On Monday 9th April we filled our water and fuel tanks at Antigua Slipways, then sailed to Guadeloupe, where we had arranged to meet a sailing friend from home, SN. It was dark by the time we anchored at Deshais, and with phone troubles we were on the point of setting off in the dinghy to look for SN ashore, when he appeared having hitched a ride in another sailor’s dinghy. Soon after this our anchor dragged, and we had to set it again.
The crowded anchorage at Deshaies
Next morning we went ashore and found a customs terminal (in a souvenir shop), and officially added SN to the crew of Ambition II. We planned to cruise together for the rest of April, then sail back to the UK via the Azores. We celebrated with lunch at a shoreside restaurant in the pleasant little town.
That night, the wind was coming in big gusts through the anchorage. At two in the morning R looked out to see a dinghy going slowly backwards between us and a neighbouring boat, followed by a large catamaran! The neighbours were also awake, and we all shouted to alert the catamaran crew. They started to motor forward and re-anchor, but to make matters worse their dinghy rope caught in one of their propellers. The cat fell away towards us and collided with our bowsprit – no damage to Ambition II but a nasty hole in the catamaran. SN used our largest fender to let them bounce off our side without further damage. By this time the neighbour had hopped into his dinghy and was aboard the cat, and helped them to anchor, not far behind us. Unable to sleep J stood anchor watch until dawn! The catamaran swung a little on its anchor but stayed a consistent distance behind us.
On Wednesday afternoon, the wind abated enough for us to go ashore for supplies, and at 10:30 that evening we set off for an overnight sail to our next island destination, Nevis. First though, we were to discover that the anchor of the catamaran behind us was in fact hooked around our own anchor chain! We had difficulty waking them again, despite shouting and hooting loudly, but eventually their captain appeared, so we could unhook their anchor and leave.
Catamaran with anchor hooked round our chain
It was a rolling, uncomfortable sail through the night, with a quartering wind and a good deal of swell from the previous day’s winds. But in the early hours the sea moderated and we made good progress. As planned, we were passing to the West of Monserrat as dawn broke behind the volcano, highlighting the plume of steam and ash. Much of the island is still out of bounds since the last eruption buried the main town, and the magma chamber below continues to grow at the rate of a cubic metre every 7 seconds! Although a few miles offshore, we could smell the sulphur in the air.
Passing north Monserrat at dawn
Discharge from the volcano, south Montserrat
A few miles to the north, we passed the high island of Redonda. Usually uninhabited, this rock has a strange history of absentee kings.
The Kingdom of Redonda
We arrived off the port of Charlestown on the island of Nevis in the afternoon, and went ashore to check in. Charlestown has several attractive old buildings which have a hurricane resistant stone lower floor and ornate upper floors. We were charged a shocking amount for the limited facilities available, and were unable to draw cash from the antiquated ATM at the local bank. However, we did find a mooring off the very nice beach and went ashore in the nesting dinghy for a rum punch.
On Friday (the 13th) it was time to repair the inflatable dinghy, whose transom was falling apart. Most of the attachments had fallen off after the glue failed in the Caribbean sun. Luckily, we carry a selection of two-pack glues for PVC and rubber, and the repair was successful.
Oops – time to repair the dinghy
In the afternoon we walked inland from the beach, and found a trail leading through one of the old plantations, the long-since overgrown Pinney estate. Some attempts have been made to open the ruined buildings to the public, and we later learned that this was a notorious place in the history of slavery.
SN and Baobab tree
Remains of bakehouse at Pinney estate house
Back at the Sunshine Bar on the beach, we indulged in a good meal as the sun set in its usual glorious way over the western sea.
SN with R on the beach at Nevis, St Kitts in the background
J & R on the beach at Nevis
Sailing north, we crossed the narrow strait between Nevis and St Kitts, and headed for Whitehouse Bay, surely the nicest anchorage in that island. We anchored off the Salt Beach Bar and landed the dinghy at their jetty. Ashore is a large natural salt pond, which along with the surrounding rolling hillsides is under development as a marina village (Christophe Harbour). Only billionaires could consider taking a berth in the marina, most of which are sold freehold for 7-figure sums, with the annual charges alone into 5 figures. At the east side, the salt pond comes near to the windward side of the island where waves come into a deep sandy cove – unfortunately bringing in heaps of the Sargasso weed to rot on the beach.
Superyacht berths in Christophe harbour
The Salt Beach Bar in Whitehouse Bay
On Sunday evening a very good Latin-American band played at the beach bar, where we dined well. Yet again the sunset lit up the anchorage and surrounding hills, and as darkness fell the lights of St Kitts spread in a long curve around the bay.
Whitehouse Bay anchorage
On Monday morning we motored along the coast to Basseterre where we had to check out from St Kitts. There was a lot of swell in the anchorage outside the harbour, so SN stayed on anchor watch while J&R rowed ashore. Customs and Immigration processes were as inefficient and annoying as ever, another frustrating two hours. But eventually we got away and set sail northward for the Dutch islands…
Rowing in to check out of St Kitts