August 2001by Anne Marie Caye and Matt Roche
May, June and July weather can be a real heartbreaker in the Northeast. After enduring the cold winter months, we are all too familiar with the unstable weather this period frequently provides. Then to add further misery, we have come to expect rain soaked weekends and water temperatures that never exceed 65 degrees...
When my colleague Anne-Marie and I were invited to attend the wedding of Marie Gerard, we were thrilled. Marie, a former reservation agent at Wimco had become our friend during her tenure. St. Barts in the summer is glorious and is just the cure for the frequently disappointing New England summer weather. Summer in St. Barts means perfect tropical weather, turquoise waters, and fantastic French food. I was looking forward to getting a great tan, spending as much time in the water as I could and eating lots of fabulous food. St. Barts did not disappoint.
We arranged for a Smart Car from Smart Car Rental of St. Barts. The Smart Car is the natural replacement for the much loved yet aging fleet of Mini-Mokes on the island. Some say they look cute, some say odd, the French women I met said “je l’adore”. That was all the endorsement I needed. Say what you will, these Smart Cars are air-conditioned, easy to maneuver in tight spots and are a joy to drive. Mind you, they are not for the family but for the couple who have no need for more space than two duffels, a computer case, and a love of driving. Vicente of Smart Car Rental, who remembered me from my last trip to St. Barts, greeted us with her kind professionalism and that fabulous smile.
We checked into the Hotel Guanahani for two nights. We had reserved one of the Guanahani's recently renovated junior suites. The view was fantastic, the terra cotta floor was wonderfully cool to the bare foot and the Roman tile in the bathroom was soft and smooth to the touch. The bathroom was very large and it sported a large bathtub. The furnishings were Balinese in style with some pieces authentic and others reproductions. The bed, a magnificent four-poster with a gauze mosquito netting was genuine and would be beckoning me after this long days journey. As quickly as we could, we changed into our swimsuits. Donning pareos, we grabbed a couple of cold Caribes and we made our way to the beach for that much anticipated swim.
Our first day on St. Barts we scheduled with Marine Service four dives in two days. I was impressed with their 26’ center cockpit, twin outboard dive vessel, and the quality of their ScubaPro rental dive equipment. I prefer diving from smaller boats. Smaller boats mean fewer people to contend with when moving in and about the boat, and with fewer divers, there is less impact to the fragile reefs below. Equally important was the relaxed yet reassuring level of professionalism projected by the Marine Services team. French regulations require dive guides to accompany their customers while diving. This regulation assures divers a higher degree of safety and the benefit of someone who knows the neighborhood. Diving for me is like golf for many others; there is no such thing as a bad day diving. I have dive experience in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, Bahamas and the Caribbean. Diving in St. Barts is terrific. There are multitudes of stingrays, moray eels, groupers, langouste, barracuda and scores of turtles, even the occasional reef shark. I was pleasantly surprised to find sea anemones. More common in waters in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, anemones found in these waters are a rarity and are a sign of the healthy environment. Marine Services and their capable dive masters, Corrine, Phillipe, and Olivier escorted us on dive sights located in St. Barts’ recently formed Marine Reserve. Formed in 1996 to protect environmentally sensitive areas, the Marine Reserve consists of five distinct zones situated on the northern and western parts of the island.
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