One recurring weather feature you’ll discover about Caribbean sailing is the way each of the islands reaches up to grab moisture from the sky to create a cloud formation that often mirrors the shape and texture of the land itself. Look off to the left to see how the cloud almost perfectly mirrors the shape of St Barts with its high volcanic peak at one end tapering off the hills and plains below. Eventually the clouds may break loose and drift off to sea, but it’s not unusual to watch rain pouring down on the island while just a mile or two out to sea we’ll be sailing along under clear blue sky. Sometimes these clouds with their cool air will drop right down to the water at the coast forming a coastal front, a weather effect very well described in VanZandt’s “Thornless Guide to Passages South”. We ran into this weather feature on more than one occasion.
As we approach St. Kitts (St. Christopher’s) in this photo you see a fairly strong rainstorm blasting the leeward side of the island. As we sailed further south along the shore, the cold air and cloud formation dropped right down to the water almost totally obscuring the island for a short while. Then the cloud drifted out to sea engulfing Ocean Angel and washing away the grit and salt we’d accumulated over the last few weeks – a most welcome, free, cleansing shower!
We’d hoped for some stunning photos along this coast as the island is gorgeous, but the clouds dimmed our vision and made for less than perfect photo ops. That means we’ll have to try again!
As we neared Port Zante, St. Kitts one and only harbor, we passed under Brimstone Hill, a volcanic outcropping on which stands the Brimstone Hill Fortress. We’ll visit the fortress later and tell you a great deal more about this amazing place.
When we were close to the harbor I called the dockmaster at the Port Zante marina to request a berth, and he told me that I would have to anchor outside to clear Customs before we would be allowed to enter. We weren’t happy to hear this news as one of our cruising guides described the roll here as the worst they ever experienced. We anchored in 50 feet of water just to the north between the sailing ship and the giant Norwegian cruise ship berthed at the big dock. Unfortunately, we were anchored just off the ferry boat channel – a BIG mistake.
I asked Joy to stay in the cockpit for a while because the boat was rolling badly, and I was concerned that the anchor might break loose. I dinghied in to the marina to clear Customs and Immigration, a process that to this point in our travels had been a painless non-event. Customs was a breeze and took about 10 minutes, but the Immigration computer (on the next desk) was broken. I was told I’d have to take a taxi to the airport to clear my crew. Well now, I was lucky enough to be seated next to a Marine Agent, a friendly man, who offered to take me to the airport since he also had to go there to clear a mega yacht crew . Had it not been him, what was a 2 hour ordeal might have been dramatically worse. He knew everyone; he knew where to go, who to see, and he paved the way for me. I would not have had a clue.
By the time I got back to the boat, Joy was scared to death; I’d been gone for two and a half hours. The boat was rolling horribly, and she’d been unable to move for the entire time. She was worried that something had happened to me and was in tears when I climbed aboard. We vowed that I’d always carry the handheld VHF in the future to be able to let her know if there was a delay or problem.