Thanks everyone! It was great to get your responses to my last post. I’d thought describing 17 days at sea might have been a bit boring. But it seems you were there with us all along! After spending a few days in Antigua and enjoying being back on dry land, it was time for the pod to start breaking up. We farewelled Maudie as he commenced the long trek back to Oz. Meanwhile the O’Donohue family took possession of their charter vessel and we all set off for the dual island nation of St Kitts and Nevis. The day we arrived at Basseterre Harbour the port was not accepting incoming yachts due to too much traffic from the (five!) cruise ships. With more than two million cruise line passengers sailing these waters annually the Caribbean is the world’s largest cruise ship destination. Because the BVIs & Dominica had their cruise ship docks destroyed during last year’s hurricanes the remaining islands are now inundated. There can be as many as 8,000-10,000 extra people in a town in one day! Whilst I recognise that tourism is the lifeblood of the local economy for many of these islands, it does actually change the character of the place you’re trying to visit and not necessarily for the better. When you go back one or two streets it’s very evident from the modest homes of the local people that there’s a vast difference between the locals and us visitors. They do need tourists. A real case of haves and have nots.
The Lonely Planet raises some interesting points about sustainable cruising. Apparently most cruise ships burn low grade bunker fuel and emit more carbon per passenger than aeroplanes (not including the flights to/from the ship). There are new cleaner fuel regulations being phased in, however smaller Caribbean nations are being pressured into not adopting these (I hope this is not the case!) Cruise ships also generate an enormous amount of sewerage, solid waste and grey water. Whilst some countries have regulations on sewerage treatment (in 2016 Princess Cruises was fined US$40 million for illegal sewerage dumping) there’s little regulation in the Caribbean. They suggest if you’re planning a cruise it’s worth doing some research about the cruise lines’ environmental policies, recycling initiatives and energy sources. Knowing that customers care about these things will eventually have an impact.
So they say “there’s an adventure in every bus ride”. This is definitely true in St. Kitts. If you’re looking for some local colour & flavour you’ll find it here. The mini-buses all have slogans and/or religious psalms plastered across their windows. There is no timetable. When they’re full they go. And they’re all driven by young men who think they’re Fangio! What better way to visit the local sites?
For many years the sugar produced by wealthy colonial masters fuelled the economy. You can catch a local bus up to one of the old sugar plantations (we loved the stunning gardens at Romney Manor) or circumnavigate the island. The massive Brimstone Hill Fortress is also worth a look. The British started constructing the bastions and fort in 1690 using slave labour and it was the site of a month-long siege in 1782, which ended in surrender to the French. The other grim reminder of the island’s heritage are the stone warehouses where slaves were once sold. They still stand on one side of what is now “Independence Square”. Dotted all around St Kitts & Nevis are roadside food stalls (shacks) where you can get anything from freshly cooked kingfish or lobster to fried chicken. Who needs Western fast food?
Our next stop was St Bart’s, playground of the rich and famous. It’s always interesting to take a look in the local real estate office window to get an idea of the lay of the land. Want to rent an apartment “from US$23,000 per week”? Not likely! Little old Loki is very much dwarfed by many of the vessels in these waters. We shared a bay one evening with “Limitless”. At 316 feet she’s one of the world’s largest privately-owned yachts built for the billionaire who owns Victoria’s Secret. Gawd, there must be an enormous amount of money to be made from bras & knickers! But the one that really blew us away was “Le Grand Bleu”, built for a US telco baron. Included amongst her range of onboard water toys is a 22 metre yacht sitting on the deck. OMG! Loki’s 15m long, yet this yacht looked “small” compared to the overall size of the mothership. It seems there are the “haves”, the “have nots” and the “have absolutely anything you could ever wish for”.
From there we headed up to the hurricane-ravaged island of St Martin after being advised that they were indeed ready for visitors. It’s incredibly sad seeing the devastation post Irma and Maria; damaged and sunken yachts still litter the lagoon, many are neatly packaged together, patiently awaiting removal. In some areas where once there were pleasant beachside eateries, there’s now just a heap of mangled buildings. However the people here are very resilient, many have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and some places are open for business again. But for others it’s now been five months with no home, no job and no income. And it’s less than four months to the start of the next hurricane season. I couldn’t live here. By accident of birth I’ve been fortunate enough to be born in a lucky country.
Since we’ve arrived in the Caribbean the weather has been unseasonably and incessantly windy. We’ve been under the influence of a high pressure system bringing what the locals call the “Christmas winds”, with blustery 20-30kt nor’ east to easterly winds, gusting quite a bit more at times. Usually they’re finished by the end of December, but not this winter. The forecast predicts lighter winds over the next few days, so we’re hoping for some pleasant sailing conditions to take us up to Anguilla tomorrow. Hope everything is going well at your end. Please drop us a line and tell us your news.
Ciao for now,