Saturday, February 7, 2015

Timothy Beach Dredging

Many Ross University students and staff play volleyball on Timothy Beach (aka "The Strip") on Friday afternoon and evening.

On Thursday, I heard a rumor that many of the volleyball courts had been closed, and games canceled due to some "beach construction."

Thankfully, our game was still on, so I walked on over and started heading north from Chinchilla's.

Oh, what's this I see out in the water?

I recognized it immediately from the four-month period I spent in South Padre Beach, Texas. This was a dredging barge.

In South Padre, they have to dredge and rebuild nearly every year to prevent the man-made barrier island from disappearing.

I'm not entirely sure why they are doing this on Timothy Beach, which (as far as I knew) was a natural beach that followed a typical cycle of building and shedding.

I have seen some old pictures showing that the beach used to be much wider, so perhaps they are aiming to restore it to its former width.

As I remember, they used to do this type of beach construction during low season in South Padre, so it's a bit puzzling why they would start this here in February -- pretty much the height of St. Kitts tourist season, where many cruise ships drop passengers off on Timothy Beach.

Sights like this aren't really reminiscent of the island's natural beauty:

The pipe pictured above brings sand from the barge in the background.
Have a look at this video from Kate Orchard to see it in action.

Nonetheless, we were able to play our volleyball game, and the large machines soon packed up and went home for the day.

I haven't heard or seen any official news about this project, so at this stage there's no way to guess how long it will take.

In the meantime, it's likely that the volleyball schedule will be disrupted, and tourists may end up avoiding Timothy Beach and heading to the Marriott, or further south to the beaches of the peninsula.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ross student shot at by off-duty police officer

Early morning on January 8th, 2015, there was a major incident on "the strip" involving a Ross University student and an off-duty St. Kitts police officer.

According to a security notice from the university, and a statement from the police:
"The Royal St. Christopher & Nevis Police Force is investigating allegations of a traffic accident between an off duty police officer and a local university student.  During the encounter it is alleged that the local student fled the scene but eventually stopped. It is alleged that the local student then drove off again from the scene even after the officer identified himself.
The officer discharged his service weapon at the fleeing vehicle and a bullet hit the front door of that vehicle. No one was injured. The officer reported the incident to the Basseterre Police Headquarters. The local student also reported the incident.
An active investigation is presently under way by the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) and the Traffic Division as there are criminal implications based on the reports of both persons.
The officer has been relieved of duty with pay and his firearm confiscated pending the outcome of the investigation."
The student involved posted the following picture of the bullet damage on Facebook:

He then recounts his version of the events:
"As usual, the incident report that was emailed to everyone was grossly understated. This man chased me, blocked me in, and fired 2 shots at me from approximately 20 feet away.
One of the shots entered my car about 2 inches below the left side mirror and ended up somewhere in the dash.
Bottom line--this officer knew I was a student or at least not a local, he clearly saw me and his intention was to kill me. ...
Had I froze and not backed up and sped out of there, I would be dead."
Tempers flared when the same officer showed up at a student party the next day. The post on Facebook had over 110 comments at time of writing, including:
"I feel like maybe police officers shooting at foreigners is not chill for an island that relies heavily on tourism."
"Violence towards students just keeps getting worse, from house robberies to armed robberies to now attempted murder. To just leave it in the hands of the St Kitts police is not good enough, something needs to be done now before anything worse happens or someone is not as fast thinking and lucky as you."
"I want the St. Kitts news to cover this....we need locals to be outraged at local violence towards students/non-locals as their economy depends so much on tourism and the students here." (Note: SKNVibes posted an article on Jan 10)
The official police statement concluded with the following advise:
"It is very important to note that the police can be reached at 911 if there are questions about a police officer's identity. Police officers in non-classified units must present identification when asked. Never flee the scene of an accident, call 911 immediately.
Individuals involved in the incident are being questioned to the fullest extent and the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force intends to take the most appropriate action."
However, Ross University students and staff are typically advised to call the Ross Security emergency line before calling 911 in most situations. Ross security can often respond faster than local police in areas where students are concentrated, since they patrol these areas 24/7.

