18.20.227N 64.55.392W

Brian & Loretto Linehan
Mon 27 Dec 2010 12:25
Well here I am again. I left you last in Norman Island, “Treasure
Island”, while we enjoyed the company of our friends on Rhythm, Starbound
and Indulgence. We are now back in the BVIs having discovered the
delights of St Martin, St Barthelemy and some of the USVIs.

This time I won’t give a day to day account – I will just try to describe
our lives since we left Norman Island.

Having cleared customs and immigration in Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda we
spent the night in the sound, near the Bitter End Yacht Club. The
next day’s sail over to Saint Martin, a distance of 70 miles, took
approximately 8.5 hours and we arrived just outside Marigot, the main
French town. The island is divided between France and the Netherlands,
Saint Martin and Sint Maarten. There is free movement between the two on
land but when you bring your boat to either side you have to clear in and
clear out before visiting the other side. The story goes that the border
was decided based on a walking race between a Dutchman, armed with a
bottle of gin, going south and a Frenchman with a bottle of wine going
north from Oyster Pond. The Frenchman, due to the gin being stronger than
the wine, covered more distance and so France owns 55sqkm and the Dutch,
35sqkm. The currency is Euro on the French side and Netherlands Antilles
Florin on the Dutch side although the dollar is the main trading currency.

We decided to stay on the French side first, at the Fort Louis marina
outside Marigot which is the main French town. We stayed there for three
nights and spent the days investigating the town and its many boutiques,
both local and top-end such as Gucci, Cartier etc. It is much better
organised than Roadtown (BVI) – easier to get around and to find the
various shops etc. A very pleasant town. It was really wonderful to hear
French being spoken and we definitely enjoyed the boulangerie where Brian
got breakfast for us all every day – baguettes, pain au chocolat, pain au
raison – delicious!

Just before we left we made contact with Rhythm who had also arrived on
the Dutch side. We arranged to meet up with them further up the coast at
Anse Marcel, just approx an hour away. Jon joined Rhythm for the last
night and Olivia had a sleepover on our boat. The next day we arrived at
Anse Marcel which is a beautiful cove on the French coast where the
Radisson have an hotel and marina complex. Our boat was too big to go
into the marina so we anchored outside and dingied into the beach. The
hotel complex is really pretty but unfortunately the staff are a bit too
eager to enforce the “guests only use the beach seats” – we arrived about
1730 just before the sun set with no one on the beach and many, many
unused seats. The kids just put their stuff on one of the sunloungers
and a hefty staff member was instantly on hand to instruct us to remove
our belongings – I would have thought a bit of leeway at that hour would
have been a bit more welcoming. But the bar staff made up for it with
their wonderful service and absolutely the most delicious “virgin” mango

After a very rolly night we left there intending to sail around the top of
the island and anchor at Oyster Pond which was on the east coast but
unfortunately there was very little room for us there so we continued on
down to Philipsburg, on the Dutch side. The coast is very rocky, hilly
but with wonderful small stretches of golden sand. Very beautiful to look
at. At Philipsburg we stayed at anchor and enjoyed the company of Rhythm
who joined us for dinner. We didn’t land as we had arrived too late and
left first thing the next morning heading for St Barthelemy.

Just a short time later we arrived outside the port of Gustavia, the main
town of St Barts. Very, very picturesque and French. Back in the 1700s
the French gave the island to the Swedes in exchange for free port rights
in Gothenburg – this explains the name of the main town – Gustavia, and
the presence of a Swedish diplomatic office . The Swedes then sold it
back to France in 1878 and it remains very French. It is also a free port
which contributes greatly to its economy. It is really a beautiful place,
so French, so chic (even the school children look chic coming out of
school in their designer clothes and very cool getting on the back of
daddy’s moped!). The anchorage was great – just a little bit of roll
every now and again. The port (the boats tie up on the pier wall) is
small but there is a huge swell. Only large motor yachts dock in here
(150ft – 300ft long) – stern-to with a pile of huge fenders on the back to
protect the boat as it lunges in and out in the swell – they seem to move
about 10ft in and out all the time. It is no place for a small boat like
ours! Most of the motor yachts are gorgeous – all complete with crew in
their perfectly pressed uniforms of shorts and t-shirts. I just kept on
thinking of the money involved in having such a “pastime”!

