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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

In the Lagoon - new snubber & mattress
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Sunday, February 22, 2004 Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten
    Yes, we're back here again, but this time, in the lagoon, and on the Dutch side.
     We spent nearly two weeks in Marigot Bay, because the winds and swells came up, and the reports on the radio from those who ventured out, were not encouraging. But we had our usual sets of adventures. Some cruising women organized a cruising women's lunch, and six of us dinghied over to a restaurant and had lunch together, leaving the men behind. Lance had our dinghy, so he dinghied over to the Swan next door, and hung out with Don on Cygnus.
    We felt reasonably secure in Marigot Bay, but we considered moving into the lagoon for a more protected location. Then on the radio we heard people in the lagoon complaining about the wind, so we figured it probably wasn't worth it. I swam out and checked our anchor, which was buried enough for me to swim back and say: "What anchor? I don't see any anchor. Just chain, disappearing into the sand." We heard a loud noise, which turned out to be the snubber breaking. After some investigation, we discovered that our bow rollers had undergone some modification in the past, which left a sharp edge where some welding was done, and with all the bouncing, we chafed through the snubber rope.
    St. Martin/Sint Maarten is the main boat repair center for the Caribbean and is well set up for the cruiser without car or phone. We could find parts for Beneteaus and rebuild kits for the winches and other odd parts. Most amazing was Ayman Mattress Factory who would take in our old, mismatched foam mattresses and make real mattresses to fit the boat. One day - in the morning, delivery to the dinghy dock in the afternoon. The blustery dinghy ride to the boat with two mattresses in the dinghy was self serve. It was also a convenient spot for another refrigeration crises. Elsewhere we have had to book a day in the marina to get repairs done and scheduled the work well in advance while living out of an icebox. Though we located and repaired the leak, we had to get help recharging the system. Here, Dr. Cool was not only willing to meet us at the dinghy dock and come out in the twilight but he did the job at a reasonable hourly rate and even told us where to get supplies to recharge it ourselves if (when) it leaks again. Current repairs: portlight reseating (anti leak campaign). Unblock water tank vent. Replace stanchions. Replace hoses which crimped and caused overheating. Etc...
    When the weather finally cleared up, it was time to go to the airport and pick up Chris and Frances. They were due on a 1pm flight, so we dinghied over to the airport and waited for them. We found out from other cruisers, that the dinghy dock close to the airport where we dropped Quincy and Sarah at 5:30 am, charges $3 per person and $1 per luggage just to use their rickety dinghy dock to pick up or drop off passengers if you go during business hours. Turtle Pier, a little farther down the road, says no problem, so we stop for a drink there. If you are ever coming to St. Martin this would be a good place to patronize. Turtle Pier has a waterside restaurant with live lobster tank, parrots and monkeys and a small inn on the premises in addition to a small marina. Chris and Frances were not on that flight so we went back to the boat and waited for a hail on the radio. We were just giving up when sometime after 5pm Snowdragon hailed us, and Chris said Immigration wanted to know not only the boat name, but the boat location. We spelled M-a-r-i-g-o-t Bay for him and then dinghied right over to find them.
    The next morning, we had our usual breakfast at Cafe Parisienne, and set off for Orient Bay. Half way there, some amazing squalls hit, so that the island became completely invisible and the front side of the helmsman became very wet. We just tried to avoid hitting any islands and hoped no one else was out there while it passed overhead. 15 minutes later, it is another beautiful day in paradise and we made our way to Ile Tintamarre for lunch. There wasn't really enough time to snorkel there and still anchor at Ile Pinel so we went through the reef into Orient Bay, got anchored behind Ile Pinel and went for a little snorkel on the reef. It is a lovely spot and we had a great time watching them carefully put out a great number of beach
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chairs and yellow umbrellas and rake the sand. They Click for a journal entry listbarge in the patrons. At the end of the day, they barge the patrons back and carefully put all the beach chairs and umbrellas away.
    On Sunday, Hanruedi Oppliger was flying in, so we had a nice sail back down to Marigot Bay to pick him up. Hansruedi is an AFS brother from Switzerland and one of the few people not blood relatives that has known me longer than Susie. He is also reasonable sized so we evicted all the junk from the garage (aft berth, port side) and put him in with the few remaining items (such as a boat hook) that couldn't find another home. We were really ready to do some sailing and we took off on Monday for St. Barths. Over night at Isle Fourchue, spectacular sunset with green flash. Excellent meal from French provisions. Excellent sunrise. Excellent snorkeling. Short sail to Anse du Colombier. Repeat previous day, minus the green flash plus a nice walk along the trails on the east shore of St. Barths.
    St. Barths is where the megayachts go when the owner is aboard and is tres, tres chic. Frances is a yacht interior designer/builder and was in seventh heaven boat spotting. Before long we were only interested in the very largest Swans and were going for the named boats we had read about. The rich apparently like to congregate just like everyone else and the scene on the pier at Gustavia is very amazing. Each boat bigger and shinier than the next and crew and passengers running back and forth with deliveries of flowers, food baubles and boat parts. This time we stayed in the outer harbor and just dinghied into
town. The multiple rides to the airport with people and luggage had greatly depleted our gas supply for the dinghy and we were far enough out we needed to replenish it if we wanted not to be stuck on the boat for the duration. I was a little nervous too because we had thrown the oar blade overboard the last time we were in St. Barths and couldn't find a replacement. This meant that once the gas supply ran out, the Captain would be required to tow the dinghy around swimming with the painter in his teeth to avoid just drifting in the wind. The Captain does not find the prospect attractive. We ran into quite a few cruisers wandering around with gas cans in hand and promised to let each other know where gas was to be had. Locals get gas at the airport which is not far (remember, the island is 3x5 miles in size) but taxis are terribly unenthusiastic about people with cans of gas. There was an unattended pump at the commercial port which we established (after several walks to and from town) would take only French credit cards. Not Swiss cards. Not visa, mastercard, amex. French cards marked with CB. After a couple of hot hikes into town along a narrow, busy road, the Captain was wondering if Rumsfield isn't right about the French after all. Our debt to Lafayette is repaid. We bribed a frenchman filling his gofast to sell us a little gas on his card. Mission accomplished!
    The discovery of this trip to St. Barths was the excellent snorkeling on Les Gros Islets in the outer harbor. Just behind us in our anchorage, was spectacular snorkeling on tall walls swarming with fish and wonderful varieties of coral in spectacularly clear water. The pictures do not capture the color well as the sea water acts as a blue filter but you might get the idea.
    Nothing broke on the way back to St. Martin, and we pulled into the Simpson Bay in another squall. Despite howling winds and blowing spray our admiral stood bravely on the deck and got the anchor down. When things calmed down, we moved to a quieter spot and waited for the bridge opening. The Dutch bridge cuts off the main road to the airport and is only opened three times a day. We got in the circling pack ready to rush the bridge at the earliest moment and motored in confidently. The Sint Maarten yacht club is strategically placed at the Lagoon side of the bridge to provide adequate audience for the maneuvers. Eaux Vives managed the transit smoothly though feeling like the mouse leading the elephant parade and we are safely anchored in the lagoon with about one foot of water under the keel. We got Chris and Frances off to the airport. We've got food, done our laundry, checked in, sent out pictures and a copy of the bill of sale to Karl. We are ready to sail. Or not. Depends on our mood.
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