On Tuesday, January 20th, the anchor is up in Jolly Harbor for today’s 58-mile sail to Basse Terre, the capital of St. Kitts. In terms of weather, it is an unusually quiet period here in the Eastern Caribbean. Our wind generator is taking some well-deserved time off. A stalled frontal boundary in the Bahamas has shut down the Atlantic wind machine, reducing gradient wind to ten knots or less. The sea state is benign with waves in the 4 to 5 foot category. While this weather phenomenon is highly beneficial for eastbound boats, there is insufficient wind to push Cutter Loose downwind to St. Kitts. Today is a motor sail event… an excellent opportunity to keep the battery bank charged while running the power-hungry watermaker.
Our course to Basse Terre, on the west coast of St. Kitts, takes us through The Narrows, a reef-strewn cut between St. Kitts and her sister island of Nevis located a few miles to the south. The favored channel hugs the southern coast of St. Kitts where a large-scale resort and condo development is underway. Back into deeper water on the west coast of St. Kitts, the gigantic cruise boats docked five miles to the north, provide a visual clue of the character of Basse Terre.
By 4 PM, Cutter Loose is at anchor in the shadow of the cruise boats. Despite the relative absence of wind, there is a slight swell in the harbor which causes anchored boats to roll slightly from side to side. A small marina is located within the breakwater nearby, but we opt instead to remain at anchor in the harbor on Tuesday night because it provides insulation from the hustle and bustle of Port Zante, the cruise dock area.
Port Zante is a redevelopment project aimed at the cruise boat trade. In addition to the passenger terminal, there are three square blocks of intense retail…mostly jewelry stores and clothing shops. Local vendors are working the massive crowd of cruise boat passengers, selling everything from island tours, arts and crafts, a taxi ride to the beach and photo ops with tiny green monkeys wearing diapers. Every shop has a designated greeter on the sidewalk whose job is to entice the unwary visitor into the store with a free gift or a free drink. Inland from Port Zante is the traditional downtown area of Basse Terre where narrow streets are filled with traffic and historic French and English buildings are in various stages of deterioration.
Mercifully, the Customs, Immigration and Port Authority clearance process is straightforward. Since our stay is brief, it is possible to obtain both inbound and outbound coast-wise clearance in one easy step. This provides an opportunity to explore more pleasant anchorages in St. Kitts without the need to return to Basse Terre to clear out.
After a half day of Customs formalities and exploration of Basse Terre on foot, the anchor is up in the harbor on Wednesday afternoon. Our destination is White House Bay, a quiet, attractive anchorage about four miles south of Basse Terre that offers unobstructed sunset views. Here there is no swell, no noise, no salesmen and no crowds. At night, the sky is ablaze with stars and constellations.
The anchorage is not totally void of commercial amenities. There is a small beach bar with a dinghy dock nearby. It is called Salt Plage…an adaptive reuse of a former salt reclamation facility that once operated on this site. This serves as our portal for a hike through the development called Christophe Harbor that is currently under construction.
From 4 PM to 10 PM, Salt Plage becomes a hip gathering place for tourists and locals alike. Given the pricey menu, the objective of spending our remaining Eastern Caribbean (EC) cash is easily fulfilled at this establishment. EC currency is not honored by banks other than those located on the former English islands in the Windward and Leeward chain.
For the crew of Cutter Loose, St. Kitts serves primarily as a logistical stopover rather than a cruising destination. A layover in St. Kitts reduces the distance of our forthcoming overnight sail to St. Croix. Our stay here signals our final stop in the Leeward Islands and our gateway to the Virgin Islands. Stopping here provided an opportunity to rest, relax and check weather before departing. As such, St. Kitts has fulfilled its purpose.
Under normal circumstances in the Eastern Caribbean, watching for a weather window means waiting for calmer wind and seas. In this unusual instance, however, our departure from St. Kitts for St. Croix has been delayed due to the relative absence of wind. The prospect of windless conditions listening to our diesel engine for 20 hours is unappealing. On Friday and Saturday, the wind is expected to peak in the 15 to 20 knot range before settling back down to 10 knots on Sunday. Hopefully, the Friday/Saturday time frame will provide sufficient breeze to sail Cutter Loose on a broad reach all the way to St. Croix.