It’s now January 15th and Bob is still in St. Martin. I’m kind of stuck while I await the arrival of the new wind vane from England, which is taking predictably longer than predicted since one of the boxes failed to make it through the airport security check and UPS then lost it and are refusing to take responsibility for anything. Somehow the other three boxes have made it to Florida despite the absence of any paperwork for them (which is all in the lost box) but of course now they can’t be shipped here because they don’t have any paperwork. Meanwhile I’m still trying to source a new part for the engine exhaust but I did at least hear back from one of the people I emailed with a vaguely positive (though decidedly noncommittal) response. Turns out there might be one somewhere in Florida that I could probably purchase in exchange for rights of ownership to both of my kidneys, ten years of forced labour and a unicorn. Still, there is hope that I might get out of here at some point within the next 2 or 3 weeks with some luck and there are much, much worse places to be stuck!
Life in St. Martin is decidedly excellent. I’ve made some really great friends and spent a good bit of time enjoying myself. Last weekend I left Bob anchored in the Lagoon and jumped ship onto Paul and Sylvia’s boat ‘Phoenix’ (the boat was sunken when Paul bought it so he really has raised it from the dead). Paul had asked if I would teach him how to fly spinnakers so I figured it sounded like a fair deal and we headed to St. Barts for the weekend, which is only 12 miles from St. Maarten. We picked up a free mooring in a Bay on the North West corner of the island and Sylvia delighted in turtle-watching while Paul and I discussed engines, or electrics, or some other thing that wasn’t working as it should on one of our boats, interrupted only occasionally by a shriek from Sylvia followed by a rapid stream of Spanish as she spotted one of the reptilian creatures poking it’s head above water for a breath of air.
That evening we decided to head into the main town, which was about 5 miles away around a headland. It was a good adventure with the three of us in Paul’s little dinghy, at night, with a propeller bushing that was decidedly on its last legs, no anchor, one paddle and probably not enough fuel to get back again. This turned out to be the case, but fortunately we were able to elicit the assistance of a teenager on a scooter who drove even more erratically than I ever have (OK, maybe that’s not entirely true……..) and a taxi driver who was kind enough to lend me his credit card when none of mine or Paul’s would work at the petrol pump. All was well, and we decided to allow ourselves a beer (just one!) at the inflated St. Bart’s prices. We wandered around admiring all of the designer shops selling very shiny things and the designer super-mega-uber-yachts that are the playthings of designer people. It was all very pleasant.
The following day was a beautiful down-wind light-air passage back to St. Martin so we popped out Paul’s fancy ‘parasailor’ chute (I’m not a fan personally but don’t tell Paul that!) followed by a go with his asymmetric reaching chute when the angle got a little tighter. The drop could have been better but it was all good in the end and we ended up anchored in Grande Casse on the North Coast of St. Martin after a long stop in a lovely cove in the lee of an uninhabited island off the North East corner.
On Monday we headed back to Marigot Bay and waited nervously for the French bridge to open and let us into the lagoon. I say nervously because at that time we were getting our first taste of the infamous ground swells. These are large swells (3 to 4 meters were forecast according to the friendly gendarmes who came by to warn us of our impending doom) from the North West which are unrelated to the local weather patterns. This set of ground swells were caused by the weather system that you guys in Bermuda experienced first-hand last week and which is currently located near the Azores where it has developed into a full-blown hurricane (called Alex ?)…………. in January!!!!!!!!!! Global weather really is going nuts…………… anyway, this meant breaking waves in the anchorage at Marigot (we snapped our snubber line on the anchor chain from the huge shock loading) and a very, very sketchy entrance into the lagoon, surfing down waves at 7 knots with only one foot of water under the keel in the troughs between the waves. Back inside the lagoon Paul tied Phoenix alongside Bob and we’re still rafted up now.
I haven’t spent too much time being idle. Bob now has a fully functional water maker which has already been invaluable, the sat phone (thanks mum and Aunty Judie!) is physically installed, I have replaced one of the port lights, installed plumbing and a foot pump for the taps in the head, installed a pressurised cockpit shower, done a lot of messing around with various wind vanes, cleaned and rinsed the bilge, fixed a small leak in the port water tank (I hope – it hasn’t been tested yet!) and done a multitude of other smaller jobs. It’ll be time for another break soon I think; it’s Mardi Gras on Tuesday and there will be celebrations in Grande Casse so there are plans afoot to either drive up there in Lindy’s car or maybe sail on a lovely Lagoon catamaran belonging to another cruiser.
Right, I’d best be going. I said I’d give someone a hand moving some anchors around in preparation for the Heineken regatta in a few months time and then I need to see someone about getting a cheap dive tank and someone else who might have an inexpensive (or even free with luck!) but very sound (and only just out of date) life-raft of a make that I can have serviced here. This morning I went to see someone about getting some old 3″ exhaust hose for the blower that I’m installing in the water-maker high-pressure pump compartment, someone else about a piece of 2″ thick mahogany for making some pads for the new wind vane attachments to the transom and bought 15 gallons of diesel on the French side, so it’s busy busy busy! A very astute person once described cruising sailing as ‘fixing your boat in exotic locations’. So far, I have to say, the author of that quote has been bang on!
Edit, January 19th:
Today I have removed the ‘repair’ to the exhaust system which I performed at sea on the way here. As I did so I took some pictures so that you can see how I effected the repair in the first place and the terrible condition of the exhaust once I had removed the insulation tape that was hiding it all.