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Written by Tom Rankin, participant in St. Martin Colgate Sailing Adventures® Flotilla Vacation, January 2022

Best of Times 😊

• Dinner at the Fort Luis Yacht club
• Sailing and tacking on the way to Orient Bay
• Swimming for the first time on Sunday afternoon
• Listening to Shawn Mullins on JBL Speaker
• First cold beer after we set anchor
• Prayer before first dinner aboard on Sunday
• Sunset at St. Barth’s after cocktail party
• Heather making coffee each morning
• Snorkeling right off back of boat Tuesday
• Pizza and salad dinner ashore at L’Isoletta (Italian place)
• Tom’s toast at dinner in Gustavia
• Admiring all the beautiful French women, as recalled by Tom 😊
• Mark and Tom snorkeling around islands (Les Gros Islettes) off Gustavia
• Tom would be lying if he didn’t also include “topless women on the beach”
• Listening to Chris Stapleton w/Nate on the stern
• World class sunset on Wednesday night
• Holding hands while we pray before dinner
• Kristin putting sunscreen on my (Tom’s) back
• Tom, Nate, Bob, and Mark sitting in rum bar (La part des Anges)
• Our fancy French dinner at Le Pressoir
• Dingy ride back in the dark!!
• Sailing and tacking on Friday with 18-20 knot winds
• Nate’s toast to bread…for without bread there would be no toast
• After party on the Wallis (party) boat
• Singing Happy Birthday to Pat on the dingy ride

(Editor’s note: abridged version)

Day #1 – Saturday, January 22, 2022

Marina Fort Luis, Marigot Bay

Nautical Miles: 0

It was a short taxi ride down to the Marina Fort Luis, Marigot where The Moorings base is located.  It’s a beautiful, warm, and sunny day with temperatures in the low 80’s with a nice eastern breeze.  The crew ate lunch at various locations before finding our boat.  The scenery here is awesome with green mountains along the coastline and clear green to blue water.St. Martin flotilla crew

Tom got on the boat just after lunch and did the walk through with all the other captains and navigators.  He said it was a pretty easy process because everyone was familiar with these kinds of sailboats. Our crew met each other a bit later; there are 7 of us.  We sat inside talking for a couple of hours getting to know each other.  The breeze here is awesome coming through the boat. We did a full check and walk through of all the systems then stored the food provisions (which were plentiful and yummy!).  Tom and Nate walked into town to a liquor store.  Tom got two cases of Corona and Nate got a good bottle of Rum 😊. Later Bob and Judi arrived with a good bottle of gin. We had our own cocktail party on the boat until it was time to walk up to the Yacht Club restaurant for supper. We met the rest of the people on the flotilla there.  Our group sat at three long tables adjacent to each other…too many people to have us all sit together.  Looks like we have a nice mix of sailors – Tom noted that there were a “wee bit more people of my age on this one” as he has participated in previous flotillas (as had at least a dozen others in our group). Met the group from Georgia; four couples on one of the boats together as they all know each other…they are definitely going to be the “party” boat 😊. The food (and rum punch) was really good.  Options included mahi mahi and flank steak. Tom sat next to Beth from Seattle.  She is the captain of Umbalala. They had a good conversation about traveling, motorcycles, and hockey. She is originally from Ontario. Mark and Kristin sat next to Joe (doctor) and Janet from Louisiana who are also on Beth’s boat and shared stories (and pictures/videos) of prior travels.

Day #2 – Sunday, January 23, 2022

Orient Bay, St. Martin

Nautical Miles: 10 

The boat rose early and mostly slept well (after Mark fixed the squeaking caused by the plank rubbing against the boat).  We had to stay here in the marina last night as everyone had not arrived yet.  Tom walked down the waterfront in town to an outdoor coffee shop where several local men were having coffee. He sat and had a coffee with them.  Then he got four coffees to go and took them back to the boat for everyone. It’s another beautiful day here; winds are calm, but the temperature feels awesome 😊.  Tom tied the Offshore flag on the shroud then we prepped the boat for departure; filled water tanks and got a couple additional bags of ice.Jim's crew on St. Martin flotilla