Update (Jan 11, 2015 -- 7pm)

The St Kitts Nevis Times also posted this article to their Facebook page. Top comments included:
"If de student was driving away from him why did he feel threatened enough to fire his weapon after the car."
"What him a do with gun off duty? Fed-UP to to top!!"
"This is pure bullsh__,a warning shot goes in the air not at the perpetrator....if he was fleeing by foot then he could've shot at him,not to kill him but to wound him on his foot...let us just suppose he had kill that person,what exactly would've been the outcome. We must give right where right is due & give wrong where wrong is due!!! #JustSayingMyPiece"
There were also some in support of the officer's use of force:
"The officer story sounds way more truthful to me. Don't see a police shooting someone in public with out real reason"
"Stand your ground Officer: Get back ground checks on the student. No Officer that crazy to just go shoot like that. Not bc, he had a gun it didn't mean his life wasn't threatened bc, some these students do crazy things when they are intoxicated."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

St. Kitts slowly embracing renewable energy

Today marked the ground breaking ceremony for the new 500MW solar farm just east of Basseterre.

Image courtesy
According to the press release:
Construction of the second solar plant is being funded by the St. Kitts Electricity Corporation (SKELEC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan).
SKELEC is assuming 45 percent of the cost and the Republic of China on Taiwan 55 percent of the costs.

This will supplement the existing 750MW array already operational at the airport.

Image courtesy investstkitts
SKNVibes is also reporting a large initiative to replace every streetlight in the country with LED lights that will use about half the electricity that the current ones do.

Picture courtesy SKNVibes
These new streetlights have already been installed along the road in Frigate Bay.

I've also personally noticed that the new traffic/security cameras installed on top of the new streetlights have solar and wind turbines attached.

The one just outside our front balcony can actually be a bit noisy when it's windy :-)

It's great to see all of this happening is a place that currently generates electricity for the entire island with diesel generators.

Looking forward to the reduced pollution, and hopefully cheaper electricity rates!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Costco opens in St. Kitts (sort of)

The Internet is abuzz with news of a new store in St. Kitts.

Thursday, Ram's Facebook page proclaimed:
Just in time for VAT DAY..
Ram's opens a new store to cater to customers in a new way in the Federation!
Are you readddyyyyy for CASH & CARRY?!?!

Apparently not too many people knew about this in advance. Comments included:
"New store opens, find out it is island Sam's Club. My day was made." - Sean
The store is indeed similar to a mini version of a Costco or Sam's Club that you might find in the United States.

This is a big first for the island of St. Kitts and people are excited:
"Multi packs and large quantities galore. You can even buy a 100lb bag of sugar if you so desire. *****OLs - great place for new students******" - Kim
At time of writing, there is a Facebook post in the Ross University Students group with nearly 60 comments, including pictures of the inventory.
"Vats of olive oil, bags of onions that weigh more than I do, bulk packs of beans,lentils, etc....candy room! Fans! Chairs! Things you don't have room for! All at reasonable prices! *Face explodes*" - Carolyn
Of particular interested to the veterinary students was the ability to now buy Red Bull in bulk.

The price for 24 cans is $140.39 XCD which converts to approximately $52 USD. That price is tax-inclusive and seems very reasonable considering the price is $47.50.

I believe the following comment from the Facebook post sums it all up nicely:
"Christmas has come early. This is the greatest." - Kate

Friday, December 5, 2014

Caribelle Batik at Romney Manor

This weekend, we visited the west side of the island, as Caribelle Batik was having an open house.

We arrived to the beautiful, brightly colored building mid-morning.

We were advised that we should allow for a minimum of 30 minutes for "an enjoyable, memorable experience."

The grounds were very nicely done.
Inside, we watched a demonstration of how they produce the Batik.

In case you don't know, Batik is a method of dying patterns onto fabric using layers of wax to create the pattern. It originated on the Indonesian island of Java.

Many examples are on display inside.

After shopping around a bit, we went outside, where there is a small refreshment area serving snacks and drinks, and an old bell tower you can walk up to.

A sign below explains its history:

"The bell tower at Romney Manor was used to control the daily lives of the slaves. The sound of the bell was heard throughout the day. ... Because of their symbolism, most bell towers were destroyed at the time of emancipation. At this time, however, the Earl of Romney was regarded as a more benevolent owner. ... As a result, the bell tower at Romney Manor is the only perfectly preserved bell tower left standing in St. Kitts."
For more information visit their website at

After this, we looped back to explore Wingfield Estate, a former rum distillery. Note that it would have made more sense to do this first. So if you're visiting, that's what I'd recommend :-)

The old buildings have been beautifully restored, and there are lots of signs explaining the heritage and history.

