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Thursday, June 6, 2002
St. Barts to Statia

Getting up was miserable as we set off on our trek to Statia, but once we were fully awake, it was a beautiful morning. Our passage was uneventful and we arrived in the anchorage of Oranjestad to find that we seemed to have nearly the whole anchorage to ourselves and it was much more exposed to the wind and sea than either of us had expected. We picked up a mooring and headed in to clear-in with customs and check out the island.

Statia, we had learned, was once the trade capital of the West Indies. Goods were available here from all over the world: everything from slaves, to fine fabrics, gold, silver, guns, sugar, tobacco and cotton. Therefore, we had expected a bustling town with lots to see and do. On the contrary, we only occasionally ran across another living soul or two. Once we cleared in with customs, we walked along the waterfront where we found old ruins of what used to be the Caribbean's first shopping mall of sorts. We also found some small (and empty) restaurants, as well as one elegantly restored restaurant and hotel, the Old Gin House. We took the old cobbled
"Slave Walk" up the hill to the current town and tried to imagine what it must've been like when this was the center of the trade industry, packed with people shouting and bustling about. We also explored Fort Oranje which has recently been restored.

Our friend Jerry had recommended we stop by King's Well, a hotel and restaurant further down the road, as the owners are chums of his he said were a good time. We approached it only to find the front gates to the driveway closed and an enormous Great Dane standing on the other side with a foot long dribble of drool hanging from his jowls. But the sign said they should be open and after some debate, I reached over the fence to scratch the big beast and assess his danger factor. No problem- I was able to dodge his drool as he merely cocked his head to get more leverage from my scratching hand, and we entered the grounds to find a little restaurant overlooking the harbor. Win and Laura (the European owners) greeted us into what felt like their living room, asking if we were there for dinner. Laura handed us menus, but it didn't seem any of what was listed was available, but rather we had a choice of four of five items she relayed to us. After settling on what to eat, we took stock of our surroundings.

At our feet lay a very fluffy dog of some sort, and several cats meandered under the tables. A TV blared American celebrity gossip shows in the corner. To one side, the kitchen (looking just like your grandmother's) was open to the dining area, and beside it was an honor bar, which I had never heard of. Essentially, this means the bar is open to guests to help themselves, you just keep track of what you have and let them know when they tally your bill at the end of the evening. "Make them as stiff as you'd like!" Win proclaimed as he showed Curt around what spirits were available. I thought this was rather trustworthy of them until we found that it would be difficult to take advantage of the situation, as Laura just pulled a chair up and sat with us for a chat while we enjoyed their restaurant. We learned all about her family, how she and her husband had come to live Statia in the first place, their love for the yachties that come through their establishment… even the details of how she's painting a tropical mural in the head of their catamaran, as she thinks it will make it appear "bigger and more open."

As we waited for her to tally the bill, my mind wandered over to the blaring television where they had been watching one of those Hollywood gossip shows. Glittering blonde commentators were talking about Mel Gibson said this, or Sandra Bullock wore that. I thought about the contrast of their coiffed hair and glossed lips, to my unpainted toenails in flip-flops and back-pack that had replaced the Kate Spade bag I carried at home. I barely recognized President Bush when he came on the TV for his presidential address. It really hit me full force just how remote and out of touch we are here. I wasn't sure how I felt about it until Laura handed us our bill and I noticed she had written, "Curt and Allison, Force Five" at the top. I smiled to think she had taken the time to make note of us as if she would try to remember the next time we came around. And when they invited us over for breakfast and coffee in the morning, I really didn't mind being so far removed from our old reality at home for awhile. Their warmth was enough to make us feel right at home on this remote little island.


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