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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

No Wind Passage: St. Martin to BVI
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003, Back in Little Harbour, Peter Island, BVI
    We were planning to leave St. Martin today, on Wednesday, but then on the Monday afternoon radio net,all the weather prognosticators said that the weather was changing dramatically, and they predicted thunderstorms coming through maybe Wednesday, and big northeasterly swells starting Thursday. Lance said he really didn't want to be in the middle of the ocean, the tallest thing around during thunderstorms, and it looked like there would not be another weather window before we needed to put the boat up on Monday the 26th of May, so we took the engine off the dinghy, stowed things and prepared for an early morning departure.
    Ideal conditions would have had more wind, but we were happy to have fairly flat seas. We woke up at 4:30, and raised anchor and were underway by 5am. We motored the whole way, with help from the jib part of the way, and found ourselves back in the BVI before the 18:45 sunset. Light winds, 0-10 knots. It was so placid that we could allow the autopilot to do all the steering, while Lance and I sat around reading and hanging about. We anchored below Spanish Town Virgin Gorda in Valley Trunk Bay just above the Baths. In the morning, we allowed ourselves a leisurely wake up, swim and snorkel, beach explore etc. We moved up to Spanish town arriving at around 11am, and made sure they remembered that we are coming to be hauled out. We refueled and established that we seem to be using about 1/2 gallon of diesel per hour, and we filled up the water tanks and established that we are very conservative with our water use.
    St. Martin was wonderful, and I can't wait to return next year. Every morning at 7:30 on VHF radio channel 14, there is an informal cruisers net, where all new boat arrivals are welcomed, information on any safety and security problems is exchanged, and then people offer up and buy, sell or trade items. A few businesses advertise their goods and services, and you can ask questions about what's available, when the bridges opens, etc. Cruisers in St. Martin monitor channel 14 all day, so you hear boats calling each other. We particularly enjoyed hearing the cruising children calling for their friends on other cruising boats and arranging to play. The bay is
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clean and you can swim in it and we established a favorite boulangerie for latte's and fresh bread. This is a free port and very French on the French side. The proprietor of our hangout, "Cafe Parisienne", was an extraordinarily stylish lady who did the French dual air kisses with panache. The local markets had plenty of fruits and vegetables (mostly brought in from Dominica) and fresh fish along with a great deal of tourist kitsch.
    The weather speculators were accurate, and by 1pm, rains of biblical proportions filled our dinghy and soaked the vacationing tourists. We stayed in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, confirmed our haul out, bought some groceries, had lunch, and waited for a break. At 3:30, the rains had lulled, and we left and headed for one of our favorite havens, and here we are.
    There is a definite hierarchy to the boating population here and we feel we are now greenhorn members of the cruiser rung. Lowest of the low are the cruise boat tourists who get hauled around in large groups. This group often has name labels and matching bags but can be recognized at a distance by their immense bulk. They seem into the eating and gambling more than the islands and seem a little confused about where they are at any given moment. Making conversation with a cruise ship tourist in Bitter End, we asked which was his favorite island of all they had visited. He felt it might be that Swedish one that starts with a "B" and has all the nice Dutch architecture. "Awesome". Above the cruise ship denizens are the charter boaters. They can be recognized by the matching Beneteaus with identical sail covers. These are the people everyone moves away from (or ostentatiously starts throwing out fenders) when they try to anchor. If within hailing distance, they will be given anchoring advice. Generally considered amiable entertainment in the late afternoon, they are tolerated if on a mooring ball. As we have an ex-charter Beneteau, we have had to add dinghy davits as a sign we are not of that ilk. Being "in" on one of the radio nets helps as well as does a fairly dark tan. St. Martin seems to be largely off the charter circuit and, like Culebra, a cruiser hangout. Next year, the plan is to spend just enough time in the BVI to check out the boat and then move down south into "real cruiser" territory right away.
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