A native son of St Barth, Ernest Brin took over the captain's seat at the Port of Gustavia in December 2009. At that time, Brin had worked at the port for 20 years and had become one of two harbormasters working alongside former port director Bruno Gréaux. Brin's first season was tumultuous as well as extremely busy.
"The 2009/2010 season had a good start," says Brin. "The docks were full as of December 20. Unfortunately, the arrival of a tropical depression with high swells caused me to evacuate the port on December 28 and keep it closed until January 2, 2010." Brin realized the risk he was taking as well as the risk to the boats if they stayed at the docks. As a result, on New Year's Eve the docks were eerily empty rather than the center of the big annual party in the Port of Gustavia. "It was important to ensure optimal security for the boats in spite of everyone's general disappointment. It was reassuring when all of the owners and skippers congratulated us on our efficiency."
Brin joined the port in May, 1989, just as the transatlantic regatta 'Le Point-Europe 1' was about to arrive in Gustavia from Lorient, France, with a fleet of 23 multi and mono-hulls. "The port was under the direction of Claude Bruneteau at that time," recalls Brin. "I started working for him at the bottom of the ladder and worked my way up.
At that time the port staff comprised of only four people, and Brin arrived with a diploma in the hotel sector, where he had been working for five years. "When one of the port staff left, I received a call from Daniel Blanchard, mayor of Saint Barth at the time, asking if I would like to work at the port. I learned on the job." In July 1994, Brin went to France for a training course at the port of La Rochelle.
Today, Brin is the director of two busy ports: the main Port of Gustavia, where some of the world's most magnificent motor yachts and sailboats anchor during the winter season, and the commercial port. The latter plays a vital roll in the island's economy as everything from food to building materials is imported, and subject to an import duty. This provides a major revenue stream for Saint Barth.
Brin and his staff make sure all boats come an go safely during a very busy nautical calendar which runs from the New Year's Eve Regatta and through the spring with a variety of events from the St. Barth Bucket to Les Voiles de Saint Barth, as well as the biennial Transat Ag2r, and smaller races such as the West Indies Regatta. For Brin and his staff, it's all in a day's work and hopefully the coming season will be smooth sailing from start to finish!
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to All At Sea since 2000. She also writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.