St. Martin is the preferred starting point for charters that can include St. Barth, Anguilla, Saba and even as far afield as St. Kitts, Nevis and Antigua. There is a greater distance between the islands in this area so there is a little more deep-water sailing to be found here.
Those charterers who are used to the proximity of the islands in the Virgin Island group will find the Leeward Islands to be generally larger and further apart than they are used to.
There is a strong French influence felt on all these islands i.e. St. Martin and St. Barth are home to some of the greatest restaurants and general culinary experiences in the Caribbean.
Many bareboat operators have bases on St Martin which makes it an ideal starting point, not only for bareboaters and also for fully crewed yacht charters.
The main attraction, however is always St Barth, one of the main celebrity watering holes in the Caribbean. Don’t forget your Credit Card!!
Additionally, St Barth is home to the famous St Bart Bucket. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this has nothing to do with mops, cleaning or even buckets, but is the name of a sail boat race that takes place every year at the end of March.
St Barth, of course, is home to a myriad of quaint little hotels and restaurants, marvelous beaches and that SPECIAL FEELING of understated class and elegance that attracts celebrities from all over the world. The small island’s homey European atmosphere is incomparable; it is however quite pricey with a Euro based currency.
Anguilla is a British island and home to the BIG MONEY with great beaches and expensive real estate. It’s makes a great visit though since the West side of the island has many little coves and superb beaches for visiting yachtsmen.
“Yes, St. Barts, I am here, at last, here I am where I belong.”
For accommodation, the small and elegant Hôtel St.-Barth Isle de France was eclipsed a while back as “the ‘in’ place to stay” by the collection of little cottages at Hotel Guanahani & Spa, which has itself been recently displaced by an exquisite makeover of the Hotel le Sereno.
But the Hôtel St.-Barth, on Flamands Beach, still has the best location of the three, and if you are thinking along the lines of the island’s finest club sandwich accompanied by a low-key swimsuit fashion show, the restaurant overlooking the beach is the perfect place to satisfy your cravings.
Think: “I don’t need to go where things are happening; things are happening where I go.” Yes, you think, I will have pink wine with lunch. Yes, I will follow it with an espresso, even though your plan for the rest of the afternoon is no more exercise than slipping into your brand new French swim suit for a session on the nearby beach.
Lunches are always long and dinners are always late in St. Barts. By the time you get to your second major meal of the day – having had a restorative nap between the two, there will be plenty of “restaurative” restaurants to choose from.
Pick an outside table at Le Bête à Z’ailes, one of the few actual restaurants on Gustavia’s handsome square-cornered harbor – a groovy sort of bamboo-inflected place that often has music playing in the outside bar.
Nibble edamame and wait for the house specials of maki and sashimi – all the usual designer rolls – talk will turn inevitably to the mega-yacht bling bobbing near by, cheek to cheek in the harbor.
“Is that Paul Allen’s or Tiger Woods’?” “No way, Paul’s boat won’t even fit in the inner harbor,” says your friend who KNOWS such things.
“Are you telling me that Paul’s is bigger than Tiger’s….”
And so it goes until the beer and sake runs out.
The first thing you need after a very late night, is a chocolate fix, so head for the Petite Colombe bakery in Lorient. Its classic selection of French pastries are beyond comparison. Watch it: the bakery’s staff members have a somewhat surly attitude toward non French speakers.
What they don’t have is a really good foamed milk latte (waay too Italian). For the Lattes, you have to head to Maya’s to Go, across from the airport.
In some foolish moment before leaving home you may have promised yourself that you were going to resist the urge to shop while in St. Barts. You may even have gone to bed in your hotel Friday night saying the same thing.
But in the clear light of Day 2, you find yourself in Gustavia pretending that there is no real exchange difference between the euro and the dollar, making prices seem marginally more reasonable.
Perhaps you’re at the House looking for an antique Buddha for the friend who’s taking care of your dog. Or at Maryvonne & Gérard trying on exquisite black Tahitian pearls the size of acorns that hang from a simple leather cord.
Or at any of the big league international boutiques, the first of which was Hermès. If you absolutely must surround yourself with a cloud of self-satisfaction, there are dueling Cuban cigar stores at the end of the Rue de la République.
When you tire of telling yourself “I really shouldn’t,” you might try the more down-to-earth shops of St.-Jean. Check out especially Sabina Zest, where the fetching tie-dyed tank tops, along with everything else, are made on the island.
Chances are good either you or your mate could spend the better part of the day among racks and display cases of St. Barts; fortunately, the stores all close between noon and around 2 for lunch.
Locals and snobbish visitors who have been on St. Barts since the beginning of its rebirth in the swinging 1970’s from a desperately poor backwater Caribbean island – the ones who can recall seeing the villagers slaughter cattle in the open air at the present Cartier site – turn their noses up at the Nikki Beach club on the Baie de St.-Jean. “C’est seulment une chaine,” they sniff, in reference to similar restaurants in the French Riviera and Miami Beach.
The music at the Nikki Beach is, in fact, dreadfully old-fashioned and cheesy, but the crowd there is decidedly up-scale.
But frankly, dhaarling where else are you going to retreat to a Cleopatra-style covered divan on the beach after your tuna tartare?
At the end of the path leading to Saline Beach, the island’s largest and best beach, on the south shore of the island, there is a crossroads and you must make a lifestyle choice.
The crowd on the far right is gay and probably naked. The crowd on the left wing is straight and probably half-naked too. But it’s not a hard and fast rule on either front, and wherever you choose to put your towel you’ll soon be out in the pristine waters, just another a marine mammal floating on your back.
Or on the fore deck at the Eden Rock. Or at the relentlessly monochromatic Zanibarth.
Or the groovy beach-side Do Brasil.
Or on your old roommate’s 150-foot “boat.”
Or, try all of the above
The more things change, the more Maya’s stays the same, and that’s just the way real St. Barts regulars like it.
Past the commercial docks on the perimeter of Gustavia, with a large open-air dining room fronting the water, Mayas was one of the first really good restaurants to open on the island, making a name for itself with a simple and flavorful menu that always includes fresh local fish.
Opt for the grilled chicken skewers done with a delicious light coconut sauce, and – when talk turns momentarily to issues of war and the economy – gaze over the outer harbor toward the private ocean liners that are too big to fit in the inner harbor and think subversive thoughts.
Fortunately for everyone at the table, however, dessert arrives, and the presence of Jimmy Buffett at a nearby table causes the subject to change pleasantly to how different St. Barts was in the early days.
Onwards ever onwards, to Le Yacht Club, which is most definitely not the blue blazers, pink pants and weak cocktails at 5 p.m. sort of place the name might imply.
More like: a last glass of Champagne at 4 a.m. after a night on the dance floor that didn’t begin until sometime after midnight.
And that my friends, is St. Bart in a nutshell….