Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saint Barths

One of the best parts of traveling for a number of years in the Caribbean is the opportunity to experience islands affiliated with rich and diverse histories.  Most islands have ties to England, France, the Netherlands, Spain, or the US.  Some, like Saint-Barthelemy, have Scandinavian roots and many have changed hands several times through the course of history.

The "Scooter Gang"
After sailing these waters for over 550 days now, we’ve discovered that certain characteristics associated with the various islands have much to do with the history of colonization and their relationship to the slave trade of the 1700 and 1800’s.  St. Barth’s never participated in the slave trade or developed sugar plantations so their economy grew based on salt trade and now tourism. Discovered by Columbus in 1493 and named after his brother Bartolomeo, St. Barth’s was settled by the French in the mid-17th century, became Swedish in 1784 and was returned to France in 1878. It is the only Caribbean island with a Swedish heritage.  The street signs are written in both French and Swedish.

Worlds most dangerous airport
Gustavia is a charming port lined with red roofs, filled with yachts, and a playground for the rich.  The yachts that congregate here are more than impressive and come in sizes large and XXXL. Atalanta is dinghy-sized in comparison to many anchored near her.   Le Carre’Or is the Worth Avenue or Rodeo Drive of St. Barth’s where window-shopping is the only affordable thing unless Chanel, Hermes, Yves St. Laurent, Jimmy Choo, etc. are included in your budget.  The official 
currency is the Euro and even with the reasonable exchange rate at this time, we always check the price. We were told that even the very wealthy clientele that visit St. Barth’s say, “It’s too expensive.”
We rented scooters – an ideal way to experience the island.  It is spectacularly beautiful and very hilly so each bend in the road offers a new breathtaking vista of the picturesque coastline.  We traveled St. Barth’s roads with Ann-Sofie and Jonas from Lady Annila and fortunately we found a lovely stop, Restaurant L’Espirit, near Anse de Grand Saline for liquid refreshments just across from salt ponds that remained active until the 1970s and now provide a haven for migrating birds.  We visited an immaculately maintained French cemetery where each grave is whitewashed and covered in brightly colored plastic flowers.  On All Soul’s Day a candlelit procession is the focus of the festivities.
We are anchored in Anse du Grand Colombier, a beautiful cove on the northern tip of St. Barth’s, with Lady Annila and Argosea. The water is turquoise blue, crystal clear and two turtles formed a welcoming committee upon our arrival. The bay has been a part of St. Barth’s Marine Reserve since 1996 offering protection from anchoring, spearfishing, jetskis, etc. so snorkeling is on our agenda.

After a week or so in St. Barth’s we plan to take the 18-mile hop to St. Martin, a divided island where one half is French (Saint Martin) and the other Dutch (Sint Maarten). One of St. Martin’s claims to fame is a collection of the most extensive yacht services north of Trinidad and is the last place to put in for repairs before Puerto Rico.  Fortunately, Atalanta is in good shape and most systems are working well although we might have an electrical issue looked at if we can find the right person for the job.

Thanks for following our travels.

Richard and Kay

Kay's next ride

Don't we look "hot" in our helmets

Saturday, March 7, 2015

English Harbour, Antigua

After a major knockdown with illness, Kay and I are finally back on our feet.  We spent a great deal of time in Les Saintes, recovering from some kind of exotic flu, one we hope never to encounter again.  We had a brisk sail north out of Les Saintes and up the Guadeloupe coast to Pigeon Island and the Cousteau National Marine Park.  It was a short dingy ride from the shore to the island where we enjoyed some of the most magnificent snorkeling we’ve had.  The diversity of underwater life was staggering and we swam with barracuda, sea turtles and hundreds of fish.  The coral was magnificent, colorful and healthy.

From Pigeon Island we moved up to Deshaies, a pleasant seaside village on the NW coast of Guadeloupe.  We hiked and relaxed before our 7-hour sail to Antigua. The voyage was good with strong tradewinds from the NW at 20-25 knots, seas averaging 10’ with 15-footers thrown in, and a 10-12 second wave interval so the ride was fairly comfortable.
A minor issue we are coping with is a weather system in the Atlantic that is pounding Antigua and will continue to do so for the next 24-36 hours.  The winds are consistently 25 knots, gusting to 35.  This has made for an agitated sea state and nights where we sleep with one eye open.  The concern of pulling our anchor in the middle of the night is never very far from our thoughts. We have anchor watch programs on our electronic devices that will alert us if we drag but the sound of the alarm is one we hope to avoid.  

English Harbor is steeped in history and is home to the Nelson Ship Yard, the oldest working yard in the hemisphere.  While here we will visit with friends, hike, explore the different regions of the island, and complete a few boat projects. 

Antigua is a great place to “boat watch” so here is a little tour de harbor for you:

Maraya – a 178’ yacht reportedly owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs

Alpha Nero - Shouldn’t every boat have 3 separate dining rooms, a gym, several pools/spas, as well as accommodations  for a crew of 26?

Alpha Nero

Athena – a three-masted gaff rigged schooner owned by Netscape founder James H. Clark. She’s for sale and- good news- the price has been reduced from $95 to $75 (that’s million).


Rainbow - In May 1934, the spectacular 40 metre J Class Rainbow was launched after a mere 100 days of construction at the Herreshoff yard in Rhode Island. Her owner, Harold Vanderbilt, was pleased she was ready in time to defend the America’s Cup.  Fast forward almost 80 years and the ‘new’ Rainbow sails the seas representing J class boats.


Gloria – We love admiring Pete Townshend’s gorgeous 126’ Jongert classic sailing yacht and are thankful we don’t have to maintain all that brightwork.


Vibrant Curiosity - Our morning coffee routine was interrupted today when this 280’ yacht insisted we hoist up our anchor and move so they could get turned around and backed into the dock.  What nerve.  Then we learn that she is owned by a German manufacturer of screws who forced his employees to take pay cuts at the same time he purchased this boat for $100 million.

Thanks for following our travels.

Richard and Kay