously rolley with the swell. However, this time she managed to up anchor with no problems and we motored across to White House Bay. A bay with the ruins of a house that could have possibly been white once, but was most importantly not affected by the swell. We anchored and had a nice peaceful evening, the first for a few days, but still Sarah found sleeping difficult as she waited for the waves, the wind or the rain to hit, none of which came until the early morning when it poured.

8th March
Saturday started cloudy and overcast, with the threat of rain. So we decided to stay put and have a lazy day. Darrell did some work on the boat, while Sarah polished the stainless steel. Yachts in the bay came and departed and there were now three British boats flying their ensigns with pride: two blue and one red, a nice change after seeing all the French and Canadian ensigns over the last few weeks. As we worked on the boat we noticed our neighbours paddling their dinghy back from the next bay, so Darrell was going to go and offer a tow. But, as he was getting into the dinghy oars in hand, one separated into two parts, the bottom half plopping into the water and sinking. By the time he had dived down the 8 and 1/2 metres to get it (well it was the end with the paddle on!) they had got back to their boat and were inspecting the damage to their outboard.
By lunchtime the sun had returned and we decided to explore the development of the new marina, Christophe Harbour within the salt ponds behind the beach. When finished this will be one of the largest private navigable harbours in the Easter Caribbean. We dinghied around to Ballast Bay and went in through the new buoyed channel marking where the break through into Little Salt Pond. The development is underway. They are dredging to join the two salt ponds together to make a huge inland water. Some pontoons have been put in and a lot of work is still needed and we have a feeling it will not be open this year!
On the journey back to the boat we decided to snorkel, this involved securing the dinghy to a rock and using a stern anchor to keep it in position while we swam. Sarah has been studiously practising getting into the dinghy and developing her upper body strength, but this time she was able to use under water rocks to climb into the dinghy in a more dignified manner. The snorkelling amongst the rocks was good. We saw a good variety of fish, the highlight for Darrell being a big (at least a metre across) black spotted ray. After checking in the books this was identified as a spotted eagle ray. A beautiful graceful ray with a long whip like tail, dark coloured with round white spots. The tail spines can be over 15cm long and can cause serious wounds and they can grow up to nearly three metres across.

Sunday 9th March
After another quiet night, we watched the comings and goings in the bay before deciding to have a snorkel on the other side of the bay from the boat. As we swam across the bay there were loads of starfish, cushion starfish and sea cucumbers on the bottom. They were in a variety of colours and of good sizes. A beige ray was being harried by a fish. On the sandy bottom there were blennies. In the rocks there was a huge variety of fish; damsel fish, squirrel fish, Angel fish, sergeant majors, blue tang and for the first time rock beauties, who have an intense yellow head and undercarriage with a black body.
However, the highlight of the swim was back under the boat. Lurking, a large battle scarred barracuda with very big teeth at least a metre in length. Both of us swam fairly close but it's menacing smile as it watched us meant we got a good view of its teeth, encouraging Sarah to get out of the water fairly quickly. However, Darrell had a job that he needed to cross off his ever increasing list: scrapping the barnacles off the bottom of the boat, so he went back into the water armed with scraper (plastic spatula from the galley!). This went well until he got to the keel, where the Barracuda was still loitering and barred his teeth with a sideways glance as Darrell scraped nearby. Getting the message, Darrell returned to the cockpit for lunch, leaving that part of the hull for a more suitable moment.
After lunch we up anchored for a sail round to Cockleshell Bay, with Sarah on the helm. Genoa out for the reach down to Horse Shoe Point, we motored sailed the short journey in less than an hour. Cockleshell bay is lovely, apart from the jet skis which zoom about with no care or consideration of others. This can make manoeuvring tricky, especially when anchoring and trying to land the anchor in one of the small patches of sand. Once securely anchored we both swam over to check it, not hard in a few of metres of water, but not a good place to swim far from the boat due to the jet skis. Darrell completed the hull scraping as we seemed to have shaken off our sheltering barracuda. Once showered and changed we went ashore for drinks, wifi and supper at Reggae Beach Bar. I think the staff had had a long hard day as they weren't the most welcoming and were cashing up as they served us. So we were soon back on the boat in the cockpit having a drink, watching the various ferries and tour boats zipping in and out of the bay dropping people off.