We held off our departure from St Martin until the day before haul out as the wind was due to go back to the East, and so it did. We had a wonderful sail to St Kitts, arriving way ahead of schedule after achieving an average of 7 knots. Once in the lee of the island we entered the wind shadow from the mountains and as we had made such good time we persevered with the ‘sails in, sails out’ routine with the sudden gusts and then nothing. The boat yard is only a couple of miles from the north west tip of the island, just below Sandy Point, so it took us an hour or so to tack and bob to our final destination. Checking out the very narrow entrance into the yard, we noticed a dinghy roaring out to greet us, it was Bruno ‘The Kite Surfer’ who we had first met in Bonaire and then again in Los Roques. He had arrived a couple of days before also for a haul out the same day as us. Such a small world. He and one other boat were in the ‘marina’ area which was now full – they were the only boats other than a small fishing boat, so you can image how small it is. Our only option was to moor up in the pit where the travel lift hoists the boats out, and Bruno came to assist with our lines. This really isn’t a suitable place to moor up for an overnight stay, several of the cleats were missing on the docks and those that were in place were on the far side of the dock which meant our lines had to go over the metal plate which keeps the travel lift wheels on the dock. It was so nice to see Bruno and Sue again, a short-lived reunion as Sue was flying back to Montreal the following day and Bruno was leaving their boat ashore for the hurricane season.
The wind picked up to 30 knots overnight, we were heeled over and crashing into the concrete pontoon with the strong surge of water wrapping its way into the entrance. We were up several times in the night checking and moving chafing ropes and fenders, and by morning we had a few fender covers missing where they had been ripped off. Now the wind was 35 knots and poor Joy was really taking a bashing, fenders straining against 37 ton and lifeline wires bending with the force on the fenders.
We had to move Joy out of the ‘pit’ onto a barge whilst Bruno and Sue’s boat was taken in and lifted.
This went without too much trouble but when it was time to move back we were pinned against the barge with incredibly strong wind, and it took half an hour to get back the few metres into the pit.
It was decided by all that we had to be lifted despite the conditions, as leaving us against the dock would soon cause considerable damage to us and them! So another hour of rope swapping, winching and nail biting and we had manoeuvred Joy into the slings of the travel lift. With us still on board, Joy was hoisted and the traffic was stopped along the road which runs between the dock and the boat yard, a surreal moment when Joy crossed the road!
There is a Customs office (well more of an air conditioned container actually) in the boat yard and so checking in was painless except for the need to catch a bus into Sandy Point village to the Police Station where they also act as Immigration Officers. A very helpful bus driver dropped us off close by with directions, and minutes later we had our papers and were on the bus back to the yard.
So here we are, on land. A bit of a climb to get onboard.
The boat yard is right at the base of Brimstone Fort Hill, and the mountain range behind that runs down the centre of the island. We are in beautiful countryside with lots of wildlife around us, plenty of insects and butterflies to keep the bird population happy. We have daily visits from a herd of goats and sheep, many with young, and all competing for food and water. Us softy Europeans have been leaving water out for them as they have broken the water pipe once trying to get a drink.
We even caught them drinking our washing up water complete with fairy liquid!
We have watched over the days as one ewe with triplets struggled to feed her lambs. Two of them looked as though they had dipped their tails in white paint, and number 1 on the right was clearly getting most of the milk. Number 3 went downhill quite quickly which was very sad to watch, and then last week the ewe turned up with just two.
We have seen monkeys too, but they only come very early morning and I am yet to get a picture of them!
Some boats have been in the yard so long that birds have taken up residence in many places, I spotted a Grey Kingbird sitting on her nest on the bow of a neighbouring boat.
So that’s the good points about the yard and the surroundings, now the bad. There are lots of mosquitos and the ants bite just as bad, we are bathing in insect repellent. The ants have attempted to get into the boat several times, a long trail marching up the drain holes and into the cockpit was stopped with some Raid so in defiance they decided to use the electricity cable instead. We have spiders on board for the first time ever, Jez found a rather large hairy one on the bow when he was working on the bow roller. I hope that spider doesn’t get too comfy.
One shower and one toilet serves around 30 staff and of course us. Actually, that’s not strictly true as there is this…(complete with bush fire smouldering in the background)!
But of course no-one uses this one except the goats when they are desperate for liquid refreshment.
The outdoor electrics are of course Caribbean style, this one power point serves half the boat yard..Qualiteeeeee!
Our work on Joy has gone to plan time-wise, we have had a few additional jobs as always and decided to blast the underneath of the keel back and Coppercoat it, as this could not be done properly in Southampton three years ago as the blocks were too low to the ground. Here we made sure they blocked her high enough for us to get under, the long keel is a couple of feet wide underneath and the old antifoul and paint was hanging off in places so it needed doing.
They have a great cheap bus system here, you never have to wait for more than a few minutes before a van turns up with tunes blaring. We catch the bus to Sandy Point just a couple of miles north where there are a couple of small supermarkets. Malcolm, the daytime security guard, told us ‘Me go Chinese supermarket, it be plenty cheaper’, he is a very hard man to understand. They have a strong accent here and I usually only manage to decipher a couple of words out of a sentence and then fill in the gaps myself, not always correctly. Sandy Point is a village which stretches along the coast with a long road running through it, we stood out like a sore thumb walking from the cashpoint to the Chinese Supermarket, en route we had a couple of people asking for money (one looked like he needed it, the other had designer trainers on and a bmx bike) and were blown away by the amount of litter absolutely everywhere, mainly takeaway cartons and plastic bottles. Sadly it looks like a very poor community, small houses line the street many looking derelict but clearly have people living in them, it’s quite a contrast from the south of the island. They have a different attitude to litter entirely, I watched Malcolm drink a bottle of coke and throw the empty bottle on the ground in the yard. Not far from a bin either!
With the ground being so dry, they have bush fires on a regular basis too. There have been two or three since we have been here, the last one was huge and burnt for two days, the strong winds re-igniting the smouldering ashes. We sat and watched it in the evening as the fire spread across the fields behind us, listening to the crackling and feeling the heat. At one point the wind changed sending it closer to the power lines behind the boat yard. Luckily it did not get any closer, instead continuing its journey north and beyond Brimstone Hill. They have no means to fight these fires, and they are left to eventually burn themselves out.
Last Saturday we took the bus into the capital, Basseterre, to get some shopping and go to the DIY store. It’s a 20 minute drive along the coast for just EC$3, that’s about 70p. There were many verges and fields along the way blackened by bush fires. Basseterre was buzzing, the streets were full of vendors selling fruit and veg and lots of local people were out shopping. It made us remember why we love this island so much, the people are friendly here and have a much warmer attitude towards visitors – I guess because of the cruise ship dock – and you can wander around feeling safe and relaxed, it has a wonderful atmosphere.