Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Carnival in St. Martin

February 20, 2007  Tuesday
Marigot Baie, St. Martin

Well, our timing of guests is turning out to be better than anticipated.  Donna and Bruce left Sunday afternoon and Glenn and John will arrive this Friday evening.  Within hours after Donna and Bruce left Sunday afternoon a sea swell started building.  The swell is now 11 feet at 11 second intervals (certainly doesn’t look that big to us).  The boat that was anchored next to us moved into the marina this morning to wait out this swell event.  Our boat is dancing all over the place and the movement would certainly have made our guests seasick.  So it is a good thing that it waited until this week to start rolling in.

The swell is predicted to be 9 feet tomorrow, diminishing to 7 feet on Thursday and down to insignificant by Friday night when John and Glenn will arrive.  Perfect timing. 

Bill spilled beer on our wireless keyboard.  Now we need to find a bottle of alcohol to pour on it to get rid of the stickiness.  FYI, that works great to clean sticky gumminess from keyboards.  Just disconnect the keyboard; pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol over it; and turn it on its side to dry.

Carnival (like Mardi Gras) is being celebrated today and tomorrow here on the French side of St. Martin.  We don’t really understand the concept of celebrating Carnival the week before Ash Wednesday, but that is what they do here.  Then the Dutch side of the island will hold Carnival for two days after Lent.  Don’t know why they just don’t say that it is held for two days following Easter.  But the guide books say the Dutch side celebrates Carnival on the two days following Lent.  We will be long gone from here by then.

Our renewed boat Certificate of Documentation was in the package of paperwork that Donna and Bruce delivered to us from home last week.  So now we can clear out of this island with no worries of checking into the next island with the old documentation that would expire in March.  The renewed documentation is good through February 2008. 

We went ashore for the Carnival parade this afternoon with another cruising couple from Texas.  Lots of music and dancing and beer drinking, sort of like New Orleans with different music.  The parade ended up in a sports stadium and they celebrated with loud music until late in the evening.  We would have liked to attend the celebration at the stadium with all the partying, but we opted to return to the boat for quiet time alone instead.  Quite frankly, we had tolerated the wife of the other couple with us for as long as we could for one day.  The husband is nice enough but it is extremely obvious that the wife is addicted to pain pills and her strange and jerky behavior had exceeded our level of tolerance.  Pity the poor guy having to deal with that.

February 28, 2007  Friday

John Rouse (Bill’s brother) and Glenn Martin (an old friend) arrived Friday afternoon.   Glenn left yesterday – his visit was much too short.  John will stay with us until March 7.  We sailed around a bit a few days, pretty much the same as we did with Donna and Bruce the previous week.  It was very good to see Glenn again and we are enjoying John’s visit.  Nothing much else to say since we are not doing much.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Friends Donna and Bruce came for a visit

February 19, 2007 Monday
Marigot Baie, St. Martin

Sorry to say that we have forgotten when we last updated this website.  Hard to keep track of it when we don’t have frequent internet access.  We did go to Shrimpy’s and update during lunch one day but don’t remember when that happened.

Our friends, Donna and Bruce, visited us last week; and departed yesterday afternoon.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with them and hope they can find the time to visit us again in another location.   Bruce took more than 1100 photographs on this trip; we picked about two dozen of these that we particularly liked and will put a couple on this website.

Monday was their first full day here and we walked up the hill at Marigot to see the remains of Fort St. Louis, which was built in 1789.  Not a lot of the structure remains; just a few stone walls and one room and the sentry guard post.   The uphill climb was easier than we anticipated and Judy had no trouble going uphill this time.  Donna and Bruce brought Judy two collapsible walking sticks and those really helped.  They also brought us several other hard to find items.

The watermaker quit working last Saturday.  We were making water and it just shut down suddenly.  It appeared to be not receiving any power.  Bill trouble-shot every thing he could think of, without any success.  So first thing Monday morning we contacted Electec and requested a service call.  The technician arrived and did exactly what Bill had already tested.  He could not find any problem and said it was probably the circuit board.  So we ordered a new circuit board to be shipped from France.  Just have to love being in the French islands when you need a part for a French built boat.  The new circuit board arrived in three days.

Our friends, Pierre and Ellen, on S/V Lady Annabelle also arrived Monday afternoon and we invited them over for sundowners.  We met Pierre and Ellen back in Trinidad last summer.  S/V Lady Annabelle is another Amel Super Maramu 2000, hull number 339; so she is a couple of years older than our boat (number 387).   We learned that Pierre and Ellen are planning to go through the Panama Canal and across the South Pacific in spring 2008.  If their plans and our plans remain the same then we might be sailing the same areas at the same time.  This would be a very good thing since we have identical boats.

