Thursday, February 25, 2016

Accidental Tourists in Statia

We had planned to sail from Antigua to St. Kitts to check out St. Kitts Marine Works for a possible haul-out. We arrived at Basseterre Wednesday afternoon, anchored near the Coast Guard dock, and arrived at St. Kitts Marine Works around 10:00am the next morning.

We tried repeatedly to call them on the VHF with no success. We approached their tiny breakwater and saw a barge offloading rocks inside. There was also a boat in the travel lift being launched. Not enough room to go inside and anchor. Lots going on, but no one on the VHF. We abandoned our plans and sailed towards Puerto Rico.

After an hour we saw St. Eustatius and decided to stop there for the night. And that's how we became accidental tourists on this delightful little island.

St. Eustatius (Statia) has a long and colorful history from being named by Columbus himself in 1493, to gaining fame as the "Golden Rock" in the 1700s, to being the first nation to recognize the fledgling America Navy in 1776.

For years American merchant ships had been procuring gunpowder, ammunition, and arms from Statia for the War of Independence. When the Andrew Doria sailed into the bay and fired a 13-gun salute, Governor deGraaff gave them an 11-gun salute in return. He didn't know the Andrew Doria carried a copy of the Declaration of Independence and was under the command of the Amercan Navy Commander, Isaiah Robinson.
With his actions, Governor deGraaff (seen above) gave legitimacy to the Americans and really pissed off the English. This event started a war between England and Holland and Admiral Rodney soon arrived from England to defeat the Dutch and take over Statia. He ruled it with an iron fist imposing stiff taxes and harsh (in the eyes of the residents) laws, effectively ending Statia's reign as the "Golden Rock".
The guns used for salutes were much smaller than this, but they may have been fired from this spot at the nicely restored Fort Oranje.

We spent two hours in the house (now a museum) where Rodney stayed when he was here. The drawing room has been furnished as it might have been at the end of the eighteenth century.

We also rented a scooter and drove all over the island. It only took two hours because the island is so small: only five miles by four miles. However, it's full of all kinds of ruins that haven't been disturbed over the centuries.

This bell at the fort is rung hourly by some faithful citizen. I just heard it ring 6:00am, so I've got to get going. I hope someday all if you can visit Statia and be awoken by the sound of this bell.

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