Back Home

Some months ago I asked Viktor to write a free text as an exercise in writing within the homeschool experiment. I gave him the topic ‘Home’ thinking that after so many months living on the boat he would write about the boat as his new home.

He sat down very inspired and wrote uninterruptedly for a few hours producing the following text:

 

The Good Old Ways of Home

-by Viktor

My home back in Canada was just like any other big old country house but mine was transforming depending on the seasons.

In summer, staying inside was like staying in prison: I lacked oxygen and I felt depressed, like I was missing out on things. So I would go outside where life was welcoming and vast. I could take a stroll around the house and I would see my dad mowing the lawn, my sister singing on the swing, birds pecking about, or even a little grey rabbit staring at me. It was green, it was bright; the summer feeling was greatly appreciated, and I would never have the same experiences repeated since every summer something new would always happen.

But when those pretty lime-colored leaves camping on the trees fell down to my knees, I knew that summer was over… A new season would take place. Some called it fall or autumn, others called it the time of sickness and disease, an unforgiving season that brought coughing pain and confusion about what to wear. Me? I yelled: “Yes! My birthday is finally coming!” All those season-names were telling the truth. Leaves would fall, people would get sick, and I would celebrate. I think, if it wasn’t for my birthday, this would be the worst season of all times because all it brought was misery, viruses, and a handful of cheap candy and broken potato chips.

This next one will break your heart. You will need a box of tissues at your side. Winter will not help your coughing but it will help you feel better if you have good friends and entertaining games…mostly virtual.

After a crushing blow of a snowstorm and an overnight earthquake of machinery, I would wake up in the morning and I would see a bright white light shining through the curtains. I would look through the window feeling like someone had injected ecstasy in my system. No more dead leaves, no more grass. I would see snow. Mountains of snow. I would take a deep breath of happiness and then suddenly I would hear a series of pounding knocks on the door.

I would smile, run down the stairs, run across the corridor, and I would approach the door while glancing through the glass at the dark sinister figure outside. I would reach for the door knob and quickly open it to make way for my frozen friend. Over my pajamas, I’d put on my black snow pants, my heavy winter boots, my gloves and Russian hat, slip on my jacket, ready for battle. Next thing, I’d be beating the crap out of my friend with snowballs and then we would return home for some video games and hot chocolate.

There were tons of other great events happening during this joyous season of ice and fire but I will have to write a book the size of the holy bible to describe my full emotions on this topic.

Sooner or later, the glorious white element melted into our sewers and that marked the start of the season of rebirth: spring. Almost everything was reborn anew: the grass, the sickness, school. I have mixed feelings about this season for it gave me joy as it would bring an end to the never-ending cold wrath of winter, but I was also sad to think that I had to wait six months to play with snow again.

Honestly, I miss my old home and friends. Now I will have to adapt to my new life at sea and Neptune’s anomalies, stuck on a boat with my family.

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After a little over a year stuck on a boat with his family, cruising aboard Fata Morgana and visiting many countries and islands all over the Caribbean region, Viktor, almost 17 now, decided it is time to return home. To his friends, to school, and to all those places and things he missed so much in the past months.

Cruising is a great learning experience for families with young children and we have met countless little sailors everywhere we have been, children with a unique sense of adventure, exploring, and love of the world that school-based and land-based kids lack.  We wanted to open the world for our children as well, to show them an alternative way of life more disconnected from the civilized material world and more connected to nature, more free. For Viktor, a very shy and introvert person, we hoped that our travels will provide a way to unplug from the computer and video-games which were at the center of his interests through a healthier, more active way of life. That he will accumulate knowledge and acquire new skills. And surely he did, despite his nostalgia. He became a good sailor, and will forever keep the good memories of our travels, the moments we enjoyed together, the places we visited, the people we met. But at his age, he is anxious to begin his own independent journey, to follow his own dreams back in Canada.

We can only wish him good luck, help him and support him in any way necessary.

Farewell Vik!

 

 

That day Viktor caught 10 flounders

The day Viktor caught 10 flounders

Evo and Viktor

Evo and Viktor

 

Viktor and Dylan

Viktor and Dylan

Dylan and Viktor

Dylan and Viktor

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

Viktor and Evo taking a rain-shower

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Viktro with a puffer fish

Viktro with a puffer fish

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Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

Viktor "pushing" Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor „pushing“ Maya off the roof of the fort

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba This is how we showed up at the beach.

Viktor, Maya, and Ivo walking with bug-repellent palm leaf hats, Cuba
This is how we showed up at the beach.

Ivo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Evo, Viktor and Maya, The human pyramid

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor on the helm, Maya keeping him company.

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat...)

Viktor swimming from Fata Morgana to the beach with a bag of shoes (because we forgot the shoes on the boat…) Mexico

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor, Agua Caliente, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Viktor Jumping from Agua Caliente waterfall, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

Walking in a canyon, Guatemala

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The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

The epic ride downriver in a cayuco.

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Best swimming pool, Bahamas

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The swimming pigs, Bahamas

The swimming pigs, Bahamas

Viktor and Mira with iguanas.

Viktor and Mira with iguanas, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor in Thunderbolt Grotto, Bahamas

Viktor

Viktor

Vick and Maya building a small fire.

Vick and Maya building a small fire on the beach, Bahamas

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Maya and Viktor (Ivo behind them) with burgers.

