Little Compass Rose Caribbean Compass  March 1999


Updating in the Leewards

Guadeloupe Some years ago the French government built a harbor wall at Deshais to provide protection for the local fishing fleet. It was a "T", built just to the north of the river. The only problem was that it failed to deliver any significant protection as the swells came round both halves of the T. The harbor wall has now been redesigned and rebuilt. The new plan provides complete protection right inside the inner part which is south of the river; this makes a great place to leave your dinghy if there is a swell at the main dock.

The bridges over Riviere Salée are working fine, as they have been for years. There are two bridges, one at the southern entrance to Riviere Salée, the other north of the airport. During the winter they open daily except Sunday. Last year from August to November they only opened on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and this may happen again this summer. If you are heading north be ready at the first bridge well before the opening time of 0500. The second bridge is timed to open as you arrive so do not dawdle or you will get stuck between the two. If you are coming south be ready at 0420.


When approaching Nevis at night beware the new, nearly finished commercial port off Long Point about 2 miles south of Charlestown. The L-shaped wall sticks out about one-tenth of a mile and is completely unlit.

If you survive this to arrive safely in Charlestown and have kids on board, you can keep them entertained for a few hours with a trip to Caribbean Cove. This amusement park is piece of pure Americana with a Caribbean theme: pirates. The park is so American that by the time you leave you will feel you have been visiting the States. Close by the entrance is a large pool where you can rent bumper boats and try to squeeze your neighbors under the waterfall. The main amusement is a miniature golf course that follows an artificial waterway full of waterfalls, treasure, sunken boats and pirate remains. Mechanized parrots talk to you and tape-recorded jungle sounds follow you round. An amusement arcade, fast food outlet, deli and souvenir stand complete the park.

Caribbean Cove is the work of Dr. Joseph Murphy, a marketing whiz from the USA who has become so attached to Nevis that he has become a citizen. The amusement park is not his only venture; up in Gingerland he has built an 8-acre Botanical Gardens of Nevis. The centerpiece is a huge boutique and restaurant faithfully following the style of a grand old estate house. The manager's house is built underground with a lawn forming the roof, which must certainly dampen the sound of all those tourists tramping overhead. The garden features artificial rivers and pools, a rainforest conservatory, cactus gardens and lots of palms and orchids. The garden is still young but shows great promise. The boutique, which has a vast collection of nature-related gifts, also sells a big range of potted plants. This might just be the place to buy your next boat plant.

St Kitts

The challenge of writing a cruising guide is not only to report on what is there but to try and build an accurate picture of those projects reaching completion. I messed up royally in Basseterre, St. Kitts, 2 years ago when I said "It makes sense to use the new marina which is completely protected." Well, I was looking at the finished harbor of Port Zante and it certainly looked protected to me. But as it turns out, even in calm conditions the flat-looking water has enough movement to make your lines creak and groan. This is acceptable and the marina is a great convenience, but when the wind switches to the south the water becomes more like a washing machine and can be dangerous. If you call Port Zante (VHF 68) as you approach, they will tell you whether conditions in the marina at that time are comfortable or not.

St. Martin/Sint Maarten

I did better in Marigot, St. Martin, when I added to our sketch charts a new marina wall (which several locals had assured me would never actually be built). The outer wall is now completed and offers good protection from northerly swells to those yachts anchored inside or even off the entrance. At some point construction on the inside of the marina will begin and anchored yachts will be chased back outside. The developers plan to dredge the inside of the harbor to 15 feet to enable it to accommodate superyachts. Dredging could happen this year, or it may be several years down the line. In the meantime, the current state of development improves the anchorage, so enjoy.

Construction of a new cruise ship dock is well under way in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. I could not believe my eyes when I sailed in there recently a mountain of sand about 40 feet high had been dumped all along the eastern shore from Great Bay Marina to the commercial port, extending out about as far as the marina wall. No protection had been provided to stop this sand from washing out to sea. As a consequence there was a sizeable new beach around the inside of Great Bay Marina breakwater. Several articles in the local press pointed out the danger of this situation and just days later the cruiseship tender dock in downtown Philipsburg was shoaled so badly the larger tenders could no longer use it and had to land passengers at Bobby's Marina. Officials said they would start building a wall immediately, and hopefully this is now underway. Meanwhile the construction seems to be causing more and more yacht-related businesses to move to from Philipsburg to Simpson Bay which has become the center of Sint Maarten's yachting industry. A new port office has been built just to the west of the bridge in Simpson Bay and you should be able to clear in there by the time this article appears.

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