A Must Do Hike in St. Barthélemy, French West Indies

From our beautiful, quiet mooring in Anse de Colombier, you can take a short hike that provides mountaintop views of several bays (Colombier, Petite, Paschal), as well as, very diverse flora and fauna.  If you are not traveling by boat, this hike can be taken in the opposite direction starting in the Village Flamands.
You begin this hike from the left side of Anse de Colombier beach (looking from the water).  There is a stone staircase that leads to the trail.  While there is some elevation for the hike, the path is well established and I would describe it as appropriate for anyone accustomed to climbing stairs and walking on a dirt and rock path.

Our Experience

As the hike neared the crest, we encountered many goats.  They were not timid, even when Duhkxy barked.  Many were accompanied by their spring babies.  We continued to encounter goats throughout much of the hike.
We were immediately rewarded with a hilltop view of the tranquil Anse de Colombier where we moored for several days.  The bay is teaming with sea turtles and offers a quiet, less crowded setting compared to the anchorage off Gustavia, the capital of St. Barth.
Directly north we saw Anse Paschal, with its massive collection of sargassum seaweed.
A short way on, waves crashed against the shore of Le Petite Anse (also on the north side).
Flocks of Tropic birds soared above and around us.
We always enjoy observations of pants with unusual features and flowers and this hike did not disappoint.  The rocky coast seemed as though it would be inhospitable to pant life, but its abundance and variety is a remarkable testimony to adaptation and evolution.

small and mid-size lizards darted across our path.

Views of the villages ahead beckoned us on.
As we neared the end of the trail, we saw a tortoise.
And then two more another, then several more, and still more.  We speculated as to why the tortoises would be congregating in this particular spot.  Closer to the village of Flamands we got our answer – a tortoise watering station had been set up.  We have subsequently seen tortoises throughout our travels in St. Barth, but never in such numbers, and never, fortunately, as roadkill.
Lovely cottages sit on top of the ridge overlooking Le Petite Anse.  The view of this cove and the villages beyond must be seen from this vantage point.

The trail led directly to a street within Flamands.

As we visited Flamands, Duhkxy was admired by several villagers, but most did not give him a second glance – this is very characteristic of French culture.
We visited a small grocery store for some libation.  Duhkxy was not permitted to enter.  I commented to the woman at the checkout “Ce n’est pas La France” (This is not France), to which she smiled and nodded.  She let me photograph the cigarettes she had for sale.  The frightful visual warnings of diseases linked to tobacco were exactly as in France.
Private properties in Flamands commonly fruit-bearing trees (sour sop, papaya, coconut), much like in France.
And there were flowering shrubs everywhere – much like France.  Beautiful hike, beautiful village, beautiful day.

St. Martin to St. Barthélemy

St. Martin to St. Bethélemy

We woke from our much-needed sleep to a beautiful sunny day.  Winds were moderate (10-12 knots) as we sailed close-hauled from St. Martin to St. Barts.  With George’s tweaking of the rigging, we managed 5- 7 knots over ground despite unfavorable current.  The combination of the boat’s heeling and a 3-4 foot swell made it challenging to move around, but we only needed to tack once, so we sat back and enjoyed the ride.  We passed by uninhabited islands with distinctly different topography.  We saw turtle heads galore and our first siting of tropic birds.
The first time we saw tropic birds was in the Bahamas.  Sometimes, the white bottom side of the bird takes on a reflection of the turquoise water below – doubly gorgeous.
Our delicious pancakes in the morning held us for quite a while, but eventually, hunger becomes a force compelling enough for me to head down into the hot, stuffy cabin (you can’t sail with the hatches open) to make lunch.  I had a simple lunch planned – burritos – and I have a method where I assemble them and then heat them which requires few dishes and very little time below.
I had the burritos heating up when a large wave threw the boat to the healing side.  At that same moment, one of my kitchen cabinets opened and the contents came careening out, much to the floor.  George called out “Are you OK?”  I hesitated for a moment as my full concentration was holding back the cabinet contents that were still on the counter and assessing the situation.  I then simply said “No” and George from the companionway replied something like “Oh Man…”

The worst of what had fallen was our flour canister (that had been filled the previous day) and our sugar canister.  The sugar acted like tiny ball bearings creating a treacherously slippery floor.

This photo taken mid-way through the clean-up after the bulk of the flour and sugar mixture had been collected off the floor with a dustpan.

As cleanup progressed, waves continued to tip the boat.  The sugar began to absorb moisture, transforming from ball bearings to syrup.  I began to sweat.  As the boat tipped, the slimy mixture below my knees, facilitated my slip-sliding away.  In the picture above, I am grasping the stairs and cabinets as I slid to the starboard side of the boat.