Tuesday we sailed back and forth between St. Martin and Anguilla, ending in Grand Case for the night.  Pierre and Ellen also anchored in Grand Case for the night and we all went out for dinner.  Grand Case is renowned for its restaurants and is the place to go for good food on St. Martin.  Each Tuesday evening the main street is closed off and people flock to Grand Case.  Vendors set up along the street and people walk up and down shopping both the vendors and the menus for all the restaurants.  Unfortunately, we shopped the menus a little too long and then could not get a table at the first three restaurants that we tried.  But the fourth restaurant had a table for six available and we enjoyed paella with a nice wine and great desserts.  The people watching was enjoyable.  There were several bands or entertainers along the main street.   One small band with dancing girls made their way up and down the street and that attracted a lot of attention.

Wednesday we sailed between Anguilla and St. Martin, ending back in Marigot Baie again.  Seas and winds were much calmer this day so we flew the mizzen ballooner.  It had been so long since we flew this sail that we flubbed it royally.  Took three attempts to raise the sail correctly and Judy burned her fingers when the sail came down and was about to hit the water.  She knew better than to touch that halyard as it was running up, but she instinctively grabbed the halyard when she saw the sail about to hit the water.  Dumb thing to do and she definitely won’t do it again.  But the burns hurt for only a few hours and healed very quickly; stayed visible for days but were not painful.

Thursday we took the dinghy into Simpson Lagoon and visited a couple of marine stores.  Bruce had a pedometer with a security alarm.  This device alarmed several times when he would knock the key out while it was in his shorts pocket.  This happened while we were shopping in one of the marine stores and attracted a lot of attention.  The store personnel were not amused by this little alarm device blaring inside their store.

We walked at least a mile to a hardware store trying to find material for air conditioning filters and then walked back towards the lagoon and found what we needed right near where we started.  But the walk was good for us.  Then we went to Ric’s Sports Bar for lunch.  First time we have been there and we will be going back.  They had big screen televisions all over the bar (and in English for a change) and free WiFi.  Wish we had discovered Ric’s a few weeks ago.  There were several Tex-Mex dishes on their menu, so we will be visiting Ric’s today to update this website and enjoy some home style food.

Friday we rented a car and visited Phillipsburg.  Bruce and Donna wanted to shop and to see the Dutch side of the island.  Parking is almost impossible in Phillipsburg but we finally lucked into a parking space alongside the salt pond road.  We aren’t into shopping for jewelry or souvenirs so we separated from our friends and let them do their thing.  We met in the early afternoon and tried to find Cost U Less.  After a couple of wrong turns we finally found this shopping warehouse.  Donna and Bruce wanted souvenir type items; we wanted provisioning type items.  We loaded up the car with items that can’t be found in local supermarkets.  We plan to rent another car before we leave this area and do one final provisioning of familiar products before heading down island.

Friday evening we visited Pierre and Ellen on S/V Lady Annabelle for sundowners.  Ellen prepared snacks that are popular in their home town of Nice, France, and that were new to the four of us.  Donna and Bruce said that they enjoyed listening to the four of us talk about our boats and cruising experiences.  Pierre and Ellen plan to stay here for about another week and then head over to the BVI.  Then they will go back down island again so we will likely run into them again later in the spring.

Saturday the technician came and installed the new circuit board for the watermaker and it started right up.  Now we can go back to our wasteful habits – like washing the deck with fresh water after sailing and longer showers and stuff like that.  It was strange to have to be careful with our consumption of water all week, especially with guests aboard.  We have gotten spoiled having a desalinator that makes 160 liters of fresh water per hour.  Makes living aboard so much nicer.  Donna and Bruce walked and shopped around Marigot today while we stayed on the boat.

Saturday evening Donna and Bruce treated us to a very nice dinner at La Vin En Rose.  This was a first-class dinner and something that we would rarely do on our own, so we especially enjoyed such a nice evening.

Sunday morning we sailed again between Anguilla and St. Martin for a few hours.  Anchored back in Marigot Baie; ate a quick sandwich on the boat.  Donna and Bruce had already packed for their trip home, so they just had to grab a quick shower and it was off to the airport.  We hope they can visit us again in the future.

This Friday we have more guests arriving.  Glenn plans to stay just a few days.  Bill’s brother, John, plans to stay for a week or two.  St. Martin is turning out to be an easy place for visitors to travel to from the states.  This is good because we enjoy having visitors.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Marigot Baie, St. Martin

February 1, 2007  Thursday
Marigot Baie, St. Martin

Only boat movement was to move a bit closer to shore; still in Marigot Baie and thoroughly enjoying this area.  Judy got her hair cut first thing Saturday morning; the last haircut was 5 months ago and she was getting desperate.  She didn’t want it cut quite so short but it looks good and the stylist thinned at least a pound of hair out of that thick mass of curls so it will be a little cooler for a while – not quite so much of feeling like a blanket on top of her head.

We have fallen in love with the French wines and baguettes and cheeses and plan to consume many calories while here.  We have quickly gotten into the habit of cheese and wine at sunset and then a light dinner at a later hour.  Finding ourselves staying up a bit later over here than we have for months.  We bought 4 bottles of various red wines for testing, costing $3.95, $8, $10 and $12.  Then we went to another store and bought a couple of bottles of Bordeaux on promotion for 3.20 Euro.  Our favorites were the two cheapest bottles.  So we went back and bought 3 cases of the Bordeaux for 3.20 Euro before the promotion sale price ended.  We are hopeful that these 3 cases will be as good as the first bottle.

