April 18, 2020

St Kitts and Nevis: Two islands, one country

On March 3, after several days exploring Montserrat, we weighed anchor for sister islands St Kitts and Nevis.

We wished we could have stayed longer in Montserrat, but a northerly swell had arrived creating washing-machine-like conditions in the anchorage. With no better anchorage option available in Montserrat, we aimed to sail 33 nm north towards Nevis.

A dolphin off Borealis’ bow leads the way to Nevis
Nevis on the horizon
Winds were 8-15 knots from the ESE and we has 3-5 ft seas; we did our best to sail on a broad reach, but the air was light and too downwind to make good speed, and we'd hoped to check into customs before the end of the day. So we turned on the engine and motorsailed the rest of the way.


Nevis is a small 36 square-mile island with a population of 12,000 and was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. St Kitts and Nevis are independent, twin-island states within the British Commonwealth.

Charlestown, Nevis

As we sailed into port, we were able to grab one of the moorings available in the harbor off Nevis' capital city, Charlestown, which is also the island's only town.

Charlestown is a small picturesque settlement with many historic stone and wood buildings and numerous shops and restaurants to entertain visitors.

We read no trip to Nevis is complete without having a `killer bee' rum punch at the colorful Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill, so we met up with sailing friends Jessica and Brent on SV Sea duction for drinks and an excellent grilled fish and chicken dinner.

Hot springs, container restaurants and more

The following day we set off on a fun day exploring Charlestown. Our first stop was a soak in the natural hot springs. The pools are small and shallow, but the water was very hot.

While visiting the bath house springs you can also walk the ruins of the formerly grand 18th-century Bath Hotel and spa.

For lunch we found the Container Kitchens food court, with some affordable and tasty options from a few small local restaurants.

It's common for cruisers to rate ports by the quality of their anchorages, dinghy docks, marine chandlers, and supermarkets — and Nevis would get an 10/10 rating on its food shopping! We visited a very well stocked Rams Super Market and got far too excited about finding some of those hard-to-find American grocery items.

The next day we headed back to the grocery store to stock up and a friendly local saw us packing our tote bags for the walk home and offered a ride back to the dock. We've been offered rides on so many islands, and it's always been greatly appreciated!

Sara excited to find a can of Rotel tomatoes

The Source

The next morning, March 5, we hopped on a bus towards Nevis Peak to hike a really unique trail called The Source.

The Source is the island's fresh spring water supply, which emerges from the ground at the end of the trail. The iron pipeline was constructed by the British in the 1600's to bring fresh water from the mountains to the settlements below, and it's still used today.

We were dropped off at the foot of the lovely Golden Rock Inn. Armed with a hand-drawn map and a walking stick from the kindly hotel receptionist, we set off to locate the source.

The trail follows the pipe for more than 3 miles. The trail is narrow, often muddy from a few small leaks along the pipe, and there are several sets of slippery moss-covered stairs and steep drops along the ridge.

To get to the top required climbing an extremely rickety 120-foot rusted iron ladder, but we put aside our thoughts of doom and a high health-insurance deductible and made it up to the source.

After a rest and a picnic lunch we made our way back down the trail. We were lucky enough to spot a large barrel of small green vervet monkeys, which drastically outnumber humans on the island and cause great misery for eating flowers, crops and gardens across the island.

The water filtration and holding tank at the base of the mountain
While waiting for the bus at the base of the resort, a hotel employee heading into town for an errand stopped and offered us a free ride back to Charleston! We ❤️Nevis!

St. Christopher, aka St. Kitts

The following day, March 7, we dropped our mooring lines and sailed 10 nm north in 10-15 knot winds towards Basseterre, St Kitts, the capital city of the two islands. Despite lighter winds there was fetch from a southeastern wind blowing into the anchorage and the few anchored boats were rocking from steep 2-3 foot waves rolling in to the bay.

With the desire to have a good night's sleep, we turned the boat back around and headed a few miles south to White House Bay, a small and better protected anchorage.