Viktor and Nick

Viktor and Nick

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Mira

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Viktor, Maya, Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Vick and Nick

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Up on the mountain El Mogote

Damajaqua Cascadas

Damajaqua Cascadas, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor on the way to Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor with the mules. Hiking to Pico Duarte, DR

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Evo

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Viktor and Maya at the summit. Pico Duarte

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

Damajaqua Cascades, DR

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Viktor

Viktor

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda, BVI

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor

Viktor

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

 

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Maya’s Montserrat

My Journey in Montserrat

by Maya, 10

Little Bay Anchorage in Montserrat

Little Bay Anchorage in Montserrat

Almost every one of you wants me to write for the blog again, so here we go.

Hello, it’s me , Maya, writing about Montserrat (some people call it „The Monster Rat“…)

Maya in Montserrat, Little Bay.

Maya in Montserrat, Little Bay.

The Big Fish

Our journey in Montserrat started with a huge fish.

We were heading towards the island and it was a normal sailing day until zzzzzzzz our fishing pole sounded the alarm. A fish! The fish was too big and too strong and even my dad couldn’t fight with it. After half an hour my dad managed to pull it out. But only the 15-pound head was hanging on the hook with a bit of the body. Most of it was eaten by sharks. But still we got a ton of meat out of it.

Evo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

Evo with the huge King Mackerel half eaten by sharks.

We made sushi and grilled fish-stakes on the BBQ and we still had a few pounds of fish meat left.

Boatmade Sushi

Boat-made Sushi

City Covered in Ashes

When we arrived in Montserrat we met a guy named Terrance. My parents traded the rest of the fish in exchange for a ride to the city buried in ashes.

Our tour guide in Montserrat, Terrance, with Evo

Our tour guide in Montserrat, Terrance, with Evo

 

The city was the capital of Montserrat called Plymouth and it had thousands of expensive houses in it, all covered with ashes and abandoned.

 

The town of Plymouth under ashes

The town of Plymouth under ashes

 

On the island of Montserrat there is a volcano. But the people thought it was sleeping so they built a city right under it.

 

Mira watching the Soufriere Hills volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Mira watching the Soufriere Hills volcano from the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

 

One morning the volcano woke up and started coughing, sneezing and barfing ashes and rocks on top of the city. Not because it’s a mean volcano or anything like this, it’s just what volcanoes do when they wake up. They say that when this volcano started spitting ashes and covered the whole city they even had to close the airport all the way in Venezuela because the ashes flew so far away.

 

Ruins of building around Plymouth

Ruins of building around Plymouth

 

But we couldn’t go inside Plymouth because it is an exclusion zone and if they catch you walking there you go to jail.

 

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We had to have a special permission from the police and a car and someone with a phone for emergency. Good thing Terrance had a car and a phone.

 

Evo and Terrance getting a permission from the police to visit Zone C

Entering Zone C

Entering Zone C

 

So we went up Garibaldi Hill, another abandoned neighborhood not far from Plymouth, and we looked at the damage the volcano had done from there.

 

Looking at the city buried in ashes. Terrance, Mira, Maya

Looking at the city buried in ashes. Terrance, Mira, Maya

 

It looked horrible. All these houses, some cost like a million dollars, and the people had to abandon them and to run away. I wouldn’t like to be in that situation…

 

An abandoned house, Garibaldi Hill

An abandoned house, Garibaldi Hill

 

Friends

Another cool thing that happened in Montserrat is meeting new friends.

One morning I went to do some exercises on the beach because living on a boat is pretty lazy life. I usually run 4-5 laps. On the 5th lap two random girls stopped me and asked me a bunch of questions like Where are you from?, What’s your name?, Did you come here by yourself? I answered all of the questions and then I asked them if they wanted to play with me.They said sure! So we played all day long in the water and on the beach. And the next day too. One of the girls was Angel and the other Darriana. Later another girl came, Malvelina or Mel for short. They were about the same age like me, 13, 13 and 11.

Little Bay anchorage and beach

Little Bay anchorage and beach

The cool thing about these friends was that Angel’s mother works at the bar near the beach and she sells slush, small for 3 EC dollars and big for 5 EC dollars. She told us that if we go and advertise the slush to the people on the beach we will get free slush, so we did and we got free slush. Darry’s father is the ice cream man but he was off duty that day and we didn’t get any free ice cream, and Mel’s grandma sells cookies and candy on a bench under a tree in front of the restaurant, so she gave us a pack of cookies and even money for cola. So we got everything for free.

Darriana and Maya at the beach in Montserrat

Darryana and Maya at the beach in Montserrat

Also, that was my supreme ‘liers’ day’. Only Angel and Darry knew the real me. We told lies to all the other kids on the beach because they were lying to us too. I told them that my name was Emma, that I was 13 years old, that I was the richest kid alive and that I owned a huge mansion, and that my mom’s name was Savanah, also that I am a professional surfer, and that my dad is the Guinness world record boxing champion and that I come from London. I know you must be laughing by now, I was too.

At the end of the day when I came back to the boat I was starving, but even worst, I was so sunburned I looked like the devil. My face was officially RED.

Maya's face burn

Some Interesting Facts About Montserrat

  • Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean with 102 sq km (39 sq mi) territory and about 5000 inhabitants of mixed African-Irish descendants.

 

  • Many Irish people were transported to the island in the 18th century to work as slaves or exiled prisoners during the English Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

 

  • Montserrat is the only country in the world except Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is an official holiday and is celebrated for an entire week.

 

  • On 18 July 1995, the dormant Soufrière Hills volcano became active destroying Montserrat’s Georgian era capital city of Plymouth and two-thirds of the island’s population fled.

 

  • A new capital and main port are being developed on the northwest coast of the island.

 

  • The volcanic activity continues with the most recent eruption on 11 February 2010.

 

  • An „exclusion zone“ has been imposed because of the potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are not permitted entry into the exclusion zone V.