Around 11 a.m. we motor sailed out of the marina toward open sea.  It felt so good to be on the water feeling the wind in our face.  We put our sails up and sailed northeast for a stretch then tacked our way back and forth toward Orient Bay.  We had to drop our sails and coast for a bit to wait for the other sailboats to catch up.  Once they all made it, we motor sailed in toward the beach. We set anchor in about 10 feet of water off the north side of the bay in the lee of Cay Verte (Green Cay). It was an easy process. Tom “enjoyed just being the voice of reason helping my crew mates doing the work 😊”.  We had our first beer of the day and then jumped in the water for the first time on this trip!!  Mark dove on the anchor to check that it was well set and did the same for nearby Umbalala.  The water was pretty cloudy, so it took a few attempts following the chain down to determine it was set perfectly.  The sun is very strong here, so we had to put extra sunscreen on. Beth swam over from her boat; she’s anchored about 100 yards south of our boat.  We had a good laugh about the fact that the beach here is all nude!  We had a grand time sitting on the back of the sailboat just soaking up some sun and swimming.  Tom introduced the group to some tunes from Shawn Mullins on his JBL speaker.  We watched a world class sunset while Heather cooked supper inside (Pork chops and zucchini).  We enjoyed supper outside on the back table. Tom suggested a prayer was in order given the fine meal and setting.  After dinner, we sat outside on the stern talking like old friends until bedtime, which was pretty early.

Day #3 – Monday, January 24, 2022

Ile Fourche, Saint-Barthélemy (St. Barth)

Nautical Miles: 13

Most of the boat was up early again and enjoyed the sun just coming up over the small island to the east of where we were anchored.  Looks to be another grand weather day; winds are calm now and it’s probably in the upper 70s.  The sea rolls pretty steady here so our boat was swaying around most of the night.  Nate did the navigation meeting with all the other boats and Tom took his saltwater bath off the back of the boat and noted the water felt good even at this early hour. Heather made coffee and it tastes so good here! We saw a full rainbow over St. Martin before we sailed out of the bay. What a treat!

We are blessed to have a laid-back group of souls on our boat.  It’s been only three days and we have enjoyed a lot of good conversations along with many laughs! We pulled up anchor after a quick breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. We put up sails heading mostly east toward St. Barths.  We took turns at the helm along the way.  We caught some good winds as we closed in on Ile Fourche.  Skies turned a wee bit gray in front of us and the winds picked up to over 20 knots.  We hit our top boat speed of around 8.2 knots with Bob at the helm.  We had to drop the sails as a squall hit just before we made our approach to the bay.  Nate took the helm and we motor-sailed the rest of the way there.  We picked up a mooring ball just southwest of the rocky coast of this small island.  The water is super clear and there are two huge sailboats anchored here; one is 121 feet, and the other is 191 feet long.  The “smaller” boat can be privately chartered for over $75,000 per week! Nate used his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous voice to narrate the amenities aboard, including gimballed hot tubs in each suite 😊

It was very calm in this spot, and we have a really nice wind shelter tucked in along these rocky peaks.  We saw a sea turtle near the back of the boat which inspired us to go snorkeling.  It is so nice to be able to just put on your gear and swim right over to a good snorkeling area.  We saw lots of coral and several types of colorful fish…no sharks yet (LOL). We swam for a while this afternoon.  The sun came out and the water felt wonderful and refreshing.  Nate was busy making the sauce for tonight’s pasta dinner. Heather and Tom took the dinghy over to one of the other sailboats and  visited for a few minutes.  We sat on the back deck and swim platform soaking up the sun and enjoying a post-mooring ball beer, which Tom noted was a few hours late.

Nate sent out a radio message on Channel 68 to the other flotilla boats that we were hosting a 5:00 pm cocktail party on our boat. The Wallis didn’t hear the message (probably because their radio wasn’t on), so Kristin swam over to let them know about the evening plan.  We had about 30 sailors on our boat for the cocktail party.  It was fun to visit with the people from other boats. Everyone enjoyed Nate’s delicious rum drink blended with ice, fresh pineapple, coconut milk, and juices. After everyone left, we enjoyed Nate’s dinner and saw another world class sunset over the water.  The stars were really bright on our mostly cloud-free night with Orion’s Belt directly overhead.

Day #4 – Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Gustavia, St. Barth

Nautical Miles: 5

A few of the crew were again up fairly early as daylight was breaking just over the peaks on Ile Fourche. The seas were much calmer in this bay compared to last night and it looks to be another grand weather day…just a few scattered clouds and a nice breeze blowing through the boat. Coffee was brewing on the stove now in the percolator until everyone was up (and we could turn on the generator) and moving about.  Mark and Tom went for a morning snorkel with Beth (skipper from one of the other boats). The sun is shining bright on the water so the visibility was really good.  We saw lots of colorful fish and Mark got to dive down and see a HUGE lobster.  Breakfast of eggs, bacon, and potatoes were waiting for us when we got back to the boat.  Just as the group was approaching the back of our boat, they said there were three manta rays just off our stern.  Kristin jumped in quickly with her mask and was able to see two of the three rays just off our port side.

