Monday, January 18, 2016

Nevis and an Overnight Passage

We simply love the island of Nevis.  It is one of two islands that together make up the Nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.  They couldn’t be more different.  St. Kitts is populated and the main town is bustling.  They have invested in the infrastructure to accommodate cruise ships, and the get a lot of big ones.  Our experience is that the islands that are infested with cruise ships just aren’t very pleasant for cruisers.  The interactions between visitors and local people become strictly a matter of moving money from one person’s pocket into another’s.

Nevis, on the other hand, is small, rural and peaceful.  They get a few very small cruise ships, but they haven’t affected the atmosphere much (except for raising taxi prices).  There is a big Four Seasons resort with a big and expensive golf course (we’ve never played it).  In addition, several old plantation houses have been turned into high-end hotels.  These are just lovely—we make a point of visiting a different one for lunch each visit.

The beaches on Nevis are outstanding.  We often take advantage.
The only downside to Nevis is the infrastructure for landing your dinghy.  They have a large and very busy ferry dock, since the main way to get to Nevis is a ferry from St. Kitts.  Next to this is another dock mainly dedicated to fishermen.  In between these is the space for dinghies.

There are two big problems with this arrangement.  First, the space for dinghies is sometimes usurped altogether by boats landing passengers from the occasional cruise ship, or by fishermen landing their catch.  Second, and even a bigger deal, is the surge.  This space is situated so that large waves come crashing inside, and ricochet back after hitting the shore.  It could be swell from the far ocean, or it could be wake from a ferry or other boat.  In either case, it sends your dinghy smashing and bashing into the dock, into other dinghies, into other boats.  We have seen a person’s dinghy completely destroyed as it was forced under the dock by the surge and then caught on a rising tide.

We cope by using a stern anchor with a long rode, and by simply avoiding the dock when things are particularly bad.  We have sometimes had to land on the beach and take a long walk to town, though this year that wasn’t necessary.

A friend we met on Bonaire, Margie Benziger, found out we were on Nevis and got very excited.  She had spent time there, and worked on public relations for the island.  A good friend of hers is still on Nevis (most of the year), working for The Hermitage, one of the plantation hotels.  Helen Kidd is a Scot, extremely friendly, and also excited that we had come and introduced ourselves.

The Hermitage is a lovely place.  It still has the original plantation house, built in 1670.  This is constructed of wood and is one of the oldest wooden structures in the Caribbean.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped and all of the buildings are in the traditional Caribbean style.  We had a very pleasant lunch there, and spent some time exploring the grounds.

One of our favorite activities on Nevis is hiking.  In the past we have taken a couple of hikes with a guide.  Nevis is shaped more or less like a sombrero – A tall peak in the center surrounded by a large flat area around it.  This time we decided we would try hiking to the top of Mt. Nevis.  That’s 3200 feet above sea level.

We inquired at the tourist office and they hooked us up with a guide.  We didn’t realize it at first, but they had called Reggie Douglas, who took us for a mountain bike expedition a couple of years ago.  It was great to see him again.  He runs Nevis Adventure Tours and Green Edge Bike Shop (greenedge2011@hotmailcom)

The “hike” to the summit is better described as a “climb.”  It is entirely natural, no steps or guard rails.  It is steep, it is muddy, and it is slippery!  The only aids to climbing, besides lots of roots and branches, are many ropes that have been installed by the handful of guides who lead people up.  Think steep like climbing a ladder.  A muddy, slippery ladder.

Reggie was great.  He has gotten many, many people (even beginners) up to the top and back down again.  It seemed he had a pre-thought-out plan for nearly every step of the way, and he was with us and coaching us all the way up and all the way down.  The round trip took about four and a half hours.  We were tired when we reached the bottom, but it was a fantastic experience.  The scenery is breathtaking, even though our view at the summit was blocked by a dense cloud.

 A final cool thing about our visit is that we saw the Green Flash three times!
After several excellent days on Nevis, it was time to continue our journey down the Caribbean chain.  Our next stop was to be Guadeloupe.

This is a passage of more than 70 nautical miles.  At 6 knots, that’s a long day.  In the past, we have tackled this by leaving well before dawn, sailing hard on a single tack, and arriving just before dark.  That left us competing with other boats for the limited anchorage space.

We didn’t like leaving in the dead-dark morning hours.  There are fish trap buoys everywhere and even some fishing boats anchored without lights.  Its nerve wracking until you get several miles from Nevis.
This year, we had another problem.  The weather forecast was for light winds from an unfavorable direction, which means tacking.  I guessed we might sail as far as 100 miles to reach Guadeloupe.

So we decided to do another overnight passage.  Funny how something that seemed so scary a couple of years ago now seems pretty normal.  We left just before 4 pm, figuring on a 15-16 hour passage given the forecast.  As it so often happens, the forecast was wrong.  We had quite strong winds, and from a relatively favorable direction.  Oh no!  What would we do if we arrived at 3 in the morning?

Well, not to worry.  As we passed the island of Montserrat (with its active volcano and intense sulfur smells), the weather returned to the forecast.  We had light winds, ended up having to tack, and arrived just at sunup.  A passage of 85 miles in 15 hours.  We finished a second time very tired, but happy to have made the journey.

1 comment:

missbee said...

Hi Gretchen and David,
It's so interesting to read your descriptions of the islands and your passages. I remember we always left late afternoon to get from Naples to Key West and often we'd see amazing thngs like phosphorescense, lightning storms, sunsets during the night.

as always, fair winds, flat seas