Friday, May 12, 2017

A Week In St. Barth's

I was a little nervous about clearing into St. Barth's.  We had cleared out of Anguilla on the 4th of May and stopped for a Bonus Day at Ile Fourchue, which was totally awesome... But I wondered if the authorities in StB would chastise us showing up on the 6th after stopping without clearing in.  Many other Cruisers do, but still...
It's only 5 miles, but Bruce wanted to sail!

We wanted to go straight from Ile Fourchue to the mooring field at Colombier on St. Barth's... But the do-gooder in me was already having cold sweats.  We continued on past the shining loveliness that is Colombier and, after a half hour of motoring around looking for a spot... we dropped anchor at Gustavia.


There was not a spare foot of space in the anchorage outside the Port basin so we had to anchor toward the outer edge of the crowd in about 30 ft of water.  We had no experience here... would the boats change direction with the tide and turn the other way?  Would they swirl and bump?

Turtles in the anchorage.  LOTS of them!

The other fort...
After waiting and watching for a while, we felt confident enough to at least go and get cleared in... we would leave the exploring until the next day when we felt better about our position.

It looks very Colonial
The inner basin in Port Gustavia is well protected and lined with modern day colonial buildings... if that makes sense.  The feel of the place is definately historical... but it's all very nicely maintained and there is obviously a lot of money here!

St. Barth's has never really been one of my Bucket List places... Because I see is as a playground of the Rich and Famous... and we are neither of those!

Port de Plaisance de Gustivia
Pretty nice dinghy docks with bars or rings to tie or lock up.
We had to wait a bit but eventually got cleared in... again with a computer.
It's for sure that this place is dripping money, but our welcome was warm and clearing in was really cheap!

They have a computer like the French islands, then a guy stamps passports, collects the port fees, and you're in!

We didn't know how long we would be here, so he said we could come back and pay when we cleared out.

Island transportation
Oh, and he never even looked at our clearance papers out of Anguilla... So, as usual, all of my worries were for nothing!


We took a quick look around and got a burger and fries at a famous local hideout...

Le Select Snack Bar and Grill is delightfully chill...  While you might find people of note walking these streets, you might also sit elbow to elbow with them after they've finished doing a little shopping.

But while we aren't dropping the big bucks on this island... neither are they at Le Select.  It's a good, cheap burger and a mountain of fries.

The al fresco tables are all packed together in a courtyard just off the main street in Gustavia.  People watching is premium... although we didn't see any celebrities, I'm not sure I would know one if I had...

Sorry I had to.  I thought the hands-free foot pump was genious!
Tummies now full, we popped over to the conveniently located grocery store to take a look at our provisioning options.  Prices weren't horrible, but they weren't great either.


Selection was surprisingly good... But since we've so recently left the French Island of St. Martin, we didn't really need much...

Upon returning to the boat... the decision to move was made for us.  The tide had reversed and a ball that had been far in front of us and empty, was now right behind us and occupied.  We pulled up the anchor and motored quickly around the point to Colombier where we found a nice free mooring ball.

Colombier Mooring field

The prices for anchoring here are strange.  If you stay in Gustavia, even the outer anchorage where it is ridiculously rolly and crowded, you pay by the day.  Yes, pay by the day... for anchoring!

But, if you get outta town and take a mooring ball in the beautiful bay next door, you pay for one night and the rest are free!  What's the catch?  There is none other than the fact that this pristine white crescent beach is accessible only by boat and on foot.  Sounds like a perk, not a catch!


When do the sea monsters come out?

So on the free ball we planned to remain while the boats in that other anchorage bounced all over one another and rolled around... We enjoyed flat calm and a nice breeze.

Enjoy these days with me...

We kayaked ashore for a beach happy hour.  

Bruce thought it easier to walk back than to kayak upwind... not so sure!

This strange ridge of cloud was there almost the entire time... and others have seen it as well!
Friends told us that there was a nice hike up from the beach, along the ridge and over to the Flamands beach on the other side of the island.

Our friends on Adventure US 2 abandoned the rolly anchorage in Gustavia and arrived here in time to join us.

The stair from the beach is the test... if you can get up this stair, you'll do fine the rest of the way!
There's that crazy cloud again!

From the top of the ridge, we could see a huge bay full... FULL of sargasso seaweed, blown into the bay by a ferocious wind.

Walking along the ridge like a mountain goat.  What you can't see is the WIND!
Where we're going, you can't always see the trail

Scramble up these rocks... This is where we lost JL and Michael.  
Some places the trail felt safe... others, not so much.  JL's fear of heights won the day.  
The heights didn't bother me, maybe because the ground was solid and the wind was blowing me ONTO the land.

After a bit of scrambling, the trail evened out a bit.  The worst is over.

This is looking up a windswept hillside.  The plants all lean up that way.

This was cool.  A giant boulder with a little cove to sit in and have a rest.

Sitting in the shade looking out... like cave men have done for eons...

Bruce sashaying down the steps.  Don't ask me why...
We reached the trailhead to our beach
Looking back the way we had come

We left the wilderness and found ourselves in a cute little hillside town
We could see Flamands Beach down there.  It's wild on the windward side!

Do we really feel like going to that beach after all of this sweaty hiking?  I didn't think so... pass!

All of our water was gone.  At just precisely the time we ran out, we found this little grocery...  