Once again, all the captains had a meeting on our boat after some of the crew took quick showers in their cabin or off the bow of the boat. Then we headed out. Today, we motor-sailed east to Gustavia, only about 5 nm.  Along the way, we saw many mega yachts anchored in the large bay. One yacht was so large it had both a sailboat and a smaller yacht on its deck! Our boats anchored on the eastern edge of the harbor.  We can see an old fort (Fort Oscar, now repurposed as a police station) on top of the cliffs here with the French flag proudly flying. Nate had to collect all our passports and vaccination cards to take them into the port (with the other skippers) to “clear in” so that the crews could go into town later in the day.

The sun is bright today looking to be on be one of the best (hotter) weather days so far.  We checked our anchor with snorkel and mask and it didn’t look like it was dug in very well (it was resting on some rocks).  We had to reset it three times to get it right!  We had a quick lunch on the boat waiting for all the boat skippers to come back from customs. We felt bad for them as it took almost two hours for the process only to find out that they have to go back tomorrow at 8:00 am to finish. We took the dinghy ashore to check out the town. Fortunately, the guys were able to find a place to get a few cold beers while most of the women went shopping.  Later, several of our group walked up toward the lighthouse.  Only Mark, Kristin, and Beth made it all the way to the top and got great pictures of the harbor and surrounding shops.  We found an open-air Italian place (L’Isoletta) for an early dinner.  Most had salad and shared a ½ pizza (which was giant at about 14” X 8”).  Our group was joined by Mike and Beth (skippers on two of our other boats).  Just after we ordered, the crew from Mau Bisa showed up.  It was a bit of hassle getting into the place as the restaurant required everyone to have a proof of vaccination.  Fortunately, Nate and Heather had the boat clearance information that showed all of us were vaccinated.  Tom gave another wonderful Irish toast.  We squeezed 8 people into our VERY slow dinghy for the ride back to our boat just as the sun was setting.  Overall, it was quite a grand day 😊

Day #5 – Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Anse du Colombier Nature Reserve, Northern St. Barth

Nautical Miles: 2

Another early day on Mille Eaux II as the sun was just coming over the mountains and everyone was awake.  We have been sleeping really well so far on this journey.  Everyone seems to be loving the early to bed, early to rise rhythm we are on. Heather made croissants for a quick breakfast. Once again, we sat around our breakfast table visiting like old friends enjoying some coffee and the amazing view of four small rock islands toward the south.  The water is quite clear and we’ve seen several fish off the stern.  Mark and Tom took their morning saltwater baths off the stern while Nate, Kristin, Bob, and Judi went ashore for the morning.  Bob, Judi, and Kristin enjoyed a cappuccino and “real” croissants in a café while Nate finished clearing us in and out of customs.  Later, Nate got in his exercise with a quick hike to the lighthouse, Fort Carl, and Fort Oscar.  Nate was kind enough to let Kristin tag along to Fort Carl, which looked down on Shell Beach on one side and where our boat was anchored on the other.  Bob treated Judi to some shopping at Longchamp and Hermes where she picked up a small hobo style purse and scarf.  Meanwhile, back on the boat, Mark and Tom are thinking about taking a quick swim over to Umbalala, anchored about 75 yards away.  They put on their mask and fins and ended up swimming about 300 yards over to the first island of the les Petits Saints.  The sun was bright so the visibility was quite good.  They saw a lot of fish…and did a figure-eight around two small islands.  The water depths drop off steeply on the south coastline where they saw 3-foot plus fish suspended in the water maybe 40 feet down.  Mark was able to dive down about 20 feet for a closer look.  Heather kept a lookout for them and called one of the other boats that had not yet gone into town to stay close just in case they got into trouble.  It was a good workout too, especially the swim back to the boat.  It was pretty quiet on the boat with just Tom, Mark, and Heather on board and the breeze felt great as they relaxed after their big swim. After Kristin was able to secure three more bags of ice from a local café, the rest of the group headed back to the boat.

