Christmas, 2000: St. Martin and St. Barths
Ken Hidu and we spent three
lovely days at Marigot in St. Martin. We rented a car one day and
drove around the island, stopping for most of the afternoon at Orient
Beach, on the NE side of the island. When we were there first some
17 years ago, it was totally deserted. Twelve years ago, there was
one bar and a hotel. Today, the whole bay is lined with hotels and
time shares, and the beach is beach-bar after beach-bar. Rob said
it was like S. Cal., but I doubt that S.Cal is as clothing optional
as Orient Beach! We watched a guy "kite boarding," on a windsurfer
pulled by a kite. He sometimes lifts clear of the water. Whee!
Wanting to get
away from "city life" and do some snorkeling, we headed to Anguilla.
On Christmas Eve day, we snorkeled at Sandy Island. Sandy Island
used to be the picture perfect Caribbean island: white sand, gorgeous
turquoise water and reefs, just big enough for its 4 palm trees
and a little shanty. Alas, the hurricanes have removed the palm
trees and ruined the shanty (and its generator), and the island
is bare -- except for a shipwrecked fishing boat. Still nice snorkeling.
eve, we went to Johnno's beach bar in Road Harbor. It's pretty much
the same as it was when we were there with Allen and Katy and the
Burshells some 10 years ago. The music didn't start 'til 1130 pm,
but the rum punches, at $3 and at least 1/2 rum, were flowing all
evening. The band played everything in reggae beat, including of
course, all the Christmas carols. We danced to "Silent Night" and
"Oh Holy Night" and collapsed at about 0230, though the party went
on 'til dawn.
We had a relaxing
Christmas Day at Little Bay, recovering and cooking turkey and all
the trimmings for Christmas dinner, with some snorkeling thrown
in. Little Bay is now a marine preserve, and the snorkeling was
great. Millions of small silversides made clouds and waves of patterns
as we swam through them. Pelicans and blue-billed boobies perched
on the cliffs and dove for the silversides. The boobies also swam
around within a few feet of us, occasionally sticking their heads
down into the water and spreading out their feet to the sides, looking
for all the world like snorkelers.
Ken had contacted
some childhood friends, Chris and Brian Barrett, whose family owns
a home on St. Barth. They happened to be in Anguilla for Christmas,
so we invited them to sail back to St. Berth with us and we had
a very pleasant sail/motor on Boxing Day, arriving in St. Barth
about 5 PM. Had a fabulous fish dinner at Eddy's after a beer at
Le Select (which Jimmy Buffett made famous for its cheeseburgers
in paradise). The next day, we did some boat maintenance, then visited
with the Barretts at their cliffside
home overlooking Baie de St. Jean, relaxing in their pool. Nice
way to live!
Ken left on
the 28th, flying directly out of St. Barth into St. Martin, rather
than sailing over. I think Ken needed another thrill -- the St.
Barth airstrip is only for the strong of heart. One end is a mountain;
the other end is St. Jean Bay. Planes drop into it from over the
ridge in Gustavia, not seeing it until the last minute.
Rob went Laser sailing. There were only three boats, due to the
big-boat race scheduled for the next day, but the three were very
evenly matched and in the 15-knot winds Rob got a good workout.
That night we went to the skipper's meeting for the big boat race
around St. Bath on New Year's Eve. This is a pursuit race, where
they start the slowest boats first and fastest last, so that everyone,
in theory, finishes together. Boats ranged in size from a Melges
24 to Mari Cha III, a 146'
ketch. The Melges started at 10:00 AM; Mari Cha started at noon.
They finished within a minute of one another at around 2:15, with
Mari Cha just beating the Melges on the final tack. We had hoped
to find a ride on one of the 30 boats but failed to do so, and settled
for watching the start and finish. Between those events, we recovered
from the previous night's rum punches and prepare for the upcoming
fete, or as they say here in France, we took "le nap."
St. Barth is
definitely the place to be in the Caribbean for New Years, and folks
from other islands flock here. Rock, sports and movie stars abound,
as do models, or women who certainly could be if they're not. There
are an astounding number of gorgeous women wearing very little clothing.
The usual attire is a slip dress or a bikini top and pareo or wrap
St. Barth is
often called St. Tropez in the Caribbean, and for good reason. Gustavia,
the main town, is tiny (well, so is the island), and full of designer
shops -- Cartier, Hermes, etc.. At this time of year, the harbor
is packed with mega yachts (two with helicopters), med-moored at
the main street of town. We're anchored in the outer
harbor, which is pretty rolly and very crowded, but festive
and friendly. Despite all the boats, the water is perfectly clear;
we can see the bottom 20' down below our boat, and we've seen a
couple of turtles swimming among the anchored boats. We thought
we were a good-sized boat at 50', but we're among the smaller ones
We had bought
lobsters off the back of a truck for $7/lb., so we dined aboard
and then went into town for the party. It was definitely people
watching time! We saw Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins aboard Ultima
III, the Revlon owner's yacht. Missed David Letterman and Puff Daddy,
but they were around. It was fun to see big washbaskets of designer
sandals and scruffy boat shoes at the boarding ladders of many of
the yachts! At midnight all of these huge yachts sounded their horns
as the fireworks started. Quite a cacophony! There was free live
music, and lots of champagne flowing, but the whole scene was a
little surreal. We felt like voyeurs or outsiders, though we did
run into other yachties we know. We called it quits around 1:30
AM. The music continued 'til at least 4:00 AM, but didn't really
keep us awake.