After Barbuda, St.Barts and St.Martin...

Chelone's travels.....
John and Susie Blair.
Fri 12 Apr 2013 18:06
We hoisted Chelone's sails in the first light and made our way seaward to
start the sail north from Barbuda towards St.Barts. More Humpback whales
came into view as we took our morning coffee in the cockpit, again they
were really close so we got a good look before we went our separate ways.

Barbuda, being so low was soon out of sight but before long we could see
St.Kitts and Nevis way off on our port bow as they're of much higher
elevation with volcanic peaks shrouded in cotton wool clouds.

St.Barts has no such volcanic peaks and it wasn't until mid afternoon that
her land came into sight, we sailed around her southern rocky shores and
into the main harbour of Gustavia as the sun set and wind fell away to

We had dinner, watched a movie and hit the sack wondering what St.Barts
had to offer as neither of us had been here before though we only plan to
stop for a few hours as respite for the journey to St.Martin, hopefully
we'll call here again for a proper foray on the way back to Antigua in a few

In daylight the anchorage was incredibly busy with cruising yachts,
mega yachts and local fishing boats in every available space. The harbour
and surrounding landscape looked lovely, we lowered our dinghy and made our
way ashore.
Gustavia, St.Barts' main town has the inherent charm of a small port, it's
red-roofed buildings akin to those we'd seen in Martinique a few weeks back.
We landed at a convenient dinghy dock at the waterfront and were
immediately propelled into a world of expensive restaurants and even more
expensive boutiques (much to Susie's delight!)...Gucci, Longchamp, Prada,
Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Channel....and many, many more (I've probably
misspellt them but I don't go in them very often!) what a nightmare! where's
the ships chandlers I say, or diving shop or summat! We found middle ground
by way of a supermarket and bought a few goodies before heading to the
oldest bar in town for a refreshing local beer.
After another wander around the streets taking in the sights we made our way
back to the dinghy and the five minute trip to Chelone. Susie made a gorgeous
lunch and we decided to continue our passage to St.Martin, a mere 15 miles
downwind so we hoisted the sails and set off.
St.Martin was clearly in view from the start, a straight forward enough sail 
though our course took us past nasty rocky shoals and the tiny island of
Ile Fourchue, apparently a very nice anchorage and haven from sea and swell.
We closed St.Martin's southern coast and rounded into a bay where there's
an access 'swing bridge' into the lagoon beyond.Opening time was in 20
minutes so time for a quick swim to cool off. We entered the lagoon amongst
a convoy of other yachts, fishing boats and huge mega yachts, some of which
only just seemed to fit through the narrow bridge opening.
Neither of us have been here before so what lay beyond was a mystery! once
through the bridge we were greeted by a crowd of waving revellers at the
St.Martin Yacht Club which is perched overlooking the channel entrance, as
we were to find out later, happy hour coincides with the late afternoon bridge
opening making for a popular daily meeting point for cruisers.
Thanks to our trusty SSB radio and the fantastic community of cruisers that
take part in the daily 'net' we had a group of contacts already rooted in the
lagoon who were keen to help us locate in a good spot and so once inside
we called up on the VHF radio and were given instructions to reach their
location in a sheltered and logistically favourable part of the lagoon and duly
made our way there through the vast anchorage of other cruisers and dropped
anchor near them at a location called 'The Witches Tit!'.
St.Martin is half French, half Dutch therefore one can do the Customs 
clearance in either country, we were advised that the French side's far cheaper
and so cleared there. The lagoon is also half French/Dutch and at first we
wondered how this affected things but soon all became clear, I'll spare you 
the details though basically the French side was very expensive and mostly
boutiques and restaurants whereas the Dutch side has the mega Chandlers
huge hardware store and other really useful facilities, this was by far the best
place for sourcing boat gear that I've come across in the Caribbean yet and I
could see why cruisers flock here (It's a Duty Free Island too).
So, we were to be here for 22 days! I think we reckoned on a week or two but
we were to meet such great friends here, other cruising couples, some Brits
(even Welsh!) some American, Canadian, South African etc. In addition to the
now routine SSB check ins (yes two) in Simpson Bay lagoon there's a daily
VHF Net also which was very informative with a weather report, cruisers
movements and even a 'buy sell or swap' feature which was very popular.
So we spent most days hanging out with our gang of friends in one way or
another, there was a lovely beach on the seaward side of the lagoon next to
the airport runway for a cooling swim and relax on a free sunlounger, the
incoming/outgoing aircraft certainly got your attention though we were told
that one of the 'must do' St.Martin experiences is to visit the beach at the
west end of the runway where incoming airliners landing gear almost brush
the beach parasols and departing aircraft have you clinging for life on the
airport barrier fence as you're blasted by their jet engines! well,  we didn't get
round to doing that but I've uploaded a picture to the blog to give you the idea.
So three weeks of fun in Simpson Bay and we headed back to Antigua via
St.Barts, a long windward leg in company with four of our new friends on
their boats, we all anchored off Jolly Harbour late evening and turned in.
We all met up in the morning for the usual Customs check in and as a few
friends were soon going to part ways it was proposed that we have a get
together so that evening we were in a 30+ strong crowd at the Italian
restaurant in Jolly Harbour for 'all you can eat' pizza and lasagne where
we once again had the chance to met up with more folks whom we'd only
ever heard on the radio.
Following a late night spent aboard a neighbours mega yacht we said our
farewells to those who we'll not see again this season and set off for the
short sail around the coast back to Falmouth harbour in readiness for the
upcoming Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta which starts next Thursday.
Last evening Susie and myself took a stroll over to English Harbour for a
little after dinner exercise and bumped into friend and fellow Brit sailor
Peter who again invited me to the 'Tot club' as they were about to
do their thing so I joined them in a toast to her majesty with a generous
'tot' of high octane Pussers rum followed by some chat with other tot
members some of whom have been living on the island for many years.
This morning I met with another mate anchored nearby and he asked if
I'd be interested in crewing aboard legendary race winning yacht
'Stormvogel' (she was the yacht featured in the film 'Dead Calm'!).
Sounds good eh? fingers crossed for that.
All the Best,
JB & S