15 February 2003
Gustavia , St Barthelemy, French West Indies N 17.5429 W 62.5141
Anguilla & St Barthelemy
These are just two of the islands the Beach Boys forgot to mention when they wrote their Caribbean song Kokomo, you know the one................. Bermuda, Jamaica, oh I want to take ya.................. down the Florida Keys off the coast of Mexico to get away from it all............... Antigua, Jamaica............... it must now be evident that we don't know the words. Well since they didn't tell you about these islands we'll take up the gauntlet. First there's Anguilla, a thirty- five square mile low lying piece of land which is undergoing development as a resort area after many years of uncertain, mostly with itself. As with many Caribbean islands, initial colonization came from well meaning people aspiring for religious freedom, economic opportunity or just a new beginning. In the case of Anguilla the British were first to colonize this volcanic rock which once supported a rain forest. The well intentioned colony succumbed to slavery and a plantation lifestyle as cotton and finally sugar became the crop of commerce. At the same time salt production was integral to the economy as late as 1974. ( Now if only they had produced pepper.) To cut to the chase, the British folded Anguilla into St Kitts and Nevis to reduce the administration burden and this move didn't set well with the Anguillians. In 1967 this led to "The Revolution" aimed at freeing Anguilla from this "administrative oppression". The legendary two battles of no more that fifteen combatants ended with no causalities. Finally the Brits came back with 300 troops and as one historian recounted " they fought their way onto a beachhead full of children and goats". Well today Anguilla has regained its status as a separate British Dependent Territory and so has ended the peoples struggle with the colonial rule of the tyrants from St. Kitts.
We arrived in Road Harbor in Anguilla and after checking in at customs we were notified that there was a charge of $36 USD per night to anchor anywhere else and the fee was from midnight to midnight and therefore unless you wanted to leave in the middle of the night it would cost you a two night fee to visit any other anchorage, all of which were designated as Marine Reserves.
We hiked to the top of the island on a trail used only by horses. In 95 degrees heat we finally were able to get a look at Crocus Bay where we did spent one night at anchor after clearing out.
Please don't tell Anguillian customs but we were pretty sure they were wrong about the charges so we took it upon ourselves to correct their mistake. During our hike to the top of the hill we discovered a pizza restaurant. You don't find those too often especially on dirt roads surrounded by dilapidated houses. We opened the place with our 11:30 arrival and were delighted with a great pizza. There are several things you don't get on board Shiraz, pizza, ice cream and french fries to name a few, so you're always on the lookout for these luxury items. After a lot of hiking and some picture taking we left Road Harbor having discovered that Caribbean Islands share several things in common. One is goats, yes goats.
They're everywhere and have the run of the place. There will never again be a forest of any kind in these goat infested islands. A few are tethered and perform a mowing function but for the most part they roam every island and eat whatever is green. We have never seen goat on the menu at any restaurant nor goat milk but the Belongers must have some use for them. Belongers are islander who come from generations past. The designation is unclear to me but it does come with some political clout and sometimes Belongers get discounts on ferry rides, taxes and have certain property rights. This title is then used to ostracizes émigrés from other less fortunate islands such as Jamaica and of course from the tourists and expatriates who have or may want to settle there.
Another Caribbean commonality is chickens. Free range chicken abound and they are underfoot on every pathway and roadway and even on some beaches. This encounter with barnyard wildlife has dispelled my long held belief that roosters crow in the morning. The damn things crow day and night. If you anchor in a bay with roosters on both sides they crow back and forth all night and all day. This incessant crowing can lead to migraines, sleepiness and general irritability. These chickens are not found in the poultry section of any grocery store, but like the goats the Belongers must have some use for them. And what about the restaurant cats. In every Caribbean restaurant a cat will find its way to your table to beg for scraps. Okay I'll stop here.
In thirty knot winds and a seascape of seven to nine and an occasional twelve to fifteen foot waves, we sailed north of Anguilla and cut between the mainland and Scrub Island. The fifteen footers were the type that pick you up and set you down gently most of the time. The occasional rogue wave will wipe the deck clean of anything that is not tied down and fortunately everything is, after the first one. We sailed to Ile Tintamarre for a night and then on into Gustavia, Saint Barthelemy or St Barth for short. This little beauty is administrated by the French. To give you an idea about clearing in and out, we first raised the yellow "Q" flag which means we are quarantined until clearing, then dinghied to customs and immigration with passports and boat documentation in hand. Usually we would wait until the next morning if we had arrived later in the day but in this case we had plenty of time due to the high winds. St Barth's customs was most friendly which is not always what we have found at other customs and immigration locations. With a plethora of forms and always one or more questions you can't answer without referencing some document you left back on the boat, we paid 8.00 per night in Euros only, necessitating a trip to the ATM before the clearing was complete. In the case of St Barth they collect up front. Back at the boat we lower the "Q" and raise the French courtesy flag. We will need to clear out when we leave and in many places you can do that the day before.
Gustavia is a Riviera* style village and it's all about luxury items, French luxury items and hey no goats running through the village but they are ravaging the hillsides. Every block has a wine store, a jewelry store, a leather goods store, couturier and a half dozen restaurants. Since cruise ships have discovered St Martin the people in the know are now in St Barth. The tightly knit village surrounds the harbor with mooring for normal sized boats such as Shiraz and stern to docking for a number of mega yachts. One very popular outdoor corner bar, Le Select, is purported to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's song Cheese Burger in Paradise.
We did some shopping ourselves. Our sail cover was becoming more and more tattered and it was time to have it repaired. Alcatraz Sewing did a wonderful job. We were concerned that we might have to rename the boat Patches but they are invisible and all for a very reasonable price.
Le Smart vehicles abound both for private use and rental cars. With only six square miles you don't need much else.
We are spending a great deal more time in St. Barth than planned and that is because of two high pressure systems that have brought with them high winds and high seas. In this picture you see a beautiful sailboat Maggie out of Catawba, VA. It left the harbor on a Friday morning and returned the same day sans mast. We met the owners, Ron and Sue Kreisa, when we offered help and got the story. They have been living aboard their beautiful 47' Passport for three years and went out enroute to St. Kitts. And although they didn't feel any particular wind or wave caused the mast to collapse, it did. They were very fortunate to have a mega yacht that came to the rescue and followed them back in, dove to recover all the rigging and helped lash everything back to the deck. But now it will be back to St. Martin for a new mast and a good piece of the season for Ron and Sue. We wish them the best of luck!
So here we are waiting for weather, a common occurrence for most cruisers. Winds last night were 40 knots in the Leewards and seas will be a steady nine to twelve feet until Thursday. Our next stop is Saba and we feel certain that it will be there when the weather is more conducive to a move.
* having never been to the Rivera this observation is based less on fact and more on belief