 

  • A special permission can be granted by the police to enter Zone C by car only and observe the volcano and Plymouth from Garibaldi Hill.

 

  • A taxi tour of the island and exclusion zone C can be arranged for about 20 to 40 $US

 

  • Terrance McPhoy is not a taxi driver but is available to give tours for groups of up to 7 people.Cell phone (664)496-1291

 

  • There are a few great hiking trails on the island but access to Soufrière Hills is forbidden.

 

  • A geothermal project is currently being developed by an Icelandic company for making electricity with volcanic hot waters.

 

More Images of Montserrat and its People

Plymouth covered by ashes, Montserrat

Plymouth covered by ashes, Montserrat

Geothermal waters

Geothermal waters

Geothermal project

Geothermal project

 

A parade in Montserrat.

Parade in Montserrat.

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Montserrat girl

Montserrat girl

Girls on the beach at Little Bay

Girls on the beach at Little Bay

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Taking the Waters at The Bath Hotel in Nevis

 

From St. Kitts we sail a few miles southeast to Nevis, the smaller and fancier of the twin islands. We drop anchor in front of the main docks in Charlestown, the biggest and most populated town in Nevis. In the backdrop, beyond the towns and villages, a small green volcano rises to meet the clouds.

Nevis

Nevis

The architecture of the old colonial town of Charlestown is impressive with a few heavy stone cathedrals and old buildings neatly restored, painted in pale cheerful colors. But the most curious site with very interesting history is The Bath Hotel, at the south end of Charlestown, where a hot spring flows down from the mountain.

Charlestown buildings

Charlestown buildings

In 1778 local merchant John Huggins, clerk of the local assembly who took care of the thermal springs, decided to build a hotel nearby. His grave stone located in St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Charlestown reads: “Not many years before his death he became proprietor of the neighbouring hot springs over which out of good will towards his fellow creatures and not for any advantage of his own he erected convenient baths and at a short distance a large and expensive stone edifice for the accommodation of invalids.”

The Bath Hotel, Nevis

The Bath Hotel, Nevis

The early years of The Bath Hotel were quite grand. Constructed of the grey volcanic stone found on the island cut into square blocks, the ballroom and dining hall were furnished with mahogany furniture, rich brocade hangings, and thick rugs on polished floors. British author Gertrude Atherton wrote in “The Gorgeous Isle,” a novel set in Nevis, that the hotel, which could accommodate 50 guests in its bedrooms, “was surrounded by wide gardens of tropical trees, ferns and flowers…Its several terraces flamed with color, as well as its numerous little balconies and galleries, and the flat surfaces of the roof: the whole effect being that of an Eastern palace with hanging gardens, a vast pleasure house, designed for some extravagant and voluptuous potentate.”

Maya and the Big Tree, the Bath Hotel, Nevis

Maya and the Big Tree, the Bath Hotel, Nevis

The Bath Hotel in Nevis was the first tourist hotel and tropical sanatorium in the entire Caribbean region attracting not only ‘invalids’ but all the fashionable of the West Indie: rich merchants and planters, military officers, as well as wealthy European aristocrats arriving here to treat their ailments and soothe their aching muscles in the sulfuric healing waters of the volcanic hot spring administrated by skilled physicians, as well as to enjoy the social scene in Nevis.

Hot Spring Pool

Hot Spring Pool

The Bath House and other bathing facilities built at the base of the hotel capture the thermal spring water with near boiling temperatures and high sulfur content produced by groundwater coming in contact with hot volcanic rock. These mineral waters, it was believed, had restorative powers able to cure gout, rheumatism and other debilitating conditions.

The Bath Springs, Nevis

The Bath Springs, Nevis

But after the downfall of the sugar production and trade and with the emancipation of slaves in 1834, the hotel lost its clientele and fell into disrepair. In the following years various owners restored it to some degree and today it is a government building housing various government offices and the Nevis Island Administration.

Inside the Bath House

Inside the Bath House

The Bath House

The Bath House

The Bath House is abandoned and in ruins, but residents and visitors can still ‘take the waters’ in the two mineral water pools outside of the hotel, at no charge.

Maya and Mira at the Bath Springs

Maya and Mira at the Bath Springs

It is noon in July, the air is burning hot in the tropical sun, but the water in the shallow pool that smells of boiled eggs is even hotter.
Slowly, gradually, painfully, I enter the hot pool. It feels like billions of tiny needles on my skin. I don’t know if these waters will heal my aching muscles, but if I remain submerged for over 10-15 minutes my heart will fail for sure.

Maya is testing the water temperature with a toe while Mira is 'taking the waters' at the Bath Springs, Nevis

Maya is testing the water temperature with a toe while Mira is ‘taking the waters’ at the Bath Springs, Nevis

It’s time to cool down with the help of a huge bucket of ice cream back on the boat and we are ready to sail again. Next stop: Montserrat.

 

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St. Kits Marine Works: Welcome to The Boatyard

SKMW boatyard

SKMW boatyard

Every once in a while a boat has to come out of the water for repairs or survey, for storage during hurricane season, or a quick bottom job. But finding the perfect haul out yard can be a pain in the stern. Ultimately, some of the most important factors that determine our choice of a boatyard are: convenient location, good facilities and equipment, a team of professionals, and reasonable prices. But does such a place exist? Yes, and we found it.

As we sailed from Florida through the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and the Leeward Islands looking for a place to haul out our boat, a 38 feet catamaran, in order to sand and paint the hulls, we have finally found one boatyard that has it all: St Kitts Marine Works.

 St Kitts Marine Works

Located on the southwest lee shore of the island of St Kitts, a few miles from St Marten, Antigua and Guadeloupe, and not too far from the BVI and Puerto Rico, SKMW lies at the heart of the Caribbean region providing the perfect strategic location for many mariners cruising in this area who wish to store their vessels for short or long term periods or during the hurricane season, between the months of June and December. The recently expanded boatyard, a 30-acre field, has plenty of space for vessels big and small. Each boat hauled out for storage is carefully secured and grounded with specially dugout keel holes, custom-made for each vessel. So far none of the storms that hit the island, including hurricane Earl in 2010 had caused any damage to the boats there.

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The boatyard is also conveniently located near a small dark-sand beach, a place to escape the Caribbean summer heat and make new local friends, and directly under Brimstone Hill Fortress, one of the most important forts in the Caribbean and UNESCO World Heritage Site populated by vervet monkeys. The small historical town of Sandy Point is within a walking distance and the capital Basseterre where you can find all types of marine materials and services specializing in boat-building and repairs, is only a 15-minute bus ride away.

Fta Morgana in SKMW boatyard.  Brimstone Hill on the background

Fata Morgana in SKMW boatyard.
Brimstone Hill on the background

Another main reason to choose SKMW is the big travelift, one of only three in the entire Caribbean region that can handle up to 150-ton boats with beam up to 35 feet, perfect for catamarans. And even though our 8-ton boat with 22 feet beam is not huge at all she almost doesn’t fit in the small travelifts getting scratches on the sides. But the big one at SKMW barely touches her. Man, that machine is mighty! Fata looks like a toy in the hands of a gentle giant when he picks her up and out of the water.

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The SKMW boatyard also has a crane for removing masts as well as all sorts of other heavy equipment and machinery for boat works.

But the best part of St Kitts Marine Works boatyard is the people who work there, a dedicated team of professionals, engineers, top quality technicians, and first class operators. The owner and director, Regiwell Francis, an expert in salvage and heavy equipment, is also a hardworking, hands-on, extremely knowledgeable and capable person, who will do anything in his power to help and accommodate your needs. Reggie is a great guy and this matters a lot. There is also a very good mechanic, a metalworking team, as well as a few boat repair specialists working full time in SKMW, and if you need any materials or services not provided on location, they will find them for you.

Regiwel

Regiwell Francis

And last but not least, the prices here are unbeatable. The SKMW prices are probably comparable to those in the Dominican Republic, only there they don’t have the facilities and equipment, the space and the specialists available in St Kitts Marine Works. For more information on rates click here.

SKMW boatyard, also featured in Chris Doyle’s cruising guide, is so far our favorite haul out facility. We had a very positive experience there (even Evo who worked 12 hours per day for a week sanding and painting agrees). All our needs were met with enthusiasm and generosity. We would recommend it to everyone.

SKMW boatyard

SKMW boatyard

Reggie has very ambitious plans to build an 80 slips marina where the dock currently is. The project is already developed and is all a matter of time now.

You can contact Reggie or Bruce at the boatyard if you have any questions or to make arrangements at (869) 662-8930 e-mail bentels@hotmail.com; or visit their website for more information at www.SKMW.net; or you can simply pop-up at the dock there, like we did. We were very pleasantly surprised that we could clear customs right there, in the boatyard, as we arrived. Thanks to Reggie, the place is now an official port of entry to St Kitts and you don’t have to go to Basseterre to clear in nor pay any port fees or per day per person fees, only 35 EC$ (the equivalent of 12 U.S. dollars).

Evo, Maya, Viktor and Fata Morgana

Evo, Maya, Viktor and Fata Morgana

We are also every grateful and happy and extremely proud to announce that St Kitts Marine Works boatyard became our sponsor, supporting us and our journey.

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A Visit to Brimstone Hill Fortress

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Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance: a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. One of the best preserved historical fortifications in the Americas, it is located on the island of St. Kitts in the Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean.

From Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The Nomadiks in St Kitts

Waiting for a few days at the dock near Sandy Point where St Kitts Marine Works boatyard is to be hauled out for „a quick bottom job“, we fill our nothing-to-do days with chilling on the small beach near by, jumping from the pier and meeting new friends. Right where we are Brimstone Hill is looming above us so close we can see the Fortress form the boat.

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

We decide to go for a visit. It is a 20 minute walk from the boatyard to the foot of the hill and another 30-40 minutes hike up the hill to the Fortress. Tourists have to pay 10 dollars per person to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress, expensive but worth it.

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

 

St Kitts. Historical Background

St. Christopher is the first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English and the French shared between the two nations throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Africans were brought as slaves and a massive sugar production begun which together with the slave trade yielded a great wealth well worth defending. The construction of a vast network of fortified coastal defenses on the island of St Kitts started in 1690 and continued until 1790.

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The ideal site for the fortress was chosen atop a volcanic hill 800 feet high with steep and precipitous slopes standing near the southwest shore of the island, Brimstone Hill, often referred to as „the Gibraltar of the Caribbean“. The location of the Fortress presents panoramic vistas of forested mountains to the north, cultivated fields and picturesque small villages to the west, the historical township of Sandy Point to the south, and neighbouring Dutch, English and French islands across the Caribbean Sea.

Brimstone Hill

Brimstone Hill

The fortress was built using entirely local materials found on site. The walls of the structures were made from the hard volcanic rocks of the hill itself and the mortar to cement the stones was produced from the limestone covering much of the middle and lower slopes. The Fortress is virtually a man-made out growth of the natural hill.

