Visiting St. Barthélemy

Hilltop view overlooking Gustavia Marina

St. Barthélemy, also known as St. Barth (French) and St. Barts (English), has approximately 10,000 inhabitants.  The language is French and many inhabitants speak little to no English. It was fun when I found myself in situations where I knew as much, or more French than the person I was speaking with knew English.

St. Barts is a wealthy island – sort of the Caribbean version of the Riviera’s St. Tropez.  It is said to be frequented by the rich and famous, although we met no celebrities that we were aware of.  We were told because many island inhabitants are well off, the recovery from the 2017 hurricanes was very fast.  Any able-bodied person could earn 50 euros / hour (~ 55 US dollars) just on a cleanup detail.

The culture is decidedly French.  We enjoyed our first pain au raison and strawberry tart since we returned from Europe and fresh(ish) baguettes became a staple once again.  I do not mean to imply that a store would sell a day old baguette; only that they were not baked fresh every hour and purchased warm.

Most food must be imported as the soil is dry and rocky.  However, much like in France, most properties have a collection of well-maintained fruit trees native to the Caribbean (mango, papaya, breadfruit, sour sop, bananas, coconuts…)

Sour sop – Wikipedia describes sour sop (aka custard apple) as having an aroma similar to pineapple with a flavor described as a combination of strawberries and apple and sour citrus flavor and an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana.  We have yet to have the opportunity to try it, but who could resist with that description.

Most natives are indifferent to other people’s dogs.  Duhkxy is learning not to expect pats and praise from everyone he meets (which is a good thing).  He now rarely runs to jump on people unless they encourage him to do so.  He also finds that he is not welcome in supermarkets and many stores.  Restaurants are about 50:50 as to whether they will permit a dog to enter and many beaches are off limits.  The beach restriction is primarily to ensure dogs do not disturb turtle nests, but it sure has been hard on Duhkxy, who loves nothing more than to run and play in the sand.


The capital of St. Barts is Gustavia, a very beautiful town with a busy marina and crowded anchorage.  As such, we anchored Ice Floe in a cove, Anse de Colombier, a short distance away and visited St Barts by dinghy and by car.

The island , just 9.7 square miles, is very small, even when compared to most of the small Caribbean Islands.

On the evening we arrived, the Gustavia marina and harbor were full of enormous sailing yachts.  We learned shortly afterward that a series of sailboat races was planned for the weekend.  The contestants were by invitation only and qualifying sailboats had to be a minimum of 30 meters in length.  What a sight!!

These boats sailed neck and neck in relatively light wind
These two goliaths sailed so close to each other they sometimes looked like a single vessel with a bizarre attire of sails.  The one created a wind shadow for the other, perpetually keeping it a bit behind.
An unusual instance in which competing boats chose vastly different sails
All the ships carried dozens of people to serve as ballast to minimize healing
Some beautiful classic sailboat types participated
The lovely schooner was so swiftly overtaken by this sleek, black sloop, it looked like it was standing still

To see more of St. Barts, we rented a car and traveled every public road on the island.  Our first road rivaled the steepness of anything you have seen or driven on in San Francisco.

Photo absolutely fails to show how steep this road was.

We finished our week’s visit St Barts on one of its small, unihabited, islands, Isle Fourchue.

We anchored in the cove where you see a couple of other boats in this photo and spent two days exploring and watching the sailboat races.

This barren, rocky, island was once home to many goats.  Unfortunately, they exhausted the food supply and the few remaining, after most starved, were relocated.

This sparcely-leafed vine left behind seed pods that sprung open and resembled silver flowers.
Areas of the island were covered with these beautiful barrel cactuses.

It was now time to move on to our next Caribbean island in the French West Indies, Guadeloupe.

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