We pulled up our anchor around 1:00 pm and headed west toward our next destination (about 2-3 nm away).  With the short distance and busy harbor, we motored there. Once again we went past all the mega yachts we saw coming in.  We got a mooring ball in the bay, and we were able to catch it on the first try 😊.  Wow, what a beautiful place here!  We swam for a few minuteSt/ Martin anchs and then decided to take the dingy ashore to enjoy the beautiful sandy beach.  First, we dropped Kristin and Mark off for some additional snorkeling.  They went all the way out to Pointe Colombier on the northwestern tip of the bay and then joined the rest of the group on the beach.  Nate stayed on the boat to make sure all the other sailboats made it into the bay (a few left later in the day than we did) and were safely on mooring balls.  Before we left, Tom suggested a mooring ball celebration was in order, so we all enjoyed a corona with lime!  Heather drove the dinghy ashore and the sunbathers beached it on the far north side, pulling the dinghy up on the sand.  This place is just absolutely beautiful. The warm sand feels amazing, and the water is calm and crystal clear.

After some relaxation on the beach, Tom swam back to the sailboat.  Nate was holding down the fort when Tom got back, and they sat on the stern listing to Chris Stapleton on Tom’s JBL speaker.  Mark swam back to the boat too which was likely faster than our dinghy.  After a bit more time warming up in the sun, Heather, Bob, Judi, and Kristin spun the dinghy around (as suggested by a Frenchman on the beach) and got it back into the water quite easily with a little push from Joe.

Once again, we enjoyed a world-class sunset as it dropped into the water with another boat sailing across the sun.  Kristin was able to capture a lovely shot on her phone but there was no “green flash” as can often be seen just as the sun disappears at the water line.  Mark and Bob grilled chicken that Kristin marinated.  Heather, Kristin, and Judi prepared the side dishes to go with the chicken.  We held hands and Tom said a prayer before we enjoyed our meal, which Tom said, “made my heart smile”.  Once again, we had a really good meal.  We are all happy to be sharing this experience with this crew 😊.

Day #6 – Thursday, January 27, 2022

Grand Case, St. Martin

Nautical Miles: 19

Tom was up at 6:45 this morning just before the sun came over the small rocky hills here.  Just Nate and Heather were up sitting outside on the stern of the boat waiting for coffee to finish brewing.  This was our favorite anchorage so far on this journey.  We could have spent a couple of days in this spot especially with the view of the open sea to the west where the sun sets.  We hosted the captains and navigators briefing at 8:00 am on the stern table and Heather did yoga with several of the sailors on the bow, including Kristin.St. Martin

We hoisted our sails around 9:15 am and off we sailed to the northwest with a steady breeze on our beam getting little gusts of almost 20 knots at times. We averaged over 8 knots most of the way, with Bob at the helm most of the time.  A very nice sail (in a nearly perfect straight line).  We made it there well before noon, which was our projected time to arrive.  Kristin cooked up the shrimp and the ladies made salad for lunch, then we swam for a few minutes.  Nate, Tom, Mark, Kristin, and Beth took our dingy over to Rocher Creole (the north point of the bay) to snorkel.  We saw lots of fish.  Kristin and Mark enjoyed an exceptionally beautiful stretch of coral near where the waves were breaking between Rocher Creole and Bell Point.

We got back to our boat and had our first beer of the day then we all got cleaned up for dinner onshore.  The ladies walked through town to a couple of waterfront shops.  They all found matching reversible skirts made in Paris while the guys found a rum bar for a little tasting.  Fortunately, it was right next to the French restaurant (Le Pressior) where we were having dinner.  They passed the time sipping on several different rums from all over the Caribbean.  They all agreed the 21-year-old Appleton Estate Reserve was the best 😊.  We made our way next to do our lovely, nearly private table at Le Pressoir.  WOW what an awesome dining experience we shared from beginning to end!! Our waitress, Gil, was the owner.  She and her husband took care of our table of 7 with help from a young man.  The food was incredible and most of us felt it was likely one of the best meals we had ever had 😊.  The fresh rolls and butter were heavenly.  Most of us got the lobster bisque as an appetizer (except Nate who got a truly beautiful looking-and great tasting according to him-poached egg with fois gras).  For our entree, the seafood trio (with lobster) was devine and enjoyed by everyone except Mark and Nate.  Mark got an amazing chicken with mushrooms and Nate got a tasty pork, wrapped in duck.  These words do not even come close to conveying the beautiful experience.  When the entrees were brought to the table under a domed plate cover, we had to wait for the servers to unveil (uncover) our plates only to add an amazing sauce that accentuated the flavors of our main course.  This was followed by a ridiculously decadent chocolate mousse dessert.  Nate was once again an outlier trying the coconut cream puffs instead but later agreed that for this course, we had made the better choice.  Bob and Judi felt their chocolate dessert called for a cappuccino, which took a while to receive as the restaurant was much busier at that point in the evening.  We were there nearly three hours before we settled our bill.

