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Apr 15, 2007

ALL ABOARD


I hate to admit it but sailing has never been one of my favorite pastimes. I love looking at sailboats out on the water, and walking along the docks and admiring their craftsmanship, especially the fabulous classics like Ticonderoga, which spends much of the winter in Saint Barth, or those giants that come to race in the Saint Barth Bucket every year. This year, that fleet of 100’ and up beauties was almost eclipsed by the arrival of the Maltese Falcon, the 286’ high-tech wonder owned by Tom Perkins, the California venture capitalist who currently sails the largest private yacht there is. I had the chance to visit this behemoth during the skippers’ briefing for the Bucket. But I almost didn’t make it aboard. The boat was anchored at the commercial dock in Public for easy access—sort of. All these sailors come along and leap right from the dock onto the boat via a narrow gangway that didn’t quite reach the dock. In fact it fell about a foot short and was moving back and forth with the ocean swells about a foot above the top step on a little set of stairs that was like a box sitting on the dock. I took one look at the swinging access ramp and decided I didn’t want to end up in the harbor. Getting on this boat was not going to be an easy accomplishment for this landlubber. Eventually one of the crew took pity on me and lowered the height of the gangway closer to the top step. I held my breath and voila! I was aboard the Maltese Falcon, where I also had the opportunity to chat for a few minutes with Tom Perkins and found him quite delightful, although I am still waiting for my autographed copy of his book, “Sex and the Single Zillionaire.” Getting on and off the other boats in the Bucket was also quite challenging during the boat hop the next night when it was raining slightly and the decks and gangways were slippery when wet. One of the boats had the narrowest gangway I have ever seen with one wire on one side to hold on to as the boat swayed vigorously. I think I need to invent a gangway extension that hooks on to whatever the boat extends in the general direction of the dock so people like me can make it aboard. But other than these brief visits, I spent the remainder of the Bucket on dry land. Fortunately for those who sailed in the Bucket there was plenty of wind—compared to last year when the racing was cancelled altogether for lack of a breeze. And when all is said and done, an event like the Bucket is just what Saint Barth is all about… the island provides a stage set for some of the most beautiful boats in the world, and hundreds of people fly in for the races, the parties, and the fun—while behind the scenes, the Port of Gustavia, the local yacht club, and a hard-working committee prove that Saint Barth has what it takes to play in the big leagues!

More to come,

 

Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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