Statia, Above and Below

From Dominica to Statia is about 145 miles at about 320 degrees, or roughly NNW. With prevailing winds out of the east, that makes for a lovely sailing angle. Add to that a couple of knots of westerly current, and we found ourselves fairly flying, eventually dropping some sail to make sure we arrived in enough light to anchor comfortably.

We arrived, checked in, and took a walk around the town. The contrast with Dominica is striking: we are very much back in the developed world, albeit with unusually many goats.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the grocery store. We’d expected an island with around 3000 people to have limited selection. Instead, we found an abundance of choices we hadn’t seen since mainland Grenada. Here’s Jazz exalting in the selection of sprinkles, and then taking a post-passage nap.

In addition to great groceries, we found our friends on WyRow, and we had a lovely dinner together in the Ocean View restaurant slash Christmas light showcase.

But our main reason for coming to Statia was for the diving. After chatting with the shop, we decided to finally bite the bullet and get Andrew an Advanced certification to catch up to Jazz. For the most part this would fit with dives we’d have done anyway, and the more rule-oriented shops would stop giving me side-eye about going to the best sites. Unfortunately, Andrew did have to do some box-checking, which included a “navigation” walk-off dive in ten feet of water. What’s that first picture? That’s me, following a compass as the instructor holds a bag over my head. #dignity.

The afternoon’s dive was much more interesting: the sunken Taiwanese fishing boat Chien Tong, where a fellow diver was kind enough to take some pictures of us.

And then, as Andrew was taking the first post-dive shower, Jazz went to supervise the WyRow kids in the water, and as she treaded water with a wine glass in hand, she kicked sea urchins with both feet. 18 spines in one, and six in the other. Ouch! The dive shop brought her some vinegar poultices, and Andrew brought the Captain to come cheer her up. We managed to get Jazz through the shower, while Rowan helped Captain do some exploring. Then we had something of a processional to the restaurant down the block, with me carrying Jazz, and the WyRow crew managing her vinegar foot-bucket and the cat. The restaurant staff was a bit confused, but recovered with grace and brought Jazz a giant goblet of wine. The last photos are from one and two days later, respectively, showing progress. #dignity

The next day, Jazz stayed home to soak her feet, while Andrew accompanied the WyRow crew up to the top of the crater, the Quill.

We got her to land for an after-hike cocktail, though. Pictured: the “royal” G&T at the Boardwalk Cafe.

Tuesday morning, we started with Andrew’s required “deep dive”, and Jazz rode the line on her computer a little too hard, hit deco, and got locked out for the day. And we decided to bite another bullet and start our Nitrox course as well, to buy ourselves a little more bottom time. (We’d been spoiled recently with wall dives where we can start deep and gradually ascend over the course of the dive. But Statia’s reefs are mostly along volcanic fingers on a flat shelf, which means there’s not much opportunity to get shallower and still see interesting things.)

Meanwhile, another cruiser who’d been here longer clued us in to an evening talk, on Statia’s History of Alcohol, accompanied by a rum tasting. Add that it was held in an old building, and you’ve covered three of Jazz’s favorite things! This is apparently a rotating monthly lecture series, this time led by a pair of archaeologists who specialize in the island’s underwater relics. Statia was a long-time tax free trading hub, and accumulated a lot of underwater sailing detritus.

And then we came home to a beautiful sunset, to find Captain studying for his Advanced card as well. Silly Captain, you don’t even like water!

So we did more diving…

And we even managed to get the GoPro working underwater, so we can finally share some actual diving pictures! All kinds of interesting stuff: healthy coral and sponges, barracuda, triggerfish, rock hinds, what I believe is a “chocolate chip sea cumber,” lobster, and massive French angelfish. I think these come from a mix of Hangover Reef and Doublewreck.

And then out of the water, Andrew broke his flip-flop, and Captain came to Pictionary night. Andrew’s art skills did not impress anyone.

And then… we had a little bit of a problem where our toilet started leaking. Here’s Cranky Andrew trying to get it clean enough to take the pump apart and replace the seals…

By this point, Jazz’s feet were starting to recover enough for medium walks, and we went to visit the fort in the upper town. It’s definitely got a commanding view of the harbor! There are also a weirdly large number of signs commemorating the “first salute”, which I’ll let you read about in the plaque.

At this point we were deciding whether to visit Saba or just bomb to St Croix to get our vaccines. We found out that despite both being Dutch, Saba considered Dominica to be medium-risk, while Statia considered it low. So to go to Saba, we would have to either stay in Statia for fourteen days, or get to Saba and quarantine on land for ten days. As beautiful as Statia is, the anchorage is uncomfortably rolly, and the prospect of a full two weeks wasn’t our favorite. But between Jazz’s urchin-induced walking impairment slowing down our exploration of Statia, and Andrew’s developing ear infection preventing us from diving in Saba just yet, we figured we’d wait it out. Still, the diving hiatus meant we needed to collect all our stuff from the dive shop.

And we visited the doctor, and despite being uninsured walk-ins, we talked to a doctor and received ear drops for less than the US copays would have been. It’s nice to interact with functional health systems. Check out the waiting room! Also pictured, the post-doctor snack of some kind of Dutch fried beef pastry. Delicious.

Eventually, Jazz was recovered enough to walk a little further, and we did the hike up the Quill to the crater’s edge, and then onward to the “panorama” overlook. It was really odd walking in what felt like a deciduous forest, after spending the last month hiking through Dominica’s thick jungles. They’re not that far apart! But that slight latitude difference, coupled with the flatter terrain, make for a totally different ecosystem.

Hard segue: as much as this is a more first-world island, people here still decorate their cars with excellent slogans.

The fourteenth day crept up on us, and almost before we knew it we found ourselves checking out again.

But before we left, we had one more stop: the Statia museum, the most interesting part of which was the that it used to be the governor’s house, and several of the rooms have been re-furnished to match what they would have looked like. There’s also an archaeology-focused basement exhibit, which feels well placed.

Goodbye, Oranjsted harbor! We’ll miss… not the harbor, but definitely the island.

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