We even saw a nice butterfly :)

And many interesting buildings:


We definitely recommend that you take a morning or afternoon and visit!

How to get there:

  • From Frigate Bay, head northwest to Basseterre and take the bypass highway
  • From Basseterre, head west towards Ross Veterinary University
  • From Ross University, drive west about 15 minutes
  • The road will follow along the ocean for a while, then turn right just past Sprat Net restaurant/bar
  • Not long after that, on the right, you'll see a sign for Caribelle Batik and Sky Safari
  • Head up the road to the top, and park to the left of Wingfield Estate first
  • Once you've seen Wingfield Estate, get back in your car and follow the signs to Caribelle Batik

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Canada now requires a visa for St. Kitts citizens

Up until November 22nd, 2014, citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis were able to visit Canada without a visa.

Now they will need to apply for a visa in advance -- a significant hassle compared to the unrestricted access they used to have.

Why the change? Sun News explains:
A Canadian government source said authorities have evidence that people with ties to terrorist organizations and organized crime are using the easily obtained St. Kitts passport to avoid immigration screening. ... People who invest between $250,000 and $400,000 into certain sectors of the St. Kitts economy are eligible for lifetime citizenship, through a government investment program.  
This reduces the number of visa-free countries available to St. Kitts citizens to 132:

Source: Wikipedia
This is still quite good, and the passport ranks 24th in the world. Canada is tied with a number of other countries for 4th place at 170 countries. The UK, Finland, and Sweden top the chart at 173. Full rankings can be found at

Will St. Kitts retaliate and now require visas for Canadian citizens? This is unlikely, but possible. Tourism is the #1 industry on the island and incoming visa restrictions could have severe economic consequences.

Meanwhile, local citizens are upset, the current government is on the defense, and the opposition party is attacking how the Citizenship by Investment program has been handled. Most recently, five civil organizations filed a joint statement calling for a review of the program.

A government statement indicated that citizens could:
...apply online for a visitor visa to travel to Canada or submit a paper application in person or by mail or courier to any Visa Application Centre (VAC), including the VAC in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. ... Processing will be completed within two weeks, and visas of up to 10 years will be issued...
The biggest concern locally appears to be whether other countries will follow suit. There are some who worry that the UK may impose travel restrictions as well.

As a former British colony, St. Kitts losing its visa-free status in the UK would be a significant blow, and further decrease the value of the country's passport.

Thanks to several incidents, the United States has also expressed its concern, even going so far as to issue an "international advisory to financial institutions to closely scrutinize any business conducted with people traveling on St. Kitts passports."

St. Kitts was the first Caribbean island to implement the Citizenship by Investment program, but it's not the only island nation to have one. Dominica also has one, although with slightly stricter controls and a higher buy-in, and Grenada and Antigua are the latest countries to take advantage of this alternate method of project financing (this is the second time Grenada has tried this). Other islands are considering following suit.

In May 2014, the St. Kitts prime Minister stated that the government had set up a special advisory board to better monitor the Citizenship by Investment program, and promised continued vigilance in ensuring the integrity of the program. Hopefully that will be enough, or the St. Kitts program might go the way of Suriname, Belize, and Guyana.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And I'm Gone...Again

After a great month, it's time to bid St. Kitts farewell once again. I'll miss my friends, the weather, the vibes, the water views, and so many other things, but hope to return again. In the meantime, I leave Island Babble in the hands of Jason, and look forward to reading about what's happening in my home away from home.

Love ya, St. Kitts!

Until next time.
Renee P.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Peninsula Swim

This Saturday saw the launch of the Peninsula Swim.

Pictures courtesy Christophe Harbour 

Hosted by St. Kitts Yacht Club and Ross Swimming Club, the 1.9km swim is about half the length of the springtime St. Kitts Nevis Channel swim.

It's a good opportunity to train for the channel swim, and gauge your ability in calmer water, closer to shore.

The past few days had been very rainy and wet, but the skies clear up and some sun started poking through.

45 swimmers got in the water at SALT Plage and swim north to Shipwreck Bar and Grill, where a delicious breakfast awaited.

We hope this will turn into an annual event.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Island Babble Facebook page for upcoming events like this one.