Monday, January 26, 2009

On to Statia

[Kyle]For our next leg, we got up at a reasonable hour (not dark) for the 30 mile trip along the west coast of St Kitts and on to Statia just beyond. Never heard of Statia? Its full name is Saint Eustatius, but everyone calls it Statia; beween St Kitts and St Barts, it was once the busiest port in the Caribbean, but is now a sleepy island with a population of 3100 (that seems to be growing), and famed for (geologically speaking) the world’s most perfect volcanic crater.

We had been interested in Statia because it was reputed to be “off the beaten path” - no cruise ships, no ferries, just a small aircraft shuttle between the local islands. It is steeped in shipping history, and was the first nation to return the salute of an American Naval ship in 1776 (never mind it was an accident, the governor had thought he was saluting a merchant vessel).

Our sail to Statia had been uneventful - nothing much to speak about (which generally is good news). It was a fast downwind sail along the St Kitts’ coast with a few gusts off the mountains of Nevis, but for the most part, a fast and steady sail.

Visibility was about 20 miles, so rather than receding over the horizon to our stern, Nevis gradually lost contrast in the haze until it vanished altogether. The opposite was true of the slowly approaching Statia which took on more detail and color as we neared.

First Views of Statia and its volcano the Quill

The Quill, the Statia volcano (long since extinct), was impressive, rising steeply out of the water to the rim of its crater on the East side of the island.

We sailed around the South side of the island, passed the White Wall (a huge slab of limestone on the south side of the volcano) and on to the "harbour" at Oranje Baai. The harbour is really less of harbour than just a spot on the leeward side of the Island next to the city Oranjestad. There is very little protection from the swell. Several of our guides report it to be the most rolly anchorage in the Caribbean (and this is certainly what we experienced). The other thing that made the anchorage notable is that further North on the island were several oil tankers. Statia has long made its living acting as a middle man between countries otherwise not talking to each other. Today it achieves this with a huge oil storage terminal.

We picked up a mooring ball (as required by the local park service) and since we were too late to check in I took a quick swim to check on the mooring (very sturdy) and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening on Footprint, where we enjoyed dinner with a bottle of "Faraway Bay" wine given to us in the States before we left, by our sailing friend Ron - thanks Ron!

No comments: