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St. Eustatius; A Quiet Little Island with a History that Roared

Beach St Eustatius
Beach on St Eustatius 

Today, a quiet little island in the Caribbean, St. Eustatius was once a busy duty-free trading island in the 1700’s, with wealthy residents Known to locals as Statia, under the command of the Dutch West India Company, Statia was a duty free neutral trading port, with a large protected harbor sitting right in the middle of British, French and Spanish Caribbean Islands overseen by Fort Oranje. Statia’s economy flourished in the 1700’s from trade and the island became known as “The Golden Rock”.

As a neutral, duty free island, Statia was a bustling island in the 1700’s. Great warehouses were built along the coastline and harbor front. There was a large Jewish population, and a synagogue was built in 1737 with a Jewish Cemetery. Statia merchants sold arms and munitions to anyone that had the money. It was from Statia, that the 13 American Colonies purchased many of the arms and munitions needed to wage the Revolutionary War to win freedom from British Rule. England took this very seriously, and declared war against the Netherlands, sending British war ships, under Admiral George Brydges Rodney to conquer the island, an easy feat. Statia came under British Rule, and the trading commerce on the island came to a screeching halt. Rodney plundered the wealth of the island, and many of the residents fled, which became the beginning of the end of this island as a wealthy and important trading port.

Cannons Fort Oranje Oranjestad Sint Eustatius Island Caribbean N
Fort Oranje 

Today, an island that once had over 10,000 people, is a very quiet island, with most of the population living between the dormant volcano Quill and Boven Mountain. The only anchorage is next to the main town in which from time to time, there can be a swell from the north depending on winds.

Scuba diving and snorkeling are fantastic around this quiet island, with very little underwater disturbed due to the very few visitors to this island. There are over 200 shipwrecks to be explored underwater, along with artifacts left from the diverse history.

While above water are ruins left from the flourishing 1700’s including many warehouses, the Old Dutch Reform Church and the synagogue. Since falling into ruins, both the synagogue and cemetery have been restored and stabilized; with the synagogue walls, still awaiting a roof.  The stabilized walls can be seen today along with the respectfully restored Jewish cemetery sitting next to the communal cemetery.

Caribbean, Fort Oranje
Goat Defending the Fort

There are several museums to visit including the Lynch Plantation Museum and the Statia Historical Foundation Museum, along with the Miriam C. Schmidt Botanical Gardens, and the 17th century Fort Oranje.

Today, St. Eustatius is a sleeping little island, many have never heard of.  And many have no idea of its busy and illustrious history, nor the role Statia played in providing the ability for the American Colonies to arm themselves and win freedom from England.  Certainly, worth a stop on a crewed yacht charter, and time to wander around the island and perhaps snorkel or scuba dive on one of the many shipwrecks that litter the surrounding waters.

For more information visit Northrop-Johnson Yacht Charters