 

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The Fortress

We are stunned at the scale and level of preservation of the Fortress designed by British Army engineers. It is an entire complex, like a small military village built on 38 acres of land on the flat top of the hill, one of the largest Caribbean fortresses, with many buildings, officer’s quarters, soldiers’ barracks, a citadel, two places of arms, and a cemetery.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Brimstone Hill Fortress

This is the site of the historical battle between the British and French fighting over control of the sugar island. In January 1782 8,000 French troops attacked the island and besieged the Fortress. For one month 1,000 defenders from the Royal Scots and East Yorkshire Regiment fought valiantly before surrendering, allowed by the French to march out of the Fortress with full honor. Only a year later, the island was returned to the British after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1965 The Society for the Restoration of Brimstone Hill Fortress was found and major works contributed for the restoration and rebuilding of the Fortress, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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As we walk down the hill we come across a troupe of about 20 vervet monkeys. Brought to the island as pets during the slave trade period, they are now populating the hills and forests of St Kitts&Navis in great numbers. One of their popular hangouts is the Brimstone Hill Fortress.

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

 

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St Barth, Where Agent Orange Had an Affair

St Barths, The Caribbean Monaco

Gustavia, City and harbor view

Gustavia, City and harbor view

The next island on our way is St Barthélemy,  only 20 miles southeast of St Martin. A French territory less than 10 square miles (25 square kilometers) with distinctly French language, cuisine and culture and some very nice beaches and luxurious villas and resorts. St Barths is the holiday destination and playground for the famous and the rich.

Dinghies at Guatavia Harbor, St Barths

Dinghies at Guatavia Harbor, St Barths

The population, about 9,000, is exclusively white descendants of French settlers and their very high standard of living is supported mainly by wealthy tourists. Strangely there are no black descendent of African slaves who make up the majority of local population on all the other Caribbean islands in the region.

Anse de Flamand

Anse de Flamand

We grab a mooring ball at Anse de Colombier, a small isolated lagoon on the northwestern part of the island accessible only by boat from the sea and by foot from the island. Locals come here to spend a day on the beach in seclusion via a narrow path.

Fata Morgana at Anse de Colombier

Fata Morgana at Anse de Colombier

We take the path from the beach and walk to the first quartier Anse de Flamands.

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

Mira

Mira

 

Maya

Maya

From here we walk all the way to Gustavia in the unbearable summer heat climbing some steep streets, and not a single car stops to pick us up. This has never happened before. Everywhere we have been hitchhiking, from Florida to the Bahama, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and all of the Antilles Islands until this one, people would stop and give us a lift. But not in St Barths. Here the drivers just turn their heads the other direction and we keep going. Which after all turns out to be a good thing, as only walking on foot one can fully experience the land. After about two hours we reach Gustavia.

St Barths,  view of the harbor

St Barths,
view of the harbor

Gustavia, the capital and the main port, is a small manicured town facing a large harbor full with luxury mega yachts. As you stroll around you will pass by some high-end designers shops, gourmet dining, and multimillion Euro villas. The height of tourism is New Year’s Eve, with celebrities and the wealthy converging on the island in yachts up to 550 ft in length for the occasion.

Gustavia

Gustavia

In the beginning of July, it is much quieter.

Shops Gustavia

Shops Gustavia

We walk around the town, to the fort overlooking Shell Beach, and then head back to our lagoon two hours away.

View of Shell Bech from Fort Karl

View of Shell Bech from Fort Karl

As we climb the last hills overlooking the lagoon we spot two young French-speaking girls fooling around in the water with our kayak, Agent Orange! We are horrified and so jealous. Behind our backs! We make a huge scene telling the frivolous girls to leave Agent Orange alone . They apologies with a sweet accent. Agent Orange is happy.

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Beer and Cheese in St Martin

Saba to Sint Maarten

After those few unforgettable days in Saba we set sail for Sint Maarten, 25 NM north. For the first time since I don’t remember when we are not tacking against the wind, we are not heading east towards the trades! We are almost on a beam reach and Fata is doing 6 to 8 knots! Way to go Fata! The wind is 20-22 knots and the waves are 5-6 feet but not against us for a change. It’s a nice sail.

Evo with tuna

Evo with tuna

We arrive in Philipsburg after only 4 hours of sailing, with a small tuna, about 20 pounds, we caught just outside the reefs. The kids are not too excited about the tuna, especially Maya. Now we’ll have to eat tuna for a month, she almost cries.

Evo and Maya eating black olives and feta cheese pizza at Domino's St Maarten

Evo and Maya eating black olives and feta cheese pizza at Domino’s St Maarten

Sint Maarten and Saint-Martin

Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean, 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico. The 87 square km (34 sq mi) island is divided roughly 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin and is an overseas collectivity of France. (from Wikipedia)

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

Mira at Fort Saint-Louis, Marigot, overlooking the harbor, Saint-Martin

The unofficial story behind the relatively civilized division of the island in 1648 after some years of dispute between France and Holland goes like this:

Each country chose a walker, a French guy and a Dutch guy, put back to back in one end of the island, and made to walk in opposite directions along the shore. The line between the starting point and the point where they met became the border. The French ended up with a bigger chunk of the island because, they say, the French guy who was hydrating himself with wine while walking was less drunk and therefore faster walker than the Dutch guy who was drinking Jenever (Dutch Gin). The Dutch say, the French guy cheated, blaming him for running, which was against the rules.

Even though smaller in territory, the Dutch side is more popular than the French side, with its cheaper currency and duty-free shops. With a large international airport and a sea port for cruise ships, the main economy on the island is tourism.

