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.

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