Ile Forchue to Gustavia – St Barts.
We left the small but somewhat rolly anchorage on Ile
Forchue at 10.40 for the 6 mile hop to the port of Gustavia
on St Barts. The wind of course was “on the nose”. We motored
for about half an hour but then pulled out the full genoa and were able to get
a reasonable angle to continue under sail. Dropped anchor just outside
the harbour at 12.20. Clear blue water and a large turtle even came by to
welcome us to St Barts.
St Barts – its full name is St Barthelemy
– was discovered by Columbus during his
second voyage to the Caribbean and he named
this island after his brother – Bartolemeo. First populated by a few
French peasants around 1685, it was ceded to Sweden in 1784 in exchange for
allowing the French to have a trading base in Gothenburg. In 1877, the
French bought it back from Sweden
for 80,000 francs but it has remained a free port. We think that is a bit
of a misnomer as it’s the only place we have visited so far which charges
a fee to anchor outside the harbour. The prices in the restaurants and
bars was considerably higher than in the BVI or St Martin, but then St Barts is
famous as a jet set island with many famous stars and celebrities making it
their Caribbean hideaway. Fortunately, we had stocked up on most things
in Marigot so only needed to buy a few essentials in the supermarket.
Beach Bar – 25 Euros for 2 Rum cocktails – how
When we had checked in at the port office on Monday,
we were surprised to find the quay lined with marquees, the local radio station
and a large stage. We soon discovered that an important transatlantic
yacht race was due to arrive in the next 12 hours. It was a 2 handed race from
Cornaceau, France to St Barts (3700 mls) and there was much excitement as the
“local team” without much transatlantic experience had stolen a
march on the rest of the fleet with a clever tactical move and were now in with
a chance of winning the race or certainly a podium position. (as it was they
came in 3rd but that didn’t stop the partying). All 26
boats were identical 35 foot Beneteau Figaros, thoroughbred racing
machines. We decided to stay to watch the first boats arriving, although
the leader was expected to arrive sometime after midnight.
We were awoken at 3am to much hooting of horns,
klaxons and flashing lights. The lead boat was about to arrive. Sleep was
obviously not going to be an option for the next couple of hours so we sat in
the cockpit to watch the arrival. Within about half an hour we could see
a flotilla of dozens of boats surrounding a sail tacking up the channel towards
us. Suddenly a flare was let off by a boat not far from us and lit up the night
sky with an eerie red glow. The flare was still burning brightly as it
fell into the water not 50 yards away from us. If it had landed on our bimini,
I hate to think what would have happened. (no photos of the winner as too dark)
The Winners 2nd Place
The Favourites coming in 3rd
All the next day, more Figaros arrived, some literally
within minutes of each other, after 3 weeks of all-out 2 handed racing.
We knew how tired they must be from our own 2 handed crossing and we
hadn’t been racing! By the time we went ashore in the evening the
quay was already lined with nearly half the fleet. We were sure there was
going to be a very big party once all the boats were in but we need to move on
and we decided to leave the next morning for St Kitts.
Boats battling it out to the finish ‘through the
Still more coming in….