Incident At Piney Beach - May 18th, 2002
It started off so well... On a recommendation from our Australian friends Miranda and I decided to spend a night anchored off of Piney's Beach in Nevis. On our way south, having sailed into Nevis at sunset, we anchored in almost the same spot . At that time we marveled at the cloud capped island and miles of deserted white beach, but couldn't take time to enjoy the island as we were pushing south toward Trinidad and Carnival. This time we planned to enjoy the island and ourselves.
Nevis is a beautiful island that isn't overrun with tourism. There are miles of isolated beach and hiking trails up into the mountains. Little art galleries dot the main town of Charleston, so Miranda and I spent a nice morning browsing through the shops and galleries. To finish the morning we ate a beautiful lunch in a garden cafe facing the sea.
After completing a few chores we returned to the boat, rested a bit and then ate some dinner before heading ashore to Sunshine's. Our friends John and Alison had specifically recommended Sunshine's Beach Bar and his Killer Bee Rum Punches. Sunshine and his strong drinks made for an enjoyable evening... and were the start of our troubles.
We sat at a picnic table painted red green and yellow in true Rasta fashion enjoying the cool sand under our feet and our first round of drinks. An Eagles Album played on the CD player. We watched as the loud American tourists, who spilled over from the Four Seasons Resort just down the beach, made fools of their sunburnt selves. When that got boring we turned to the little black puppy that was roaming the beach seeking playmates. A couple more drinks and we were in quite good spirits. We walked down the beach to where we had left the dinghy.
Now, in all fairness we had plenty of warning. The guide book mentions how difficult landing on Piney Beach can be. And while we had managed to remain dry upon our arrival, landing the dinghy hadn't been a cake walk. As we walked from the bar the thought that we ought to be extra careful when launching the dinghy flitted through my head. We commenced our regular dinghy launching procedure of rolling up our pants, fitting the oars into the oarlocks, lifting and turning the craft so its bow faced the water, and finally placing the boat into the surf. Miranda climbed in and I hopped in after her giving the boat a shove away from shore as I did so. We drifted a metre or two away from the beach but turned as we did so. At this point the most vital thing was to get the boat facing back into the waves, but after my tasty Killer Bee Rum Punches I just wasn't quick enough off the mark. Before I could get my hands on the oars a wave crashed onto our starboard quarter and swamped the boat. The boat stayed upright, but was filled to her gunwales with salt water. Laughing at our misfortune we both flopped out into the water and dragged ourselves and the boat, sandy and wet, back up the beach.
I began the long process of bailing the water and cleaning the sand out of the dinghy. Miranda stood on the beach waiting and realized that her hand bag had gotten a good soaking. As it turned out there was nothing in the bag that couldn't be dried out and rehabilitated, so nothing was lost. But, at the time she was quite upset. Despite our mishap I was still feeling the warm buzz of the rum and was in quite a good mood. In fact I was finding quite a bit of humor in the whole situation. Miranda was not!
We rowed back to Baggywrinkle together, but we were going in opposite directions. I was laughing and trying to get Miranda to do the same. She was fuming and not having any of it. Back at the boat things continued on the same course and we stood in the cockpit arguing with each other for a number of minutes. I didn't want to end a lovely evening on such a sour note. "Forget the unintentional swim", I insisted. "It was fun." She didn't agree, and I wasn't helping matters by claiming it was!
There seemed to be nothing I could do to salvage the evening, it was out of my hands. Fortunately Sunshine and his bar came to the rescue yet again. As we stood aboard Baggywrinkle arguing we could hear the sound system from the bar blaring out across the anchorage. As I was about to abandon all hope of cheering Miranda the first strains of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody drifted over the water reaching our ears not a moment too soon. A large grin crossed my face and I began to sing. I knew that Miranda would not be able to hold out long against one of her all time favorite sing along songs. Slowly a smile cracked across her face and she joined in. We laughed and sung our frustration out at the top of our lungs.
The next day we sailed away from Nevis, past St. Kitts and onto Statia. A small Dutch Island Statia attracts the few tourists it sees with its good Scuba diving. The Dutch have always had freer trading policies and in the 16th and 17th century Statia was a major center of trade in the Caribbean, making the local merchants, (a mix of Dutch, English, Christians and Jews) all very rich. But, it wasn't to last. In 1776 The Andrew Doria, an American Vessel, came into the harbor and fired a salute. The Governor of Statia returned the salute and in doing so made Statia the first nation to salute an American Naval vessel. The British didn't look highly on this and other support that Statia was giving the American Rebels. Not long afterwards Admiral Rodney arrived and took the island. He and the British troops confiscated and auctioned off the goods and ships of Statian merchants. Rodney found fewer valuables than he expected and then began to notice that the Jews were having an awful many funerals. He ordered one of the funerals stopped so he could look in the coffin... he found it full of valuables. He confiscated the goods and deported the Jews to St. Kitts.
Today in Statia there still exists a Jewish cemetery and the foundation for the original Synagogue. Miranda and I walked up through town and found our way to the cemetery which lay at the end of a road on the outskirts of town. The iron gates with the Ten Commandments on them still swung on their hinges. We walked around the small grounds looking at the old headstones and enjoying the fantastic view as the sun sank over the watery western horizon.
To finish up what Admiral Rodney had started a hurricane came along at the end of the 16th century and destroyed Statia's waterfront. A snorkel in the small anchorage reveals the ruined remains of waterfront shops and old cannons.
Miranda and I spent a very plesant day in Statia snorkeling in the harbor, walking around yet another Caribbean fort, climbing the island's highest peak called The Quill, and eating in the local burger joint afterwards. Statia was a nice introduction to the Dutch Islands. We were now ready to tackle the most inviting, yet most forbidding Dutch Island - Saba.