The worst part was that we were aware of the fact that objects on top of the cabinets could bang into the cabinet latch and open it.  We had already purchased a 90 degree plastic strip to install behind the latches to prevent it.  George installed them the following day.

Our mooring in Anse du Colombier (Cove of Colombia) is off a lovely beach banked with boulders sculpted by years of winds and salty waves.

Anse du Colombier (Ice Floe marked)

First thing upon arrival, George took the dinghy to check in with Customs and Immigration.  He could not bring Duhkxy as he had not been cleared for land yet.  Duhkxy and I waited on Ice Floe.
Duhkxy expresses his anxiousness, particularly when parted with George, with ear-piercing shrieks and yelps.  He has gotten much better, but still objects vehemently if he is left behind for a dinghy ride.

Check in went smoothly as George had submitted much of the needed information on-line beforehand.  The Customs agent did not mention Duhkxy so George offered “We have a dog.”  The agent responded in a French accent “You have a dog”.  George went on to offer “He does not bite” that elicited nothing but a blank stare from the Customs agent.  George says he was a bit punchy from being over-tired 😀

Sailing the Caribbean

Overnight Sail from St. John to St. Martin

In retrospect, the weather, wind, and sea forecast for the evening was a bit confusing.  It forecast clear skies, moderate wind and seas, with winds from the east / northeast.  The conclusion of the report was that it was not favorable for our planned sail, nor would it be for at least another week.  We felt moderate winds and seas sounded good and, as we would be traveling southeast, the wind direction could work, if not ideal.  We decided to go – we were ready to get on our way.
Our passage was without event, albeit 26 hours, 19 of which were spent motor-sailing.  The winds were more out of the southeast – right on our nose – and varied from 5 knots to over 20 when we encountered small squalls of short duration.
Fishing remains a challenge due to the sargassum seaweed that catches on the line and hooks.  After less than a half hour in the water our planer popped to the surface with a load of weed it could no longer bear.  We ran a couple of lines right behind the boat that tend to be clear of the weed for a few hours and then called it quits.  You can’t catch a fish if you aren’t fishing, but I can’t find any recipes for sargassum.
George with the best catch of the day
We anchored off St. Martin in Anse Marcel, with a view of incredibly turquoise waters and the Riu Palace Resort.  We are not cleared to visit St. Martin.  Although we are on the French side of the island, the pet restrictions follow those imposed by the Dutch side, and Duhkxy will not meet those until next year.  The VHF wafts French and we are lusting after pain au raisons and croissants but we must be patient.  We are having pancakes with freshly made strawberry jam.  George is prettying up Duhkxy and checking (on-line) into St Barthélemy (aka St. Barts), and then we will be off.  
Dreadlocks are popular here, but not on dogs.  To keep them at bay, we keep Duhkxy’s hair short and he gets brushed at least several times each week.
Pancakes made with Mitch’s awesome sourdough.  He grew it from thin air in Flagstaff and we can revive it after it has been dried for travel.
Anchoring in the bay Anse Marcel

One of two hotels affiliated with the Riu Palace Resort, St. Martin

Off our stern, we see the heavily populated British territory, Anguilla, and a really smart-looking catamaran.  This 60ft cat is chartered and crewed.

Anguilla, viewed from Anse Marcel

Caribbean Islands

I have often referred to the Caribbean as a collection of islands I imagine to be tropical paradises in the general geographic region south of the United State mainland and east of Mexico.  As we travel I make small efforts to be a bit more informed and find that I am not alone in my vague understanding of both the definition of what constitutes the Caribbean, as well as, the diversity of this combination of independent Island Nations and islands “belonging” to or with various types of affiliations with, remote sovereign nations (ie territories, commonwealths, et al.).
I now understand the Caribbean to be defined as those islands either, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, or bordering it on one side with the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  However, some islands that fit that definition (ie those which are a part of Columbia, Honduras…) are not referred to as Caribbean islands and some islands that do not fit the definition (ie Turks & Caicos) are sometimes lumped in.
So, not so different from my original description.
This map was reproduced from (Graphics.com)
However, when sailing through “The Caribbean Islands”, it becomes very important to know where you are, as each island, or group of islands, has its own regulations concerning Customs, Visa requirements, visiting pets, length of stay, et al).
This is very different from our previous explorations in the Bahamas and the Mediterranean, where, as citizens of the US, our passport obviated any need for a visa and allowed free passage between all the islands that constitute the Bahamas, and all countries that are part of the European Union.  You simply checked in with customs and border control once when entering the designated region, and once when exiting.  BTW – starting in 2020 US citizens will need a VISA to visit countries in the EU.  I can’t imagine how that happened!!

