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The Best Time for St. Barth

This bright-eyed little rascal of a petite juene fille is a perfect symbol of the whimsical nature of Carnival in St. Barth. Despite the thousands of people, lots of drinking, and smoking of weed, kids can run free and be as safe as they would in Belvedere Park on a Saturday afternoon.

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"We’re currently in Roatan, Honduras, and plan on heading to the East Coast of the U.S. for the summer and then the Eastern Caribbean next winter," write Jim and Debbie Gregory of the Pt. Richmond based Schumacher 52 Morpheus. The couple took delivery of their boat from Dave Norris in Auckland in ’02, and spent the next 18 months cruising her back home to Pt. Richmond. After lots of local racing and races to Hawaii and Mexico, they took off on their most recent cruise at 10:13 a.m. on 10/13/10. Anyway, their email continues, "We’ve read all about the Wanderer’s New Year’s Eve adventures in St. Barth, and that seems like a good thing to put on our calendar. Can you give us some details about docking — we presume we’ll have to anchor out — and whether we need to reserve anything." 

Up until about two years ago, we indeed spent about 18 of the previous 20 New Year’s in St. Barth. It was fantastic — and it still is great. But in recent years the island has been absolutely overrun during the holidays with Russian and other billionaires, who think nothing of spending $20,000 U.S. on a double magnum of Cristal at Nikki Beach, and the likes of Gaddafi offspring, who rent villas for $150,000 a week and pay the likes of Beyonce and Mariah Carey $1 mil to perform for an hour. The result is many of the riff-raffy sailors, who gave the island so much of its character and charm, either aren’t around or lay low until everybody leaves at 9 a.m. on the 1st. Like we say, the island still has an electric buzz during the holidays that just won’t quit, but it’s no longer our kind of buzz.

For anybody coming to St. Barth for the holidays, yes, you will have to anchor out. Boats wanting prized spots on the quay have to arrive by the first week in December, and have to be back every night before 5 p.m. or they lose their cherished spot for Christmas and New Years. These big guys pay $10,000 to $30,000 USD a month to be tied to the quay, and it can cost more than $500 in help just getting your anchors untangled from those of your neighbors. And in both of the last two years, all the boats had to clear the harbor on or just before New Year’s because a big north swell made the harbor untenable.

Our favorite time to visit St. Barth has become the period between mid-February and the end of May. The trades are a little lighter, the seas are smaller, and the later in the season the smaller the percentage of having to deal with billionaires and their even more irksome entourages. In our mind — and we suspect yours, since you like to race so much — the best of all worlds for St. Barth is this time of year, when Carnival was yesterday, and both the St. Barth Bucket, for sailing yachts over 100 feet, and the Voiles de St. Barth, the French version of Antigua Sailing Week, are just around the corner. Next year Carnival will be on February 21-22, the Bucket the last weekend in March, and the Voiles about a week after that. There’s no way somebody like you should miss any of these three weeks, and better still, you should get there in early February to become accustomed to the island ways. St. Barth is a hard place to understand and appreciate if you’re only there for three days or even a week. Until you get into the rhythm, it’s just another very beautiful island with beautiful water and great sailing breezes.

As for where to spend Christmas and New Year’s in the Caribbean, we’re asking our readers for suggestions. Send them to Richard.

Just to prove to Uncle Sam that we’re working while we’re in St. Barth, check out our gallery of Carnival photos.

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The CNB 77 Four Devils as seen off St. Martin. Shortly after sailing across the Atlantic, she quickly and inexplicably went to the bottom.
Even if you own your own boat or sail regularly with friends, there are special occasions when you might want to use the services of one of the Greater Bay Area’s many professionally run charter boats.