Wednesday, January 21 -- From Anse Colombier to Ile Fourchue via Gustavia
We had to go back to Gustavia today to clear Customs because that can only be done one day, maximum, before departure from St. Barth. But before we left Anse Colombier we wanted to have one more snorkel in this quiet spot. At 8:30 we moved the boat to a mooring ball on the south side of the bay. There was more sunlight than yesterday evening, which improved visibility. The north side had more fish varieties whereas the south side this morning had more corals. Perhaps the fish just were not as active this early in the day.
As is the case, however, on this excursion we saw something different than on other snorkels. We saw a large flotilla of dark blue fish, which we have seen before, but with what appeared to be a Trumpetfish swimming in the middle of it. The Trumpetfish we usually saw were grey, neutral or slightly green but this one among the blue fish was neon blue. Later I saw another Trumpetfish near some small yellow fish and it appeared to be yellow. This is the first time we had noticed this behaviour by these long, thin creatures, which we often saw just hovering head down in the coral. According to www.whatsthatfish.com Trumpetfish do in fact have the ability to change colour while hiding from other predators or stalking their prey, I.e. small reef fish. Their second amazing talent is that they can expand their jaws into a large circular hole to almost the diameter of their bodies and can do it rapidly enough to actually suck their prey into their mouth. It amazed me that even though every area we visited looked more dead than alive we always managed to see something new when we took the time to really look closely.
Motoring over to Gustavia we anchored this time (no charge), used the correct dinghy dock and had the matching key-lock combination. Clearing through Customs was quick using the computerized system. Once again we took advantage of the free garbage disposal and bathrooms. The garbage is incinerated to produce energy for St. Barth's desalinization plant. Even though it was almost lunch time we decided to do an abbreviated walking tour of the historic sites first. The big breakfast of scrambled eggs and cereal kept us from being too hungry. There are several historic buildings along the main street near the harbour but the most interesting parts of the tour were the steps up to the Catholic Church and the Fort Carl site. From each of these vantage points we had good views. It was amazing to see how these diverse roots had blended to become this modern playground for the wealthy. From Fort Carl we could see most of Gustavia on one side and Shell Beach on the other. There were many reminders that this island had once been a Swedish holding. In fact, the island has been traded many times throughout its history.
History of St. Barthelemy:
1493 --> Christopher Columbus found Ouanalao, an uninhabited island occasionally used by the Caribs, and renamed it after his brother Bartholomeo. Because the island had no apparent riches or water, the Caribs, Arawaks and Tainos were not bothered by Europeans
1648 --> 50 French settlers tried to establish a colony and cultivate cacao. The fierce Carib Indians massacred most of the settlers and reclaimed the island to use as a refuge.
1659 --> After more peaceful relations had been established in the Caribbean, 30 well-armed French colonists successfully built a life on St. Barth.
1665 --> The island was purchased by The West Indies Company and the 100+ colonists were forced to move to St. Christophe
1674 --> the French colonists returned as a colony of Guadeloupe, co-habituating with the pirates who took refuge on the island.
1744 --> attacks by the English were not successful. St. Barth remained a French island.
1784 --> Sweden obtains St. Barth in exchange for giving Louis XVI a warehouse in Gothenburg, Sweden. Under Sweden's care the island became more prosperous than at any time in its past. King Gustav built Gustavia around the harbour and erected Fort Gustav, Karl and Oscar for protection. The port was declared duty-free.
1878 --> Sweden's King Oscar II returned the island to France after a series of catastrophes -- hurricanes, drought, torrential rains and the fire of 1852 which destroyed the entire southern portion of Gustavia. Although the following period was relatively peaceful the residents could not flourish with their subsistence farming lifestyle and their salt export income. Many people left for other islands, especially to St. Thomas, to find work. Those that remained gradually developed an infrastructure of roads, schools and water cisterns (there is no natural fresh water on this island).
1946 --> Only a few years after the KLM flight landed in Sint Maarten, the first airplane landed in a field near Saint Jean.
1980s --> Tourism was becoming a major economy and protection of the natural environment became an important issue.
2007 --> St. Barth became an Overseas Collectivity of France, administered by a 19-member Territorial Counsel. They have one representative in the French Senate. St. Barth citizens can vote in French elections.
The St. Barthelemy Coat of Arms recognizes its history with the 3 Fleur-de-lis, the Maltese Cross (1651-1665) and the crowns of 3 Swedish kings (1785-1878). It also includes 3 pelicans, the island mascot and the original Carib name for the island, 'Ouanalao'.
There is a decent grocery store close to the docks where we bought a package of grape tomatoes, a red pepper and 3-1.5 liter bottles of water. On the way back to the dinghy we saw a school of huge fish, apparently waiting to be fed near the private cruise boat dock. If these were good fish to eat they could feed our whole crew for three days.
As soon as we unlocked the Tartane we heated soup and served it with what remained of the cheese, salami, sardines, peanut butter and crackers. The devilled curried eggs were popular too. There were no complaints about having to wait until 13:00 for lunch.
It was 14:00 when we closed the hatches and hauled up the anchor to leave Gustavia. We motored out a safe distance from the anchorage field and large cruise boats before hoisting the sails to see if we could catch a gust or two. We made 7 knots at one point but it was only a short sail to Ile Fourchue. There was a mooring ball still available at 15:30! We had plenty of time for a snorkel here before starting dinner -- mung beans, curry-spiced quinoa, carrots, mango/yoghurt salsa, potatoes and salmon. The captain had to finish the last of the salami since he doesn't like fish in any form. Next time our provisioning will have to plan a better protein choice for him.
While dinner was cooking the boat's "kitty" was reconciled. Each couple's share of the food, permit, clearance and miscellaneous costs came to $344 for the 10 days.