The arrival of the new year, had us yearning for a new destination and so we pulled anchor and set sail for St. Barths on Jan 2. We had spent a fun filled New Years Eve with great friends, new and old, in Sint Maarten. The last evening of 2016 was spent with the crews from Toodle-oo, Serendipitous, Kinship, Badgers Sett and TiSento. We had an excellent indian meals at Lol’s and sat in the harbour directly beneath the fireworks in Simpson Bay Lagoon. A fine show it was, they were directly overhead. IN fact, the Dutch Coast Guard had politely asked us to relocate earlier in the day to avoid any mishaps. Poor little Filbert was not pleased and spent the evening below deck. The next day fortunately was pure relaxation for everyone and we took the time to explore our map and set a course for St Barths.
We decided on St. Barthelemy, otherwise known as St. Barts. Located 20 nautical miles south east of St Martin, it’s generally an easy and pleasant day sail. We were up early and Al headed into customs who opened at 7 for clearance papers, but the cashiers office didn’t open until 8, which left us scrambling for the 8:15 bridge opening. We made it and got underway. Our sail was somewhat into the wind and the seas were busy, so once again we enjoyed a wet and salty trip. In 30º C however this is not a problem. Filbert immediately keens into the fact that we’re getting ready for a sail and is first up on deck, under the dodger, curled into a deep, content snooze for the entire duration, which was all of four hours. He’s also been snoozing out on a deck a little which is a sure sign he has become very comfortable. The wind was on the nose so we tacked often to make it into the port of Gustavia. Dodging the many megayachts along the way was a great source of amusement and rather fascinating.
As we neared Gustavia, the capital of St. Barths, we were completely blown away by the amount and the size and variety of yachts around Gustavia. St. Barths is a popular destination for the mega yacht crowd, the New Years Eve celebration is well renowned and many famous and rich folks gather to ring in the new year here. The harbour in and outside of Gustavia, was full of boats, and after some searching for the ideal spot we anchored off the little islands called The Saints. Seabirds were diving for the fish below and a turtle was swimming nearby, a good sign. The water was deep here so we put out all 200 feet of chain and finally found a good set on our third attempt. We put our papers into our knapsack and headed into the inner harbour to check in with customs. The customs officials were very friendly, and although there was a line-up and it was busier than any other office we’ve been to, we managed to get processed in short time. The office also offered free wifi for your duration in Gustavia and they had an excellent selection of books for exchange and water available for cruisers.
The port of Gustavia reminded me of a European city. It was very clean and attractive with flowers everywhere and red-roofed buildings. The town is built around the inner harbour with a lovely walkway around the harbour that takes you past many restaurants and stores. One thing I noticed about Gustavia right away is everyone was beautiful, thin and well dressed. This is a town that definitely attracts the rich and the storefronts reinforced this even further; names like Cartier, Gucci, Prada and Hermes adorned the shops. As an alligator bag was not on my shopping list, we instead located the grocery that was well stocked and decently priced and reinforced our provisions. We headed back to the boat to ensure our anchor was secure, which it was. And then, we finally got to go for a swim! We have missed swimming so much, and my diving skills were getting rather rusty. The cavorting of the seabirds, the many yachts around us and the lovely sunset kept us entertained and we had a relaxing first evening in Gustavia.
St. Barts has a long colourful history, and due to its strategic location in the lesser Antilles, made it a desirable location to the Swedes, Spanish, French and British who fought over it for a couple of hundred years. It was a refuge to pirates, “Montbars the Exterminator” the most famous of them. The Swedes made it a free port and it remains so today. It is in part the reason St Barts thrived throughout history. The street names reflect the history of the place and make for an interesting place to explore.
The next day we headed for Anse du Grand Galet, otherwise known as Shell Beach and once you’ve set foot here it’s easy to understand the name. The entire beach is made up of shells, with a soft rolling surf and a lovely restaurant. We headed back into the heart of Gustavia to find a coiffure, because Al needed a haircut. He found one and although she spoke no English and he no French, the results were impressive. I asked him what he said to her, and he said ‘short’. I spent my time seeking out a good ice cream shop while Al got his hair cut. We had a gelato to cool down and watched all the beautiful people go by.
The next day we also spent hiking around Gustavia and took a trip to the local airport which is famous for its short runway and challenging approach. A hike up to Fort Gustavia offered a spectacular view of the town and harbour. We could see Ingomar from our perch. She was rolling heavily to and fro and had been since we had arrived. The open harbour and the constant traffic made this particular anchorage very rolly and because of that we decided to haul anchor and seek out a quieter place to spend the night. We had read about Anse de Colombier, a short sail north of Gustavia and so we checked out with the officials, replenished our supplies, hauled anchor and set out for a more secluded bay.
Anse de Colombie was described as the perfect beach and to us it was. Maybe it was because we’d been in the Lagoon too long in St. Martin but this beach was beautiful! There are mooring balls here to protect the seagrass as Anse de Colombia is part of the St. Barts Marine Reserve, so we picked up one close to shore, and got into our swimsuits for a diving competition. Then it was a lovely evening on anchor with a bottle of champagne to celebrate that we had forgotten to drink New Years Eve.
There are beautiful hikes in the area as well, we hiked over to Anse des Flamandes, starting out with a stairway carved in stone from the beach that lead to pretty vistas, diving pelicans and soft white beaches around even curve. When we returned we jumped in the water and had a refreshing swim before heading back to the boat for lunch.
We had been solo since leaving Sint Maarten but were happy to see TiSento pull in the evening before and Serendipitous and Kinship come the following day. We spent a happy hour aboard TiSento catching up with everyone. Agnes and Bas, from the Netherlands, gave us a tour of their boat and we both came back dreaming of what our next boat would be like.
The following morning we were up early and off for a new destination. We had seen a small part of St Barts but will stop in on the return trip to see more of this beautiful island.