Sint Maarten to Saint Barthelemy

We encountered some unexpected swells on the way across to St. Bart – a relatively short 14 NM passage that is usually a lovely morning’s sail.  We scooted by the island of Ile Fourchue while everyone gave it a raspberry. Last year, with the same crew aboard, our supposedly well-maintained and paid for Marine Park mooring broke setting us adrift at 2 am smashing on the rocks. J’s quick thinking and fast reflexes had gotten us off and we tooled around in the pitch black using every available light looking for a safe anchoring spot – with the mooring ball perched on the bow. All bilges were checked and appeared dry –  but we really had no idea if there was any damage so we stood anchor watches until 8 am when the sun was high enough for a dive over the side.

When we arrived in Gustavia, St. Bart’s main village, we contacted the Capitainerie and requested an inner harbor mooring. They were full for our yacht size, but they could offer us a side-tie along the new dock on the east side (designated on the charts as stern-to dockage). We knew that shore was where most of the action was so we thought that this would be perfect for our first landfall –  especially since the passage had not been as smooth as predicted (and no main hadn’t helped). Why this perfect spot had attracted so few boats when the outer harbor was full should have raised a question. But we were so happy to just be there, with our family, as our first landfall of our big adventure that we didn’t give it  sufficient thought….

Richard cleared us in and we looked around to see what had changed in a year. Gustavia is charming, picturesque, flower bedecked, impeccably maintained and usually loaded with megayachts – although we were a touch late in the season this year for too many of those. It’s also terribly French and terribly chic. Red-roofed buildings march up the hillsides surrounding the harbor. Boutiques and mid-range and high-end restaurants abound. One chandlery and one hardware store along with a plethora of technical marine services keep the boats happy. There’s some sightseeing to do: walk the promenade that almost circles the harbor, climb up the main road at the foot of the harbor for a spectacular view of the harbor. Or walk over to Shell Beach for a relaxing morning. Or climb to the two forts – Gustav and Karl  – for more panoramas. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of standing at the foot of the runway when a plane takes off – or better yet, lands. You can just see the pilot standing on his brakes. Apparently there is a special pilot certificate for landing on this “one of the shortest in the world” air strips.

But, first we had to get the hardware on the new main. Imagine two large mainsails sprawled across the tramp.  Given the assignment, the “kids” (all highly focused management types) set up a system –  A&T used allen wrenches to remove the cars from the old sail (8 screws with three parts) and carefully transported them one-by-one across the tramp to J&L who installed each of them on the new sail. It took a couple hours but finally it was done – just one car short.  And no “single” Antal cars in St Barts. The next project would be to feed it into the channel and install the battens as the sail went up.

The two guys couldn’t wait for another alfresco dinner at  legendary Le Select having totally romanticized the restaurant’s burgers into amazing, larger than life fat juicy succulence.  Everyone went set off their own adventures, and we agreed to meet at the eatery in the early evening. A block off the harbor, Le Select is in a pretty, open area filled with tree-shaded tables serviced by a small DIY diner-like kitchen – think lolos or food truck. In reality, those burgers are perfectly fine but it’s the French fries that are fabulous (since we eat a plant-based diet, we really have no right to judge but we DO eat those fries.) This year they even had veggie burgers, so we were all happy campers. A separate small building serves as the bar – which we also visited frequently. They are convinced that this is the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” given his affection for the island – but that title is also claimed by Cabbage Key on Florida’s West Coast (another of our favorite spots).

That first night we found out why there was room on the east dock. Gustavia’s inner harbor is prone to swells and the way that dock lies those swells push the boat forward then roll it back squeaking and grinding against the fenders – over and over and over again. The next morning everyone, including those bleary-eyed occupants of the bulkhead-side cabins, was up early and off in search of French goodies for breakfast and found La Petite Colombe for croissants and baguettes – even complete (whole wheat) baguettes! Later A&T toured the AMC Supermarket – right across from the boat – to stock up on anything they felt was missing from our massive SMX provisioning foray. And J&L brought back more yummy offerings from their excursion to the north end of the island. We were calorie laden.

 

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