AH! St. Barth to the locals and St. Barts to the Americans was just breathtaking as we sailed into the harbor of Gustavia. It is a small French Island, whose history includes being a Swedish possession hence the name Gustavia after King Gustave. Columbus named the island Barthelemy after his brother. It seems as though Columbus had spent his life going around bestowing names on every piece of land he saw. We were lucky to get a mooring in the inner harbor which was more protected and closer to town. We are always moved by our arrival into a new port, in a new country, but this was truly spectacular.
The harbor was shaped like a narrow horseshoe. Surrounding the edges of the harbor were brightly colored buildings trimmed in gingerbread. On the hillsides, most of the pastel colored buildings had red roofs and striped awnings which added to the palate of colors on shore. We were never blase about where we were orhow we got there. Herman and I just looked at each other and marveled at the opportunities that we had before us. This was one of those special times.
So far we have sailed 3,164 nm; half I’m sure was up one side of a wave and down the other side of the wave on our continuing passage to windward. We always looked forward to each new island, new people, new foods and new vistas even though they may be only 15nm away.
We arrived in Gustavia, St. Barts on, Sunday, February 18, just in time for their Carnival which celebrates the first day of Lent which is 40 days of fasting before Easter Sunday.
Sunday was a gala parade. Monday was a pajama parade and Tuesday was Carnival itself. The parade was adorned with grand floats, incredible costumes and music well into the night. We did it all!
St. Barts is a volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs. Gustavia, the capitol, is built around the main harborto the island. It was the only Swedish colony for a period of time. The Swedish symbol, made up of three crowns, still appears in flags and national arms.
There are as many as 22 beaches on St. Barts. The beaches are known as Anse de Flomands or Le petite Anse which means the Little Beach. The windward beaches are popular for windsurfing and so on. Anse de Grande Galat is known for shells and Anse de Grande Saline is very popular for nudists. There seems to be a beach for everyone.
Small villages are seen spread out on rolling hills in the interior. Large yachts are a common site in the natural harbor in Gustavia, which is the capital. The full time residents are French citizens mostly descendants of first settlers of Breton, Normand, Saintonge and Angein linage. The native language is French. Norman dialect is still spoken by the elderly people. English is spoken in some hotels and restaurants but not by choice.
When you areat sea on your own boat, a cruise ship or wish to fly into a specific area or island, you should be familiar with the weather patterns of the area you wish to visit. Rainy vs. dry or winter vs. summer and so on, should be considered so you can plan accordingly.
St. Barts is a somewhat arid terrain. The rainfall varies from winter to summer. Summer is from May to November which also is the rainy season. Winter from December is the dry season. Sunshine is very prominent almost all through the year, even the rainy season.
Tourism flourishes on St. Barts. International investments and the wealth generated by wealthy tourists keep the standard of living high. St. Barts has been considered the playground of the rich and famous, especially as a winter playground with its beautiful beaches, gourmet dining, famous visitors and high end designers.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.