February 18-20 - Saba to St. Barts
At first it started out like it was going to be a good sail from Saba to St. Barts. We hoisted all of Lahaina Roads’ sails, including the mizzen and were doing over five knots in the right direction. Well that soon changed. The wind dropped and pretty soon we were not making much headway - about two knots. We started the engine.
We got into Gustavia Harbor in St. Barts early in the afternoon. We anchored amongst a number of boats in the outside harbor. The big boys (the super yachts) were visible inside the harbor and we knew there were moorings in there too, but the likelihood of finding an available one, was remote.
We took the dinghy in to register at the port captain’s office and to check out the town. It’s a very charming U-shaped harbor with tidy buildings surrounding it. You can instantly see what the old salts liked about this harbor - a beautiful anchorage that’s relatively safe. As is typical around these islands, the Spanish, French and Brits all fought over this place. Also, the Swedes got involved when the French gave it to them in exchange for free port rights elsewhere. But then many years later they in turn sold it back to the French - which is what it is today.
On Friday, we took a hike up to Fort Gustav. We headed up a windy and narrow road that runs from town up a small hill. Lots of cactus and other dry-climate vegetation, including a very huge and gnarly looking tree. At the top, there wasn’t much of a fort. A couple of fake canons and a functional lighthouse. But the view was panoramic. In the distance, you could see from St. Martin all the way south to St. Kitts, with a number of islands in between.
On the way back, we went through town and walked up towards what we thought was another fort. It turned out to be a working garrison, not open to visitors. We continued onward walking down the street and saw some of the spectacular villas with infinity pools and views that were spectacular. No other adjective would do these views justice. Looking out from the pool was an azure blue sea with nearby rocks, islands and reefs. What a view.
During our walk, we ran into a British couple (Dick and Mary) who also were cruising the Caribbean. We later met up with them at Le Select, a local hangout known by the cruisers as one of the more affordable bars in town.
When we got there, next to us, was a gregarious group of Americans, who we struck up a conversation with. After a brief chat, we found a number of coincidences in our lives. Like Dave, Larry was a private pilot. The other couple they were with were Whitby 42 owners and were cruising the Caribbean (Dave‘s boat is a Whitby 42). Larry’s niece had been in the Peace Corp in Nicaragua (Kristi‘s son was in the Peace Corp in Honduras). Larry‘s son works in San Francisco as a wine importer (do I need to say that I like wine?) and lives in the East Bay in the Oakland/Berkeley area (very near to where Meredith lives). And the best part - we found out that Jimmy Buffet owns a home here, keeps a boat in the harbor and when in town, often ends up performing informal sessions at a local bar (I don’t think Dave meets the criteria of a parrot head, but he does own most of Jimmy’s albums).
I think that one of the best parts of traveling is meeting people. It’s so refreshing to find people our age leading such full and exciting lives. For example, the one couple lives in St. Barts part of the year, the other part they divide between Philadelphia and New Jersey (Hhmmm….must be grand kids in those other places - I’d live here a majority of the time). Dick and Mary divide their time between England and the Caribbean. Tough life.
That evening the four of us went out to dinner (which we don’t often do) to a French restaurant. We had been told by Larry (who lives here), that it was one of the best and most reasonably priced restaurants. “B4” turned out to be a great find.
On the dinghy ride back to Lahaina Roads, we scooted past one of the super yachts and peeked into a series of elongated portholes - inside was a large weight training room with all sorts of equipment. Although a bit on the conspicuous consumption edge, it would be nice to have a workout room during the cruise.
Incidentally, if you’ve been following the blog, you saw a photo I posted of a wild looking Captain Nemo super yacht that we saw at the Baths in Virgin Gorda. It turned up here. I researched it on the internet and found that the Hamilton belongs to a Russian billionaire who reportedly maintains a fifty man private security cadre on board to ensure his safety. Its earlier sightings were in the Mediterranean. Apparently, it gets around.
And speaking of posh, Dick, told an interesting thing about the word’s origin. It actually is an acronym meaning portside out/startboard side home. When the wealthy traveled by steamer from England to the USA, they preferred their cabins to be on the sunny side of the ship. Hence, they requested cabins on the portside going west and on starboard going home.
Today we're heading to a small anchorage on the north side of St. Barts. After that it's back to St. Martin to drop off Kristi and Rob. After that Dave and I are off to Antigua.