SpinSheet March 2013

Page 60

Charter Notes

Story by Eric Vohr; photos by Michaela Urban

Hopping the Caribbean Islands


Like Rock Stars

he Caribbean has always been a favorite destination for sailboat charters. And while the British Virgin Islands get most of the press, there are so many more islands to explore, you could literally spend a lifetime cruising this part of the world. On a recent trip, photographer Michaela Urban and I decided to cruise a section of the Leeward Islands that stretches from St. Martin to Montserrat. Colonized by the British and French, these islands offer a wide variety of experiences that include remote pink-sand beaches, 18th-century dockyards, French couture shopping and dining, and active volcanoes. We chartered with Sunsail, which has a large fleet of monohulls and catamarans and offers excellent support throughout the region. Our route took us from Sunsail’s big home base in Oyster Pond in Saint Marteen (the Dutch half of the island) to St. Barts, St. Kitts, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, and back.

##An exotic bay on Saint Marteen... Priceless!

60 March 2013 SpinSheet

You can skip Île Fourchue—a barren, horseshoe-shaped rocky island just off of St. Barts. This was recommended as a great overnight anchorage, but we found nothing except for rolling seas and a restless night. You’re better off going straight to Anse à Colombier on St. Barts (an additional 30 minutes). It’s a beautiful quiet anchorage with great snorkeling and sea turtle sightings. And since it is hard to access without a boat, it’s generally not too crowded. After visiting Anse à Colombier, you will need to enter the main port of Gustavia to pass customs. Technically, you’re supposed to go to customs as soon as you arrive in any of these small island nations, but experience taught us that the local governments are not what I would call diligent in enforcing this rule. In winter, the world’s rich and beautiful descend on St. Barts, and this little harbor is jammed full of large megayachts. But since it was June, we were

able to pick up a mooring inside the main port of Gustavia. In spite of St. Barts’ glitz and glamour, the island has retained its natural charm. We rented a scooter and spent a delightful day exploring the island’s many spectacular beaches, restaurants, and shops. It’s important to note: if you’re low on baguettes, prosciutto, and gruyère, you might want to stock up here, because good bakeries and gourmet foods are pretty scarce once you leave the French islands. One of St. Kitts’ big attractions is the 18th-century British fort Brimstone Hill. Eight hundred feet above sea level, the fort affords breathtaking views of the Caribbean, including Nevis, Montserrat, Saba, St. Martin, and St. Barts. Don’t leave St. Kitts without also visiting Mount Liamuiga, a 3792-foot dormant volcano that’s the tallest peak in the eastern Caribbean archipelago. We hiked it from sea level, and although it’s a strenuous climb, it’s well worth the effort. The upper third of the trail runs through a cool, fertile

##Sun and boats dance on the waters near St. Barts.