This lush island has a steep mountain range rising to almost 3800 feet. The mountain is mostly rainforest and is home to thousands of African green vervet monkeys (descendants of a few brought over as pets by planters). The gently sloping and fertile land between the mountains and the sea was covered in sugar cane for many generations. The island, like almost all the others we have visited in the Caribbean, was named by Christopher Columbus. This one he named for his own patron saint. When Sir Thomas Warner landed here in 1623, he made it the first British colony in the Caribbean.
It was our goal to drive the extent of the island, stopping at interesting points along the way. But on Monday, we needed to relax. So, instead of exploring, we left our uncomfortable anchorage off the town of Basseterre and made a five-mile trip to Ballast Bay, a much more protected bay southeast of town. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be in a calm, flat anchorage. We had spent the previous five nights in rolly, choppy, disagreeable conditions. We happily relaxed for most of the day before taking our dinghy over to White House Bay, right next door to eat dinner at a lovely outdoor restaurant known as Salt Plage (Plage means “beach” in French). It was a beautiful end to a day in which we mostly just hung out.
Around 7 a.m., Tuesday morning, we weighed anchor in Ballast Bay and retreated northwestward to Basseterre and its rolling, sloppy anchorage so that we could rent a car in town. After a couple of attempts at finding an appropriate spot to anchor we dropped anchor in 23 feet of water. We had considered taking the dinghy the five miles between Ballast Bay and Basseterre, but the wind was blowing up a good chop out on the water and we didn’t feel like putting up with the bounce and spray from a long dinghy ride. After dinghying into the marina, we found a rental car and went exploring. Over about 6 1/2 hours, we circumnavigated the northwest portion of the island and drove to the far southeastern tip of the island and back. The two halves of the island are like night and day. The northwestern portion, surrounding the large mountains covered with rainforest, is the St. Kitts of the common people. The southeastern portion is lined with resorts and upscale lodging. We enjoyed them both.
Early in the day we stopped at Romney Manor, just off the main road in Old Road Town. The land was first claimed by Sam Jefferson, the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. The manor was built in 1628 and passed through successive generations of the Earl of Romney. For almost 40 years, it has been home to Caravelle Batik, a studio which makes Caribbean-themed batiks (A batik is a cloth which has been dyed using wax applied to keep the dye from coloring that portion of the fabric). Nearby were the ruins of a once-mighty sugar plantation known as Wingfield Estate.
From there we made our way to the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, home to one of the best-preserved military fortifications in the Americans. It sits atop an extrusion of cooled lava, earning the nickname, “The Gibraltar of the West.” The first cannons were mounted on the hill in 1690. It has played a role in the historic skirmish between the French and the English in the Caribbean and has been permanently in British hands since 1783. While gazing out to sea from its prime location, it gives an aura of invincibility. And, of course, it offers amazing views.
By the way, just north of Brimstone Hill lies Sandy Harbor, which in 1784, played host to a ship captained by John Newton. He was there to drop off a delivery of West African Slaves to St. Kitts. In this harbour, he had several opportunities to conversed with the captain of a Scottish ship which led him to understand “the security of the covenant of grace.” Afterwards, he was a changed man, supporting the cause for the abolition of slavery and penning several Christian hymns, among them, “Amazing Grace.”
We continued our clockwise circumnavigation of the cloud-enshrouded mountains, soon arriving back in the Basseterre area where we continued on to the southernmost portion of the island. We drove on well-paved roads passing resorts and large-expensive developments and homes. We drove past our anchorage from the night before on our way to Reggae Beach where we had a delicious lunch at Reggae Beach Bar and Grill. A highlight of our trip down was spotting three of the green vervet monkeys on the side of the road. There was supposedly a group that resided at Brimstone Hill, but we didn’t see any there. It was exciting to spot some on the southern end of the island.
After lunch, we returned to town, turned in the rental car, and had the very helpful and kind lady behind the desk — The Kittitians have all been extremely friendly and helpful — drive us into town and drop us off at St George’s Anglican Church in downtown Basseterre. The present church was built in the 1850s, but a former church had stood on the site from the early 1700s. We enjoyed looking inside before walking back through town, stopping for some groceries, and returning to Beatitude. As soon as we had climbed back aboard, we raised our anchor to head back down to a more protected anchorage, this time in White House Bay in order to take advantage of the free Wifi from Salt Plage.