Saint Eustatius. Chances are, unless you are a scuba diver or an archaeologist, this is a place you have never even heard of. But you should know of it, you really should. Especially if you are an American.
Saint Eustatius, locally referred to as Statia, is a small island nestled in the northeast corner of the Caribbean. A part of the Dutch Caribbean, alongside Bonaire, Curacao, and Saba, Statia has an incredible history. So incredible the story, you might just believe you were hearing a fairy tale or Disney movie plot.
I couldn’t possibly begin to summarize the history of Statia in a single blog post, but if you are interested, here are some links to follow:
So, what brought us to Statia, of all the islands in the Caribbean? I guess it was a combination of circumstance, and scrolling through our charts looking for the next place to explore after Antigua. We had heard that the diving in Statia is some of the best in the Caribbean, and when we learned that coming from Antigua we would need no Covid test and no quarantine, we were sold. After arriving, we learned that we were just the second private vessel to visit Statia since the pandemic had started over a year ago.
Statia is a small volcanic island, dominated by the remnants of a 30,000 year old volcano, affectionately named the Quill. The current population hovers somewhere around 2,500 people, with ancestries predominately of Dutch, African, Chinese, and Dominican. We heard no less than 6 languages spoken on island. While Dutch is the official language, English is the daily language used.
We arrived expecting to stay for a week or two, get some diving and hiking in, then continue on our journey. Instead we were completely drawn in to a community unlike any other we have experienced. With zero cases of covid on island, life went on mostly as normal. Our first night we went to the Boardwalk, the place to be on Friday nights, and saw people dancing, laughing, and drinking together.
The inclusiveness of the culture here took us by shock. As we walked along the streets, every single driver that passed us would slow down and wave. Often they’d ask if we wanted a ride. Everywhere we went people were interested in us, where we came from, what’s our story.
We quickly found ourselves invited on a tour of the island with two of the local archaeologists. Not for money, not for anything in return, simply because they wanted to share their passion with us. Within days we also found ourselves at dinner parties in local homes, invited to poker games and girls night out, birthday barbecues, and greeted by name everywhere we went. We joked that we had to leave a half hour earlier any time we walked any where because we were certain to get hung up in conversation along the way.
The diving turned out to be exactly as advertised, absolutely spectacular. We dove with Golden Rock Dive Center, and immediately felt like family with the owners and instructors. The hiking was equally as spectacular, with stunning views from the rim of the Quill and an epic enchanted forest down inside it’s crater.
So, we stayed for more than a week. Two weeks turned into 4, then turned into 6. Then, with some sweet-talking, we found out we may be able to get the Moderna vaccine while in Statia. The opportunity materialized and we jumped at it, not even thinking twice about committing to staying another 4 weeks to get the second dose.
So our friendships grew, our social calendar was filled just about every day of every week. In this crazy times we live in, the sweetness, kindness, and openness of the entire island shook us to our core. It gave us hope for humanity that we had started to lose. It validated our decisions to quit our jobs and set off into the unknown to meet strangers in far off places.
But eventually the time came to move on. We were dreading it, but we knew we could not stay forever. A return to the States was needed to deal with our rental house and to visit friends and family. And we would need to keep moving as only a few months remain until hurricane season. Our friends there may have been new, but it felt like we had been together for a lifetime.
Before Statia, I had been moved to tears twice during this adventure. The first was the day we pulled out of the marina in Merritt Island FL and set off for good. The second was when we sighted the Virgin Islands after 10 days and nights at sea beating into the winds without an autopilot. Both of these were most definitely tears of joy.
The night we said goodbye to everyone, the night before we pulled anchor to leave Statia behind, we got back to the boat and it hit us hard. The people of Statia left a mark on us that changed us forever. We were overcome with sadness that we were leaving this amazing community, and although we always choose to say see you later instead of goodbye, it really doesn’t make it any easier.
We will be forever grateful for our 9 weeks in Statia. And although our current plans don’t have us returning any time soon, we know in our hearts that one day we will be back.
So Statia, thank you. We miss you already.