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Date: 07 Feb 2011 02:03:00
Title: Birthday in St Barths

17:55.489N 62:52.204W Anse du Grande Colombier, St Barths, Sunday night

I've had a lovely birthday today and, as I can have whatever I like on my own special day, I've had Pringles, Orangina and curry tonight. Now, that's living.

I went to sleep straight away last night - in fact, I think it was more like a coma. Both I and Andrea woke up early, though, as Saxon Blue was rolling around and getting slapped on the bum so it was pretty noisy in our cabin. As it was my birthday, Andrea made us both a cup of tea to drink in bed but I still didn't feel all that special when I got up. I went for a swim to see if that would help and it did a bit. I managed to dive down to our mooring block without my flippers so I was pleased with that as it was around 5 meters down.

Once we'd all had our breakfast, we dropped the mooring and resumed our voyage to St Barths which had been interrupted yesterday. There was still a load of swell rolling in and we were taking green water over the bow so it wasn't comfortable but I was more interested in the cooling water temperature dial which stayed resolutely in the green so that was good news. I've no idea what yesterday's warning was about as everything seemed fine today. Perhaps it was a problem with the sensor - that's the usual cause of warnings onboard. Anyway, I'm going to let sleeping dogs lie and just hope it doesn't happen again.

By the time we got any shelter from St Barths itself - after about 2 hours - both Kali and I were starting to feel the effects of all the pitching and we were glad to get into calmer water. We hadn't seen any other boats on the way over but we saw the crazy shape of "A" just to the South of us so this is obviously the place to be seen. As we neared the bay, we could see a large motor yacht anchored up and, as we came around the headland, a whole bunch of other yachts, mostly charter catamarans. There were some vacant mooring buoys so we picked up the one nearest the beach and relaxed for a bit.

Andrea and I went swimming again soon after we arrived. I checked our mooring block which turned out to be 2m x 2m of concrete buried in the sand so I think that'll hold us OK. On the way over there, I saw two fish that looked like small sharks but with flattened heads. The flattened bit is on the top and looks like the sole of a boot. I think they're some kind of sucker fish as they seem designed to stick to the underside of other fish and they were very interested in the bottom of Saxon Blue. Luckily, they ignored me so I can't look as much like a whale as Andrea claims.

There were some other fish around as well so I dived down to the sea-grass beds alongside our mooring. This is about 8 meters down and I managed it without any ear equalising problems so I was proud of that. While I was down there, I finally got to feel neutrally buoyant as well so I was able to have a good look around without having to fight to stay down. That gave me time to spot a modest sized Conch shell, around 8 inches long. I turned it over and saw that it was occupied by what I thought was a hermit crab so I brought it up to the surface to show Andrea. We got our specimin bucket out and popped him in while we had lunch.

After lunch, the girls produced a lovely fruit cake with candles on it. Kali had made the cake a few days ago and it was delicious. I also got some presents including a lovely marquetry box with a yacht on it from Andrea and a couple of prints, one of a Pelican from Andrea and one of a whole shoal of reef fish from Kali.

When we went back and looked, the "crab" had put out two very snail-like eyes on stalks and was having a good look around. His movements were slow so he was clearly the original inhabitant of the Conch shell. After watching for a while, Andrea turned the shell over to see if we'd get a look at Mr Conch. Almost immediately, he stuck out an extraordinary muscled appendage, moved it around the back of the shell and tried to flip himself back over. The slippery plastic of the bucket foiled his attempts but the foot was so weird that we just watched him try. It's attached at one end of his shell and, when withdrawn, blocks the hole keeping him safe. When he sticks it out, it moves slowly into position and then flicks in a very un-mollusc way. After a few minutes, we felt sorry for him so we dropped him back over the side. I'm not sure which bit of the Conch we've been eating in our fritters and soup but he's an amazing creature. Tasty, though.

After all that excitement, Kali dropped Andrea and I off for a walk ashore. The beach in the bay is beautiful white sand so there are plenty of people swimming from it all the time. As we walked up the low hill behind, we could see the bay on the other side with crashing surf from the ocean swells on that side. We followed a path along the hillside through groves of 2 meter high cactus. The island is really volcanic looking with gnarled boulders everywhere and the track had been chiselled into them in places. The views out to sea were fantastic with low, rocky islands sitting in the surf. It looked like Scotland but sunny. We spent that last bit of daylight walking barefoot in the surf with the sun setting brilliant red out to sea.

Kali picked us up again and then we sat down to the most amazing curry feast. As we were eating, another catamaran came tearing through the dark amongst the moored boats at about 6 knots. Honestly, the seamanship on display around here is the worst I've ever seen. I don't know what the charter companies are telling these people but they're clearly not bothered whether they've got the first idea of what they're doing or not. It's scary, really, and you have to assume that everyone is going to do something stupid. I'm certainly a bit careful about swimming far from the boat as I'm sure these brain-dead skippers aren't looking very hard.

After dinner, I've just tried to clean the pump sensor in our grey water tank and discovered that it's not working. Strange thing is that the one in the forward head broke just a week ago. They must be programmed to go wrong about a month out of warranty. I've just found two spares that we've carried from Southampton so we'll fix them both tomorrow. I'd have done it tonight but Andrea forbade me as she wants to watch Battlestar before it gets too late. So that's it. A wonderful birthday in a fantastic place. I've even got special home-made chocolates to eat while watching the Sci-Fi. How perfect is that?

Harvey

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