Tuesday, June 7, 2011

St. Martin / St. Maarten

Monday 30 May - Tuesday 7 June

We head over to Spanish Town, on Virgin Gorda in the BVI'S to check out with customs, all goes smoothly with not too long of a wait. We now have some time to kill as we will be doing an overnight passage so do not need to leave until late afternoon. We go and check on Joe & Tammey's boat Tammera Sue that they had left to be hauled out to stay on the hard during Hurricane season. Chris & Robin on Toucan Dream are also there getting their boat ready to be hauled out the following day. What a job that is to get your boat ready to leave it on the hard for a few months, glad we do not have to do that. Back to the boat to get her ready for an overnight open water passage. With the little day hops it was easy to leave things laying on the counters and we kept the dinghy on davits on the back of the boat. With a passage we want everything secured away and we deflate and put away the dinghy. We have good weather predicted but better to be prepared before going off shore. At 3 we motor sail south past Virgin Gorda out the cut by Ginger Island. Saying goodbye to the BVI'S as we turn east into 15 knot winds, jib rolled up main out, only 1-3 foot seas so able to stay on the rhumb line and still have a comfortable ride for the next 80 miles. It was another hot, humid, light wind day as we got ready to leave and we were both still hot. So since it was smooth enough, Steve took a deck shower & I for the 1st time take a quick shower down below while underway. Steve had made an extra dinner the day before so we are ready for the overnight passage. A quiet moonless night just 3 boats passing heading west and one cruise ship off in the distance. We are making great time, over 6 knots and up to 7 when we had thought with current and wind against us we would do 5.5 to 6 knots of speed. So going faster this time is not a good thing as it will put us entering St. Martin before sunrise, so we slow down. By 5 am we are just 5 miles out so slow down a little more, also trying to avoid a nearby thunder cloud between us and the island, get a little rinse and by 6:30 we are anchored in Baie de Marigot. There are many options for anchoring and checking in, we have chosen to enter the bay / lagoon and check in on the French side. So we are anchored in Marigot Bay waiting on the 8:15 bridge opening as the morning is heating up. They say that the bridge monitors VHF 16 but when we call to say we will be entering we get no reply. There are several other boats waiting so we all just line up and wait. Outgoing traffic has priority, and it becomes obvious that there is some as the Catamaran first in line to go in starts to back out the channel. We make it through the Sandy Ground Bridge that is only 32 ft wide, why it is a one way at a time bridge and into the huge inner lagoon. We are re-anchored by 8:45 in the middle as we know after checking in we will head over to the marine stores on the Dutch side. We could have stayed out in the bay and gone in by dinghy to check in but since we would be making several trips to different stores the calmer / smoother waters inside make for better dinghy rides. The check in on the French side is self serve on the computer then you take the paperwork to the guy downstairs and pay your $7.50 and you're legal. The self service computer took a little longer as the guy in front of us checking out did not know how to use a computer so a young girl came to help him. She was trying to be nice and helpful and stayed to help us, typing our info in one finger at a time. Verifying that Iowa City, Iowa and New York City were both in the USA. Except that she misread the passport and entered it as Lowa City, Lowa. Bless Steve's heart he did not knock her out of the way to type it in himself and was very nice thanking her for her “help”. We are cleared in free to go anywhere on the island. If you enter via the Dutch side bridge, which is newer, wider (56 feet to handle the Mega Yachts), and deeper they charge you to enter through their bridge opening where they do not do that on the French side. If you plan to anchor on the Dutch side there is a fee for that also, so we did like most check in on the French side then just go do your shopping on the Dutch side. No fees to anchor in any of the many bays surrounding the island on either side. First stop is to an electronic shop as our inverter-charger had started malfunctioning the night before we left the BVI'S. Steve was pretty sure it was the cooling fan that failed, and they confirmed it when we went by the shop to get a new fan. The guy had the same model out in his workshop so showed Steve what to do. Went for a longer then planned lunch as a big group got in right before us, but even though we were on the Dutch side we acted French and had a 2 hour lunch break. Next stop over to Budget Marine and Island Water World two big chandleries to see what is available. Finding a lot of spare parts but did not have the list with model #'s so will come back when we confirm which are the right parts. I did finally find a dinghy ladder that I had been looking for since the Annapolis Boat show. Should have listened to Jan when