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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Passage to St. Martin
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Marigot Bay, St. Martin Tuesday, May 13, 2003
    Friday we collected our propane tanks in Road Town and headed up to Virgin Gorda to be in position for the hoped for weather window. Between anchoring, dinghying and walking back and forth with the propane tanks, we made it to Spanish Town in Virgin Gorda where there is a customs station at 3:30.
    Dinghying in to the Ferry dock and finding customs took about 1/2 hour and put us in front of the agent's door just as they closed. The mountain between us kept us from communicating our changed plans with "Dancin Fool" and we spent a rolly night next to the Ferry channel where apparently uninspected goods and people were coming and going until evening. The morning saw us in front of the door at opening time and when "Island time" rolled around we checked out and took off as fast as we could for the north end of Virgin Gorda. There we discovered that "Dancin Fool" had also decided that Friday was not auspicious and was still there. Saturday called for seas of 3-5 feet and winds in the 15-20 kt range but later looked worse in that the wind was expected to come down and the seas up. We basically decided to go that afternoon because the foreseeable future looked worse and this looked doable. We got water, fuel, hoisted the dinghy on our new davits and lashed it down. Susie replenished the oatmeal cookie supply for underway sustenance and at 3:00pm off we hoisted the anchor and noticed that we were no longer generating power to replace that sucked down by the windlass. Slightly perplexed, we headed back out the channel toward Anegada. We decided to try to stay North as the winds were from somewhat north of east and our destination was southeast.
    Close hauled with double reefed mainsail and trying to get as east as the wind would allow, we were headed through the big fishing center of the Caribbean. Lance put out a long hand line with lure and placed the hub in a net on the cockpit table. Just as we were in the midst of our first tack the plastic hub holding the line started buzzing. Susie put here hand on the nylon line and added one more to our list of "101 stupid things to do on boats". All four fingers now sport a fishing line burn. We blew the tack and watched as "Dancin Fool" passed us, pointing higher and plowing better through the waves. We decided to run the engine at low speed to 1) run the refrigerator 2) keep from being left in the dust 3) see what was wrong with the electrics. At this point, we discovered the refrigerator was not going on. Wondering what else the gremlins had gotten to, we discovered that we had no running lights (although the stern light worked, it was hidden by the dinghy. As working on this stuff gets harder after dark, I spent the next hour hanging over the pulpit which pitched the aforementioned 3-5 feet and in the wiring panel while trying not to lose tools to the roll and in the running engine compartment braced against the movement and hoping to not burn myself. The fault lay in a wire to the alternator with a broken connector which we were able to temporarily repair. Everything was fixed but the running lights which turned out to have a completely unrelated problem. At this point, we are at about the point of no return. If we turned back at 5:00, we could get back in before dark. We decided things were good enough and that the steaming light shining on the sail made us sufficiently visible that we were ok. It was blowing hard and we were going fairly fast and the seas were manageable. Some people even think this is fun. (Note from Susie: Lance's diagnosis and repair of the charging system was fairly brilliant, especially under these conditions. All of a
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sudden the charging system and RPM gage came back on line. I start yelling "YOU FIXED IT" and he comes up for air, saying, "amazing, well, okay, good for me". This temporary fix meant every time we started the engine, Lance had to go below and touch the connectors until the system started up again.)
    Our port tack took us north of the rhumb line to St. Martin at almost right angles to the course we wanted. It also put the waves on the quarter and was fairly comfortable. The starboard tack had the waves on the nose and was quite noisy as these waves are notoriously short and steep. This tack had us slightly aimed to south of our goal, so naturally we spent the bulk of our time on this tack. Dinner was left over chow mein which must be eaten with the head down in the container so it doesn't blow away. We basically lived on oatmeal cookies and water. We watched the sun go down and the stars and moon come out. Every 2 hours we would contact "Dancin Fool" to check on each other and Susie made a "sea berth" on the lee bench with a pillow, cushions and a beach towel blanket. It got so cold, I actually put on a long sleeve cotton shirt (first time in 5 months!) and Susie put on long pants. The pants seem to have stretched since they were last worn. Around two in the morning the moon went down and there was enough haze and clouds that it was basically pitch dark. We were racing along (by boat standards) for hours at a time, imagining shapes in the dark and hoping nothing was floating out there. By dawn we were feeling like we were getting close and for the last interminable hours we could see the islands of St. Martin and Anguilla very slowly getting larger. We located "Dancin Fool" in the Marigot harbor (French side) and put down our anchor at about 12:30. Official word from the Garmin GPS: 110 nautical miles in 21 hrs 20 mins with an average speed of 5.2 kts and a max speed of 9.3 kts. We stayed awake for a while on the theory that we should wait to sleep until it was late enough we might sleep all night. Around 3:00 I opted for the theory that a short nap would put me in position to really go to bed at 8:00. Around 9:00, I awoke to the sound of fireworks. Got up and stuck my head out the hatch and watched a spectacular fireworks display being shot above us in the harbor from the shore. Pleased with the fine greeting, I went back to bed and slept until dawn. Apparently, Sunday was a French "festival of the sea" and the fireworks were part of that celebration and not actually a celebration of our particular feat of seamanship.
    St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a half Dutch, half French island with a huge shallow harbor (Marigot) and an even bigger central lagoon (Simpson Bay). There is good coffee, fresh French bread and cheese and a great number of sturdy Dutch chandleries. The French side prices in Euro but accept dollars ( the euro, despite European perfidy, seems to be worth about 10 percent more than a dollar now). It is very confusing listening to the local population talk, because it may be French, English, Dutch and you need to get your ears tuned correctly. We have mostly spent our time recovering, doing repairs and dinghying back and forth across the lagoon to get parts. We lost a piece from the port winch, the radio came disconnected and I want to have running lights, and the charging system now comes on correctly. It is very picturesque and we have met a number of characters in our short stay here. Tomorrow is market day and we will remember to bring the camera. The town of Marigot is very charming, a wonderful Euro-Carib mix.
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