Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grand Case, St. Martin

Grand Case main street

Calmos Cafe - great food and wait-staff
What a great little place this is in the northeastern corner of St. Martin, on the French side of the island. Baie Grand Case is a wide bay, the beach lined with colorful buildings. Every Tuesday night the village has a street party. It was great! There were tables set up along the streets with vendors selling art, jewelry, t-shirts, toys, you name it. There was some really beautiful stuff. One man uses dozens of different woods to create inlaid pictures. One type of wood was textured in such a manner that it gave the impression of tree leaves. Just beautiful! Another did intricate model ships, the hulls covered with broken glass pieces to give the impression of flowing water. The restaurants were all open, but quite pricey. Besides, it’s a street party, so why not eat the street food that people were cooking right in front of you? We samples some BBQ ribs, a shwarma gyro, and a Grand Marnier/sugar crepe. There was live music in several areas, and the people watching was great. Some attended in shorts and bare feet, while others wore fancy clothes and heels. Everyone had a good time. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my camera. Another day we went to Calmos Café, right on the beach, to have lunch and use their wifi. Not only did they have great food and tables right in the sand, but also buff French waiters (no waitresses), topless during the day, though they went formal at night and donned t-shirts. But you know, the overall impression was informality, not sluttiness like some places that showcase waitresses (I’m thinking of you, chicken-wing restaurants). After your meal, they’d bring over a bottle of homemade banana-vanilla rum (absolutely delicious!) and share a shot with you. We had huge, juicy burgers (we’d been dying for burgers, though the waiter tried to talk us into having the triggerfish), with a potato-zucchini gratin on the side. Excellent! Not so excellent are the 30+ knots of wind that rush between the hills. One night something woke Chris, and he looked out to discover that our dinghy was upside-down…with the engine submerged. We hauled it up onto the boat, and he worked until 2am—rinsing it, pulling the spark plugs, and pumping fuel through it to displace any water that got into the cylinders. In the morning he worked on it some more, and got it back into prime running condition. Yeah!
Old salt mill, used when they harvested salt from the nearby salt pond
Pretty shop, selling beautiful model ships

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ile Fourche

Mooring field in the lee of the stark but pretty island

Interesting underwater topography
This juvenile trunkfish was less than two inches long - adorable!
Three miles north of the St. Bart main island is Ile Fourche, a small, privately owned island that, like Anse du Colombier, is part of the park system, and has free moorings. There were no moorings available, however, and we anchored in nice sand with good holding. We snorkeled from the boat over to the shore, and saw some cool stuff. I found my favorite coral head of all time (at least for today). It was only about a foot and a half across, but it was chockablock with interesting stuff. I approached it to take a picture of the long, yellow juvenile fish swimming atop, got pulled in by the absolutely adorable juvenile trunkfish, and finished off with a look at the spotted moray curled inside the hollowed top of the coral. Wonderful! Also lots of large fish—bar jacks, mutton snapper, yellowtail snapper, Nassau grouper— that flaunted their prohibited (it’s a no-take park) tastiness by swimming back and forth in front of us.

Nassau grouper peeping out at me

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anse du Colombier

Some portions of the trail were steps carved into the rock
This anchorage was more to our style than downtown Gustavia. Part of the St. Bart’s park system, this bay had free moorings, which apparently have really helped the seagrass beds recover from too much anchoring, though lots of boats did come in and anchor, as it was the weekend. Several megayachts were anchored well out, the crew dinghying in to set up awnings for their guests. Many people also walked over from hotels in neighboring bays. We walked the trail in the opposite direction, across the peninsula, past La Petit Anse, a rocky little bay, to Anse des Flamands, which had a nice white-sand beach.  A nice, cool swim was in store after the hot walk back!

Beautiful expanse of Anse des Flamands

Brightly painted grocery

Coral turtle eating a leaf

The mooring field, with megayachts anchored farther out

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Don’t Drag Anchor in this Anchorage!

These are just a few of the megayachts anchored at St. Barts.

For scale, note the two balconies at the stern, then look at the next picture

These "balconies" actually fold down from the hullside