she said to get it, and we meant to go back for it but didn't. I am sure the boat show price was better but I am so happy with my new ladder, have already used it and it works great. I no longer have to do my beached whale impression getting back into the dinghy after snorkeling. A dinghy tour of the lagoon to see where other things are then back to the boat. Steve spends the rest of the afternoon and early evening sweating his way through changing the cooling fan out. The inverter-charger is located back in the “equipment room” a space with very little air flow that gets very hot and of course at an awkward position to get to !! Wednesday June 1 – Hurricane season begins and we are praying it stays quiet thru June so we can get further south. Back to the boat stores with the shopping list of spares and things to get. The Dutch might not have gotten our entry fee $ but they are making up for it with these two stores. Back to the boat for lunch then over to the French side to explore the town of Marigot – the French Capitol. The Island is duty free so they have shop after shop after shop of just about anything you could want. Not much more to the town than shops and restaurants! I just want a post card which is actually hard to find among all the clothing stores. Then I have to go to the post office to get stamps, a long line as they do money orders and Thursday is a holiday here so they will be closed. Luckily a man directs me to an express line (sign was in French so I could not read it) for just buying stamps so it does not take as long as I feared. Post cards and stamps in hand we find a place to sit and have a drink while I address the cards to send off. Walk around some more and we go into a little “mall”. I go to use the bathroom and notice a lady sitting out front with a sign (in French) all I recognize is the $1 part, but there is a phone near by so I thought she was selling phone cards. I come out of the restroom and comment to Steve how beautiful they were and he tells me that is why you pay to use them. Apparently that is a very French thing to pay to use the public restrooms, and it was well worth it. Enjoy a great dinner by the marina and dinghy dock, before heading back to the boat. Thursday weather prediction of no wind no waves means time to go visit other bays, so we along with 10 other boats are waiting for the 8:15 bridge opening to leave the lagoon. Motor sail up to Grand Case Bay and the town of Grand Case a town known for its restaurants. Only a few other boats there when we arrive but as the day goes on more come into anchor. Steve has some work to do on the computer, so we spend a relaxing day swimming off the boat and smelling the cooking from shore. We head into shore around 5 to check out the town and walk up and down the street reading menu’s trying to decide which one to eat at. Slow season and a quiet night so all the places have someone out front trying to encourage you to choose their place. You could spend a couple of weeks here just enjoying the beautiful beach and trying a different restaurant or 2 a day and be very happy. The smell of BBQ from the LoLos (5-6 local places serving up BBQ ribs, chicken, & fish) had my mouth watering all day and they looked just as good as they smelled. But Steve wanted something French so we found a place he could have frogs legs and duck and I found a veggie pasta dish, both were delicious. Friday we take the dinghy over to Rocher Creole, a rock island part of the marine park to go snorkeling. Only one other boat there when we arrived but by the time we made it around the rock island the place had filled up, glad we got there before the crowds. Back to the boat for lunch then off to a little island off the northeast coast called Tintamare. A uninhabited island with a beautiful sand beach on the southwest side and a reef on the northeast side. Pick up one of the nicest moorings I have seen and go in to explore the island and swim in the beautifully clear water. Discover it's a “clothing optional” beach, but the ones that have optioned for no clothing should not have. Leave there by 3:30 to head over to anchor in Great Bay off the town of Philipsburg the Dutch Capitol. Take showers and go into town to find the dinghy dock. Steve spots a grocery store so he wants to just look, and he gives me a hard time for just wanting to look in the gift shops. Then we stop by a bank ATM since on the Dutch side they give you a choice of $$ or euros (French ATM's you can only get euros). As we leave the ATM and start to walk down to Front street, the “main” street, we notice everything is closed up, dark and deserted not the place we want to be after leaving the ATM. We are just a street up from the boardwalk and things are much more lighted and lively along here. They are having boardwalk festival night so not all the restaurant or shops are open, but quite a few are as we stroll down to see what we have to choose from. A couple of live bands are setting up and families are showing up to join in the festivities. We find a place for dinner and enjoy people watching as we eat. After dinner walking around stopping for a drink to enjoy some music before heading back to the boat. This