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10 March 2016

St Kitts and back to the British Virgins

March 3 2016 St Kitts

A mere 8 miles sail took us from Nevis to its sister island, St. Kitts. Like many siblings, the two have a colorful history but are now at peace with each other. We anchored in the southern peninsula at South Friars Bay, first with the tall ship Mandalay of Zanzibar, then in splendid isolation.

The town of Basseterre (originally in the French Quarter) is pleasant
Basseterre central square
but was somewhat overrun when we visited the next day by two immense and identical cruise ships from Costa and Carnival. So much for brand differentiation. We beat the crowds to a quiet breakfast at Ballahoo.

Bastion of Brimstone Hill Fortress

We decided to take the bus to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress. St Kitts was the first English colony in the Caribbean, and accordingly a major military strongpoint.

We had planned to walk up the 600 foot hill, but a friendly taxi driver took us up a few minutes from the bus stop. On the way down, a friendly Puerto Rican couple from said Carnival ship picked us up...well, exercise another time.

The site is very impressive, with an interesting museum on garrison life in the 17th and 18th century.

The historical museum in Basseterre gives a fascinating, if somewhat depressing, idea of the history and living conditions in St Kitts, both before and after the abolition of slavery.

The island reputedly has a plague of monkeys who eat all the mangoes - we did not see any until our last evening, before having dinner at the elegant Carambola restaurant in our anchorage. They are not really timid:

March 5 2016 en route to Virgin Gorda

Statia dock
With a cold front coming, we shortened our St Kitts visit and set forth to the North in the early afternoon for a 130 miles run to Virgin Gorda.
We passed in the lee of St Eustatia (Statia) at sundown, but the charm of it was a bit lost on us
Pirates of the Swiss Lakes
with dozens of tankers and tugs plying the anchorage. We had to dodge under sail a Swiss tanker, "Matterhorn" (!) who had quietly raised anchor behind another tanker. Once more, we let the the rule of tonnage apply over the rules of the road. 

We passed Saba island in the night, and gradually lost our wind approaching Virgin Gorda, finishing with a 50 mile motorsail. After 5 years we were back in the land of charters and super-yachts, in the Bitter End anchorage. 

A different vessel we met is the Hawaiian sailing canoe Hōkūle'a, on a 4-year nearly completed extended circumnavigation - open deck, steering oar, no cabin, not a screw or nail in her and of course no engine. 

A very brave crew of 10, including a Hawaiian master navigator who steers by the stars... the GPS is strictly for the blogging.

The wind is blowing hard after the cold front and we will resume our travels to the American and Spanish Virgins in a few days.

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