Preparing for Andrea's Big Day

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 9 Feb 2011 02:37
Anse du Grande Colombier, St Barths, Tuesday night

We've been getting ready for the big day of celebrations for Andrea's birthday tomorrow and exploring the town of Gustavia which is the capital of St Barths. I didn't do a blog last night as I was in too bad a mood. I think I'm getting tired as I don't have the emotional resilience that I did when we set out. Also, I had loads of wonderful greetings and emails from my friends and family for my birthday which ended up making me feel very homesick. Anyway, I feel much better today and I love receiving messages from "home" but, as I say, sometimes I find it hard to cope with everything all at once. The heat and the constant wind are also starting to wear away at my nerves.

We ended up not doing very much yesterday morning. Andrea was working on video footage and I fixed the grey water pump switches with Kali and did a few other little jobs. We then went off to see about getting into Gustavia to explore the town and to see whether we should stay there until after Andrea's birthday. It was strange pulling out of our little bay. In here, it's calm although the wind blows all the time. There were a bunch of other small yachts and a feeling of tranquility.

Once we got around the corner, though, the swell was rolling past like the middle of the ocean and we could suddenly see what a real yacht looks like. There were a line of mega-yachts stretching for a mile or so. One of them was over 400 feet long and looked like a ferry parked there. It was almost as big as the cruise ship anchored opposite. Just past that was A, the incredible-looking monster at a shade under 400 feet. Then another massive ship which looked like an oil-rig support ship with every conceivable toy hanging off it. Around them were huge motor-yachts that would have looked impressive in less exhaulted company. I think there must have been some very disappointed owners who felt pretty smug when they sailed out on their new toy, only to park it next to A and look a bit puny.

We went looking for a good place to anchor or moor near the town but it was packed with other yachts, mostly on moorings. We went back and forward looking for a place to drop the hook, only to get waved away and told that we couldn't anchor amongst the mooring buoys, all of them taken. In the end, we anchored a long way from the town and further from any shelter. Saxon Blue rolled around and I found the whole thing deeply stressful. As I said, I'm struggling to cope with adversity at the moment and I didn't like where we were atall. Andrea and Kali went off into town in the tender as we needed to clear into St Barths and Andrea wanted to see about a venue for the Celebrations. I stayed onboard as I wasn't confident about leaving her unattended in such a sea.

Kali soon had us cleared in and then came back out to relieve me so I could go into town with Andrea. On the way in, I passed a row of big (but not mega) yachts moored stern-to the dock of the inner harbour. They were all getting rolled around by a low but powerful surge coming in from the Atlantic. There were fenders and anchor chains everywhere and the sound of straining warps was more than my shredded nerves could cope with. Kali had spotted a gap where we could have come in but I didn't fancy the maneuver or the night getting pitched about. Andrea and I had a drink in a nice waterfront bar and then decided that we should head back home to our quiet little bay so we jumped back in the tender, got out to Saxon Blue and headed back the couple of miles to peace and quiet.

We did have a quiet night. The wind is strong in here so we yaw around all the time but there is no fetch so we don't get slapped too badly. I was feeling really miserable and wanted to catch the first flight back to the UK. I got some good sleep, though, and felt a lot more positive this morning, especially after a good chat with Andrea. When we're helping each other along, we can cope with most things. We decided that we'd go and spend a bit more time in Gustavia but not stay there overnight as we didn't fancy the rolling.

We set out after breakfast, past the row of giant ego machines and found ourselves an anchoring spot a bit more sheltered than yesterday but not much. We dropped the hook and dropped back to end up close to a Nordhavn motoryacht behind us. Andrea asked whether we were too close as the people on the yacht had been paying close attention to us and were now really staring. I thought we were OK and ignored them. Then we heard them shout out "Kali" and it turns out that the skipper, Todd, has known Kali since she was born and is an old friend of the family. He and his partner Robyn run the boat together for an American couple.

We got all our stuff together and tendered into the centre of town. Andrea and I went off to explore while Kali went to have lunch with Todd and then do her own stuff. We had lunch in the same bar by the dock and then split up so I could do some shopping for presents for Andrea. That was a bit difficult as all the shops shut at 1pm until 3pm. In the end, we had to do another expedition later to finish up. Gustavia is a strange place. The square harbour basin is surrounded by a couple of streets and that's it. There's an area of scruffy tourist shops and another area by the super-yachts that's full of Ralph Loren and Gucci style shops full of dresses costing a few thousand pounds. We looked around them but it was crazy. In the end, we found a lovely top for Andrea from a sensible priced boutique so it was all a success.

St Barths is even more French than St Martin. There are hardly any black faces around so it looks like a French seaside town mixed with a bit of Paris haute couture. Everyone is totally French, stylish and haughty with great food and a relaxed attitude. Strangely, there are loads of Land Rovers around so I was often distracted by some very fine efforts. I even saw a 55th Anniversary Special - rare indeed. We spent some time watching the huge yachts moored in town. They were really getting tossed around by the surge in the harbour and one of them was stove in all down one side. They had fenders out but they're not going to stop the damage when two vessels that size both decide to occupy the same bit of space-time. Still, you have to have respect for the guys who park them there as there's not much room to maneuver.

We met up with Kali in a cafe and realised that we'd left it all a bit too late to get going. We jumped back into the tender with all our swag, shot out of the harbour and out towards Saxon Blue where we had to unload, get the tender onto the davits and get under way. The sun was just dropping behind the horizon as we hauled up the anchor and raced away from the rolly anchorage. There was a larger yacht going our way but we left him behind as we did a handbrake turn around the rocks outside our bay and used a 200 foot ketch as a marker point. It was dark as Kali picked out a few spare mooring buoys with the spotlight and we picked up the one nearest the beach. A few minutes later, one of the other yachts that had followed us from Gustavia picked up a tiny marker buoy near us and he's still tied onto that despite our attempts to point out the spare mooring buoys nearby.

We've just had a lovely dinner of noodles and vegetables and I've been wrapping Andrea's presents ready for the morning. She thinks that, as she's now officially 50 in the UK, she should get her presents now but I'm not having any of that nonsense and she'll just have to wait. At least then she'll have something to look forward to tomorrow.


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