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4th February, 2013

Basseterre, St. Kitts

Waiting by the buses

It’s not that far to St Kitts from Antigua so our overnight passage was conducted at the sedate pace of 9 knots.

Normally St. Kitts is prone to strong winds and the two days prior to our visit was no exception. The day we arrived we had a little luck on our side as the winds were down to 15 knots. I say lucky, because the one tug boat that the island has was still completing a dry dock and repair period, so if the wind had been its usual strength then berthing the Sapphire would not have been easy.

Swinging off of the berth and reversing back along the finger quay until the stern was in line with the ‘bollard with the yellow top’, the Sapphire moored up as the sun rose, bathing the port side in a warm orange glow. This lasted for about 45 minutes before a larger cruise vessel moored on the opposite side of the finger pier, casting its shadow across us like some sort of solar eclipse!

It was the maiden call for the Sapphire to the port of Basseterre so as a part of my morning’s duties I was involved in the customary exchange of plaques and pleasantries. I also learned of the ports plans for the future and the fact that the ports tug would be back in service at the end of the day if it was ever needed for future calls (always good to know).

The old Sugar Train at St Kitt's Railway

In the afternoon I had the option of going on the St Kitts Scenic Railway, and as I’d not been ashore beyond the quayside since I’d joined four weeks ago, I thought it to be a sensible decision to take advantage. The train ride itself utilised the old “Sugar Train” that, up until 2005, had been crucial in the logistics of islands sugar industry. This was shut down by the government in 2005 due to the fact that it made substantial losses each year instead of profit.

Initially the train had a few technical problems that took 25 minutes to fix (burst fuel line), but these things happen. Once we were underway we were entertained by the train’s guide whose exuberant personality made him popular with our passengers.

There was also a local quartet that hopped from car to car singing songs ‘island style’ to add to the atmosphere as we all but circumnavigated the island. If I’d not seen the wheels of the carriages for myself, I’d have sworn that they must have been oval as the small train swayed from side to side, like a harbour tug in an Atlantic swell. Our passengers didn’t seem to be too bothered about this though having now acquired their sea legs from time on board the ship.

Returning literally just in time to set sail we departed the welcoming Island of St Kitts with the sun just starting to dip over the horizon.

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