The sail from St. Martin to St. Barth’s (short for Saint Barthélemy) is only a couple of hours. We had bright sunshine all the way and landed a barracuda mid-passage. Barracuda are a sleek, pointy, nasty-piece-of-work. They have a long mouth with a ton of sharp teeth. They are edible, but apparently are bony and often feed on reef fish. Depending on the area, reef fish that feed on coral can contain the ciguatera toxin. The toxin is passed on to the larger fish that feed on the smaller ones and accumulates over time. People who ingest fish with this toxin can get very sick indeed. As a result, they may not be able to eat fish of any kind or drink alcohol for up to a year – that would make for an unbelievably ill-tempered crew aboard Panache!
We picked up Brian Barber, an old friend from university days and the person who introduced Benny to me, and his partner, Tracy Hansen, in Gustavia, the capital of St. Barth’s. The island is part of France (like St. Martin, Guadeloupe and Martinique). The terrain is quite mountainous and is not well suited to cultivation. As such, there was little slavery during colonial times and the population is mostly Caucasian, unlike all the other islands we have visited since leaving Florida.
The main harbour of Gustavia is lovely and filled with mega-yachts during the winter season. The waterfront street is lined with high-end shops such as Gucci, Prada, LV, Chopard, Channel, etc. Obviously, these boutiques cater to the mega-yacht crowd and not to lowly cruisers like us. Luckily, the town and the island as a whole, have retained their Franco-Caribbean charm.
We decided to tour the island on a couple of ATVs. You could complete the whole tour in about 1.5 hours, but we stopped along the way to see the sights. The ATVs were a great idea as they are stable and well suited to climbing or descending steep hills, of which there are plenty in St. Barth’s.
The four of us stopped for lunch at a lovely resort, Le Barthélemy. It’s situated on a lagoon and we were mesmerized by some very fancy kite-boarding as we sipped our beer on the deck of the resort’s bar. The board that the rider was using had a fin keel underneath, and similar to the America’s Cup racing catamarans, it lifted completely out of the water once it got up to speed. In the video, you will see the rider doing a complete somersault in the air!
The food is particularly good on St. Barth’s but the prices in general are much higher than the bargains we had on St. Martin. All-in-all, we would rate St. Barth’s as one of our favourite spots so far.