Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Finally left St. Martin and returned to one of our long time favorite islands - St. Barths

March 12, 2007 Monday
Gustavia, St. Barths
17.54.33N; 62.51.54W

Happy Birthday to Aaron.  Although his birthday will be long past by the time this log is updated to our website.  Our younger son is now 32 years old.  In a similar vein as we pointed out to his brother on his last birthday, Aaron is now only 18 years from being 50.  Out of high school only 14 years and still only 18 years from the age of 50.  Life goes by quickly, so enjoy it every day.

It was a busy weekend since we updated the website last Thursday.  We did rent a car last Thursday and did another major provisioning at Cost U Less on the Dutch side of St. Martin and at Match Supermarche in Marigot on the French side.  Stopped at Ric’s for a final Tex-Mex lunch of enchiladas and updated the website while there.  Then we drove around on the northwest tip of St. Martin.  This is a part of the island that we have never before seen on land and it was good to see a new area.  Lots of condo construction going on over in that area, and some exceptionally nice homes/villas being built by people with lots and lots of money---most palatial.  It was fun driving around in a car for a change.

When we were loading all our stuff at the dinghy dock we were right next to the tender for Mirabella V.  They had about a half-dozen crew breaking down boxes and crates of produce and provisions and loading the food into huge baskets in the tender – no cardboard was going onto that luxury yacht.  For the novices, it is a terrible idea to ever bring any cardboard box or any crated produce onto a boat; that is how insects (primarily roaches) find their way onto your boat.  Mirabella V is the largest sloop in the world.  She arrived in Marigot yesterday and is provisioning for her upcoming Atlantic crossing, planning to depart next week for the Med.

We saw the Maltese Falcon a week or two ago on the Dutch side.  She is the largest privately owned sailboat in the world; 289 feet long, square rigged, mast height about 300 feet, and extremely UGLY.  Those electronically operated square rigged sails look like huge window shades.  And there is some kind of truly ugly electronic tower on deck near the bow.  Just a truly ugly boat.  OTOH, Mirabella V is the largest sloop rigged sailboat in the world; and she is gorgeous.  Hard to get a true prospective of her size until you get fairly close to her.  From a distance you can easily see that her mast is 2 to 2 ½ times the height of all the other sailboats in the harbor; but you aren’t impressed with her true size until you get closer to her.  We sailed past her stern on our way out of Marigot Baie today, maybe our photo will illustrate her true size.

After a lobster pizza dinner Thursday night in Marigot then we drove over to Grand Case, just for the heck of it since we had the car rented until 8:30 a.m. Friday.  There were camouflaged soldiers carrying automatic weapons stationed all over the place.  Then on Friday we noticed more soldiers in camo with arms going around the harbor with the Gendarmerie.  We had no idea what was going on; we don’t speak French so the newspapers and local radio news mean nothing to us. 

Friday was bimini day.  We spent the entire day waiting to hear from the bimini shop to notify us to come pick up the repaired bimini.  Bill finally went over to the shop in the late afternoon and waited for them to complete the job.  They finished this repair job about 7:00 p.m.  But Bill was entertained the entire time because there were about 20 soldiers “guarding the bridge” and their commander was sitting on the patio of the bimini repair shop visiting with Bill.  He learned that this was a joint military exercise consisting of French, Dutch, Venezuelan and Colombian forces.  At one point their bridge guarding duty was declared over and the commander walked away and left his automatic weapon lying on the table near Bill.  Well, o-k-a-a-y; now doesn’t that seem just really efficient and military like.  Bill brought it to him as they were loading up to leave the area.  We would love to have a weapon like this for whenever we are in really dangerous areas but Bill didn’t think it would be very smart to keep the commander’s weapon.

Saturday morning we installed the repaired bimini and put up the extension.  We planned to clear out and go to St. Baths for a few days on our way to Antigua.  Well, good plans oft go astray.  Our computer would not work.  We have experienced video driver problems every so often since purchasing this computer and also every single time we perform Windows updates.  Now the darn this would not boot at all.  Bill contacted the vendor and received some instructions to attempt repair; nothing worked.  So, Bill pulled out his laptop and starting setting it up so that we could use it for our passage to Antigua.  We already had Maxsea loaded on the laptop, and all the charts are duplicated on an external hard drive; so that wasn’t a problem.  But the Airmail 3 program and the software for the Globalstar satellite phone and for the Pactor modem was not loaded on the laptop; and we need at least one of those (preferably the Pactor modem) in order to receive weather updates and email. 

Bill spent most of the day working on computer stuff.  Then we made a made dash to the Business Point to ship the broken computer back to the states for repair.  True to our luck for this day, they did not have the correct FedEx forms on hand.  This meant that we had to cancel our plans to leave for St. Barths over the weekend and wait until FedEx opened on Monday morning. 

Early Monday morning we were waiting at the door for FedEx to open (and found that they don’t open until 9:00 a.m. here --- what a way to run a business!).  Then we cleared out with customs and had a pleasant, calm motor over to St. Barths – with the wind directly on our nose the entire trip.

Tonight we went to Le Select for the traditional cheeseburger in paradise.  That has really changed over the years.  The first time we went to Le Select was back in the mid-1980s.  A hamburger cost $10 and nothing came with it or on it – just ketchup and mustard.  Le Select courtyard is now twice the size and a cheeseburger cost only 4.50 Euro, with a large order of fries for only 2.50 Euro. 

We had a great evening drinking beer and vodka and listing to loud rock music, then walking around Gustavia and window shopping.  The French know how to live.  Learned that Jimmy Buffet had done an impromptu jam session at a local bar last week.  Guess we missed seeing him on St. Barths this trip.

March 13, 2007  Tuesday

We walked all over Gustavia and reminisced about previous visits here.  This has always been one of our favorite places for vacations.  We used to stay at the Filao Beach Hotel on Baie St. Jean.  The last time we stayed here in a villa on a mountainside overlooking Baie St. Jean; that was about 15 years ago.  We have visited St. Barths a few times via boat since then, but we have very fond memories of our hotel and villa vacations here on this wonderful French island. 

There are many more designer clothing stores here than in the old days.  A little disappointment this time is that Lulu’s Marine is no longer a marine shop.  It is just another clothing store now.  And Le Select is much more commercialized these days than it was 20 years ago, but still a must-see if you visit this island.

We visited a small food store right on the quay of the harbor.  Obviously this store owner caters to the mega-yacht business.  He stocked every expensive food item that they might want, including truffles at 109 Euro for a tiny can and only the best champagnes.  Way out of our price range for those food and beverage items.

BTW, if any cruiser is thinking of stopping in St. Barths and not bothering to clear in with Customs then you need to be aware that the Port Captain writes down the name of every boat anchored in or around Gustavia each day.  He has posted a list in the Customs office of boats that have anchored and have not properly cleared in.  This list includes the boat name and the date that they were anchored in St. Barths.  The title of this list is worded something like “Boats to Retain.”  So it is not a good idea to visit St. Barths and not properly clear in.  It only costs 8 Euro and is a simple process.

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