One of those great things for us happened as we turned Rivers2Seas south, we started sailing – fast. The trade winds are rather constant winds coming out of the East going directly West. A sailboat can sail best when on a beam reach, the wind coming at it from 90 degrees. The windward and Leeward islands that make up the Eastern Caribbean form a nice curve mostly to the south all the way to South America. A nice beam reach, perfect. The islands are all close enough together that all sailing can be done during daylight hours and since we could go faster with such favorable winds, doing 75 miles in a day can be easy. Because we were no longer heading straight into the wind, Rivers2Seas settled down slowly bobbing through the waves. It almost felt like cheating. Almost. While sailing we could read books, the kids could play their imaginary games, and most importantly Turtle wouldn’t be seasick.
St. Kitts welcomed us with brightly painted homes and a giant cloud over the single mountain. A strong stone fort built in 1690 dominated our landing in the capital, Basse Terre. The history of wars, pirates and great battles is everywhere. The fact that most of these countries are run by different countries shows that nobody actually won. The poorness of the inhabitants shows that they probably all lost.
Checking into customs and immigration at the large port that is more used to the arrivals of cruise ships gave us a view into the city. Nice shops lined the cobbled streets with well-dressed shopkeepers inside. Turtle and I stumbled upon a young school class all in blue uniform talking about an old ships rusted helm wheel sticking out of the water. They stood on shore, we drove up close in the dinghy. We went back to the boat and picked up our girls for a day in town.
The stores are cool with the tourist things you find in these spots and more pirate mannequins than I have ever seen. A cold local beer in a sports bar informed us that Peyton Manning would be coming to the Broncos football team back in Colorado. Cool! Having our news satiated we headed for town. A cool sounding museum to Admiral Nelson beckoned us. Its’ displays, artwork and writing would have done any 6th grader proud. A great subject, cool artifacts and yet they still made it a poor museum. Trudging through some stone gates to the back of the museum brought us into the real city.
The first city was apparently built for the cruise lines and had guards along the stone walls keeping locals out and most of the cruise passengers inside. The difference couldn’t be more drastic. Tiny shops had smaller “shops” on the sidewalk no bigger than a small card table selling fruits, scissors and shavers – you name it. The streets were packed, people going everywhere, horns honking and the typical island people just sitting. We were on one of our usual hunts for a park to play in which we never found. A giant stone church gobbled up most the free land and had a pair of teenagers throwing a ball, but that was about all the “play” we could find. At the supermarket we passed on the packaged chicken feet and settled for some more mundane food like spaghetti.
Sailing for Nevis doing 8.4 knots for the 10-mile passage was as easy as picking up the free mooring ball when we arrived. On the other side of the wide miles long white beach was the Four Seasons Hotel. We invited some new friends on Twilight Rodeo to use our slide and play while the adults talked. Many of the people we have met on this trip mirror our thoughts. They started their own company twelve years ago, sold it and now wanted to travel with their kids while they could. We had a great evening, drank too much wine and stayed up too late. Fun.
The next day was spent at the beach seeing how high and far I could throw the kids. I call it my shotput workout. With one 40-pound kid in my palm I launch them high overhead as far and high as possible. They swim out and then beg for more. After 50 tosses each, I’m spent. A half hour later, the workout resumes.
Sailing at 8 knots for the 40-mile passage to Montserrat brought us to a marvelous little island. Instead of the usual cloud obscuring the peak of this volcano, it was being obscured by smoke, ash, and steam. The plume stretched far out to sea. It would turn out to be a great science lesson. This volcano is one of the most active in the world and has scientists monitoring its actions closely.
Hiring a taxi for the day to do a tour gave us some great history of the island. Our biggest desire was to see the volcano and shortly after our arrival at the volcano observatory, sirens started going off. It was ERUPTING! Rocks and ash flew skyward miles above the cone, ash drifted off to sea with the winds, boulders much bigger than homes tumbled down the sides, white steam escaped new vents and we gasped. “This is cool,” Chase exclaimed. It certainly is cool. The sirens were alerting residents that half the island was now off-limits as a large eruption was a distinct possibility. Heading inside the volcano observatory, a video informed us on some of the really big eruptions that changed this island so recently. The biggest was in 1995 and today’s was the biggest in the last few years. A great addition to our science class today was the kids feeling the volcano, smelling the sulfur gasses and seeing those rocks flying. A little hard for them to comprehend that the earth was exploding; a little hard to explain that we were safe, mostly.
For lunch we stopped at Apple Studios, where the Beatles taped the White Album. What a great place to record an album and why not? Secluded in paradise to let the creative juices flow. The kids didn’t understand about the Beatles and were more excited to see the gold record by Cheap Trick that was recorded there. Hmmm?
The rest of the tour showed us some of the housing now that the inhabitants moved from the lush volcano side to the arid windward side. The British government has spent a lot of money to help them relocate but the transition hasn’t been good for all of them. Money doesn’t make a garden grow where it shouldn’t.
Ella and I spent the early morning talking to fisherman, learning about fish traps, fishing and most importantly oars. An old local, Hap, taught us how to build an oar out of local woods, securing the blade to the shaft with stout wire. After his fishing outing, we towed him to shore with the dinghy and bought his oars for the collection.
Another quick sail brought us to Guadaloupe.