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.

On Christmas 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.

On Saturday, 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 skirt.

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 here.

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.