You Can Check Out But You Can Never Leave

Tuesday was day one of the regatta and it was all aboard Hotel California Too. Steve, our skipper had experience stamped all over his forehead having done many regattas over many years in the Caribbean. At one stage he was having 500 different people racing on HC every year. Richard was in charge of assembling a crew for Steve this year and I’ve got to say he did a pretty good job. Our star was undoubtedly Annie, our Tactician who was an Olympic Silver Medallist and Americas Cup sailor. Bill was pretty handy on the foredeck having a pretty good sailing resume all the way to AC trials. Anna was Steve’s crew, hailing from Poland via Toronto and the most of us were catamaran liveaboards – Steve being the only one that owned a monohull. Having two Steves on the boat was confusing so I reverted back to Tully.

We were sailing in a class with white sails only so it was pretty easy most of the time. We quickly picked out our nemesis in Spirit, a 65 foot Swan who if not for acknowledging a collision and refusing to do a 360, would have beat us into second. The boat that got first was sailed by an Italian AC skipper, a hired hand, who in the last race beat us by 3 hours (in light to non-existent winds) – Bill commented that he was never in a 20 mile race where he had come second by 3 hours. The racing was fun with the big maxis steaming past us at close quarters and the odd bit of drama after the starts.  With the last race on Saturday cancelled due to lack of wind, we found ourselves in second, due to a couple of DSQs – what a result.

Over the week, the crew gelled really well – both on and off the boat, helped along by the many regatta parties every night (both in the regatta village and one night at Shell Beach) and on the Thursday rest day at Nikki Beach. Eric and Annie kindly invited us on board their Catana 47, El Gato, which we took around to Nikki Beach for the “rest” day.

It was tough going- racing during the day and partying at night but I wouldn’t have missed it for quids. The regatta put on great live bands, French cabaret and of course pole dancers!!! Only in France could you get way with that. The awards ceremony was a hoot with Hotel California making the most noise on the podium (complete with sparklers). You would have thought we had won!!! There were bottles of Verve Clicquot everywhere and the shot of the night went to Christine who lay down in front of all the said bottles that were neatly arranged for the awards ceremony, pretending to be drunk. Later on that night she wouldn’t have needed to pretend.

Regatta over, we headed around to Columbier for a day of recuperation, followed by a final fling. We called an end to the recuperation period about 4pm and headed off to Sugar Shack, for Christine’s now famous jello shots. Matt enjoyed handing them around and took the “one for  you, one for me approach”, which came back to bite him later.  Pre-dinner drinks over, we jumped ship over to La Mischief for an Aussie BBQ dinner and yet more drinks, way past Matt’s tipping point. It’s always a good night when you have to hop into your dinghy and return various items to various boats the next day.

Then it was off back to St. Martin for a crew change.

Going Chic

For such a small island of only 25 square kilometres and a population of 10,000, Saint Barthélemy does pack a punch. Chris Columbus discovered and named it after his brother Bartolomeo – now there’s a bit of trivia for you. Now days its French, having been British and Swedish for a while back in the old days.

Up until the 1970’s, St Barths was a pretty desolate and poor island – and then they discovered tourism (or tourism discovered St Barths) and off it went. These days the rich and famous come to the island and the place is littered with big boats, high-end restaurants and top of the wuzza hotels.

But despite this, it’s still a great place to hang out. The anchorage is beautiful – crowded but still relatively easy to find a space (until of course the charterers come and anchor right next to you). The best anchorage is on the outside of the channel where the sandy bottom is great holding in 8-20m of clear water.

Having snorkeled the anchor, we took the dinghy ride into town and finished checking in (a process we’d largely done over the Internet before we got here. After a quick walk around we retired to the Bar de l’Oubli (the Bar to Forget for all you language challenged people). We ended up having dinner there before going across to Le Select, a local institution that has been running forever.

People mistake it for being the original Cheeseburger in Paradise. Jimmy Buffett evidently sold Marius rights to the Cheeseburger In Paradise tagline in exchange for his food and bar tab being free for life. Jimmy also cooked some of the first burgers at the original Le Select grill. The origins of Cheeseburger in Paradise are from the BVIs, but never mind, I still intend to eat one at Le Select.

The highlight of our night at Le Select (besides the cheap bottles of wine) was running into Dee’s friend Richard, who has been coming to St Barths forever. He was a wealth of information on the place and took us over to Josephine’s to listen to some local and travelling muso’s who were brilliant.

Next day, we dragged ourselves up and got ourselves a rental car for 30 euro a day. Not bad.  We then headed off to visit all the different beaches on the island, with their beautiful sand and clear water. We stopped at the famous Nikki Beach, and walked along the beach to the famous airport where planes take off metres above the water. We finished the day over at Marche U, the largest supermarket on the island. There’s also a Casino supermarket right next to the dinghy dock so we should be able to eat well, if not a little expensively (but not too bad).

