January 7, 2008 - #85
End Of The Year Events
Publication of Ti Guides
On of the first parties of the season was thrown by the staff of Ti Gourmet, an annual publication that celebrated its 15th anniversary on December 16. There are now three versions—Ti Gourmet St. Barth, a pocket guide with 60,000 copies printed; Ti Festivities, with info on what to do and where to go during the holidays; and the brand-new Ti Northern Islands, which allows travelers to have the best addresses in their pockets. The party took place in Gustavia at the Yacht Club and La Marine, reserved for the guests of Sylvia Baptista, director of the Ti Gourmet publishing house.
Fishermen On Strike
At dawn on the morning of December 17, boats in the Port of Gustavia were surprised by the fact that the island’s fishermen had blocked the entry to the port with a barrage of fishing boats attached one behind the other from the fish market on one side of the harbor to the Hotel de la Collectivité on the other. They were mad about not getting a reduction in taxes on the fuel sold to them, a request they have been making without success for the past 10 years. There are approximately 30 professional fisherman, all from Saint Barth, who fish the old-fashioned way on small boats under 33 feet. They claim that even with an increase in their fixed costs, they are afraid to raise the price of their fish, at the risk of losing their restaurant clients. At the same time, over the past few years, the fishing season has been shorter, the quantities of fish caught are smaller, and they have to go father and farther off the island to look for fish, sometimes up to 80-100 miles off the coast. Since 1998, the price of fuel at the gas pump has jumped from 70 cents/euro to 1.27 cents/euro per liter as of January 3, 2008, an increase caused by two variables: a worldwide increase in the price of a barrel of oil and the increase in price of the refined gasoline that has to meet European standards. On the neighboring island of Sint Maarten, which does not respect European norms, they sell fuel that is less clean than that sold in Saint Barth, making it cheaper at 99 cents/dollar per liter. But the fisherman lose a day each week in order to go buy fuel there, and it is illegal—and dangerous— to come back with an average of 1,5000 liters each time. The fishermen got mad when the Collectivity opened a new fuel pump in early December at the commercial dock in Public (after being closed for almost four years) and they were not able to buy fuel at a reduced price. The day of the strike, the president of the Collectivity refused all discussion at first, so the fisherman left their blockade of the port in place and headed to the airport in order to block departing passengers. Faced with mounting tension and the support of much of the population for the fishermen, Bruno Magras finally accepted to sit down at the bargaining table at 3pm. By the end of the afternoon when the meeting was over, the fishing boat blockade was removed, after the president having promised to examine their demands at the next territorial council meeting, which was scheduled on December 20. At that time, the fisherman were again extremely disappointed to hear that their problem was not on the agenda, and would be considered in the future if they presented figures that justified the financial needs of the profession. A few days later, Bruno Magras then published a letter in the island’s weekly newspaper, explaining that the fishermen did not seem to have financial difficulties any more than any other profession and that the Collectivity had already helped them by building and maintaining a fish market, and by opening the fuel pump in Public. From the island’s point of view, reducing the tax on fuel for the fisherman did not make sense at this time. While the rest of the population is worried about the new taxes that were enacted as of January 1, prices continue to rise, effectively reducing buying power. The president is convinced that the population can afford the few local taxes, yet certain families already have trouble making ends meet and paying extremely high rents. It seems likely that in the near future, if tourism remains the main economic factor, the middle class will suffer as the upper class continues to get richer without paying income tax on their personal of business revenue.
Openings, Parties and People
December 22, the Ralph Lauren boutique held a cocktail party for its special clients, staying open for last-minute Christmas shopping until 10pm. The Bulgari jewelry store held its annual party at the Tamarin restaurant in Saline rather than at their boutique in town. Numerous private parties in villas and on yachts were held during the last week of the year.
A new watering hole this year is Le Bistro, next to the BAZ bar along the waterfront—this French brasserie is open non-trop from 8am to 11pm and features red and white checked tablecloths with specialties from the South of France on the menu.
Raphaël de Niro, Claudine de Matos, Jeffery Dread
Many celebrities once again opted to spend New Year’s on the island: actors Denzel Washington and Kevin Spacey, Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, Nicollette Sheridan, the blonde from Desperate Housewives on the arm of singer Michael Bolton, plus Billy Zen and his wife Kelly Brook. Former model Linda Evangelista was with her family as were French TV personalities Véronica Sublet, Christophe Dechavanne, and Gérard Holtz. As for Raphaël de Niro, the son of Robert de Niro, he was spotted at the opening of Jeffrey Dread’s pop art exhibit “Life is a Card Game" with his fiancée Claudine de Matos.
New Year Eve regatta
Groovy Jimmy Buffett
The annual December 31 regatta, co-organized by the St. Barth Yacht Club, the Port of Gustavia, and the crew of Mischievous, a 65’ Meriten, saw 26 sailboats (including one catamaran) on the starting line with high seas and winds up to 30 knots on the horizon. Jimmy Buffett’s 30’ sloop, Groovy, was one of the smallest, and sailed with the American singer at the helm and a small crew including French sailor Philippe Poupon. The winner, with the fastest time around the island of 1h 58min, 20 seconds, was the 117’ Hamilton II, designed by naval architect Philippe Briand. The harbor once again hosted up to 350 boats for the New Year, with many large motor yachts anchoring to celebrate the ringing in of the New Year. At least 20 yachts measured longer than 196’ (St. Barth size yachts that fit at the dock), including Rising Sun at 453’, Limitless at 315’, Leander at 246’, and Elegant at 236’. Several large yachts were able to perch at the commercial dock for New Year’s Eve, including Princess Mariana at 262’ and Shérakan at 229’. The Port staff checked in an average of 50 boats per day between December 26 and 31, with the zenith on December 30 with 66 boats arriving. Fifty boats that meet the St. Barth size requirement of 196’ or less were lined up along the docks, which had been full since mid-December. At midnight, a concert of sirens accompanied the fireworks that exploded in the skies above Fort Oscar in Gustavia. By January 2, 12 boats had left the waters of Saint Barth.
More to come