May 20, 2004 - #22
A new catamaran carries passengers between Sint Maarten and Saint Barth
With all the festivities surrounding the Transat ag2r from Lorient, France to Saint Barth, the news of a new catamaran service might have gotten lost in the shuffle, as the docks in Gustavia were busy with the arrival of the 33-ft Figaro Bénéteau sailboats that crossed the Atlantic with teams of two sailors per boat. But on May 14, Jerome Montoya, the director of St-Barth Tours and Travel, organized the maiden voyage of the HC Katia, a new passenger catamaran. Seventy people representing Saint Barth were welcomed aboard by Raymond Kalley, the owner of the boat. As soon as the guests were comfortably seated with a glass of champagne on each armrest, the HC Katia set out to sea:
destination Chesterfield Marina at Pointe Blanche, where a new ferry terminal was recently completed. After a trip of 30 minutes, the guests from Saint-Barth were met by Dutch colleagues. Raymond Kalley’s wife christened the boat, and the guests enjoyed a welcome cocktail before the passengers from to Saint-Barth returned to their island.
The next morning, the catamaran began a series of four round-trips per day. Built in England by the VT shipyards, this boat is part hydrofoil, and is operated by Rapid Explorer, a new maritime transportation company in the Caribbean. Measuring 89-ft long, the boat is propelled by four hydro-jet turbine 1000 HP Caterpillar V12 motors. It cruises at 30 to 35 knots and can reach a maximum speed of 45 knots, meaning that one can now make the trip from the Dutch side of Saint Martin to Saint Barth in just a 30 minutes.
The fittings include 150 seats arranged in three rows of armchairs, video screens, dark blue carpeting, large tinted windows, and an upper level pilot’s cabin fitted with video cameras that show the machine rooms, making this an impressive boat. With seven crew members, two of whom are responsible for passenger security, the HC Katia meets international standards for cruise ships. For the past few months, Sea Shuttle I, a similar catamaran with a capacity of 95 passengers, has been running regularly between Saint Martin and Anguilla. Rapid Explorer plans to add two additional catamarans, the same size as the HC Katia with 150 seats each next year, to run between Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Thomas and Saint-John. This summer, these two boats will be in the South of France to ferry passengers between the Nice airport, Villefranche, Cannes, and St. Tropez.
This new rapid ferry service between Saint Martin and Saint Barth will be in service while the airport in Saint Barth is closed for repairs next September and October. Once passengers arrive at Juliana Airport in Saint Martin, they just need to take a taxi to Chesterfield Marina, where the HC Katia will be waiting to ferry them to Saint-Barth.
For more info, check our page "By ferry from St Martin"
More to come