If you remember from Part I, the Ty Dewi crew are nearing St Barts after a long trip from St Kitts, a big fish on board, Max and Gesa a bit sea-sick, Issie still reading her books in the aft cabin…
At one point I can clearly see six islands, Nevis, St Kitts, Statia, Saba, St Barts and Sint Maarten. It’s a wonderful day, the sailing is good and we’re almost the only boat in sight. We get within five miles of St Barts and I see another boat, coming round the top of the Island. That’s interesting, who would be sailing from there, there’s no more islands out that way.
Then another boat appears, and another, and soon I can see ten of them. Ah, yes, it’s the St Barts Bucket – a ‘friendly’ regatta for super-yachts. With the money and egos involved in these boats, I suspect the racing can be a bit less than friendly at times, but this is meant to be a fun regatta by all accounts. Right now I can see nearly thirty boats and it dawns on me that they will be heading for the same place that we are. The smallest one will be twice our size, and they won’t be pleased with a little cruising boat crossing their racetrack.
By law, I am the right-of-way boat and can just keep going, forcing them to keep clear of me. I develop a radio conversation in my head, ‘yes, you may be racing but I have a seasick wife and kid and if it’s a choice between you or my wife being upset with me, well….’ But by now Gesa comes on deck and can see the fleet of big boats, spinnakers flying, on a converging course. Common sense takes hold and we heave to (a technique for stopping comfortably mid ocean) about a mile before the line they are all taking. It’s a really good vantage point for the race and we get some nice photos. Ranger, a 130 foot ‘J’ class yacht, marches through the fleet with all sails flying, steps neatly round a few yachts caught in the wind shadow of the Island and takes line honours. Behind her are about ten larger yachts and many more slightly smaller ones. In my mind, I consider requesting a bottle of wine from the cellars of all those we gave way to, but in the real world, we furl our sails and motor the last two miles into Gustavia Harbour.
The anchorage is crowded with yachts, many here to see or take part in the racing. We thread our way through and find a spot on the edge of the entrance channel for the Port. Strictly speaking, we shouldn’t anchor here, but there are many boats further into the channel, so we take our chances. The water is sparkling and clear, the light crystal blue of shallow water over sand. We can see the bottom clearly as we anchor in six metres of water. The race fleet is slowly returning and lining up to wait for their slot in the Marina. The thirty or so crew of Windrose line up and applaud as Ranger passes them. An enormous German yacht turns small circles as the helmsman chats on his mobile phone…is this legal or sensible? Who cares, we guess.
Max spots an aeroplane flying overhead. ‘Plane, Issie, plane!’ and Issie shoots onto deck to look too. It is a small, twin-engined plane coming in low and descending. It flies right over us, over a low hill on shore and disappears. A couple of minutes later, there’s another one. We’re on the flight path to the airport; Max is delighted. For the rest of the evening there is a shout of ‘Plane, plane!’ every few minutes. He’s not been this pleased with an anchorage since London’s Docklands where we had the DLR trains every couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, a turtle surfaces next to us and swims gently past. Gesa grabs the camera and we get another set of blurry pictures of a half submerged turtle. I open a much needed chilled beer from the fridge. I weigh the fish – ten pounds – and gut it; we are delighted to find that it is a ‘she’ and has a lot of roe (fish egg sausages, says Issie). This fish is too big for us to eat before it goes off, and it’s a tragic waste to kill such a beautiful animal and not eat all of it, so we offer some to a neighbouring catamaran. No thanks, they say. The crew of a charter boat motor past on their way to town and we make the same offer, still no thanks. What is wrong with these people! We guess they are going into town to eat.
We have a swim to cool off and clean the fish smell from my fingernails; Issie loves jumping in from the side rail. After we come out, it’s a quick freshwater shower and into pyjamas for most of the crew!
I prepare rice, fish and salad for us, it smells fantastic. Just as I’m about to serve up, the charter crew come by. Do we still have that fish? Town is too busy with all the mega-yachts so they’ve decided to eat on board. We happily cut enough for three big steaks and they accept gratefully. A few minutes later they are back with a chilled bottle of white wine. A very pleasant exchange.
Dinner is great and to our surprise Issie loves the ‘fish egg sausages’ and even insists on stealing most of mine. Gesa and I make a start on the white wine, whilst the kids settle down to ‘Finding Nemo’ on the video player, for the seventeenth time this month. They chant the lines just before they are spoken, for the whole movie. We watch the sunset behind the anchored yachts and finish the bottle of wine. By the time the movie is over, it’s way later than we’d hoped and we struggle to get the kids into pyjamas, teeth brushed, stories and bed. I’m much more tired than Max, so as I lie with him in his cabin, it is I who fall asleep first and he keeps trying to nudge me awake again. I get fed up and leave the room but he still won’t settle. I’m aware of Gesa going in, as I lie down on the saloon berth, but the next thing I know is waking up at 2am, still in my shorts and a little dehydrated, for some reason surely unconnected to half a bottle of wine. Gesa, apparently, fell asleep in the kid’s cabin and woke up there some time later. It’s been a long day…