One of the fun things about traveling is to see how other cultures perform the same activities that you engage in at home. My parents and I did just that on Easter morning when we attended the Methodist Church in St. Kitts. Many aspects of the service and the congregation were similar to what we are accustomed to (the sanctuary, procedures, etc.), but unlike our one hour services, this went on for three! Most of this was filled with the 10 hymns (5-6 verses each!) that left us feeling a little hoarse by the end. Since it was Easter, the pews were filled with people of all ages, and I was surprised to see the children sitting still for such a long time in their Sunday best. The sea breeze from the open windows and the ceiling fans kept things reasonably cool for the first 2 1/2 hours until the generator’s capacity was exceeded (the city electricity was out), but even the lack of fans, microphones, and lights couldn’t stop the singing! It was a very memorable experience.

easter Still smiling three hours later

Monday we sailed about 10 miles across the channel (“The Narrows”) from St. Kitts to Nevis, its smaller sister island. Both of my parents enjoyed turns at the helm as we sailed down the coast of St. Kitts, passing S/V Maltese Falcon that had found some solitude in a large bay. When we approached the southern tip of St. Kitts (Nag’s Head), Dallas steered us closer to the rocks, and my parents and I put on our snorkeling gear and hopped off the boat! There was a mild current pushing us along as we snorkeled, but anticipating this, Dallas dropped us off at the one end of the rocks and planned to pick us up at the other. The visibility was great, but the coral and fish were not. Nevertheless, it was great to see my parents out there pushing the boundaries and having a go at what was definitely not a typical tourist activity.

winch Setting the jib

st kitts The coast of St. Kitts with Nevis Peak in the background

We had a brilliant, fast sail across the Narrows under blue skies and dropped anchor in Nevis in late morning. When we went ashore, we were quickly accosted by a Rasta dude who wanted to be our driver for the day, but we told him we really wanted some time to just walk around on our own. The town was deserted since it was a holiday (Easter Monday), but we located a couple of churches built in the 1800’s as well of the local bakery. Later we met a friendly driver named Bone who was driving a Dodge 300 fitted out to look like a Bentley. Bone gave Mom and I a free ride to a local event in the park, and in doing so, told us some not-so-nice things about the Rasta driver. It may or may not have been true (taxi driving seems to be a cut-throat business around here), but in any case, Bone became our guy. He told us about a horse race taking place that afternoon and evening, and with that, we were off to the races!

Bone drove us along a windy, often narrow road to the south end of the island to a makeshift track along the beach. There were maybe 200 locals and a few tourists hanging out in the wooden grandstands or standing around eating yummy ribs and drinking Carib beer. Shortly after we arrived, the first race began in a very funny manner. One of the horses called She-Devil, the favorite for the race, kept running in the opposite direction of the starting line with the 2nd of the 3 horses following in its footsteps. After this happened a good 3 or 4 times, the jockey backed way up to give She-Devil a nice running start. This time she carried on through the starting line, so the 2nd horse did as well. In response, they waved the red starting flag to signal the official start of the race even though the only horse that seemed to comprehend and obey the usual starting procedures was not ready. In other words, it was nowhere near a fair race, but they processed the bets as if She-Devil was the clear and just victor, and as far as we could tell, no one really complained.

Before the next race, they paraded the three contenders around. Wouldn’t you know it, the horse that Mom bet on threw its jockey off and started running away! To our amazement, they caught up with the horse, got it under control, and it went on to win the race. The odds were two to one, so Mom managed to double her bet and make a whole $5! She took her winnings and bet on a horse called Obama for the last race. He ran a good race but lost – foretelling? We’ll see… We were all so caught up with watching Obama neck-and-neck with the horse that went on to win that we were surprised to see the 3rd horse cross in front of the grandstands without a jockey! Everyone looked over to see two men pulling the jockey off of the track before the horses came around again, and a small group of boys and men ran over to see how he was. He was loaded into a car and sped off to the hospital, but Bone assured us that as he was talking, he must be fine. (Island medical assessment is a little more relaxed than what we’re used to.)

runaway Trying to corral the runaway

winner The runaway ran away with the race

neck and neck Neck and neck in the final race

As we got back in the “Bentley” and started the journey back, Bone showed us a bottle of wine with the better part gone and let us know that we were going to see just how well he could drive! He assured us that his co-pilot (a young man sporting the attire we saw on many of the guys at the track – bling-bling in his ear, new Gun It jeans and Adidas shoes) had not been drinking and would assist. As it happened, Bone did pretty well apart from scraping the under-carriage pretty well on a speed bump.

Undeterred by his antics, we called Bone the next morning to take us on a tour of the island. Nevis is smaller than St. Kitts (12,000 people vs 35,000) and does not have a cruise ship port, but several old sugar plantations have been converted to lovely resorts that attract wealthy tourists, mostly from the States. One such place was Nesbit Plantation on the beach where we had a drink and gazed at the beautiful blue water and the two kite-boarders who sped along its surface. From there we went to the ruins of a sugar mill and to two other plantations, one of which was originally established in 1640. (It was there that we met the jockey who’d been thrown off his horse the day before. He had shown up for work and was in fact just fine except for being sore.)

nesbitMom’s photo of Nesbit Plantation

Montpelier Plantation was an ideal setting for lunch amid old ruins and strikingly modern decor. We continued from there with a drive along the main road that runs along the coast of the island and back to the capital city of Charlestown. The drive was very scenic, and Bone offered up some interesting tidbits along the way but was a little too hung-over from the holiday weekend for the VIP tour that he’d promised. Oh well.

We rounded off our trip to Nevis by spending time at the Four Seasons Resort near which Pura Vida was moored. The facilities there are VERY nice, as they should be for the rate of $655/night. Mom and I passed as guests while lounging around the pool and hot tub before catching up with the guys that evening for Pizza and Peroni night at the Cabana bar. It had been weeks since Dallas and I had had pizza, so we were ready.

As I write, we are sailing back across the Narrows to St. Kitts in at least 25 knots of wind from the beam. We are flying the jib and a double-reefed main, and Dad is enjoying steering us right on course at speeds up to 8.5. (Both of my parents are speed demons, so I come by it honestly.) To top it off, we just saw a fish (maybe a mahi mahi?) jump at least eight feet in the air – twice in a row in case anyone missed it the first time. Just now we had a gust of 35-40 knots and had to quickly drop the mainsail. My parents may leave here with the mistaken impression that there’s never a dull moment at sea! Haha.