We had a lovely time looking at the shops and the people, plenty of places
to spend your money –but forget about any advantage in the free port for
the “ordinary folk” – there’s mainly designer boutiques for clothes and
jewellery such as Cartier, Gucci, Dior and Lacost. We did find a really
lovely jewellery shop where we bought Cliona her birthday present –
earrings and bracelet with the turquoise stone (her birthstone) which were
designed and made in the Pyrenees.

Speaking of Cliona’s birthday – we had a lovely long lunch on the 8th in a
restaurant overlooking the end of the port. We had a wonderful time –
great food and a lovely ambiance. That night we ate on the boat and I
think she enjoyed her birthday.

The next day we hired a car and toured the island – which didn’t take very
long. The scenery is absolutely beautiful – salt ponds, wild mountains
(well large hills really), sea crashing on the shore on the Atlantic side
and, on the calmer sides, wonderful golden beaches. Just outside Gustavia
we stopped at a resort to look at the shops and had a quick look at the
private beach – golden sand with whiter than white beach chairs and a
four-poster bed – right on the beach. It was really something you would
see in a very, very expensive holiday brochure. We went into the shop but
were watched like a hawk by the assistant – we obviously didn’t look like
we could afford it!

We left St Barthelemy on 10th December and arrived in Philipsburg, Sint
Maarten, a couple of hours later. Having checked in (a long process –
finding the immigration office and then completing countless forms with
the exact same information on each!) we again had a tour of the town.
This is a real tourist place – many of the cruise ships stop here. There
are two main streets – Front Street which has mainly jewellery and camera
shops and Back Street which has more local shops. They were settting up
for a Christmas party/fair that night and some of the restaurants were
hosting, what we presume were, office Christmas parties. I must add now
that although we were, naturally, aware that Christmas was coming we were
without the usual rush that we would normally have back in the UK/Ireland.
So sometimes hearing Christmas music or carols while walking in shorts
etc seems a bit wrong or “not quite right”.

Our next destination was Simpson Bay on the Dutch west coast – here we
again anchored in the bay. You have the option of entering the lagoon
through a lifting bridge but there are a number of things to deter you –
the cost of entering and the cost of staying in the lagoon. As it was
they charge you for anchoring outside anyway. One of the local things to
do is to have a drink at the St Martin Yacht club which is right beside
the lifting bridge in the evening and watch the parade of large
mega-yachts come through in and out of the lagoon. There were about 6 or
8 large yachts tied up at the marina inside and as usual overflowing with
crew all busy cleaning an already sparkling boat while waiting for the
owner to arrive (one of them was, apparently, Steven Spielberg’s boat –
300ft long!).

Again a shopping trip was on the agenda but unfortunately it was not as
nice as the French side (our first destination on arrival in Saint
Martin, Marigot, is the other side of the lagoon, and just a dinghy ride
away, is a lot prettier). We did however get a taxi to Le Grande Marche
which was a great supermarket – a little like Carrefour with a great
selection of everything. It was only when we got back to the Virgin
Islands did I realise how good a selection – particularly of cheeses,
pate, cold meats . A large provisioning took place and then it was back
to the boat – an interesting exercise getting the goods into the dinghy
and then out up onto the boat while the sea rocks you to and fro.

We checked out of Sint Maarten on 14th December and motored through an
extraordinarily calm sea for 12 hours back to Virgin Gordan in the BVIs.
We spent the trip cleaning the boat it was so calm!

After checking in, again, at Roadtown we went down to the marina in Nanny
Cay on 15th where we had arranged to meet up with Rhythm. Peggy had
invited us for dinner and John, Lori, Jasper and Georgia from Indulgence
also joined us that evening. It was Jon’s last night with us and he
departed the next day for home. The boat had a strange empty feeling the
next morning with Jon gone but we were busy then getting ready for Grainne
& Megan to arrive on the Saturday.

Just a quick word on Jon – I hope he enjoyed his time with us. I know it
was not the original intention when he joined us for the trip down from
Hampton – he had hoped to pick up work crewing on another boat while down
in the Caribbean but unfortunately that was not meant to be. So he had an
unexpected month’s holiday on Asteroid, helping with the sailing, cleaning
– basically just being part of the family. We enjoyed his company. Brian
was able to give him a few sailing contacts and hopefully he will achieve
his aim of having a sailing career, and particularly have the opportunity
of working on a Gunboat. We wish him the best and hope he stays in

The Family is Re-united!