Where we plan to visit this year (2019)

The islands we will be visiting this year has largely been determined by their respective requirements for visiting pets and the fact that our boat started out in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

Pet restrictions revolve heavily around concerns of rabies.  Britain and her territories have never had rabies and their requirements are the most restrictive (other than some which require quarantine).  Your pet need to be in good health, have all its shots up to date, be micro chipped or tattooed, have a UDSA certification of health.  This is pretty much the same for most of the islands.  However, those which like Britain, have not had rabies, require a rabies titre.  This is a measurement of the level of anti-rabies antibodies the dog has.  Dogs who have not had at least their first and second rabies vaccination, rarely mount enough rabies antibodies to pass this test.  We will not be visiting these islands until next year.  In addition, as previously noted, some islands require a lengthy quarantine.  We will not be visiting these islands at all.  

We will be heading east and south of the Virgin Islands to Grenada where Ice Floe will be stored on land throughout the hurricane-prone months.  Our current boat insurance policy requires you to store your boat further south in Trinidad / Tobago.  However, Duhkxy will not meet all the requirements to enter this country.  So we are switching to a company that, for a premium, will allow Grenada, which has rarely sustained a direct hit.  Along the way, we hope to visit the French islands (St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Martinique), Dominica, and St. Lucia. 

Cruz Bay, St. John

The Tap Room, Cruz Bay, St. John

Cruz Bay, St. John

We spent our last day in the Virgin Islands sailing the north coast of St. Thomas and then headed to St. John and moored in Caneel Bay.  We hopped in the dinghy for a ride to Cruz Bay to clear ourselves through US Customs and Border Control in preparation for our sail to St. Barts.  We missed the customs office by 30 seconds.  On line information indicated the offices hours were 7:00am to 6:00pm.  The agents’ information indicated they were open from 10:00am to 5:30pm.  These kinds of disconnects occur so often in the Caribbean, they are not worth mentioning.
Next stop – The Tap Room – where we enjoyed nachos and wonderful beers while we sent texts back and forth with Allison and Michael, recalling the summer vacation in 2009 we had on St. John when we rented a cottage.  We all had the same recollections of having enjoyed the beer and the R&Rs (rum and root beer) and saw our first iguana in a tree beyond the outdoor balcony where we were seated.  Riley, less than 2 years old at the time, went absolutely mad one evening – racing around and being silly – much to everyone’s delight other than her parents who knew she was exceedingly tired.
Allison, Mike, and Riley setting off in one of our blow up kayaks (St. John, US Virgin Islands, July, 2009).
Mimi, always the first to volunteer for snuggling while the rest of the troupe is snorkeling (2009)]
St. John brings back so many wonderful memories. We rented a catamaran and sailed in the US and British Islands in 2011.  Marilla, Allison, Mike and Riley joined us for that vacation (Tristan and Mitch were not yet present in our lives).  This vacation solidified our dream to own our own cruising sailboat – and that was that!
Marilla assisting with first catch from our rented Catamaran out of which the girls made yummy fish tacos (US Virgin Islands, 2011)
Chartered (bareboat) catamaran, US Virgin Islands, 2011)

Visiting St. John in 2019 we find much is the same as our memories, albeit damage from the 2017 hurricanes is still in evidence, especially in the shallow water reefs that took a beating.

Mural depicting the ever-present, and beautiful Bananaquits
Beautiful shopping and restaurant area in Cruz Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands

We are headed “down island” today, on an overnight sail to St. Barts.  We will start from the British Virgin Islands and exit just north of Virgin Gorda to make as much ground going east before turning south (as wind permits).

From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean

Catching Up

So much has transpired since my last post.

We arrived home from Italy mid-November.  To our delight and extreme indebtedness we found our property and home as if we had never left.  Our gardens were weed-free, our houseplants thriving, our home dusted and vacuumed, and our refrigerator provisioned with an assortment of fresh food including homemade salad, dressing, and curried butternut squash soup.  All, courtesy of Diana who wasn’t busy enough with her own life.

We had just enough time to catch up with some friends and we were on our way to Allison’s and Michael’s home for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and doubly so, when family members from far away are able to come together.  We managed to have all the youngest members of our family make the trip to Michigan – Susan (California), Marilla and Mitch (Colorado), Brian, David and Brenna (Florida) – joining Allison, Mike, Riley and Tristan.  Margaret and Burt (Pennsylvania) and George and I represented the older generation.  It was a very special Thanksgiving.

