St. Barts to Sint Eustatius

The next landfall was Statia; a 24 NM sail to the first of the volcanic “Islands that Touch the Clouds.”  Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, the eight square-mile island is now a special municipality of The Netherlands.  In the 18th century it was a free port and the center of trading for the Caribbean creating enormous wealth for many of its citizens. The remnants of that time of flourishing prosperity, when it was known as the Golden Rock and 200 ships might be anchored at their docks, has been preserved in many of the restored ruins – especially an old warehouse.

Today Statia’s economy is stable with a large medical school and a large oil storage depot that keeps the harbor filled with big tankers.  As we were cruising down the western shore heading to Oranje Baai at the foot of the capital Oranjestad, we passed the large fuel loading dock and left the orange tanker buoy to port.  Huge freighters and tankers were sprinkled the mile or so between here and the bay.

We anchored behind the new breakwater which protected us from the swells, and dinghied into the “baby dock” to clear in and do some sightseeing.  We asked the port officer if there was something special happening because of all the tankers and freighters  and he said that this was actually very quiet – that there were often two or three times that many vessels anchored off the harbor.

We didn’t need any provisions, since we were still stocked to the gills, but drinks and snacks at one of the lovely eateries in Lower Town overlooking the harbor along Bay Road were certainly in order.  The Old Gin House, a lovely, historic hotel and restaurant rehabbed from an old cotton warehouse features  a spectacular patio overlooking the harbor with comfy sofas and umbrella-topped tables for dining.  We enjoyed a lovely cocktail hour there – along with a good Wi-Fi connection. Since we didn’t have Wi-Fi on the boat in this harbor, I needed a document downloaded, printed, signed, scanned and sent back to me. The hotel receptionist  happily managed all of that in less than five minutes.

Oranjestad’s Upper Town was up the cobbled “Slave Road.”  The village is lush, green and bursting with flowers amid it’s gingerbread buildings.  Visit the original 1755 Dutch Reformed Church, the partially restored Honen Dalim, an 1738 synagogue, the Museum, and 370-year-old Ft. Oranje. From here Statia was the first country to formally recognize the new United States of America when it fired a 13-gun salute to the warship Andrew Doria on November . 1776.  This was not appreciated by the British and the island never really recovered from Admiral George Rodney’s revenge.

Snorkeling and Diving are the big attractions here with more than 30 dive sites in the protected marine park, but we were more in sightseeing mode at this point and didn’t have the day required for a snorkeling or diving excursion.

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