We hauled up our hook and got in line with the rest of the boats waiting for teh bridge to open at the mouth of Simpson Bay when we heard a trumpet playing a Danish song, ”Nina’s Sang”. It was our friends on the boat Mor Karen. He was standing in the bows playing us out on his trumpet. A greater honor you rarely get and everyone else on the boats was properly impressed………………….
We sailed from St. Maarten i what we thought was a proper weather window. Thought is the operative word here – we thought, but we thought wrongly. When we came out of Simpson Bay we had the wind right on our nose (again – but what would you expect? This is Vinni and Carsten that are sailing). And the swells were much higher than forecast (so what else is new?)
But- it is only 17 nm to St. Barts, so it shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours to sail over there, even if we are on the engine. Six hours alter we are still on the water and it has been a crap day with heavy chop seas and fighting hard winds. Capri danced on the water was not at all enjoying herself – neither were the rest of us. All in all – a hard days work.
We got there eventually (obviously we did – or else you would not be reading my little writings about St. Barts – I’d be writing about somewhere else – China or South Africa or something). But back to my story – we got there and dropped the hook in 6-8 meters of water. Our pilotbook had noted that the anchorage here could be a little “rolly-poly”, but we were being tossed around like we were on at roller-coaster.
Hmmmmm – it will get better when the winds die down, we told each other in an effort to brighten our spirits. But it didn’t calm down. When a sailor drops the hook, he (she) wants the boat to lie there quietly. Sailors have no problem with a wild ride when they are sailing, but- damn it! When we drop the hook we want to get some rest. Capri wasn’t lying quietly, she was still dancing around and we needed to use both our hands to hold on when we moved around on her.
That’s no fun.
Strangely though, everything calmed down for about an hour early in the morning and late in the evening when the tide changed. But after that hour it was back on the roller-coaster.
It was no better inside the harbor. We paid 8 Euros per night for the privilege of anchoring in the bay – I shudder to think how much they charged for a spot on the pier. Even the gigantic megayachts, most of them over 80 meters (80 meters = 265 feet) were being tossed around……………………
After we dropped the hook it dawned on us that we were surrounded by an unusual number of huge sailboats and motor yachts. The one, Eclipse, either the world’s largest or the world’s second largest (depending on which google entry you believe), has a crew of 70 and is owned by a Russian Oligarch (naturally). Aside from its lifeboats it has 3 tenders of various sizes and a mini submarine (can’t leave home without your toys).
Yes the rich are different from you and I.
For example, they have more money.
We found out that the reason all these gigantic boats were here was that we had arrived just in time for the St. Barts Bucket Regatta, one of the big Regattas on the Caribbean circuit. There are 8-10 Regattas down here each season and anyone who is anyone with a big boat shows up and sails. When the season ends, they sail back to Europe or the US for the season there.
They are MEGABIG! A number of them are over 100 meters (390 feet) long, and some of them are prettier than the others.
The most beautiful and the ones that can take your breath away, are undoubtedly the J-boats. There were 3 here, Topaz, Jenti, and Vesheda. I truly lack the words to describe their beauty – I said to Vinni that they are pure sex on the water and she agrees. They carry a crew of 25(!), have no railings and the crew does not wear lifejackets – they only get in the way when you are manhandling sails during a sail change or the lines when the sails need trimming.
This means that they have a motorboat sailing along behind them to pick up any crew members that fall overboard (!). It is not possible to stop at J-boats under full sail quickly – a “crash-stop” would probably smash everything on board and even that would require a couple of nautical miles before the boat stopped and could be turned around. So the motorboat picks up the fallen…………………
Many of the other boats also had motorboats trailing them and for the same reason. If you fall overboard – don’t expect the boat to turn around to pick you up – these Regattas, despite their name, are sailed for blood.
When I see these wonderful J-boats, I think that they should change the rules for the Americas Cup and require all the contestants to sail identical J-boats. Not the catamarans or trimarans or whatever they are sailing now. These days the Cup is determined by who has the most money and who can get a boat designed and built that weighs less than the others and sails like hell. There is no real contest about seamanship. Sailing identical boats would mean that the onus on winning fell exclusively back on the skipper and crew – which boat has the best sailors?
Enough of my thoughts – sit back and enjoy the sight of these wonderful boats as they crossed the finish line – the finish line just happened to be right on our way to Antigua…………………..
St Barts is French. But in the past it started as French and then France gave the island to Sweden in exchange for free port rights to Goteborg in Sweden. Sweden kept the islands for one hundred years but during those years it was a drain on the Swedish treasury and Sweden gave the island back to France in the mid 1800’s.
As you walk around Gustavius (named after King Gustav of Sweden), you see that all the street names are French – but underneath they still have the Swedish names on the street signs – that’s more than you see on USVI.
Denmark sold those islands to the US in 1917, but there are almost no Danish street names left. Gustavius is a wonderful town to walk around – narrow streets filled with small shops and restaurants.
We rented a car and drove around the island – St. Barts isn’t all that big. We were surprised that it was built up everywhere – the entire island.
They have apparently been very busy rebuilding after Irma- we didn’t see much in the way of devastation here and there were no sunken boats in the harbours or on the beaches. We ate dinner at a restaurant and happened to sit next to an American couple that told us they came to St. Barts every year at this time for a week’s holiday. This year they had not been able to book their favorite hotel – it was still being rebuilt, nor had they been able to book any other 5 star hotel – they were all being rebuilt after the storm. They said that virtually all the secluded hotels had major damage and were rebuilding. The reason we didn’t see this is that the the only parts of the hotels you can see from the road are the big ports on the driveways.
We had a wonderful day, stopping at small beaches and eating lunch and drinking some wine, and we were very lucky to see the 3 J-boats come flying by with their gennakers up. Far behind them came the rest of the fleet.
One good thing about French islands is that there is always a good baker and the supermarkets always have all those wonderful things we so enjoy – pate’s, salamis and cheeses. Expensive, very expensive and we only buy in small portions.
Sunday the weather turned (that is to say, little to no wind – at least not right on the nose) so we hoisted our anchor and sailed for Antigua – although we stopped for a pause to watch those marvelous J-boats cross the finish line – that just happened to be right on our way……………………………