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Missing Tracks from St Martin

As best I can I have reconstructed the tracks from last year. The trip from the BVIs and the first few weeks in St Martin was in my old GPS so they’re accurate. The trip to St Kitts, Nevis & St Barts is all made up from old records and memories as is the first half of the trip to Antigua.

View 2008 St Martin in a larger map

I have also updated the route page on the main site showing all the tracks to date as we have sailed down the Caribbean.  This leaves the forward planning section on that page a little out of date.  Right now our plans are to transit the Panama Canal some time Q2 2010 and head out into the Pacific from there.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting a little more meat into this plan and publishing the result.

St Kitts & Nevis

(Monday morning)

The trip from St Martin to St Kitts was very enjoyable. The weather was clear and the clouds that we had were pretty high. That meant we had good views all the way of the islands around us : St Martin, St Barts, Saba, Statia, St Kitts & Nevis. The curvature of the earth was quite apparent as our destination rose to greet us throughout the day while the islands we left behind sank over the horizon.

Initially it was slow going leaving St Martin as the winds were under 10 knots. Once we rounded the NW tip of St Martin we unfurled the Code Zero and were able to bring our boat speed up. As before we were getting around half the wind speed. This time we were running as close to the wind as we could which set us on a course to go west of Statia. Occasionally the wind shifted enough to put us on a course east of Statia but never for long enough. The wind gradually picked up so we eventually put the Code Zero away and went back to our regular head sail. Now we could go closer still to the wind and it was straightforward to aim for the passage between Statia and St Kitts.

We expected the wind to die off soon after making the gap between the islands but instead it curled around and allowed us to sail almost all the way to Basse Terre. We did turn on the genset and motor for the last 45 mins or so as we wanted a couple of clear hours of daylight to handle customs and immigration.

The guidebook suggested we should go to the deep water dock so that’s where we headed. I took the ships papers and went off to search for the office. My first attempt to go ashore led me to receive some advice to tie up around the corner next to a green boat. The green boat turn out to be tied to a decrepit pier of rusted girders. Doing as I was told I had to climb a level of rusted metal and balance across a girder to reach shore. I eventually found the customs building which was open but deserted. After yelling for attention I figured I was out of luck so I left the building only to run into the customs guy.

He wanted me to dinghy over to the marina over a mile away. I asked if we could take the boat over and he was reluctant to take the time so he ended up agreeing to check me in there and then. He wasn’t able to handle immigration but he said we could do that the next day at the port/marina and that we were not constrained to the boat having cleared customs.

We had just enough light to get back to the vicinity of the marina and anchor outside for the night. It was here that I found an open albeit intermittent internet connection which I used to upload the pics of our trip.

The next morning (Sunday) Helen and I went ashore to handle immigration. A cruise ship was just in and we were told immigration were busy and we should come back in 30 mins. We checked out what was available to do and decided the best idea would be to hire a taxi for a round the island tour. We went back to the boat to collect my parents. As it was quite choppy by the boat we used this as an opportunity to bring the boat a little nearer to the marina where we had some protection from the sea.

Ashore we had no further luck with immigration (two further attempts) so we decided to take the taxi tour. The taxi driver we found was called Cecile but liked to be called Cap’. He gave us a good tour of the island and filled us in with the history as we went. Along the way we stopped off to visit some gardens with a Batki (painted cloth) demonstration, Fort George and a lava outcrop. The only downside was that we were following the same route as a bunch of folks from the cruise ship so it felt as though we were more part of the crowd than a private group of four.

Back in Basse-Terre we discovered that all the restaurants bar one were shut. Our original intention was to eat ashore but the one option wasn’t much choice so we decided to save our dinner ticket for Nevis.
One final attempt to handle immigration again failed but I did run into the same customs chap as the previous day. He was able to provide us the 24 hour pass that lets us get to Nevis without having to formally check out and check back in. He made me promise to handle immigration in Nevis.

We left Basse-Terre and headed for a bay called Ballast Bay further south in St Kitts. The winds were now in the low 20s so with one reef in we flew. We had a quiet evening anchor off the bay. The winds didn’t abate over night causing both Helen and I feel the need to go check the anchor and bridle to make sure all was ok. It was.

This morning we’re heading off to Nevis where we’ll stay for 2-3 nights before heading off to St Barts. We’ve had a little rain so the boat has had a good wash. It had been getting a little crusty so this has saved us a chore.

(Tuesday morning)

The weather yesterday was blustery, overcast and frequently wet. Before leaving we saw that the windspeed at our mast head was 25 knots so we decided to be cautious and put two reefs into each sail before heading off the Nevis. Initially the going was very slow as the wind shadow from the southern end of St Kitts kept us down around 2.5 knots. However, once out of the shadow we were back over 7 knots without any obvious strain on the sails.

We anchored outside of Charlestown (which I wasn’t supposed to do – all moorings now) and I went ashore to do the paperwork. Customs, immigration & port authorities were all in separate buildings each of which had to be found and attended to. I had to prepay for mooring at the port authority for the number of days we intended to stay so I decided on three nights in total.

Later in the morning we all went ashore to look around town. Charlestown is quaint and tiny so this shore excursion didn’t last long and soon we were back aboard Dignity.

We decided to head up the coast just a little and moor off “Sunshine’s” an advertised beach bar/restaurant. All afternoon things looked dead and we wondered if Sunshine’s would open. We’re here preseason so it’s possible things aren’t open yet. As light fell we saw lights. I took the dinghy ashore to check things out and found the place open. So we all headed out and experienced the fun of a beach landing in the dark with my parents. We had cocktails and food which was very tasty albeit budget breaking. Returning to Dignity was again a challenge as getting a dinghy past the surf line (even if tiny) requires some effort and timing.

This morning the weather is perfect. We’re not yet sure of what to do but today will be a day for relaxing. We tried moving the boat closer to an internet connection but this didn’t yield any success. Next we’re thinking of moving the boat up the coast about 3 miles to Tamarind Bay is it looks nice from the guide.


Tamarind Bay was very bouncy so we came back. Found an open wireless connection and using this managed to access weather. Looks like tomorrow is a better day for passage to St Barts rather than Thursday so we’ll leave a day early. Will pop into customs soon and check out. Helen and I plan for a walk along the beach. Weather has turned a little flaky so not too sure about this. We’ll see.

Made it to St Kitts

Trip time was 11 hours. Winds a little lighter than predicted and had clocked around close to the East. We had the code zero up for about a third of the way. Regen topped up house batteries and filled our water tanks. Checking into customs involved balance walking across rusted girders over water. But we’re here. Views along the way were spectacular. Here are a few pics.