White House Bay

Ashore is the Salt Plage Beach Bar, which offers great dinner and drinks on its big lounging deck, and where we enjoyed a spectacular sunset and a few frozen cocktails one evening.

A small private road behind the Salt Plage takes you to Christoph Harbour, a new megayacht development with a few small boutiques and restaurants.

White House Bay has several reefs and a small wreck to dive as well as a short trail to a ridge overlooking the bay, and we enjoyed a few quiet days there snorkeling, swimming, hiking and relaxing.

Basseterre, St Kitts

On March 10, we decided to once again try anchoring in Basseterre to further explore St Kitts.

Our cruising guide noted that the anchorage is commonly "rolly and choppy enough to make you feel at sea" and "people do anchor here in these conditions for the convenience of being close to town"...which is exactly what we did after giving up hope that we'd ever find calm conditions in the bay.

Basseterre is a lovely old town built along the waterfront. The city is the main port of entry for the two islands and is a popular stop for cruise ships.

There were four ships at the dock the day we arrived, including the Symphony of the Sea, the largest cruise ship in the world with a capacity of more than 6,500 passengers.

Port Zante marina and cruise ship dock

At the heart of Basseterre is Port Zante marina and cruise ship dock, which extends for blocks and is a bustling outdoor shopping mall of restaurants and souvenir shops, and was swarming with cruise ship passengers from the four boats.

Thankfully the charm and old architecture of St Kitts can be found in the main part of Basseterre with more local restaurants, shops and parks, which we enjoyed exploring for an afternoon.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

As expected, we pitched and rolled in the swell in the anchorage all night, but we were committed to seeing more of St Kitts, so the following morning, we hopped on a local bus to Brimstone Hill.

Brimstone Hill Fortress is on the northwest coast of the island and was built by the British in the 1700s. It is the largest historic fortress in the West Indies islands and is the only man-made UNESCO World Heritage sight.

We arrived before the national park officially opened and enjoyed the stunning views and a quiet walk around the grounds by ourselves before other visitors started to arrive. After the fort opened, we explored the small museum that shares the history of the fort, battles and its soldiers' lives. A funny bit of history is that the fort twice suffered unprovoked attacks from lightening strikes that blew up the powder room and did considerably more damage than any foreign enemy.

We've visited dozens of forts and military ruins while cruising the Caribbean, but Brimstone definitely stands out for its commanding views and sprawling, well manicured green spaces.

An exciting ride 

After leaving the fort, we quickly found a bus back to town. Like nearly every other Caribbean island, the bus system is licensed but operated by independent drivers in their own small vans who don't run according to any set schedule (or even route) but do drive fast and erratically.  

During the ride, we narrowly avoided having a high-speed collision thanks to Nick's quick reactionary shout and just missed a car turning in front of the bus when the driver wasn't looking. Riding in buses wasn’t the danger we imagined when we sailed off to the Caribbean!

After a little too much excitement on our ride, and a poor night of rest in the anchorage, we decided to head to customs and immigration to clear out of the country.

In what may have been the most awkward check out ever, we visited customs and were told we needed to return with a piece of paperwork from immigration. When we arrived back to the customs office, we found the door locked, so we thought we'd stop at the restrooms and then head to the market for a quick provision. Of course, in the restroom is where Sara ran into the female customs officer who took our paperwork and completed our checkout right in front of the sinks.

Another Backtrack 

After doing a bit of shopping, we returned to Borealis and were disappointed to see that the swell hadn't diminished at all during the day. With no desire to spend another evening rolling around on the boat, we weighed anchor and motored a few miles south to Frigate Bay for better protection from the swell — even though it was the opposite direction than we planned to head the next day!

St Barts Bound

Early on March 12, after a relaxing evening and a good night's rest, we aimed Borealis north towards the island of the rich and famous, St Barts!

1 comment:

  1. We spent a week in Nevis about 18 years ago. Looks like it's substantially more cleaned up than it was then. The Four Seasons was there (we couldn't afford it) but we did go to Sunshine's and got fabulously drunk on rum punch! The hangover was very memorable!! We loved it. Now would love to take our kids back to see Hamilton's birth place. Love following your adventures!