The Bee Bush

So by this time we were all 'wowed" out and were getting pretty hot and tired.  The hike had been a challenge, but not too much so...  OK borderline too much... After guzzling a bunch of cold water and taking pictures of bees (while resisting continuing on)... Hey, it takes a long time to get a good bee photo!

After all of that, we continued on.  We had to ask for directions to find the turnoff to the road that leads up to the peak and back down to Colombier.

More than one person looked at us like we were crazy... the word "steep" kept coming up...

Problem was... we would have loved to turn and go back the way we had come.  But Janet Lee and Michael had said they would go around that way and meet us at the beach.

We hadn't seen them yet so we had to continue on.

So we began the climb up, up, up to the peak of the hill...

A rest in the shade
It's really steep.  The road is poured cement with scores to improve traction.
The view is improving again...

Can you imagine having this view from your house!?


More stalling...

Yes, he's way out in front... but while I'm taking flower pics, he's sitting!
My face is beet red... clutching my water!  Almost there!
WTF are we doing up here????  Hey, don't kid around... someone might just call 911.  Wait, would that be so bad?
Finally we reached the top and found an unassuming little town...
The road levelled off and even went down a bit...

We made it!  This leads the way to the beach trail!
Crap!  We thought the way down would be easier!

This.  This is the photo we came all this extra way to obtain.  This view.  Big woo!
Now we begin the downward trek in earnest...

Where are the movie stars?  We thought there would be movie stars...
The end of the trail came quickly...  Here are a couple of goats... Wonder if the sea monster turned some cruisers into goats.

I must be delirious!  It looks like we're done! The dinghy is right where we left it!!!

We never found JL and Michael.  Our dinghy was still where we left it, so they didn't take it back to their boat.  Later on we learned that Michael swam out to their boat and brought their dinghy back to rescue JL. The climb wasn't her thing so as it turns out, we could have skipped that whole town-at-the-top-of-the-hill thing...

But, in retrospect, it was a great day.  We needed the exercise and had a real adventure.  I wouldn't change a thing...

And now we can add our lying voices to the many who told us it was an easy hike... sure, go ahead... you can do it!

We went to sleep that night expecting the next three days to be nothing but rain...  We resigned ourselves to it.  Three days of reading books and eating.  There wasn't much internet reception here, only enough for the occasional Facebook post... so hit those Kindle books I've been stockpiling for years!

The first rainy day was all rainy... But the second day, after a few showers in the morning... it stopped!

The dinghy was full of water!  But the sun was peeking out!

I swear the hillside was bursting out with new growth right before my eyes!  What was brown yesterday... even this morning... is now green!

We hung out our wet things... and went out to play!
Colombier is the perfect kayak place.  
There's that cloud ridge again... 
The beach entrance to the abandoned Rockefeller Place
The Rockefeller's property guest house

The neighbours have a waterslide! And there's that crazy cloud ridge!
A Dinghy Devil!
Done kayaking but the sun is still shining!  Time for a swim!
Bruce's idea of going for a swim...

My idea of going for a swim...

The next day started out great... no rain at all!  The weather report was wrong!

We moved the boat back around to Gustavia so that we could go ashore and do some sightseeing.  We didn't want to leave here without seeing a bit more of the island and it would be more convenient with the big boat closer to town.

Unfortunately the weatherman was right after all.  The instant we set our anchor the rain began.

We watched as boats in the anchorage began to wander around mysteriously... Our boat was a bit further out than before in about 40 ft of water...  We swung and drifted in the most alarming manner... No way can we leave the boat!

Janet-Lee and Michael were ashore clearing out of the country for departure in the morning... we knew they wouldn't want to dinghy back to Colombier in this weather... We called them on VHF and offered them a ride back... They showed up in about 10 minutes, tied their dink astern and we pulled the anchor back up and returned to our mooring ball in Colombier!

We enjoyed the companionship as the rain continued to fall all afternoon...

The apology after the rain

Unaltered photo
One more try...  Our plan was to leave St. Barths early the next day.  We gave up trying to anchor in Gustavia and took the dinghy around to clear out and have another burger from Le Select.  We weren't going to try to walk up to the lighthouse... no we were not.
AU2 following us across the reef

We took the recycling in and cleared out, then...
Did a little sightseeing... but not to the lighthouse... wouldn't dare!

We found another grocery!
Oh there it is!  But we aren't going up there...
This backhoe was taking chunks out of the mountainside to clear a flat place.  Very loud!

Love Apples!

We wandered up the street over the town...

Well would ya look at that...

Looking up at the huge tree... 

As you might have noticed... we DID go up to the lighthouse... But so that the weather couldn't foil our plans... We had to sneak up on it!

The walk up was steep but not too bad.  I'm amazed that these landmarks are simply open to whomever cares to do the hike!  No charge, no lines, no roped off areas.  If you fall off the trail and roll down the hill, it's on you!

There is a huge old tree standing near the top that overlooks the harbour... I wonder what it's seen come and go from this Port in it's lifetime...

Back to Le Select Bar

Oh and what about those Rich and Famous?  There's shopping if you want it!

Waves were up a bit in the cut on our way back.  

Well... that's about it for St. Barth's... We spent a week here and left a lot to be discovered on our next visit...

Colombier is the perfect place to enjoy the beach and the water.  There were lots of people on the beach during the day, but as with many of the places we visit, we have it mostly to ourselves at the end of the day.

Oh and the best part?  Since we never spent a night in Gustavia... we only paid for one night...

Who says St. Barth's is only for the Rich and Famous???  Oh yeah, that was me!

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