St. Barts is different from many other islands in the Caribbean in that it’s language, cuisine and culture are distinctly French. Because there were no plantations on St. Barts few slaves were brought in and so today the reggae and rasta culture seen on other Eastern Caribbean islands is largely absent. St. Barts seems to be a bit of St Tropez teleported to the Caribbean.
Mermaid’s visit to St. Barts was a memorable one. We started out enjoying the natural beauty and nice snorkeling of Isle Fourchue then moved over to Anse a Coulmbier. Both of these are National Parks with moorings installed to protect the sea grass. The sea grass is a favorite food of sea turtles and they were abundant at Coulmbier. Robin spotted a couple feeding quite near the boat one afternoon and we jumped in and swam with them for some time. Tres cool!!
We rented a car one day and took a drive around the island. Driving on St. Barts is a trip because most of the roads are very narrow and there’s almost no place to park. You might think that a sidewalk is a good place to walk but on St. Bart’s if you have a sidewalk there’s a real good chance that it will look like a parking place the locals. Cars pulled up over the curb and parked on the sidewalk are the norm. The the song Atour du Roche by Jimmy Buffett has long been one of Mike’s favorites. Its about a small hotel, well not really a hotel more like a patio bar with bad wiring and funky rooms near Lorient that Jimmy owned back in the 80s. The place hasn’t been opened for years. As Jimmy says “The gendarmes finally closed the place and the fire did the rest” but when Robin and I drove down that little road by Lorient we got a photo of what’s left on that little hill. The song is written as a remembrance of the “the old St Barth” but we think that it still captures the island’s vibe. Here’s a link if if you want to give it a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1q3FalWnTI
After heading back to St. Maarten for the Cruising Outpost party and the Heineken Regatta, we returned back to St. Barts to find Richard and Donna of Petit Profligate anchored in Gustavia harbor. They’ve been spending part of every year on St. Barts for decades and introduced us to several local characters. One of them was David Wegman, a local artist who’s been living in a room over the Le Select bar for around thirty years. Another character of note we got to know was Randy West. Randy was a boat captain for many years and penned an interesting book titled “A Sunny Place for Shady Characters: Tales from St. Barts Le Select Bar”. The local hangout was the Le Select bar. Gustavia has many spendy shops and restaurants but the Le Select goes against the trend. It’s a tiny bar with reasonable prices and almost all the seating in an outdoor, tree shaded patio. There’s also a small hamburger stand that was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise. It changed hands many years ago however and the burgers, well, let’s just say that they live on their reputation. The Le Select is a great people watching spot. Robin decided that it has some of the best people watching on the planet!
The Bucket Regatta, an annual event open to invited yachts 100 feet or over was held while we were there and it was a spectacle. Richard graciously invited us out on Ti Profligate a couple of days to go out and spectate and watching the big boats out sailing was awesome. The mega yachts were packed in at the wharf in Gustavia and lined up in the anchorage outside. During the regatta the anchorage was beyond packed and it was entertaining to watch some of the anchoring maneuvers, except when they would anchor on top of Mermaid which happened often. The Maltese Falcon, one of the largest privately owned yachts in the world was anchored not far behind us and one evening they unfurled a sail and showed a movie on it.