Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sint Eustatius - ‘Statia‘ - The Golden Rock

Up at first light, we quickly made ready to pull out of St. Kitt's for the long day cruise to St. Martin....Not To Be.  Finally Fun’s starboard engine would not start.  When we smelled rubber burning, we figured OOPS.  Long story short, the bearings in a tension pulley on a belt on the engine had seized up and the pulley wasn’t turning.  Andy finally got a mechanic after he was unable to release the belt.  A couple of hundred dollars and many hours (mostly waiting for the mechanic) later, we pulled out of the Marina, headed a few hours away to Statia to break up the trip and get us out of St. Kitts. 
This bird pooped on the decks, window & dingy.  He kept aiming.

Our clearance paperwork had expired in the afternoon and we didn’t want to have to go back to check back INTO the country and then back OUT.  Besides that, weather is coming.  We certainly don’t want to be stuck in St. Kitts, one of our least favorite places....Shopper’s Mecca and not much else for us..

Sint Eustatius - 'Statia"
Arriving in Statia after a few hours of uneventful cruising with domestic debates still raging as to whether to continue on to Saba with an ETA arrival at dusk/dark or drop the hook at Statia, right in front of the Customs & Immigration dock...the only anchorage on the island.   We were nervous about staying in Statis as we were not planning to clear Customs/Immigration.  I hated to so flagrantly thumb my nose at them - we are so visible.   We were not going ashore & would  depart at first light for St. Martin, so we hoped technically we would be ‘legal’...but who knows.  No one can answer that question for us....clear in to spend the night only, never going ashore??? 
Coming into the anchorage - Saba in background

For you boaters following our blog, the guidebooks show the only safe anchorage at Oranje Baai and then only if settled weather.  The books/charts show actual anchoring by the breakwater, with moorings at the more northern end.  No - don’t drop the hook at the southern end in spite of what you read.  The dockmaster hailed us on the radio, requesting that we move to the northern end of the anchorage, saying we would be safer there.  The mooring balls are rated at only 30 tons & are $10 a night, part of the Park ‘fee’ when you check in.   We passed on the mooring option as we are 38 tons net weight and also because we didn’t plan to go ashore to pay.   


So many huge tankers & freighters

Ugh, not a place I’d recommend.  This anchorage is rolly - the breakwater isn’t long enough!  This island is also a fueling station for freighters and tankers right next to this only anchorage. 

Lights of all the tankers & freighters around us
I counted 12 huge ocean going vessels around us which kept  the area brightly lit all night long, reminding me of the Hudson River in NYC.

The radio continually sprang to life throughout the night long with bored tug boat captains and freighters chatting away. We don't dare turn the VHF off in case there is something we need to know or we need help quickly!

Dropping the hook, we were suddenly hailed by “Hello Big Boat”.  We saw nothing til we spotted two young (21ish) girls swimming by our bow.  One Canadian and one Brit, these interns at the Statia Natl Park for six months, were most curious about Finally Fun & thrilled to be invited aboard for a cold beer.  I laughed when they told us they swam out nearly every day in high hopes of having someone invite them aboard to take a ‘look see’.   The gals regaled us with stories of the island, almost making me want to stay to see some of the Park and hike up to the dead volcano for myself.  Almost, but not quite! 

Departing Statia at first light- See the volcano at the right side
This tiny volcanic island of Sint Eustatius or 'Statia' as locals call it,  is Dutch and about 30 miles from our destination of St. Martin. This island, once known as The Golden Rock, is a long way way now from its heyday in the 1700’s when it was the trade capital of the Caribbean.   While all the European countries were fighting each other (Statia changed hands 22 times between the English, Dutch and French) and putting up embargos, the more enlightened Dutch made Statia a free port.  International merchant ships thus ran zillions of goods such as silver, silks, sugar and guns through here.  As the political climate eased and wars subsided, this free port  became moot.  Statia fell on hard times, declining in population and popularity.  Today, it is off the beaten path with only about 3,400 inhabitants.  Both Dutch and English are, however, spoken here.


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