Day 56, Year 1: Last Day in St. Martin
Date: Monday, December 12, 2005
Weather: Still Gorgeous
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin
Today we traveled to the Dutch side of the island, Sint Maarten. We took the dinghy through a canal and into Simpson Bay Lagoon. There are two great chandleries there, Island Water World and Budget Marine, and they had everything and more than the West Marine stores back home. Unlike here in French St. Martin, almost everyone there spoke English, but much of the charm was lost. It was just a little too much like being back home. Another difference was the clientele. Here in St. Martin, there are numerous sailboats at anchor, one monster sailboat anchored out a ways, and some large Windjammer sailboats at anchor from Nassau-but no mega yachts here. Sint Maarten, on the other hand, was jam-packed with mega yachts. We enjoyed the great service, but definitely prefer the French side.
Tomorrow we are off to Guadeloupe. From our anchorage here, we have had beautiful views of the mountainous island of St. Martin in front of us and views of the long, low lying island of Anguilla to our north. It has been a beautiful anchorage, but I am already looking forward to new views of the islands further south.
Day 55, Year 1: Stories from Marigot Bay, St. Martin
Date: Sunday, December 11, 2005
Weather: Warm and Sunny
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin
We certainly did enjoy sleeping in our bed in the aft cabin last night instead of the “nest” on the starboard settee where we slept between watches on the passage here. We are now on Atlantic Standard Time, but I have insisted on keeping the clocks on Eastern Standard Time for now. I want to know what time it is back home, but we will probably compromise with one clock on EST, one at AST, and one on Greenwich Mean Time. By the time we made it to land this morning it was almost noon island time. We checked in at the Fort Louis Marina to get an access card that would allow us to use the marina laundry facilities and their high speed internet access. From the marina dinghy dock, you have to climb a short ladder up to a breezeway that houses the two washing machines and three dryers and the bathrooms. You can get out onto the docks from the breezeway or use your access card to open the gate and head to town. After checking in, we left our laundry by the machines that were already in use by someone else and headed into town to find a place to have lunch. Unlike yesterday afternoon when we were in town, today everything was very quiet. Last night, the traffic was crazy, but there was hardly a car in town this morning. Everything, and I mean everything, was closed except for a couple of restaurants in the market place.
If you transported Marigot Bay into the French Quarters of New Orleans, I don’t think anyone would notice the difference. The surrounding mountain and ocean scenery are certainly different, but the town itself reminds me very much of the French Quarter. There were local artisans in the Market Place today and after wandering through their offerings and having a Creole lunch at Rosemary’s, we headed back to the marina to do laundry. I realize this is not the most romantic thing to do on your first full day in the Caribbean, but it was a necessity. But while doing the laundry, we were able to catch up on e-mail from friends and family. There were great comments that people had sent to the website, some sad news from Concord about the death of dear friend of Mark’s, and weather reports that made us really glad that we are here. A great big thanks to those of you who are keeping us updated on news from home. We really appreciate it. And now for some stories from St. Martin.
Story #1-Nitro in St. Martin: My maiden name is Martin and I grew up in Nitro, West Virginia. As we were headed back to the marina gates today, we noticed a racing boat just to the right of the gate. All over the side of it was painted Nitro, St. Martin. Not sure what the significance of this might be, but I thought it was speaking to me.
Story #2-Livia: Doing laundry took all afternoon. So we settled in and checked our e-mail and just enjoyed doing laundry outside in beautiful weather. A dinghy came into the dock at some point in the afternoon and a couple, probably in their late thirties or early forties, climbed up on to the dinghy dock, bringing a baby bassinette with them. The bassinette was covered with a bright yellow fabric and I strained to see if there was actually a baby in it. And indeed, there was. And it looked so very tiny. I asked how old but I speak no French and they spoke no English, so we didn’t connect. They carried the baby in the bassinette and headed into town. When they returned, we tried once again to communicate and this time when we asked hold old, they answered five days. We were intrigued and continued to ask questions. Basically, the very proud father said the baby was born in St. Martin in the hospital where a thousand babies are born each year. He said that the care was wonderful. This whole time, I am basically staring with open mouth. I took my first born to the top of the Washington Monument when she was seven days old, but living on a boat, going to shore to have a baby, and only five days later climbing stairs from a dinghy dock with baby in a fancy bassinette seemed unreal. The mother looked great and the baby was perfectly content as they sped away on their dinghy named “Livia.” It will be hard to top that one.
Story #3-Traveler: One of the boats that had been checking into the weather net each day during our passage was “Traveler.” Late in the afternoon as I continued to sit in the marina breezeway doing laundry, there was a flurry of activity as a sailboat was towed into port and docked just outside the gates of the marina. Mark went out to help with the docking and I noticed that the boat was from Annapolis and was named “Traveler.” When Mark returned from helping with the docking he explained that this was the same “Traveler” that we had been listening to each afternoon. They had left from Beaufort, North Carolina, and were eleven days getting here. Sometime late yesterday they lost the use of their rudder. They tried to fashion something to get them in, but the waves were just too big and they couldn’t make headway. They contacted St. Martin by radio and found that there is a volunteer service from the Dutch side of the island that would come out and tow them in. And that they did. Unfortunately, in hooking up with the tow boat, they knocked a hole in Traveler’s port side, so repairs will include a new rudder as well as fiberglass hull repair. It made us feel very thankful that we made it in through the rough seas with no major problems. We do have a few small repairs, but certainly nothing like Traveler. And the amazing thing is that the folks from Traveler were not upset with the towing boat. They were just very thankful that they had come out to tow them in.
Tomorrow will be out last day here in St. Martin. We will spend part of the day exploring the Dutch side of the island and then preparing for our overnight to Guadeloupe on Wednesday.
Day 54, Year 1: We Made It!
Date: Saturday, December 10, 2005
Air Temperature: 84 degrees F
Latitude: N 18 degrees 04.08 minutes
Longitude: W 63 degrees 05.58 minutes
Location: Marigot Bay, St. Martin
Wow! We have successfully completed our first passage. It was a long thirteen and a half days from Hampton, Virginia, to St. Martin, but as we came into Baie de Marigot and watched the water color change from cobalt blue to turquoise, we knew the rough times had been worth it. As we sit here in the anchorage, we can watch tiny minnows swim around the dinghy. The water is crystal clear.
I came on watch at 0400 this morning and saw the first light of day trying to break through in the eastern sky. Unlike most of the other mornings of our passage, this one was overcast, with storm clouds all around. Despite the clouds, it was obvious that things were different. There were sea birds flying in groups, dolphins swimming along with us, and at about 0600 Mark got up and spotted the first sight of land. On the charts, it is just noted as “Sombrero.” It was just a rock in the middle of the ocean with a couple of manmade structures, but it was land. Around 0800, we could see the next land mark, Dog Island off Anguilla. It remained cloudy, but by midmorning we could see the shadow of St. Martin in the distance. It was a good feeling to know land was so near.
We made a quick trip into town when we got here to check in with immigration, but it was late in the day, so exploring will happen tomorrow. The one thing we did find out is that everyone speaks French.. This is definitely a French port with one exception. The one place we went to buy something rang up in US dollars and when the person opened the cash register, there were only US dollars inside. Where’s the Euro?
This evening we lie at anchor for the first time in weeks. There is a slight swell coming into the bay and the boat rolls gently from side to side. The breeze has almost died, and it promises to be a hot night. That’s what we came here for, but now we have to adjust to it.