St. Barts

Phil Pascoe
Fri 3 Apr 2009 18:44

17:55.5N 62:52.3W
Anse de Colombier, St. Barts.  23 March 2009.
Early starts are not difficult in the Caribbean, even after a few Rums the night before, as it’s light by 6am and usually warm.  After a leisurely breakfast and we departed Port Zante marina, Basse Terre at 07.45, with virtually no wind.  The 10-15 knots predicted did not materialize so it was motoring again – at least it gave the batteries a good charge.  We decided on taking the slightly longer, scenic route around the west side of Statia before heading North to St. Barts.  Montserrat, Nevis, St.Kitts, Statia and Saba are grouped in our cruising guide under the heading, ‘Islands that brush the Clouds’, as they are all relatively new, geologically, and fairly high.  Both Statia and Saba are impressive from the sea, often with a ring of white cumulus adorning their peaks.  However, they didn’t seem very attractive islands to visit, and in the time we had a few had to be missed.  The huge oil terminal on the West coast of Statia is noteworthy, as it was surrounded by the largest group of commercial vessels we’d seen in the whole Caribbean, and presumably serves as a major oil depot for the Leeward Islands at least.

It was late afternoon before we arrived at the relatively small island of St. Barts, or St. Barthelemy to give it the full name, which is only 5 x 3 miles with some attractive offshore islands.  This is the first of the group labelled 'the Renaissance Islands'I, which are all older and low lying.  It has an interesting history, being passed from France to Sweden for about a hundred years and then sold back to France in 1878, and has remained French since then.  So it’s wiht that pedigree, it was not surprising to find that the place is clean, well-ordered and efficiently run.  It has become world famous (apparently) as a chic destination, a favoured hot-spot for the good looking, well-to-do ‘in’ crowd, seasoned with a sprinkling of acting, singing and sports stars  - and now, 3 old men in a boat!  You can tell I’ve been reading the guide book.  For once, we found an island that lived up to its description – it had a very nice feel to it, numerous mega-yachts and Gin palaces, very good tourist information, the staff were all friendly and fluent in English, and the marine reserves were well publicized and protected, but did encourage visiting yachts to use their buoys (they’re free!).  We chose to anchor out in the bay, just off the capital, Gustavia, which did cost 10 Euros but we did have use of the showers etc in the marina.  
We spent most of the following day (23 March) walking around Gustavia, firstly on a self-guided walk (blimey it’s hot) around the town and over to Shell Beach, where Robin & John drank more expensive beer and I went for a swim.  The beach had some very attractive hominid bipeds sunning themselves – typical French, ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’.  I’ve been at sea too long.  Robin & I then walked up the hill out of town for more impressive views over the harbour and over the airport runway across to the North side of the island, whilst John remained at sea-level and did the shopping.  After a late lunch back on the boat, we headed up to the NW end of St. Barts for a night at Anse de Colombier, part of the Marine Reserve.  All the buoys were taken so we anchored in the central area, away from the reefs, as instructed.  Several turtles gave us a wary glance as we came in, and I soon went off snorkeling in the dinghy (pretty good).  Later Robin donned mask and snorkel for a few laps around the boat, before John and I went ashore in the dinghy.  The surf was larger than it appeared from the boat and after deliberating on the best spot to land, we almost had another ‘Barbados incident.  I went for a walk on the cliff path back towards civilization in search of WIFI so that I could send and receive mails.  Having frequent contact with the outside world is great in many ways, but can be trial when it's unavavilable when you need it.  It wasn't like this in the Old Days!  I succeeded eventually and just got back before dusk.  This time I climbed out onto the rocks beyond the surf and Robin
manoeuvred the dinghy in to pick me up.  Success, a good day, nice island.

Pics:  John on watch.  Oil Terminal on west side of Statia.

Our anchorage off Gustavia - we're somewhere near that Gin Palace.  Robin above Gustavia Harbour - the archetypal Brit.

Cruising mode, watch that sun John.