St Barths (5th January) behind on blogs!!
Finally the beautiful rocks of St Barths finally approached us as we venture in to the bay after a very choppy sail over from St Maartins……
The journey from St Maarten to St Barths
We had waited what felt like an eternity for the Christmas trade winds to die down to give us a window out of Simpson Bay and as the gate out of the lagoon lifted to let us onwards on our journey from St Maartin, we passed an array of super yachts with helicopters and a sailing yacht just for good measure sitting on their decks in case the owner had a particular fancy of vehicle outside the standard jet ski option. It suddenly dawned on us that our yacht Tom Tom is in the company of a lot of bigger brothers and sisters out here as the world’s elite use this stretch of the Caribbean as their playground – with the warm tropical climate and blue coral seas in the middle of January as the snow thrashes the UK, we can see the appeal! The haven of the Caribbean to the big boats was clearer than ever as we ambled in to the bay of St Barths to see the sites of the most prestigious yachts in the world as our company, such as the famous and very aerodynamically challenging modern shape of the boat known as ‘A’ which is extraordinary in shape and either belongs to Larry Ellison or Abramivich –as you can probably tell, this topic of ownership had much debate! ‘A’ was joined by the well known super mega yacht called ‘Luna’ which used to be owned by a big player at Microsoft (Paul Allan) but was then sold on to… again – one Mr Abramavich! The word was out that the Russian had been on holiday over the New Year and rather than taking one boat, a host of his best toys littered the waters around us.
More relevant to us, our journey from St Maartins to St Baths had taught us that with the best will in the world of using all the wind and weather websites and forecasts – in particular, one know as ‘Wind Guru’, those promises of 3 feet waves often go totally against prediction and turn in to up to 8 feet + in height – not pleasant for those of us who are partial to a bit of sea belly during particularly rough voyages!
However the reward was evident as we set our anchor in the clear seas and cooled down in the afternoon with a swim. With our snorkels on, we could clearly see the seabed – and unfortunately the underside of Tom Tom which revealed that after a few weeks in a murky Simpson Bay marina, a strong attack of the dreaded barnacles had plagued itself across the hull, rudder, keel, and most annoyingly the propeller – this suddenly shed light on why we were perhaps a few knots slower on our journey than we had expected. By the next morning I took a deep sigh and got back into the water with my snorkel (taking advantage of the morning sunlight’s visibility through the water) to try and scrub – what a task this is! The propeller proved the biggest challenge as the barnacles showed their reluctance to release their grip. After a never ending 2 hour battle (which Nick guided me on from deck, and then later joining in the action – flippers in tow!) we pretty much completed our chore – complete with an array of barnacle scratches and cuts across our bodies as a result of trying to wedge ourselves in odd positions under the boat to try and scrub without being pushed away by the tide. Exhausted we were!
With all the graft out of the way, we went ashore and checked in through customs to the beautiful and chic main port town of Gustavia. The feeling is absolutely French with a twist of gingerbread colonial houses in many pastel colours of the rainbow. The cars of choice on the island are Mini’s and this just adds to the charm of the island along with its Euro, Boulanger bread, colourful boutiques and unique St Barths number plates demonstrating that their identity has its own specialness outside of a normal French province. We ambled up and down the tranquil shaded streets overlooking the harbour and hills of St Barths and people watched in the bar over a chilled Origina – our drink of choice in the French islands! The designer shops of Paris have tapped in to the island’s appeal and many upmarket boutiques sell the latest Roberto Cavalli designs intermingled with a bit of Cartier for good measure! The one thing that was apparent is that the French have done an amazing job of keeping the old colonial buildings in good stead – which is a big challenge in the Caribbean and the streets are unbelievably clean. St Barths is absolutely one of our favourite places and an absolute must for anyone venturing out here on their boat. After 2 nights in the bay, we were ready to move on to our next stop. With the anticipation of getting to Antigua next, ‘Wind Guru’ yet again demonstrated its pot luck predictability. As we headed out South East of Gustavia at a not very friendly hour of dawn, we passed by St Barths on our journey only to discover that the wind and the seas were against us. The slamming gave us some serious decisions to make – either to take the chance of getting to Antigua and adding another 7+ hours to the journey with a boat slamming hard off each big wave which created a high risk of damage, or make a ‘Plan B’ on the spot…. As the next blog will show, the latter was what we chose to do which took us off course to our next island and created much more exploration than we had planned for…. We left the chic islands of the super yacht supermarket behind us and headed forward to our quieter and less tourist driven destination.
Goal of dropping anchor in St Barths (with the weather not in our favour originally)
A few scratches
Saying goodbye to good friends in St Maartin