Saturday was a clean the boat day, having got covered in salt on the way over from Saba.  Hard work done we snorkelled over to the reef and said hello to the barracuda and the squid swimming around the coral.

Then we had Richard, Donna and Bill over for an Aussie BBQ on the back of La Mischief. Richard set up the Latitude 38 magazine and splits his time between 2 boats here in St Barths, a canal boat in Europe and a cat in California. Donna and Richard are almost St Barths locals, having been coming here for the last 100 years, so they filled us in on a lot of island stuff.

Moving onto Sunday, we pushed the lazy button and didn’t do much. Barbara spent the morning with Cliff, whilst Dee and I didn’t do much. Cliff and Barbara returned after lunch and we dinghied over to the 68 foot Swan that Cliff was skipper on. Cliff was getting too close to Rambler 88, who had installed a mooring for race week, so he decided to motor on down to Columbier for the night. He towed our dinghy and we had a look see at a very nice bay, before heading back in our dinghy to pick up Jennifer from the St Martin Ferry in time for yet another regatta party.

And then it was time for the Regatta!












Dead Men Tell No Tales!

The island of Saba is forbidding and steep, a natural fortress, and so the island became a private sanctuary for smugglers and pirates. The most notable native Saban pirate was Hiram Beakes, who famously quipped, “Dead men tell no tales”.

Saba has had a chequered history, having been French for 12 years, English for 18 years and Dutch for 345 years.

We got to Saba in the early afternoon and discovered the wind pretty well swirls around the island – when its blowing there is no lee shore – the wind tends to bend around the west coast. Saba is pretty impressive on approach with steep cliffs dropping off into the ocean.It is a challenging spot to go to. It’s just a big volcano that comes straight out of the ocean, with no natural harbours anywhere.

We came around the northern end and past Ladder Bay. Out came the binoculars to spy on Elsa, a once impressive 150T super yacht who was up on the rocks having broken free of a Marine Parks mooring 5 or so nights ago when Gloria was there. Our Barbados 50 friends Kirakou had come to grief in this same bay, having wrapped the mooring line around their twin keels and chafing through, ending up also on the rocks. By the time we got there, Kirakou had been refloated and put on a barge to be hopefully fixed up.

We passed by around the corner to the main “port” of Wells Bay.  There’s some mooring buoys, both in the Marine Park and at of Wells Bay, but we chose to anchor n 20m of water and quite a swell. Safely anchored, we went and checked in, paying the customs fees and the Marine Parks fee that is mandatory.  We then retired to the one and only bar in Wells Bay and had a great chat with the local Spanish bar owner and the local fishermen, who filled us in on their version of the Elsa saga.

Next day it was off in a taxi for a bit of an island tour. We went up “The Road That Couldn’t Be Built”, as its name implies it is a road from Wells Bay to a town called The Bottom that the Dutch authorities said could never be built, but that didn’t deter a local who did a road building correspondence course and got the job done. True Story!!!  

We continued on up the road to another picturesque town called Windwardside before ducking over to see the spectacular and somewhat scary airport that looks like the deck of an aircraft carrier. We did a short hike through some impressive rain forest before heading back to Windwardside to book our diving for the next day, our main reason for coming to Saba There’s a good walk to the tallest part of the island which we passed on but next time it looks like something we should do.

The diving next day was both spectacular and frustrating. Frustrating because I had a leaky hose and had to cut my first dive short. To make matters worse the toothpaste trick on my new mask didn’t work and I couldn’t see what I was trying to photograph. The second dive was a bit better with a loaner reg and some mask cleaner. Meanwhile Dee and Barbara really enjoyed their diving on Saba.

We had planned to do a couple of days diving here but in the end we had to leave early because of the horrible anchoring/mooring field that had quite a swell running through it.

So apologies as the photos I took didn’t show off how good Saba diving is.Will definitely come back for some more next year but will pick our weather and swell window better.

The highlight of the island was hanging out with the local fishermen and the salvage crew we met who were working on rescuing the 150 ft Elsa from her resting place wedged on the rocks. We bought three lobster off Nikky, the local fisherman on our last night and headed off with Justin Time (no kidding!) up to Lollipops Hotel to BBQ them up.

It turned out to be a great night as we chatted to some very interesting salvagers, some of which had worked on the Costa Concordia. Lollipops is a bit of an institution on Saba and it was interesting to hang out there with its rather eccentric owner and a few of its regulars.

Evening over, it was time to get down the mountain and back to the boat. No probs – they just called the local cop who gave us a lift down in his very impressive 4×4. Another interesting night in our journey through life.

Next morning it was into the dinghy for a roughish ride into Customs and Immigration to check out before bashing our way to St Barths for a bit of Les Voiles action and partying.