St. Barths has always been one of our favorite places. Back in the days when money was no object (a very short but fun period of our lives), we often visited St. Barths during the winter months. Our favorite Relaix and Chateau hotel, the Filao Beach Hotel, on the beach of Baie St. Jean no longer exists and has been replaced by the Eden Rock resort, but we still enjoy St. Barths.
In May 2006 we left the BVI at Leverick Bay in Virgin Gorda Sound. Predicted weather forecast was for winds 8-12 kts and seas 2-3 ft. Actual weather experienced was sustained 30kts for hours and many, many squalls. There was lightning all around us and rates as the worst passage we ever experienced. We eventually did see the predicted weather for the final 2 hours as we approached St. Martin in the sunrise. Bill handled the trip extremely well; even stayed awake for most of the night. Judy fed the fish a few times but never took any seasickness meds. Gonna lose weight one way or another. Amazing how unappetizing food can be when experiencing all that motion. We anchored outside the Dutch side of Sint Maarten under our "Q" flag and rested for a couple of hours, then sailed on to St. Barths.
Saturday night, May 13, 2006
Anse du Grand Columbier, St. Barths (St. Barthelemy)
Arrived 4:00 p.m. in gorgeous weather. We picked up the last mooring ball in the tight space of the little harbor, right next to a boat that was festooned with balloons and dressed with flags of all sorts all over the boat. There were also at least 6 dinghies tied to the stern.
It soon became apparent that a French couple was getting married on the boat. The bride wore a very short white wedding dress, veil and all. Bill noted that one girl was breast-feeding a tiny infant while drinking several glasses of champagne. Guess the French start drinking wines really early in their lifetimes. We heard many corks popping over there during the evening. Certinly seemed a good way to have a fun wedding and sounded like a good time was had by all.
We left at first light the next morning as we were in a hurry to get south in 2006.
Our next visit to St. Barths occurred on March 12, 2007. This time we anchored at Gustavia at
17.54.33N; 62.51.54W. The wind was directly on our nose as we motored down from French side of St. Martin. Since there are only 2 of us onboard, we opted not to even attempt picking up a mooring inside tiny Gustavia Harbour proper. This requires picking up both a bow and stern mooring ball, neither of which have painters or pennant lines on them. This is too involved for 2 people to do by themselves in the very tiny confines of this harbor. We could probably do it but it just isn't worth the stress and hassle. Especially when it is only a short dinghy ride out to this anchorage.
That night 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-- and it was very small. Le Select courtyard is now twice the size and a cheeseburger costs only 4.50 Euro, with a large order of fries for only 2.50 Euro. And the burger is considerably larged size than in years past, but still not American sized.
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. 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 cost 8 Euro this trip for us and is a simple process. I later read in early 2009 that the clearance costs have increased.