St Kitts and Nevis

We sailed from St Bart’s to St Kitts on a picture perfect day. Reaching under genoa alone we made fast time in a good breeze. Blue sky and a sea that looks blue or inky black depending on where you look.

We passed between Statia and the top of St Kitts to check in at Basseterre on the leeward side of the island.

Statia (St. Eustatius)

The Anchorage in Statia is not very well protected and the winds at this time of year can make it an uncomfortable place to be.  We hope to take the boat to Statia and Saba later in the spring when the weather should be more suitable.

Basseterre is the capital of St Kitts and Nevis.  Dominated by the Cruise Ship dock and shopping area, the waterfront is typical of many Caribbean ports and it is the worse for it.  I took a long walk around the town and found it all a bit sad.  Once you get out of walking range of the typical cruise ship passenger (which is to say not far) the town seems to have lost its way, all the resources have gone to serving the cruise ships leaving little for the local population.  We were the only visiting yacht on the day we arrived.

The next day we moved  to White House Bay in the south end of the island.  The Bay is part of a major development that is opening up the southern end of the island for tourism.  Christophe Harbour  currently has a super yacht harbour in the salt pond, a hotel that is close to finished and a large area for housing.  The housing seems to be sold as time shares with a 1/10 share going for $450,000 and up, we did not see prices for just the property but millions will be the starting point.  Though they seem to be starting with the super rich, there are plans for a conventional marina in later phases and this has the potential to be a boon to cruisers.

The Salt Plage Beach Bar in White House Bay is charming, if a little expensive.  They provide internet service we could pick up in the bay at least when they were open.

Beers at Salt Plage Beach Bar

The weather here is not perfect, we get rain most days but it does make for great rainbows

Rainbow at White House Bay

We visited the nearby super yacht marina for coffee and Wi-Fi, they were running an event for the crews so the harbour was quite full and this was our view at coffee.

We started to see gusty winds from the NE making White House Bay a leeshore.  (A lee shore is where the wind is blowing the boat directly onto the shore, a problem with the anchor would be very serious.)  We decided to see if the anchorage in Nevis just to the south would work. A quick look-see at the boats bucking wildly off Nevis sent us back to the safety of Major’s Bay on the southern tip of St Kitts.  

Major’s Bay

Major’s Bay is also part of the Christophe Harbour development, but as of yet there is no activity save for a sign.  It is home to this Red Green creation, a small dock and an old set of airstairs cobbled together to get access to the sunken barge.  We asked some locals to see if they new the story as to why someone would do this but no one seemed to know.

The was also the where we suffered our first, and hopefully last emergency of this trip.  The wind had been shifting and getting more gusty through the day.  We had been off the boat for a few hours, cycling over to the super yacht marina, we arrived back at the boat, Kathleen was having a nap and I was reading when the anchor alarm went off.  We use an app  on my phone and our tablet to make sure our anchor is working.  It has a habit of giving a false alarm either because the GPS has lost its signal or I have made a mistake entering the anchor set up.  This time I picked up the tablet and I could see us drifting to shore at almost 0.5 knots.  The wind was very gusty and we were in the middle of a small squall, the gusts were well over 30 knots

This was a surprise, we had anchored 2 days before with lots of scope, and the anchor should have been digging in more, not letting go. 

We got the engine started, got the anchor up and headed out of the bay.  Just as we got underway, the engine started to splutter and slow, after a few seconds it stopped.  So there we were with no engine and no sails up just off a lee shore in a 30 knot squall.

Thankfully we had a way out, we rolled out a tiny patch of genoa to get us moving out to sea.  Meanwhile I realized that we had emptied one of our 2 fuel tanks and so we had run out of fuel.  On a diesel engine, running out of fuel means that you have air in the injection system.  I quickly switched over to the second fuel tank and then bled the fuel system.  Kathleen tried the engine, nothing! OK, think, think, OK, wait a second and try again.  This time the engine spluttered into life before slowly settling down to its normal happy beat.  We motored up the island to a better anchorage at Frigate Bay for the night.

The next day the winds had dropped and the swell was much reduced, we headed south to Nevis.  We picked up a mooring ball off Pinney’s beach and were settling in when we heard visitors.  We were just in front of a Hallberg-Rassy that was flying a Canadian flag and the owners dropped by to see another Canadian boat.  Bill and Wendy introduced themselves, it turns out they are from Ottawa and that I raced against them 10 years ago.  They are BYC members so I had never met them.  There are a lot of cruisers from Ottawa, more than I would imagine.

Bill and Wendy provided a lot of tips for our visit to Nevis, from No more than 3 Killer B’s at Sunshine’s to directions to an old plantation just up the hill.

Killer B’s

Killer B’s, the signature drink at Sunshine’s, the local beach bar, is rightly famous, but they are deadly, I had one, plus about half of Kathleen’s, I am a total light weight if I had had 2 I would have been totally smashed.




House at Montravers Estate

Our walk up to the plantation was great, there are enough remains of the buildings to get an idea of what it might have looked like when slaves worked the hillsides above and below the house.   We explored the paths an roads for a couple of hours before heading back to the boat.

Kathleen has already written up the great bike tour we did around the island.

Overall we enjoyed our time here, Nevis was our favourite, but we need to explore St Kitts some more.

Farewell Nevis

Next up – Montserrat!


2016 MOKE: A “Mini” Review

Alec Issigonis designed the original Mini Moke in 1959 as a military vehicle.  The Moke failed in this role, but over the years became a success as a fun car for warm climates.  Over the years it was built in England, Australia and Portugal.