Maho Beach, St Martin

Maho Beach, St Martin

After a few days at anchor in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten’s capital, we became bored with nothing interesting to see or do really. The place is noisy, crowded with tourists pouring from cruise ships almost daily. There are some hiking trails in the hills, but nothing like the ones on Saba. There are lots of beaches, most full with people, but nothing like the beaches in the Bahamas or the BVI.

Fata Morgana at Philipsburg anchorage

Fata Morgana at Philipsburg anchorage

Yet, there are a couple of good reasons making it worth stopping in Sint Maarten: the beer and the cheese.

 

Say Cheeeeeese!

Next to the marina in Philipsburg there is a place, like a museum or an art gallery, only there is no art in it but cheese. Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor Store. Hundreds of cheese varieties  coming straight from Amsterdam all presented in a big showroom. The best thing about it is that it’s cheap (and there are free samples!). We bought a few wheels of Gouda, 8 pounds for $30 cash each.

Gouda cheese, goes well with Presidente

Gouda cheese, goes well with Presidente

And there is the beer. Sint Maarten is a famous beer haven. Duty free shops sell Heineken, Corona and Presidente for less than 1 dollar the bottle. Every time we go someplace we always return on the boat hauling cases of Presidente, our favorite, stocking up for down the islands where one beer costs 4 -5 dollars.

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Life can be real good in the Caribbean, sitting in the cockpit, cool breeze, watching the sunset, sipping cold beer, eating cheese cubes…

Evo’s Green Heaven

Evo's bottle

Evo’s bottle

Evo's boat

Evo’s boat

 

Eo's airplane

Eo’s airplane

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British Virgin Islands. Empire of The Cats

 

British Virgin Islands

The BVI, a British Overseas Territory east of Puerto Rico, consists of over 50 volcanic islands and cays, some big and some small, of which 15 are inhabited. The inhabitants, full British and European Union citizens, are descendants of African slaves brought to work on the sugarcane plantations in the 18th century. Today, the main economy in the BVI is tourism accounting for about half of the national income. The other half is generated by offshore banking.

Sunset Cats in the BVI

Sunset Cats in the BVI

One of the world’s greatest sailing destinations, the anchorages around the islands are crowded with sailboats even off-season, mostly chartered catamarans. We have never seen so many cats in one place. It’s truly phenomenal. Our boat, Fata Morgana, a 38 foot Leopard, was once chartered in these waters too. But now newer and bigger cats rented for a few days’ vacation zoom motoring back and forth between the islands, rarely sailing at all. People chartering boats in the BVI don’t always know how to sail, navigate or even be civilized. (They think a boat is like a car and love to go ‘full-power’.)One boat hit us in one of the anchorages but didn’t cause any damage, and another, ironically named Serenity, with 6 or 7 older folks aboard, drunk and ignorant, kept us and the rest of the anchored boats awake all night with their loud stupid conversations and music.

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We clear in in Jost Van Dike anchoring for a couple of days in the bay near the beach. There are many mooring balls $30 per night, but we have the option to anchor for free instead, and that is what we do. Apart from the $37 entry fee and $2 for 2 slush drinks we don’t spend a dollar more during our two-week stay in the BVI, eating and drinking from our provisions, hiking and hitchhiking to places on land, and sneaking in national parks afterhours.

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In the next days we island-hop to Tortola, Lee Bay in Great Camano, Virgin Gorda and we finally stage our next big passage to St Martin at Saba Rock.

Even though too crowded for our taste, we loved all the places we visited in the BVI, each one for a different reason, but if we have to recommend one it will be The Baths on Virgin Gorda, of course.

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And I have to mention Lee Bay again, a small secluded unpopular bay on the west side of Great Camano island with incredible snorkeling which a young cruising couple we met first in the Dominican Republic and again near Tortola, Stephen and Natasha Smith (skydiving instructors and gravity coaches) told us about. Thank you guys! We loved Lee Bay and we loved meeting you again in the BVI. And (if you are reading this) thank you for the chicken and beef broth-base and seasoning! Hope our paths will cross again someday!

Lee Bay

Lee Bay

Jost Van Dike

The smallest of the four main islands of the BVI, 8 square kilometers or 3 square miles, Jost Van Dike offers a deep protected harbor for boaters on the south side, Great Harbour, with customs and immigration on shore, a nice little beach and various beach bars and restaurants; and a challenging steep hike to its highest point, Majohnny Hill at 321 meters.

View of the anchorage from Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

View of the anchorage from Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

Mira and Maya on Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

Mira and Maya on Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

 

Beach and anchorage, Jost Van Dike

Beach and anchorage, Jost Van Dike

Beach Bar, Jost Van Dike

Beach Bar, Jost Van Dike

 

Beach restaurant and grill, Jost Van Dike

Beach restaurant and grill, Jost Van Dike

Tortola

The largest and most populated of the BVI, Tortola is a volcanic mountainous island with an area of 55 square kilometers or 21 square miles. We anchor on the north side where the best beaches are and spend a day hiking up and down a winding mountain road all the way from Cane Garden Bay to Smuggler’s Cove, the beach where The Old Man and the Sea with Anthony Queen was filmed. On the way we also visit an old rum brewery still working, and the North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay. We hitchhike on the way back.

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Evo and Maya watching the anchorage from the top of the hill.

Evo and Maya watching the anchorage from the top of the hill.

 

The old rum brewery

The old rum brewery

Smugglers Cove

Smugglers Cove

 

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

The North Shore Shell Museum

The shell museum is a funky old house full of local shells and wisdoms both carefully collected and preserved by the artist for over 25 years. A magical labyrinth, very much like the soul of a black Caribbean  man. Among the thousands, maybe millions of seashells stuck on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, there are signs painted on wood, for sale, quotes given to the artist by friends and family. A heartbreaking collection of authentic local voices. “I ask my friends what do you remember your father or mother said, and they tell me. I just write it down on the board.”

