Our time spent in St. Kitts and Nevis was short, but it was definitely memorable. We’d never even heard of these islands before we discovered them on our chart, just south of St. Martin. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever forget them!
St. Kitts and the Death Roll
In proper Alli Oop fashion, we arrived at the anchorage in Basseterre, St. Kitts later than we’d hoped -about an hour shy of being able to clear into Customs and Immigration. So, we had to spend the night and wait until morning to check in. We had heard that the anchorage here was very uncomfortable because of ferry wakes and the swell that rolls in from the sea. We were optimistic and hoped people were just being dramatic. They were not.
This was the anchorage of my nightmares. In my opinion, it was the worst we’ve ever been at. This anchorage could only be classified as a ‘death-roll’ anchorage. Unlike a normal, comfortable anchorage where your boat has the slightest motion (or none at all), a death roll rocks your boat so hard from side to side that it simply kills everything inside of you. Motivation, appetite, thought process, interest in anything, etc. are all gone. You can’t cook dinner, you can’t read a book, you can’t enjoy a drink in the cockpit, you can’t even stand up. All you can do is lay down and bear it.
By the time the sun came up I was ready to lose my mind. I had to get off the boat and get to shore.
As soon as I noticed the slightest movement from Dave, I let him know my urgent feelings to leave the boat. He stretched, yawned and calmly told me to ‘hold my horses’ so he could have a cup of coffee before we went in. “COFFEE??!!? You want coffee?? I’m half dead and begging you to leave this boat and you want COFFEE??!” I was livid. Can you believe he actually made that coffee too? After I brooded for 30 minutes waiting for him, he only drank about three sips out of his cup, which really got me PO’d. I was reeling.
Clearing In & Wasting Time
We somehow managed to load ourselves into the dinghy without losing a limb or getting wacked on the side of the head. It was seriously that terrible. We made it to Customs and cleared in no problem. Clearing into Immigration was a bit more difficult unfortunately because the person who does the ‘clearing in’ wasn’t there. We were told to come back in 15 mins so we went in search of some breakfast.
Being near a cruise ship terminal, the entire surrounding area was a huge promenade comprised of souvenir shops and snack bars. This place would be great for people coming off of a cruise ship, but it was way too expensive for us to buy anything. We wandered away from the terminal farther into town where we stumbled upon a little bodega where we grabbed a water and pastry. Quickly, we made our way back to Immigration, antsy to rescue Darby from the death roll and find a new anchorage. On our arrival we were told to return in two hours because the person who was supposed to clear us in had come by, but then left again. WHAT?!
Island time. It’s a blessing and a curse.
There was nothing we could do except wait. My favorite! We wandered aimlessly around the promenade looking at items we couldn’t afford and didn’t want to buy: touristy t-shirts, sarongs and mugs covered in the flag of St. Kitts. I was exhausted after having not slept the night before and the cold I had come down with just a day prior was in full swing. I couldn’t waste any more time wasting time. We found a quiet, secluded area away from the shops where we sat down for a while. There were no benches or tables so we just sat on the ground with our backs to a pillar. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve been fine to just sit like that, but I ended up laying down on the pavement, trying to take a nap because I felt so awful. I didn’t care if I looked like a hobo, I just wanted rest.
The Aloe Man
Time passed and we moved closer to the Immigration building and waited at a nearby table where we decided to take advantage of free Wifi. Within minutes we were approached by a local man. He put fresh stalks of aloe down on our table and told us that he got them from local farmers. He cracked open a green, spikey leaf, nonchalantly grabbed Dave’s arm and started to smother his skin in gooey aloe. Dave and I just looked at each other equally confused. The man began some small talk and grabbed the rest of Dave’s appendages, rubbing the plant all over his skin. We just laughed and chatted with him. What was going on?
After a while the Aloe Man mentioned that a service like this would normally cost $40 at a resort on the island, but he only charges $25. “Woah, woah, woah. You’re not charging us for this, are you?”, Dave asked. “$25”, replied the man. We began to tell him that we didn’t ask for the service and weren’t going to pay him. He started to haggle with us and said he’d take anything we had.
We argued that we only had enough cash to pay for clearing into Immigration and he shouldn’t just be grabbing people and smothering plants all over them without letting them know they’d be charged a fee. In the end we gave him $2 to leave us in peace. It was one of the strangest encounters we’ve had on our trip so far, but it wouldn’t be the last where we realize that “favors” from islanders usually come with a fee of some kind.
After we cleared in, we got the heck out of there and moved south to a peaceful and secluded anchorage only four miles away. It was a Godsend after our hellish night and frustrating morning in Basseterre. We all slept soundly once we dropped the hook and woke up refreshed later that day. After some well deserved peace and quiet we decided to continue south to Nevis the following day.
Once again, we arrived at the wrong time. It was a holiday and all of Charlestown, Nevis was closed. We walked around for a bit to get our bearings and returned to Alli Oop for the evening. The next day, Dave was feeling pretty awful. He had come down with the same cold I had, but was suffering from a gnarly cough. He wasn’t in the mood for exploring, so I decided to go to town by my lonesome and grab him some drugs.
I spent the afternoon strolling around Charlestown, which was now buzzing with life. Shudders were open and colorful buildings were alive with people, stepping in and out. Cars were creeping around in the street and wafts of food were floating through the air from nearby restaurants. I stopped at the pharmacy before checking out the local grocery store, bakery and produce market where I got some interesting goodies.
I grabbed some mutton stew and dumplings for lunch at a little restaurant along the way. I actually went inside to get pizza for Dave, but when I realized they had some interesting local cuisine, I decided to try that instead. If you’re wondering, it was delicious.
Unfortunately, being sick dampened our spirits while visiting St. Kitts and Nevis. Had we been feeling better we would probably have more warm and fuzzy feelings about the islands. The people were friendly (including the Aloe Man) and the scenery was beautiful, but we weren’t in the right head space to appreciate it all. The lush, dormant volcanic islands were breathtaking to behold. Perhaps we can visit again some day under better circumstances and discover all of the beauty that we missed.