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Rendezvous at Nevis

The Picton Castle gang sailed the ship off the hook from Terre de Haute, Les Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe and got all canvas on in the channel between Guadeloupe and Terre de Haute. A sweet sunny Caribbean day. We made our way NW along the lee drawing away from this big island for awhile and shaped up to sail along the many islands over the horizon but nearby. Montserrat, St Kitts, Statia, Saba and Nevis all lay up ahead. Along our course for the British Virgin Islands and Jost Van Dyke, to which we are bound, we would be passing by the smaller Islands of the Leeward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Out of sight would be Antigua, Barbuda, St Barts, St Martin, and Anguilla. But we would sail close to Montserrat, Nevis, St Kitts, Statia (St Eustatia) and Saba.

Overnight found us in the lee of Monsterrat. A small high island with an Irish and African heritage. And also equipped with a live volcano which blew some years ago causing destruction and evacuations. As we sailed to leeward of it we could smell the sulfur coming from the vent. Some years back we even got fine volcanic grit dusting the ship. This time just the odor from the firey deep. Smelled bad. On we sailed.

As a way of introduction to the islands before we arrived in the Caribbean, the crew all watched a wonderful film called “Vanishing Sail”. This is a documentary on traditional boat building on the island of Carriacou, part of the nation of Grenada. It is a lyrical and poignant tale beautifully, artfully told by Alexis Andrews of Antigua. And Alexis was at Nevis with his Carriacou built 42′ wooden sloop Genesis after a big sailing regatta in St Barts for West Indian built vessels. I was trying to get him to sail to the BVI with us. Maybe take our gang for some sails once there? Too far for him to get back to Antigua but as we were sailing right by Nevis, why not just have a rendezvous in the lee of Nevis? Great Idea. And right on the way.

At dawn, we could easily see the tall dark cone that is Nevis, the top lost in cloud. Nevis is famous for being the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton of early American fame. I remember the days when these big 60-70 foot open lighters sailed back and forth between Nevis and St Kitts across the small passage. They carried everything, food, cargo, beer, people, empty bottles back to St Kitts. Big rough old open sloops, but very effective at their trade.
A bright blue morning was upon us. Once under the lee of Nevis in smooth waters, we saw Genesis in the distance off Charlestown. In short order, we hove the Picton Castle to by bracing the main yards aback. Launched the skiff and under Dirk took a replacement crew of three to Genesis. Picked up Alexis and his son – they came over for a “gam”, breakfast and a short visit. Alexis told the crew something about wooden boat building in Carriacou. 30 to 60 foot and bigger, sloops and schooners used for trading to Trinidad and Grenada and smuggling from St Barts and St Martin. And fishing and for just getting about. In the 1970s 50-foot sloops without engines were still one of the main ways to get back and forth between Grenada and Carriacou for goods and people. Wonderful vessels they were. And from to time, another gets built over at Windward in Carriacou.

Well, places to go, things to do. Genesis off to Antigua, Picton Castle bound for Jost Van Dyke, BVI. We called Genesis closer and made the crew switch, hoisted the skiff and we sailed our separate ways. Both vessels “vanishing sail’, each in their own way. A fine West Indian rendezvous.

(photo credits: Alexis Andrews)

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