Following Thanksgiving, Margaret and I spent very precious time with our oldest brother Tom. Sadly, our attempt to address his request to move to a long term care facility that would provide him with the support he needed was unsuccessful and Tom passed away less than 2 months later.  He joins, David, our youngest brother who passed away 10 years ago.  We will always love them, miss them and remember them.
David (Dave) Coughlin, left and Thomas (Tom) Coughlin, right

Life’s experiences include the highest, highs and the lowest, lows and we move forward – bringing both along with us.

Sailing in the Caribbean

Ice Floe arrived in St. Thomas the day after Thanksgiving and George flew down that same day to meet her and get her settled in at Crown Bay Marina, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  Details of the experience having her shipped across the Atlantic Ocean by Sevenstar Yacht Transport and our past two months in the Virgin Islands may be topics for future posts, time and internet permitting.  This one will serve to catch you up to the present.  

Boats are hauled from the water, put aboard ship in cradles that are welded to the ship, and strapped down for the passage.

George flew back north several days later, having already swapped the loaner prop for our refurbished one, refitted Ice Floe’s cooking fuel from butane to propane, lowered the stove so we could fully open the cabinet above it, and installed the grill.

Duhkxy, (Nov 29) at exactly 8 weeks of age, on ride from Lancaster to his new home

He joined me at Margaret’s and Burt’s, who had driven me from Michigan to their home so we could visit Tom AND attend the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton”, then playing in Buffalo.  Margaret, Burt, George and I had seen it on Broadway and Margaret, and I could not miss this second opportunity.  Margaret’s friend Ruth joined us and we could not have had a crazier, more memorable, and fun time.

Next stop was Lancaster, Pennsylvania to pick up the most recent member of our family, Duhkxy (pronounced Ducksy).

After Duhkxy got the all clear from the veterinarian and we fulfilled all requirements to bring him to the US Virgin Islands, we flew back to Ice Floe on December 29.

Duhkxy – First full day on Ice Floe – No adjustment issues!
Duhkxy, Dec 23 on Ice Floe (Day 3) showing off his life jacket and rubber duck
Duhkxy, Dec 29 – master sailor

We spent our first several weeks in Crown Bay Marina putting the boat back in order (cleaning, putting sails back up, and installing a wind generator and water maker).  These, in combination with our solar panel have given us independence to anchor out as long as we want rather than needing to stay periodically in marinas.  The winds are so nearly constant, we are able to sail almost exclusively – we have hardly put a dent in our first tank of diesel.

To date, we have been visiting the Virgin Islands (US, St. Thomas, St. John, and St Croix; Spanish, Culebra, Cullebrita, Vieques and Puerto Rico).  The British Virgin Islands were off limits as Duhkxy is not old enough to have completed some of the requirements for a dog to visit.

Zoni Beach in Culebra

Marilyn came to join us for a bit over a week in February which we spent in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  George and I were visiting these islands for the first time, as well, so it was all new for all of us.  Through Marilyn’s eyes we remembered our first impressions of countries where poverty is prevalent, litter is heartbreaking, and waste management stretched beyond capacity.  In combination with the damage from the 2017 hurricanes, this paradise has been sorely challenged. 

Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time snorkeling off beaches (turtles!) and touring via golf cart in Culebra.
Touring Culebra by golf cart
Fornicating Iguanas interrupted while touring Culebra via golf cart
We spent a night anchoring off Vieques and kayaked that night in the most amazing bioluminescent bay (Mosquito Bay) you could imagine.  The bioluminescent dinoflagelates lit up to show every fish swimming by (and there were hundreds).  If you placed your hand in the water and drew it out, it was as if the Milky Way was in the palm of your hand.  Just amazing.

 We enjoyed some local dishes and relaxed on the boat.  Winds were relatively calm.
Marilyn ate everything on her plate (mostly)
Marilyn on Ice Floe
We rented a car to explore Puerto Rico.  First day out we visited the El Yunque Rainforest.
Bromelids in El Yunque Rain Forest
El Yunque Rainforest

Artfully cropped from this photo were some strikingly beautiful young girls in bikinis
who appeared to be posing for a portfolio.
View of San Juan from tower in the El Yunque Rainforest
We spent a long and interesting day in Old San Juan.
Sharing a carafe of Sangria with Marilyn (her favorite turned out to be Pina Coladas – George and I developed quite a fondness for them too!
Marilyn managing crowd control for Duhkxy’s adoring fans
Performance Art in Old San Juan

The festive umbrellas on this street on Forteleza Street in Old San Juan memorialize the recovery from Hurricane Maria
On our final day with Marilyn, we visited Ponce, a town that was described as a must see.  Unfortunately, we were not aware almost everything was closed on Mondays, the day we visited.  The boardwalk along the beach was also barricaded due to hurricane damage.  

Traveling and exploring some days are better than others – all part of the experience!  Marilyn took everything in stride – a perfect boat guest and friend.