anchorage is another they say can get rolly and it does but we have been in worse. Saturday morning we wake up to see a cruise ship has come in, yeah that means the stores will be open. What a difference between day & night, more people were out Friday night with less places open. Now during the day with just one cruise ship in port everything is open all along the boardwalk, and Front and Back Streets. Again with a person standing out front trying to get you to come into their store or eatery, even taxi drivers seeing if you need a ride. I had broken my cheap pair of polarized sunglasses, and wanted another pair for off the boat (our good ones we leave on the boat so as not to loose or break them) and found a pair for $15. We like Philipsburg with the boardwalk and the 2 main streets as a much nicer walk around town then the French town of Marigot. Stop at a Persian restaurant for an early light shared lunch before leaving Great Bay to head to Simpson Bay, on the opposite side of the lagoon form Marigot Bay by the Dutch bridge. Go through the bridge by dinghy (free) make an exchange and get a few other boat things we thought of. As we are ready to go in to Buccaneers for a drink and listen to some live music we get a short shower. Rain stops so we head in for a while and enjoy some good music and meet a new friend before returning to the boat for dinner. Sunday we complete our circumnavigation of the Island by returning to Marigot Bay under very hazy conditions. With the foretasted bad weather due on Monday & Tuesday we decide to go into the Marina Fort St. Louis located on the north end of the bay. As we approach we call on the VHF radio and get no answer so we were going to get fuel so just go to the fuel dock and try to call again with no answer. Get tied up with help from someone walking by who reminds us they are French and close for 2 hours for lunch and to call them back at 2. Have lunch on board while we wait until 2 when we can get a hold of someone to come down to give us fuel and direct us to a slip. Get the boat tied up just as it starts to rain a little, go check in with the office and then Steve loads all the gas cans into the dinghy to go get gas, as they only had diesel at the marina. He makes it back just in time for the heavy rain, glad to have power to run A/C with this hot humid rainy weather. Monday turns out nicer then predicted, overcast skies, hot & humid but no rain yet. My left knee (real one NOT implant one) had been hurting when I did any kind of rotation motion. Not sure what I did just started really hurting. I had been wearing an old knee brace but it was not really giving me much support and I knew I needed a better one. Marina directed us to a doctor up the street so we walked up, entered into the waiting room, no reception and waited with a few other people there. A short time later the door opens and the doctor wearing jeans and shirt comes out with a patient and says next. After the 3 ahead of us are done we go in, no paperwork to fill out just name age and what is the problem. He takes a look at my knee moving it around and says it is ligament damage and I need a better knee brace to immobilize my knee for a while and it will heel on its own. Writes me out a prescription for a knee brace. Next he looks at a lesion on Steve's arm that has been there a few weeks and irritating. Turns out it is a wart, writes a prescription for something for that, pay him $80 for both of us and we are done. Next door to the pharmacy and RX 's filled just in time for lunch. I am walking a little slower as this knee brace restricts the bending much more but that is what I was looking for and can feel the difference in the support to my knee. Back to the boat still cloudy, hot & humid but no rain. Steve works on a boat project of putting a photo-cell sensor on for the anchor light so it will come on automatically at dark. This way we don't have to remember to turn it on when we leave in the afternoon so it will be on at night. Tuesday early morning showers then just overcast with no winds. Thinking the weather forecast of storms as missed us, we head out to the grocery store just after an early lunch, pick up a few things and just as we are checking out the skies open up. POURING RAIN !! Called a cab to go back to marina but don't even want to run out to the cab since it is raining so hard. Does not take long to realize we will just have to get wet. Run out & load the cab up, get to the marina Steve gets a cart to get things back to the boat, no need to run as we are soaked thru. Oh well it is all fresh water so won't hurt, get things on board, into dry clothes, dry everything off to put away, time for a Bloody Mary ! Decision Decision Time !! As I have said we are one of the last making tracks south this late in the season. So it is time to get going and we have decided we will come back up after Hurricane season in November to explore more of the Islands we will miss or not see enough of on the way down. Wednesday morning we are heading south.

Link to pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/103931849054358791487/StMartin?authkey=Gv1sRgCJ6KqoD3tbzYYA&feat=directlink

No comments:

Post a Comment