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Monday, May 20th, 2002
Gus visits, sail to St. Barts
Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Our friend Gus couldn't have been a more perfect choice for our first visitor. Nothing much gets a rise out of him for one thing. For another, he's Mr. Mountain Man from Colorado, so I didn't have to worry that Force Five would be beneath his comfort level. Cruising on our boat isn't all that far off from RV camping really… it's just got a little more panache. The extra berth (or sleeping quarters) is under the cockpit and behind the navigation table. Comfortable enough- but a bit of a tight squeeze. And we don't have a shower of the variety we were used to at home- we use a sunshower out in the cockpit (we'll fill you in more on all of this later). Anyway- I was confident Gus would take it all in stride.

Because we don't have a car, picking him up the airport wasn't really an option, so we decided to meet him at the good ol' Lady C. We got there only to find they're closed for renovations, so we asked them to send Gus to the restaurant next door when he arrived. We greeted him with a cold Carib in hand, but unfortunately he needed to trek back to the airport. Customs was holding his passport because he indicated that he'd be staying on a boat while here, but didn't know the name of it. Our bad. We'll remember to remind any future visitors either our boat name or to indicate a local hotel you'll be staying at during your visit.

Once it was all sorted out, we returned to Force Five for a lovely dinner in the cockpit and to discuss what our next week together may hold. Gus wanted to get sailing right away, so assuming the following morning's weather forecast was favorable, we'd set sail for the nearby island of Saint Bart's. The main port there is Gustavia, so it seemed like a good place to bring Gustavus.

St. Bart's: May 21st-23nd
While the weather report indicated a bit of a blustery day (25 knots and 7-10 foot waves), it didn't seem unbearable. While I checked us out at customs, Curt and Gus tooled around the lagoon until the bridge opened and we could make our way out to sea. They ran into our friend Jerry who asked why on earth we would sail to St. Bart's in these conditions? Captain Curt addressed Gus and I for our input, and of course, we opted to go anyway!

The voyage was indeed pretty bumpy, but Force Five handled the wind and waves well. Making lunch below in the galley was pretty challenging. We were heeled over and surging over the swells, so I had to wedge my feet onto what's really a wall, and my derriere was wedged against the stairs leading to the companionway. A few times I was convinced Curt was trying to rattle my cage because it got so ridiculously bumpy, but I'd peek up to see him at the wheel smiling, taking no notice of me below- so I don't think he had a clue just how rocky it was down there.

Gus took to sailing like a fish takes to water. After we got out onto the open sea and had our bearing, Curt gave Gus the helm. Shell Fest coozie with Heineken in hand, he had an ear to ear grin. But the excitement really began when the fishing line we had dropped started to spin. The line sits to starboard of the wheel, so Gus looked confused and excited all at the same time. You could see the muscles in his brain flexing as to whether the fish meant he had to (God forbid) set his beer down. Curt grabbed the wheel, and Gus reeled in the tuna. He was around 2 1/2 feet long or so… definitely big enough for three of us to enjoy a tasty dinner. The tuna also yacked his lunch up all over our cockpit. Apparently they must eat a lot of squid. We briefly considered having calamari with our tuna steaks, but somehow that just seemed a little bit too much.

We made landfall in Anse de Columbier (actually an anchorage just outside Gustavia) around 3 in the afternoon. Jerry had suggested this anchorage was a bit less rolly than Gustavia, which we later found to be true. Essentially bare, save one big house on a point, it was a nice quiet little anchorage (apparently the Rockefellers used to own the house). After settling in, Curt cleaned Gus's tuna and they went snorkeling. That night we feasted (absolutely FEASTed!) on seared tuna appetizers and tuna steaks! We toasted to the good luck Gus brought us. Or was it the Shell Fest coozie that brought the luck?

May 22nd, 2002
The next day we woke to a beautiful Caribbean morning. Gus made us pancakes and we got a kick out of watching the Cocoon Crew next to us. You see, the afternoon before, a charter boat with six men, I'm guessing around 70 or so, anchored a little close for our comfort. Anyway- it made for good entertainment to watch them toddling around in their dinghy and snorkelling and all. I was curious what the story was that led the six of them here on a charter boat. After breakfast, we stowed everything away in the boat and motored the short distance around the point to the main port, Gustavia.

The anchorage was a bit crowded (relatively speaking) but we found a nice little spot next to a hill that was sprinkled with a family of Billy goats. Once everything was settled in, the three of us went ashore to check in with customs and do some exploring.

You can take the girl out of San Francisco's "Marina," but you can't take the "Marina" out of the girl. I loved Gustavia. The port is teeming with beautiful little sailing yachts, as well as a few mega- power yachts. Cartier, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, you name the luxury brand- they have a boutique there. Galleries and bistros are here and there. The little town looked and felt very European (including their custom of closing the whole town down for a two hour lunch). Of course, being with two guys, I was doing all I could to keep a cork in it and not go running around in a window-shopping frenzy. Besides, it might've been more than I could take to see all those beautiful things and not imbibe in a few purchases despite our new "cruising budget." We had lunch in a tree-covered patio where both Gus and Curt rolled their eyes at me and gave me a hard time about being a "Marina Chick" at heart. What could I say? So I asked for the small concession of a visit to just one jewelry store to have a link added to my watch.

What an interesting turn of events THAT was. Gus disappeared in search of the diamond counters (I'll leave that for you to put two and two together), and Curt was eyeing the watches as I waited for mine to be fitted. The next thing I know, Curt is asking the woman if he can try one on and shortly thereafter is donning a handsome new timepiece! Harumph! I got out of there without spending a dime, and those two were the ones having the real fun.

We meandered around town a little while longer before heading back to Force Five in time for a beautiful sunset, a light dinner and nighttime swim… with the added bonus of a surprise fireworks show over dinner! It was an absolutely stunning night. The sky was mostly clear with those big puffy silver clouds that glow in the moonlight. Do you remember the Pirates of Caribbean ride at Disneyland? You know that first room where you hear crickets and float by under a starry night? It's cool, but at the same time, just warm enough? Well the sky that night looked just like that- as if it had been painted there. With a night like that, we couldn't resist a swim. The seas were soft, and we bobbed around in the water like otters under the moonlight. Very, very cool.

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