North Shore Shell Museum, Tortola

North Shore Shell Museum, Tortola

A MAN IS LIKE A BIRD. LOOK INSIDE

 

MR JOE WIFE TELL HIM. YOU IS A SICK MAN.BUT O BOY. WHEN JOE SEE A YOUNG GIRL. HE JUMP FOR JOY

 

MR DICK SAID. JUST FOR PEACE SAKE. SOMETIME YOU WALK OUT THE HOUSE LEAVE WIFE AND ALL. O GOD HELP ME

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TWO LADY LIVE IN ONE HOUSE. JANE GO TO CHURCH ON SATURDAY. MARY GO TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY. AND FIGHTING OVER A MAN

 

TELL ALL THE BOYS AND GIRLS COME

 

THE OLD MAN SAY. I AM SO DOWN. HE SAY O GOD HELP THE FALLING BROTHER. HELP COME HIS WAY. MARTER SAY PUT SOME IN MY CUP

The Artist

The Artist

OLD LADY TELL HER SON. DAN WHEN YOU DO GOOD GOD BLESS YOU

 

THE LITTLE BOY SAY. SEA WATER LOOK GOOD BUT I CANT SWIM

 

THE OLD MAN TELL HIS WIFE. I HAD TWO FOOT.SHIT WILL FLY ALL DAY LONG

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COME HOME MARY. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW SWEET LIFE IS ON TILL YOU WALK IN MY HAND. I LOOK UP. I LOOK DOWN

 

SOME MEN SAY LOVE IS LIKE A TREE

 

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN IN HIS HAND. HE JUMP WITH JOY. TO SEE HOW MUCH HE HAVE IN HIS HAND. BUT O GOD HE NEVER SHARE. I HAVE SO MUCH BUT MY SOUL IS LOST

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COMING SOON. CAPTAIN COOK. SEAFOOD MARKET

 

THE OLD MAN. WITH THE BUTTY FULL LADY. BUT HE CANOT SLEEP WITH HIS TWO EYES CLOSED. HELL

 

MISS JANE TELL HER HUSBAND. I GOT A ROOM IN HEAVEN FOR YOU. BUT YOU GOT TO PAY ME FIRST NO WAYET ME ON THE OTHER SIDE. WHEN HE COME-A-MAN

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MARRY SAY. JANE YOU IN THE SAME BOAT TOO. HELP ME

 

COLUMBUS LIE. HE TRY TO FOOL THE PEOPLE. THAT HE DID NOT SEE ANYONE. BUT HE HAD TO RUN LIKE HELL

 

HARRY GO TO THE TOP FLOOR. AND GET A DRINK

 

JOHN TELL HIS WIFE JANE LIFE IS SO HARD SHE TELL HIM GET UP YOUR OLD ASS AND LOOK WORK

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Lee Bay, Great Camano

Hidden between rocky shores is a small bay not everyone knows about. There are no mooring balls here and anchoring is tricky as the bay is deep and rocky getting shallow and sandy only too close to the beach. And not many venture this way. It is fun watching the charter boats arriving and trying to anchor unsuccessfully again and again sometimes for hours. But the best part of the bay are its volcanic rock formations covered with corals below water which are like a fish nursery with dense schools of tiny fishes swimming around. We spend two days here snorkeling for hours and kayaking along the rocks and many grottos.  

Rock in Lee Bay

Rock in Lee Bay

Grotto near Lee Bay

Grotto near Lee Bay

 

Snorkeling inside a fish cloud

Snorkeling inside a fish cloud

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

 

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The Baths, Virgin Gorda

On the west tip of Virgin Gorda there is a spectacular geological wonder. Huge granite boulders of beautiful shapes and impressive proportions once imbedded in volcanic lava stand near the shore and in the water forming grottos and saltwater ponds. It is a different world above and below water, a world of coral cities and fish citizens, of ancient labyrinths and giants. We have been cruising since almost one year now visiting many places, spending months in Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, but we have never seen anything like The Baths: the best snorkeling site hands down.

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

The Baths is a park with mooring balls getting filled with boats, 40 to 50, by noon each day, and no overnight mooring permitted. But just a short distance to the east, there is a small bay, Spring Bay where we drop anchor in front of a fabulous beach and spend 3 days kayaking and snorkeling to The Baths every afternoon, when the many boats and tourists have already left.

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 Spring Bay Beach

Spring Bay Beach

 

Fata Morgana anchored in Spring Bay

Fata Morgana anchored in Spring Bay

A short hike in the park, The Baths

A short hike in the park, The Baths

 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Viktor, Evo and Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, Evo and Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

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Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Evo, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Evo, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya

Maya

 

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Evo

Evo

 

Mira

Mira

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Viktor

Viktor

 

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Mira

Mira

 

Maya

Maya

Saba Rock

On the east side of Virgin Gorda there is a vast bay among mangroves near Saba Rock where most cruisers heading across the Anegada Passage to St Martin stage their departure. On the east shore there is a marina, luxurious resorts and restaurants, and a few small sand beaches. The village is on the other side. We wait here one day before we start the 90 mile passage to St Martin taking advantage of the incredibly strong Wi-Fi coming from the bar on Saba Rock which everyone in the bay can catch from the boat, to check the weather and update the blog.

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Tom’s Island

Sometimes our boat brings us to a place we never heard of before and know nothing about. We then “discover” the place on our own and our perception of it forms entirely based on our experiences there. Whom we meet or what happens, even the weather, determine our relationship with the place.

