A few weeks ago, we finally got our butts off St. Martin!
Not on our own boat, mind you. But as it turns out, that was a blessing.
It was the week before Christmas, and the “Christmas winds” were howling, preventing many boats from going anywhere safely. All cruisers were monitoring weather reports closely, waiting for a weather window that would allow escape, and we were no exception.
A few of us decided that Friday, December 20 was the day to go, and since none of us had ever been to St. Eustatius (more commonly known as Statia)—a Dutch island just 35 nautical miles (64 km) south of St. Martin—that’s where we were headed.
We were slightly concerned by rumours that the one anchorage in Statia, just outside the capital city of Oranjestad, was very rolly. In a monohull like Ar Sgrail, this can make for a very uncomfortable stay, with the boat constantly rolling from side to side. So we were thrilled when our friends Kim and Ritchard from Sayonara offered to take us with them on their 47-foot catamaran! The double hull makes for a much steadier experience in rolly anchorages, plus we had never stayed on a cat before, so we were looking forward to it.
We left Ar Sgrail secured to a mooring ball in the lagoon, and set off on Sayonara Friday morning after a quick trip ashore to walk Charlie (their cocker spaniel) and stock up on freshly baked baguettes, croissants and pains au chocolat.
As we sailed around the western corner of St. Martin, Ritchard put out some fishing lines with visions of fish tacos for dinner. Within 20 minutes we had a bite! Ritchard reeled in this beauty of a snapper. Fish tacos was on the menu!
As Ritchard was fileting the snapper, the line reeled out again. Another fish! And this one was a fighter. Ritchard spent a good 20 minutes trying to tire it out, then David took over. Between the two of them, they finally managed to get the fish into the boat after 45 minutes. Forget tacos—wahoo steaks for dinner instead! Luckily Sayonara has a big freezer on board.
After all the excitement, we put away all the fishing lines so we could focus on sailing to our destination. The wind and seas were supposed to be calm, but they were anything but, with 5-foot waves and chop coming at us from all directions. It was not comfortable. We finally anchored in Oranjebaai as a beautiful rainbow announced a coming storm.
Since it was already after 4, it was too late to go clear into Statia, plus we were pretty tired after all the fishing excitement followed by 4 hours of intense sailing. As it turned out, the anchorage-rolliness rumours were true, as confirmed by our friends on SeaDuction and Haven (both monohulls) who had arrived earlier in the day and were not feeling great. They were invited aboard the relatively stable catamaran, and we all partook in the insanely delicious catch of the day.
The next morning we were up in good time so we could finally clear in when the Customs and Immigration opened. Unfortunately, no one was there. We were told to call a customs officer on the random phone outside the office, but it seemed to be out of order.
We then set out on an epic hike up to the Quill, Statia’s dormant volcano. Starting in the lower town, we slowly meandered up a hill, going from rocky terrain, through villages, until the real hike started through lush forest. There we crossed paths with the local wildlife, including lizards, bees, purple-clawed hermit crabs and even a red-bellied racer snake! We even came across a super cool honey comb.
An hour and a half later, we finally reached the top of the crater and were rewarded with an amazing panoramic view.
Brenda and Al from Haven decided to venture down into the crater, which was another hour roundtrip. The rest of us were hungry for some lunch and a cool beverage, so we made our descent back to town for lunch at the Blue Bead, conveniently located at the bottom of the trail (and named after the 17th-century currency used on the island when it was a major trading hub).
After filling our bellies with delicious fried chicken, we continued our exploration of the island, taking in Statia’s quiet charm. We walked up the cobbled Slave Road honouring the many slaves who first touched land in Statia after crossing from Africa. The upper town seemed quiet for a Saturday, but with a total island population of just over 3,000 people, that’s pretty standard. We walked athrough Fort Oranje—with its amazing views of the bay and Saba in the distance—, as well as the remnants of a synagogue (Statia had a large Jewish population during the trading days of the 1700s).
After such a productive day, we all reconvened on Sayonara for sundowners and oh-so delicious wahoo fish tacos, then we were all in bed by sailor’s midnight (i.e. 9 p.m.).
The next day we parted ways, with Haven and SeaDuction heading south towards St. Kitts and Nevis, and Sayonara and her crew (i.e. us) heading back to St. Martin. Conditions had improved considerably, and we were back in Marigot dropping the hook in no time.
Where the wind takes us next: good question! We’ve been in St. Martin for the last two weeks, celebrating Christmas and New Years with friends as we wait for some important boat papers to arrive in the mail. And now there is a big weather system bringing 30+ knot winds for the next two weeks, so we may be staying put for a while. Stay tuned!