1967 Mini Moke

 In 2012 Moke International  announced they were bringing back the Moke, or as they call it MOKE.  Working with Chery, the Chinese car manufacturer Moke international have updated the design with a target of the rental car fleets in small islands like St Barts.  The Result is the 2016 MOKE.  


2016 MOKE

Externally, the MOKE is about 300mm wider than the original, most of this width seems to be between the seats, you can see from these shots of the Red MOKE and the Blue Moke that the front seats are further apart on the newer car.

Under the skin, the changes are much more significant.  Power comes from a 1000cc 67HP twin cam 16v engine that on our car drives the wheels through a 5 speed gear box.  Save the 5 speed, this is a similar amount of power as a 1275 A series that was fitted to many Australian and Portuguese Mini Mokes.

Suspension is via MacPherson struts in the front and a trailing arm/dead axle arrangement in the back.  The engine and suspension arrangement have necessitated that the nose is longer than the original and the bonnet is a few inches higher.  Sitting behind the wheel it is clear you are not in a Mini as there is a lot of car in front of you.

Driving impressions?  Well first the good news, the handling, at least at the moderate speeds possible in St Barts was nice, the steering was nicely weighted and gave some feedback despite the power steering. The MOKE is heavier than the Mini Moke and is under powered, first gear being needed on many of the steeper roads.  The transmission was the major issue with the car we rented.  With only 1600 km on the clock, the transmission had a huge amount of backlash in the overall transmission, this made clutch engagement a noisy and difficult endevour.  A three point turn was accompanied by loud clunks at every change of direction. Add to this a very vague gear shift, particularly getting into reverse and the driving experience was unpleasant.  Sitting back  in to the fixed recline seat put the gear stick out of reach, so driving was more like being on the seat rather than in it.

Given the poor state of the transmission after less than 2000 km, you have to wonder how long these cars will last in a rental fleet.  A quick look around the car found a few rust spots, this is the worst one.

I was never so glad to be renting rather than owning a car that I thought I loved. 

I hope the car we rented is a pre-production example and is not representative of the quality that Moke International intend to deliver in the long term.  With improved quality and ergonomics, the MOKE could be a success in its intended market.

The good news is there is an alternative to renting a MOKE, it is to rent an Nosmoke, an electric Moke built in France, that more closely resembles the Mini Moke and seems to have avoided some of the negatives that the MOKE’s poor quality seems to have brought.  Sadly we did not get a chance to drive the Nosmoke, perhaps we will find them on another island.

2016 Nosmoke

St Barts

The island of Saint Barthélemy is only 12 miles from St Martin and whilst St Martin is the winter base for many superyachts, St Barts is where the owners come to play.

Each island we visit has its own character, St Bart’s is at the European end of the spectrum.  Mainly white, wealthy and cosmopolitan, St Bart’s could be a French island in the Med. 

We arrived on January 5th with the idea that the boats attending the big New Year’s celebrations would have started to leave.  The superyacht marinas in St Maarten, just about empty on New Year’s Eve, were filling up by the day we left.

The short sail to St Bart’s was complicated by the Causeway Bridge breaking down and blocking our planned departure through Simpson Bay on the Dutch side.  This delayed our departure to the afternoon bridge opening on the French side. We arrived at Ile Fourchue just a couple of miles off St Bart’s, just at sunset.

Ile Fourchue

 We picked up a mooring ball for the night before heading into the main port at Gustavia the next day.

We bumped into Peter and Patty from Serendipitous in the port office.  Jimmy Buffett’s Cheese Burger in Paradise was written at Le Select in Gustavia, so we naturally all headed there for lunch. 

Cheese Burger


Anse du Grand Colombier

That evening we moved the boat to Anse du Grand Colombier in the north of St Bart’s, a lovely anchorage, quiet, with great hikes to a lovely café with good coffee, fresh pastries and baguettes, we may have done that hike twice.

Hiking to the Boulangerie

Bas and Agnes on TiSento hosted Ingomar, Serendipitous and Kinship for a sundowner, it was great to catch up with everyone.

A few days later we went back to the main port of Gustavia, where we rented a car for a day trip around the island. This is not our normal way of getting around, but we have found these really hilly islands with their tiny, twisty roads quite unsuitable for cycling. We had seen several of these funny-looking open, miniature jeep-like electric cars on the road, and really wanted to drive one. They are called a Moke – see :


The rental place only had gasoline models available, so we took it anyway and headed off to explore the island, and have a picnic at a scenic lookout. Wow, what a beautiful island…and clearly one with lots of money! It has some spectacular scenery, and a beach around every bend. Tourism seems to have developed in a moderate way so they are not all spoiled by huge hotels and crowds. The super-yacht crowds come with their own hotels, and obviously spend lots of money ashore supporting the local economy. In turn, they seem to take real pride in making their island look nice. The waterfront is well done up, the towns are clean and well-maintained.

The rental Moke was a disappointment – it was a 2016 version made in China and drove terribly and with less than 2000 km on the clock it seemed to be about to fall apart at any second. That said, it was still lots of fun to zoom around in an open car on those crazy roads with spectacular views at every turn.

We went out to the airport to watch the planes, and what a hoot that was!  Another crazy Caribbean airport with a very short runway and a killer approach, coming in low right over our heads as we stood on the roadside watching. Check out the video we shot:

The takeoffs are almost as hairy.

We had a great time in St Barts, next we head off to St Kitts as we wend our way south.