Marigot is the capital of St. Martin.  The city was founded in 1689 and is a lovely, quaint little village with many upscale new shopping areas recently built.  The new buildings blend with the old and make for a picturesque little place nestled on the shore side beneath mountains.  The local people are more friendly than the typical French.

Marigot Baie is on the north side of St. Martin and there is often a northerly swell during the winter months.  The sailing guide books warn that this can be an uncomfortable anchorage during the winter.  We are not finding this to be entirely true.  There was 12 foot swell developed Saturday night through Monday morning, but it was 12 seconds apart and the boat would just rise and fall with the swell and it was not uncomfortable at all.  We did have a bit of rolling at several times during this swell event, but it was isolated occurrences and each time it only lasted a very few seconds.  It was quite tolerable and worth enduring those few moments of rolling to enjoy the gorgeous view here at Marigot rather than be in the brown water lagoon where most of the cruisers like to anchor.

For those who are not familiar with St. Martin, here is a bit of info.  The island is half Dutch and half French – Sint Maarten and Saint Martin.   The story (with absolutely no historical fact) is that the French and Dutch were behaving very civilized and that rather than fight over the island, they had a Frenchman armed with a bottle of wine walk in one direction and a Dutchman with a flask of gin take the other direction.  Where they met became the boundary, and the French ended up with a bit more land because the gin was stronger than the wine.  The Dutch considered Sint Maarten important because of the salt ponds located on the south side, and the French considered St. Martin important for the sugar cane grown on the north side.  The collapse of the sugar industry started a long decline, and in 1939 an attempt was made to halt the downward trend by making the island completely duty free.  This was successful as now the entire island is a shopping mecca with about a million visitors annually.  Hotels, casinos and wonderful
French restaurants abound, as well as being a major destination for privately owned mega-yachts and cruise ships.  If a cruiser needs anything boat related, it probably can be found in St. Martin.  One distinct advantage that we have noticed is that now almost everyone speaks English; that was not true when we first visited this island 20 years ago.

There is an enormous lagoon located on St. Martin with the major draw bridge on the Dutch side off Simpson Bay and a shallower entrance with another drawbridge off Marigot Baie on the French side.   There are huge mega-yachts that enter from Simpson Bay; you would swear that these huge yachts could not possibly fit through that tiny space of the drawbridge, but they manage to do it.   The mega-yachts dock at several marinas inside the lagoon.  The hundreds of smaller cruiser yachts anchor all over the lagoon.  And the lagoon is ringed by boat related businesses and restaurants, so everything is quite convenient. 

Yesterday we took down our mainsail and brought it into a sail loft located in the lagoon.  The sail is in extremely good condition (certainly does not look like a 4-year-old sail because it has only been used for about one year of its life), but a few of the stitches at the clew and on one of the seams are coming loose and the solar shield should be a bit larger because some of the sail is visible when furled into the mast.  So we wanted to have a sail loft check out the sail and repair any loose stitching before it becomes a problem.  The sailmaker said that the adjustment for the luff edge was not functional the way it was sewn, so he is correcting that too.  The genoa was checked out in the BVI by a sail loft when we had the solar shield panel replaced in November 2005, and it still looks great.  And we had the mizzen sail checked out and stitching repairs made to one seam when we were in Puerto La Cruz last October.  So only the mainsail remained to be checked out at this time.  A little bit of preventative maintenance can made the sails last much longer.  All three sails are still stiff like new sails, so they should last many more years.

We have run into a couple of people that we know from other places, one couple from the Virgin Islands and another couple up from Trinidad.  Most of the cruisers are anchored over in the lagoon; haven’t met any of the people anchored here in Marigot Baie.

BTW, there is no free WiFi anywhere on St. Martin other than a few restaurants with very weak signals.  That is the reason for our delay in uploading photos and updating the website.  WiFi will cost 7 Euro per hour and we aren’t yet desperate enough for the internet to be willing to pay that much for access.  The Globalstar satellite phone signal is so intermittent that it is impossible to use it for internet browsing.  We are using the sat phone and the SSB for email only; internet will have to wait.

February 4, 2007  Sunday

Yesterday we went to a marine flea market at Time Out boat yard.  Didn’t see a thing that we couldn’t live without so did not make any purchases.  We had planned to go to Shrimpy’s (a cruiser hang-out restaurant/bar in the lagoon) for another marine flea market today.  Shrimpy’s was offering free beer between 11 and 12 during this flea market and they also have free WiFi.  Bill was planning to go for the free beer and Judy was hoping to go for the free internet access.  But the winds are 20 knots with higher gusts today and the boat is dancing all over her anchor.  A long dinghy ride through the lagoon does not appeal.  It is about 2 1/5 miles over to Shrimpy’s from where we are anchored.  We would get splashed coming back directly into the wind.   So it looks like another day of simply sitting on the boat reading and people watching.