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Druif Bay, St Thomas

After a few hours of sailing east from Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Islands and an epic battle with a reef shark who got caught on our line, we arrive in a small harbor near a tiny island south of St Thomas. We drop anchor.

reef shark

reef shark

Aboard our kayak Agent Orange we make our way between many cruising boats in the anchorage and we land on the most beautiful beach. Fine sand, crystal clean water, palm trees, a small shack in one corner selling beer.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach in Druif Bay was once a 50 feet long stretch of rocks extending only about 10 feet from the water line. The islanders removed the trees and the brush, hauled off 200 truckloads of rock and gravel and broke up the beach stone with a bulldozer. They sifted the sand to remove any remaining debris, dredged an area of the bay to remove the seaweed, deposited sand on the shore, and planted a row of palm trees thus creating a superb man-made beach.

Honeymoon Beach View of the anchorage

Honeymoon Beach
View of the anchorage

“Hey you guys, how nice to see you again,” someone familiar greets us; what a nice surprise. It’s Rob and Kate, a cruising couple we met a few months ago in the Bahamas. They tell us about a fort up on the hills.

The cruising community chilling on Honeymoon Beach in the afternoon

The cruising community chilling on Honeymoon Beach in the afternoon

As we slowly climb the steep road a car with a coconut stuck on its cracked windshield pulls over. We meet Tom, one of the oldest residents of Water Island. He starts explaining how exactly to get to the fort and tells us some incredible stories on the side, and we end up spending the day with him.

Tom

Tom

Tom is a character. You don’t meet people like Tom every day, full of stories and jokes. For many years he was a captain on a private boat owned by a stubborn Chinese man named Wong. Their crazy adventures around the world deserve to be told in a book and Tom has already come up with the title: Sailing Around The World The Wong Way.

“Hop in my truck, I’ll take you to the fort. But first I have to fill this bucket with seaweed.”

Tom, telling stories, explaining facts....in his garden

Tom, telling stories, explaining facts….in his garden

In the next few hours we collect seaweed for a duck who was found injured by a friend of Tom’s; we visit Fort Segarra, a bunker with tunnels and underground rooms built by the US Army during WWII to protect the submarine base on St. Thomas; we learn about the island’s history, flora and fauna; and finally we collect hibiscus flowers for Tom’s tortoises, they love hibiscus flowers.

Fort Segarra, Water Island, St Thomas

Fort Segarra, Water Island, St Thomas

 

Today a residential area with less than 2,000 km2, Water Island was named after its vital freshwater ponds , Tom’s says, where pirates would stop to replenish their ships’ water supplies. It was like an oasis valued and respite by everyone, as most islands in the Lesser Antilles lack potable water, and even enemy ships would not fight here.

View from the fort

View from the fort

This was the first island in the region to erupt out of the sea and for many centuries remained alone, before the other islands around popped up which explains the many endemic plant species found nowhere in the world. Like the little white and pink orchids.

Orchids on Water Island

Orchids on Water Island

On Water Island there are also some interesting animal species but none are cuter than the red-footed tortoises slumbering in shady places all day long who come out to eat grass and flowers in the cool afternoon hours.

Red-footed tortoise on Water Island

Red-footed tortoise on Water Island

Tom has many in his garden. Angel with a cracked shell which Tom patched up with glue, and a bunch of babies which he releases back in the wild as soon as they are big enough.

Tom showing us Angel.

Tom showing us Angel.

But some don’t want to ever leave Tom’s garden, the tortoise version of the Garden of Eden. Bananas and citrus trees, papaya, exotic spices and fragrant tropical flowers provide plenty of shady hideouts.

We wish we could stay in Tom’s garden on Tom’s island forever too.

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Maya meeting a tortoise on Water Island

Maya meeting a tortoise on Water Island

 

Maya with a baby rad-footed tortoise

Maya with a baby rad-footed tortoise

humming bird nest

humming bird nest

 

a cactus plant with a fruit

 edible cactus fruit

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These cactus cherries are really tasty!

These cactus cherries are really tasty!

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Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.Virgin Islands

From Culebrita, Puerto Rico’s last island to the east, we cross over to St. Thomas, the biggest of the U.S. Virgin islands, less than 20 NM of sailing.

Harbor and town, Charlotte Amalie

Harbor and town, Charlotte Amalie

The Danish West Indian Company established control over the island in the 1660s and begun a massive sugar cane production using slave labor. For a period the largest slave auctions in the world were held here.

Fort Christian, Charlotte Amalie

Fort Christian, Charlotte Amalie

St Thomas fine natural harbor became a popular pit stop for sailors with its many drinking establishments ‘tap hus’ or rum shops.

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We anchor near Water Island for a few days and briefly visit Charlotte Amalie, the capital and largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands, named after the wife of Denmark’s King Christian V.

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Established in 1691 Charlotte Amalie is St. Thomas primary settlement declared a ‘free port’ where ships from all corners of the world would bring their cargo to be stored in large warehouses and distributed further to other New World colonies. The town became a busy commercial port with a growing share of the West Indian trade passing through.

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Today the old warehouses are housing shops, galleries and restaurants in the hearth of the town, seducing visitors with their massive stone walls, heavy doors and narrow streets.

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The best way to see the island is by taking a long ride on a small local bus which passes every 5 minutes and costs $1 per person from one end to the other.

Evo Maya and Viktor. Paying for the bus ride

Evo Maya and Viktor. Paying for the bus ride

You can hop on and off anywhere, the price is the same. And don’t be surprised, the cars here still drive on the wrong side of the road, even though St Thomas is now a territory of the USA after United States purchased the island for 24 million dollars in 1917.

Maya

Maya

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