Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gustavia, St. Bart

Gustavia Harbor

Build around the tree, rather than cut it down - nice!
Gustavia is quite an attractive old town, built around the harbor, which is surrounded by some quite steep hills. We wandered the streets around one morning, looking at the architecture, the ruins of Fort Carl, and some of the incredible prices in the shop windows. For example, you can buy the 750-ml bottle of Grey Goose vodka for 30€, or go for the gusto with the 4.5-l bottle for 365€. There’s a lot of hill-top, ocean-view construction going on, so apparently the economy is just fine for the 1%. The island was originally a Swedish colony (the only one we’ve come across in the Caribbean), so all the street signs were in both Swedish and French. Being a French island, there was easy access to trash disposal and recycling, and lots of fuel-efficient mini-cars, though we didn’t see the solar panels on the houses here that we’ve seen in Martinique or Guadeloupe. Down on the docks were, of course, the megayachts, as well as a ferry to St. Martin, and a yellow submarine with underwater viewing for taking tourists to see the reef. As I said, quite attractive town, but the need for a fat wallet was evident by the high-end shops and expensive little restaurants, including a champagne bar. Needless to say, we went back to the boat for lunch!
Pretty house with lush foliage

Adorable little electric cars-easy to park!
Le Brigantin - neat old building

What's with the freaky goat heads? Are rich people drawn to this type of display?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

St. Bart: Where the Rich Folk Play

The megayacht anchorage outside of Gustavia Harbor

We had avoided St. Barts under the assumption that it was too high-priced for us, until a friend told us about the free moorings. You can’t beat a free mooring (if it’s well-maintained, of course), and we’re all about free. We had a nice downwind sail, and arrived at the incredibly crowded harbor of Gustavia. Megayachts dotted the water in the anchorage set well away from the rest of us. Inside the harbor, even more megayachts moored along the quays. There were some beautiful vessels. The capitainerie was one of the prettiest check-in facilities we’ve seen, with nice young men in uniform to sign your papers and check your passports (which they rarely, if ever, do in the other French islands). So far, St. Barts had lived up to its well-heeled reputation. More later.

Freakishly large megayacht docked in downtown Gustavia, right outside the fancy capitainerie (with the Frisbee roof)

The boats on the quay wall get larger and larger as you go down the line

Monday, February 17, 2014

To Get a Rainbow…

…there has to be rain. We dodged a lot of squalls, and were caught by some, en route from Antigua to St. Barts. That's the price you pay to see dozens of beautiful rainbows!
From this...

...comes this

Monday, February 10, 2014

Barbuda Underwater

Here are some of our pictures from snorkeling in Barbuda.
Clear water to the bottom, about twenty feet below
Spotted eagle ray
Queen angelfish
Coral head chock full of Christmas tree worms
Pretty back-lit soft coral
Flamingo tongue snail feeding on a sponge

Friday, February 7, 2014

Like Beaches? Try Barbuda!

Beautiful stretch of 11 Mile Beach

Mr Mac between the blue water and blue sky

Chris bringing home the coconuts
Barbuda is a long, low island north of Antigua, very different from the nearby hilly and volcano islands: Antigua, Saba, Statia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Martin. Consequently, it’s nearly invisible on the horizon until you’re nearly there. And once there…beaches. We anchored first off of 11 Mile Beach, which is just that, an eleven-mile-long stretch of white sand edging the turquoise Caribbean waters. Only one little resort and a bar marred the natural feel. Just beautiful! We spent a couple of days walking the beach and snorkeling the reefs offshore. Next we moved south to Cocoa Point. There’s a posh resort on the point, which the cruising guide says wants nothing to do with passing cruisers, which was fine with us because pose isn’t our style. Along the northern shore of the bay, another long white-sand beach, were the remains of the K Club, another resort that apparently had hosted Princess Diana. This one actually looked cute, with small cottages along the beach, each with an outdoor kitchen. Unfortunately, it was wiped out by a storm. However, the abandoned palm trees provided good forage, and Chris came back with two coconuts. We spent most of our time in the crystal-clear water. LOTS of barracuda and other fish, Christmas tree worms, a crib of lobsters (most of the area is a marine preserve, so a no-take zone), and large spotted eagle ray. One day we snorkeled the width of Gravenor Bay, starting at the reef on the east side, then dit-dotting our way west from reef to reef. When we got chilled, we just sat on the dinghy and soaked up the sun, floating in the current. Lovely.

Chris heading ashore after snorkeling, with the defunct K Club amidst the palms farther up the beach
Megayacht sailing off into the sunset