Our first official stop on our six-week cruise through the Leeward Islands was at St Barthelemy (known as St Barts) and checking in could not have been any easier. All I had to do was go to the Port Office and get on a computer to put in all my info. The gentlemen were so helpful and explained the whole process very patiently. When we check out we did the same thing and they calculated our fees. (FYI, you pay more for the day you stay in and around town (called Gustavia). The problem with staying around town is that it is very crowded with boats on private moorings. I ended up finding room in 30 feet of water between Fort Oscar and The Saintes, but as with most of the anchorage there was a constant roll coming from the south.
As we walked around Gustavia, which wraps around the small basin, we were impressed with how well maintained the town was and how the buildings all blended together. It is such a delight just walking around town, and you can tell this is a hub for the rich and famous (the large yachts in the harbor attested to this) but there is historic stuff to see also. Our favorites were the two of the three forts (Fort Oscar is the police headquarters and is off limits) which give great views of the anchorage and town and the churches (did you read about Melek’s first Easter Service on Sunday?). You can get a great map to show you where everything is around town when you check in. But my favorite thing was learning how St Barts was a French colony, but traded it to Sweden in 1784 who turned it into a free port. The funny part is that less than 100 years later the island was sold back to France. This explains why the island has a distinct French feel (language, food, ambiance), but still seems to hold onto the Swedish culture with the place names and look (plus there is a Swedish consulate here).[Melek – St. Barts is a cute, little island and the town has narrow streets, which I guess is why there are Mini Coopers everywhere! At first I didn’t notice, but after a while I started counting them and came up with at least 20. What I like about this island is its very organized, colorful, and has some historic places.]
Since the anchorage around town was rough we chose to visit two other anchorages during our time here (plus we saved money by not being in the town anchorage). You can read about these other places on Thursday and next Tuesday.