After dinner, we walked back to the dingy dock…getting us all in was a little bit entertaining.  Nate drove us back and most of us headed straight for bed.  Mark and Kristin stayed up for a while to let the rich food settle a bit before they were able to fall asleep…this day really had it all from beginning to end!  Great sailing, wonderful snorkeling, lots of laughs, shopping, and a beautiful French dinner with great company!!

Day #7 – Friday, January 28, 2022

Anguilla Channel / Fort Luis Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Nautical Miles: 10

Tom, Nate, and Heather were up at 6:45 a.m. and had coffee together as the sun was breaking over the hills here.  Nate began prepping his food for his breakfast frittata.  Mark and Kristin joined them shortly thereafter and were barely into their first cup of coffee when Bob came up from below wearing Judi’s new French skirt wrap.  We didn’t notice right away until Judi asked how we liked Bob’s outfit for the day.  Needless to say, we all shared a good laugh but agreed it was a good color for him and really showcased his great legs 😊.

It’s hard to believe it is already Friday…our week has passed by so quickly.  We were once again treated to a beautiful morning.  The weather has been wonderful all week with just a tiny rainstorm on Monday when sailing to Ile Fourch and a few sprinkles at night (when we had to close our hatches).  Nate and Heather went to each boat for the daily navigation meeting today; we cleaned up from breakfast and relaxed.  Enjoying one more day of the warm sunshine and last saltwater swims/baths for a while as we will be at the marina later in the day.  We pulled up our anchor and Kristin took us out of the bay sailing toward Anguilla.  We enjoyed steady winds of about 18-20 knots sailing mostly on a beam reach tacking back and forth in the Anguilla channel for several hours.  Everyone got some time at the helm.  It was a fun way to end our journey as we planned to head into the marina for our last night on the boat. Especially, since it was such a beautiful day for sailing!  It was a very easy process bringing the boat back to the base with help from The Moorings staff.

We started to pack up our stuff and enjoyed a couple beverages at the back table as the sun faded off the bow into the sea.  We all dressed up again and headed to shore for our final supper at O Plongeoir.  We sat at separate tables of 6-8 people because there was not enough room for everyone to sit together.  Once again food was very good and included a rum punch and wine, appetizers, and dessert.  Nate gave a cute toast to bread…for without bread there would be no toast.  Everyone in the flotilla was invited back to the Wallis boat after dinner for an after party (which went well past midnight)!  Everyone onboard had fun and enjoyed loud music.  A few also enjoyed some dancing.  Other boats in the marina also joined the party…if you can’t beat them (or get them to turn down the music)…join them! Tom is the only one from our boat who stayed the entire time; partying until the party was over.  Nate, Mark, and Kristin joined for a drink then headed off to bed.

Day #8 – Saturday, January 29, 2022

Marina Fort Luis, Marigot Bay

Nautical Miles: 0

Most of the boat slept in with Tom rolling out of bed around 7:30 am. Everyone took our COVID-19 tests on the boat starting around 9:00 am, which Heather pre-arranged for us.  We all agreed it was an easy process.  Fortunately, all those in our flotilla tested negative and were able to return home as planned (even if a few were hoping to stay a few more days), although a few were dealing with cancelled/rescheduled flights due to the Nor’easter.  Tom wrote a lovely thank you note from our crew for Nate and Heather.

Several of us had time before our flights (or checking into hotels for a few extra days in St. Martin/Sint Marteen) so we enjoyed a drink and lunch at O Plongeoir (all our bags in tow).  They were so gracious and even brought us a drink before they officially opened for lunch.  Mark and Kristin met up with Nate and Heather afterwards at the Yacht Club and shared a taxi to the airport; they were all on the same flight back to Miami.  In fact, Nate and Heather’s seats were in the row just behind Mark and Kristin as luck/fate would have it.

Fair winds and following seas,

Pepé le Pew / Mille Eaux II Crew

Typed (and embellished) by Kristin Shelton (all errors and omissions are Tom’s)

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