Diamonds in the Rough: St Kitts & Nevis
Visiting St. Kitts aboard the charter yacht Shake n’ Bake TBD reveals an island in transition—and a promising future.
Story and photos by Kim Kavin
Wax no longer dripped. Its dollops and splatters had cooled, leaving unintentional patterns on the tables, the tools, even the walls where brushes had been shaken clean. The space was eerily still, weighted down by muggy Caribbean heat. Overhead light bulbs were dark. All the artists had gone home in time to pry the wax from beneath their fingernails before supper.
Each woman had left her fabric strung up and spread out to dry, part of a process that could take days, if not weeks. Reds, blues, purples, yellows—the swaths of colors dangling in the shadows looked almost like jumbled rainbows, all still finding their arcs.
Creating batik, you see, is a long game of building layers. The more layers, the more valuable the print is. Adding wax, dipping ink, letting it dry, adding more wax, dipping more ink, letting it dry again: There’s a rhythm to the work here at Caribelle Batik on St. Kitts. Beauty lies not only in the final garments, but also in their creation. Adding just the right layers is a process with deep respect for tradition—and with an eye on what today’s visitors want to see in the product.
I stepped out of the artists’ den and watched my friends head for the cash registers at the boutique upstairs. I instead made my way outside, into the bright daylight. It shone down across St. Kitts in a way that looked as mesmerizing to me as those left-behind wax patterns. On other Caribbean islands, the sunbeams would have landed upon hotel after hotel, mile after mile of sprawling development. There was some of that here, but not nearly as much. I could see grass. And trees. Lots and lots of it, exactly where nature had planted it, in gorgeous layers.
Visiting this region for a week is a world apart from a week spent in busier Caribbean locales like Sint Maarten and St. Barts. Those islands can be part of an itinerary that includes St. Kitts, or you can anchor at St. Kitts and its sister island, Nevis, for the full week to enjoy a slower pace of life. There is high-style civilization if you want it—the Four Seasons Resort Nevis has a par-71 golf course, a spa offering massages and more, and five gourmet restaurants—but there is also the chance to hike St. Kitts vistas where no development at all can be seen for miles.
[View the complete photo gallery and exclusive zip-lining video at the bottom of the page.]
As I made my way around St. Kitts, from the preserved beauty of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park in the west to the new Christophe Harbour marina development in the east (see sidebar), I saw vistas, pristine and untouched, stretching as far as my eyes would let me look. I found out-of-the-way and beautiful stops including the Nirvana restaurant, which serves high-end Asian cuisine on a historic property with botanical gardens. I had the chance to zip-line through protected treetops with Sky Safari. I was reminded, again and again, that luxury development is only starting to come to St. Kitts, which, until recently, was focused on producing sugar cane. Care is being taken to develop the land in a way that maintains the island’s natural scenery.
Layers, I thought. If you add them just so—working with respect for what’s there—you can create something special.
Not only is that happening with development on St. Kitts, but it’s also the story of the charter yacht that brought me here: 163-foot (49.8-meter) Campanella Shake n’ Bake TBD. She’s a 1981 build that, until recently, was known on the charter market as Mary Jean. Her previous owner did a head-turning refit through H2 Yacht Design that gave her an all-new, contemporary and comfortable interior décor. The main-deck master forward feels like it’s straight out of a new build, and the guest areas from the main-deck salon to the bridge-deck sky lounge all have light, updated furniture and fabrics that feel as current as anything coming out of the shipyards today.
That interior upgrade, in combination with her seven guest staterooms and weekly base rate of $160,000, has made the yacht popular with families for the past few years. The current owner bought her in June 2014 and renamed her after the line “Shake and bake till the break of dawn!” from one of his favorite films, Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights.” At first glance, Shake n’ Bake TBD remains much as she was post-refit, but spending a few days aboard let me see how the owner is now adding his own layer to the program, with a significant change of crew.
First Officer Kellie Grice, from Britain, gave the safety briefing with a smile so welcoming, it was easy to forget we were talking about life jackets and muster stations. Chief stewardess Nadya Robinson, a Kiwi, had cocktails chilled and ready not only the minute we stepped aboard, but also at just about every moment of every day to come. We used the yacht as a home base between island tours on St. Kitts, and every time I found myself back aboard Shake n’ Bake TBD, I was treated to something new and delicious from chef Martin Bugeja.
He calls himself “Chef Martin of Malta,” thanks to his upbringing in the family’s restaurant there. His culinary path led him to the Isle of Man, London, Australia and the French Alps, which is where he heard about yachts. He now bounces from yacht to yacht every four months or so, growing bored when he stays too long in one place. (Some people need extra layers in their lives.) This summer, he is expecting to be cooking for charter guests aboard 163-foot (49.8-meter) Benetti Lumiere. By winter 2016, he told me, he just might be back in the Caribbean aboard Shake n’ Bake TBD.
“I have come and left this boat four times,” he said with a hearty laugh. “I will be back again. This is a good boat to have fun.”
Indeed. Shake n’ Bake TBD is a charter yacht with a lot to offer. As her new crewmembers spend more time together, they’ll only add more layers of service, enhancing the charter experience overall.
The more layers, the more value. If you just let it happen, respecting what’s already great, the beauty can be undeniable.
For more information: 954 524 4250, camperandnicholsons.com
TAKE A QUICK ZIP-LINE OVER THE ST KITTS RAINFOREST!
Christophe Harbour is in year eight of a 30-year development plan on the southeast end of St. Kitts. Director of Yachting Aeneas Hollins, former captain of 154-foot (46.9-meter) Perini Navi Andromeda la Dea, aims to make Christophe Harbour a one-stop shop for private and charter yachts alike.
In the future, Christophe Harbour will have shops, a golf course and more. As of my visit, the finished construction included the marina, waterfront bar, and open-air restaurant with bar and infinity pool overlooking the sea. Our group was invited for lunch at the restaurant plus massages on-site, with sundowners at the bar within swimming distance of where Shake ’n Bake TBD dropped anchor.
“My massage was great,” said Y.CO charter broker Eleanor Bloodworth. “I would send clients here for a day to go hiking, swimming, snorkeling, lunch at the restaurant, relax at the pool and then cocktails at the bar.”
Christophe Harbour’s dockmaster, Linda Pearson (who was first mate aboard Andromeda la Dea), is training the locals to offer service at superyacht standards. Interestingly, she says, they are just as eager to learn about charter guests as we are to learn about St. Kitts.
“We bring them on some of the yachts that come,” Pearson told me, “because it’s not like the other islands. They never saw yachts here until three or four years ago.”