Relaxing on the shimmering white deck of a 44-foot Jeanneau anchored off a remote white-sand beach, I gazed through crystal waters and watched blue-green sea grass sway lazily in the current. At my side were a good novel, fresh baguettes, black olives and brie; in my hand, a glass of chilled white Bordeaux.
I love sailing vacations. Whether I’m cutting through two-foot swells, anchored peacefully in a beautiful cove, or moored in a quaint harbor town, I’m in the moment. It’s all about the journey and the experience — an ultimate be-here-now experience that’s pure carpe diem.
On this particular diem, we were anchored in Anse à Colombier on the northwest corner of St. Barts, a two-hour sail from the Sunsail sailboat charter base in St. Martin. We were on the first day of a two-week cruise my photographer and I took of the Leeward Islands.
Anse à Colombier is one of St. Bart’s best beaches, remote and wild. The only other way to get to this beach involves a 30-minute perilously steep hike down a treacherous cacti-laden path. Try that lugging towels, umbrellas, and coolers.
After a lazy afternoon snorkeling with friendly green sea turtles, we pulled anchor and sailed the short distance to Gustavia, the island’s main town and port. In peak season, this harbor is jammed with megayachts, glitz and glamour as the world’s rich and beautiful take their winter holidays. Off-season, it’s much more subdued.
Sailing provides a kind of dual holiday — the adventure of sailing the high seas and anchoring in remote wild bays, combined with the fun of exploring cities, towns, and villages along the way. Gustavia is a quaint French colonial town that reminds me of a mini Monaco. And like Monaco, it has no shortage of great restaurants. Cooking on the boat is fun, but it’s always nice to let someone else do the dishes.
After a tranquil night gently rocking in the protected harbor, we stocked up on croissants, prosciutto, wine, and gruyère, slipped off the mooring lines, and headed for St. Kitts.
Situated 45 nautical miles to the south of St. Barts, the sail to St. Kitts was going to be a long one. The wind was blowing a good 15-20 knots about 30 degrees off our port bow, so we knew we’d be heeled over for most of the journey. Translation: tipped on our side, drinks sliding across the deck, and the wind blowing our hats off.
When we first sighted St. Kitts, the volcanic islands St. Eustatius and Saba appeared off our starboard. We had wanted to visit Saba, but the island didn’t have any good anchorage. Nothing’s more troubling than a sketchy anchorage. Just imagine you’re fast asleep, your boat suddenly cuts loose, and you wake up either crashing against the rocks or drifting out to sea. Neither is a pleasant scenario.
The wind calmed as we dipped into the shadow of the western side of St. Kitts, so we switched on the engines. While I love to sail, after a day of riding the waves with the wind on your nose, it was nice to get a little break from the sound and the fury.
St. Kitts has a lot of history and it’s worth a walk-about. One of the best sites is Brimstone Hill Fortress, where a number of key battles between the French and English went down. Even if you’re not a history buff, the view from Brimstone is breathtaking.