On Friday 17th we left the British Virgin Islands and checked into the US
Virgin Islands. We stayed that night in Caneel Bay on St John, a really
beautiful anchorage. This is part of the Virgin Islands National Park
which was established by Congress in 1956 to preserve the natural
resources of St John. This is one of the least inhabited islands in the
USVI. We had just anchored when we were approached by a lovely, retired
couple who are volunteers working for the National Park. They gave us
some information about the park and about the anchoring fees ($15 per
night) which boats are asked to donate. The next day we went to St Thomas
and, after much to-do, pulled into Crown Bay Marina. This marina sounds
lovely on paper but unfortunately did not live up to its write-up. It is
very tight to manoeuvre in (remember no bow thruster and a long keel) and
despite being told this they attempted to put us in a totally,
way-too-tight spot. Eventually they got us a larger spot but the charges
are very high for very little return. The only advantage was that it was
right beside the airport.

And so to the airport – Saturday. The girls tired but happy to have
arrived in after a long, long two flights – the first one from LHR to JFK
having been changed from 5pm to 11pm and so they were not able to avail of
the hotel room which we had booked. Unfortunately Grainne’s bag was sent
on the wrong flight and we spent the next week trying to get it back.
Delta, off its own bat, decided to send the bag onto Roadtown in the
British Virgin Islands before discussing this with us – we received an
email on the Monday to say they had it and to get in touch to arrange
delivery but too late. So we duly checked out of the USVI and onto
Roadtown – and guess what no bag! A few expensive phone calls later – it
is still in the USVI and so we arrange to collect it in Cruz Bay, St John,
on the Thursday – and guess what – yes no bag. Finally we got it back on
Christmas Day having arranged for them to deliver it to the marina where
we are staying.

Yes we are now in a marina for the last two days – oh the luxury! We
spent the last week sailing around the British Virgin Islands – showing
Grainne & Megan the sights. We spent a night in the Bight, at Roadtown
and at Virgin Gorda near the Bitter End Yacht Club. While there we ate
out in the restaurant at Saba Rock – the service was good but that’s all –
very expensive, not-good food. On Christmas eve we did a shop at Roadtown
and then left for the USVI again. We made contact with Starbound and
Indulgence and spent a lovely Christmas eve night at dinner on Starbound
while anchored in Francis Bay, St John.

But oh the excitement – the access to the chimney on the coachroof was
opened (Brian persuaded Jack that we didn’t actually need the chimney
attachment) (did I mention that the boat has a real fireplace!) and Jack
did a sign to show Santa the way in. The younger girls woke nice and
early. Having wakened Jack and the others they had a great time opening
the presents that Santa had left. One of the best presents Jack received
was a bucket of soldiers (toy story) with which the girls were most
impressed! Plenty of books for the younger girls and clothes for the
older ones.

We anchored in Cruz bay Christmas morning and attended mass at a really
lovely local church with plenty of singing. And then onto the marina in
Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St Thomas. It is a lovely marina, with
swimming pools, tennis courts and plenty of entertainment on offer as we
watch the large motor yachts get cleaned, and then cleaned again, and then
stocked up with flowers etc as the various crews await their owners. The
one beside us was the nicest – family on board for Christmas with full
crew and TWO chefs preparing dinner in a fabulous galley (boy was I

Starbound also arrived here on Christmas day and we had them over for
dinner last night. So here we are awaiting the arrival of Aengus, Liz,
Amy, Katie & Conor – they were due to arrive in on Christmas night but
their flight was cancelled and they have spent all of yesterday in the air
–three flights in all to get here this morning. We will leave then and
probably head back to Virgin Gorda.

I will try to write again but based on previous experience it will
probably not be for at least another week before I get internet again.

Hope you all are having a great Christmas – we miss talking and meeting
with you. Christmas here is very different . There’s the weather of
course but besides that there is no frantic rush. It sort of creeps up on
you – no mad panic about presents (I was a little too laid back about that
– apologies to those concerned) no panic to send cards (again apologies to
those concerned – we did aim to get an e-card out but internet connections
being so hit and miss it never happened), no drinks parties to attend, no
nights out with friends (these we did miss). Actually the key words are
“no panic” just a nice relaxed atmosphere. Even in the towns there were a
few decorations and shops had Christmas music but everything was calm.
Very strange indeed.

Love to all and please write – you know our email address.