We had our anchor up and were lifting our main at 5:30am out of Jolly Harbor for Anse de Colombier, St. Barts. The morning was beautiful, it was still extremely dark and we couldn’t actually see much except the millions of stars enveloped around us. It was chilly but the breeze hadn’t kicked up yet. After the first 7 miles it’s a straight line for St. Barts, 70 more miles. We were making really good time with our full main and jib in conditions that were better than we expected- it was a nice day. We arrived in under 12 hours and picked up one of the last mooring balls in Anse de Colombier. We were there last year for a night. It’s a beautiful spot but this time it was really uncomfortable- a combination of chop and roll that reminded me of motoring into the wind on a crap day in the Chesapeake. So we didn’t get much sleep and I was happy to get up and leave.
We had planned to go into the lagoon on the French side of St. Martin but that would have required us beating into the wind for a portion of the trip as well as waiting half the day for the bridge to open. Instead we went right to the Dutch side, only 15 miles from St. Barts. We still had to sail slowing around for about an hour waiting for the 11:30am bridge opening but it was no big deal. Typically we would not enter the Dutch side or anchor there simply because the customs fees are way, way more expensive than the French side. We read of cruisers entering through the Dutch bridge but anchoring on the French side of the lagoon and clearing in there so that’s what we did- we figured at the most we would have to pay the bridge opening fee which is $30 US. It’s nerve wracking to say the least while jockeying for the bridge opening. There were 5 super yachts behind us, all of which had lead boats to report the depth as they went in, plus 6 other boats and the bridge captain wants everyone nearly stern to stern right up on the bridge by the time he starts opening the bridge- all this in 25 knots of wind and a channel 60 feet wide. Anyway, we went through the bridge and actually got shouted at for being too slow. The rest is sort of scary because the electronic chart for the chart plotter is not really helpful and there are markers seemingly everywhere marking I’m not sure what. Right now a new bridge is being built right at the Dutch/French border- we assume so people will no longer be able to get through one bridge and easily go to the other side. The bridge looks close to complete and when we were there only two spans in the center were open to pass through and there is big dredging equipment being used next to the opening. I was totally nervous, envisioning us running aground in the center of the span and our mast hitting the bridge but that didn’t happen. The depth was never less than 12 feet. However, everyday we’ve been here an announcement has been made on the radio about another boat running aground at the bridge. We will exit at the French side- which also has its challenges as far as depth goes, but we did it last year and should be fine.
We anchored in about 12 feet of water by the “witches’ tit.” We cleared in customs at the Capitanerie on the French side on the waterfront which has the self-registration on computers. It’s 5 Euros. The last time we were in St. Martin we cleared at the terminal in the main town by the anchorage and it was a much bigger deal so the Capitanerie is the way to go.
We met up with some friends that we haven’t seen in months and spent a few nights at Barnacles for happy hour. Other than that we’ve finally been getting some chores done- we’ve taken a longer than usual but fun hiatus from some of the more time consuming boat work because of our busy travel and touring schedule!
My Dad arrives tomorrow for an 11 day visit. Our plan is to visit Anguilla and St. Barts as well as some of the anchorages in St. Martin while he is with us. Hopefully our friend, the weather, will cooperate!