St Maarten - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Christmas in St Maarten
Saturday 22 December 2007
I was going to be here long enough to put the outboard on the dinghy. I tied the dinghy to the back and the mid cleat so that it was alongside. I lowered the outboard over the side and hooked it over the transom. I did not want the motor to fall in the water so I climbed over the rail and down into the dinghy and locked it on. Now all I had to do was get back on the boat, but I could not reach to get up. The dinghy was padlocked at the back and I could not reach the rope on the cleat at the front I tried climbing in through the pushpit rails, but could not get through as the cockpit coaming comes up in the way. Surely somebody could see that I was stranded, eventually they would come to my aid, or would they expect me to get in the water and swim the few feet to the back of the boat, surely not. I took one of the oars and climbed back through the bars as far as I could get and with the oar I managed to fish for the bunch of keys on the seating and was able to undo the padlock, then the front rope and I was sorted.
I went and had a look around the lagoon, I was going to check in on the French side, because they only charge 5 Euros, but that was a long way to go and I could get into trouble as I was anchored in Dutch waters. I checked in, that was easy but it took an hour queueing. I have paid for two weeks, because in January the rate doubles. I am not going into the lagoon, I am anchored outside, but I have to pay the same amount of money.
How to make a lagoon.
Take one bay
Build an airport runway on the open side
Run the road alongside and add an opening bridge for the boats
There you have it, a lagoon.
I read some of the rules for the bridge and one is for jetskis to lower their waterspouts to stop wearing away the steel structure of the bridge. I have not seen that many jetskis that you think it would make a difference, but I suppose every little helps. Perhaps they should ask the cars to go over the bridge on 3 wheels to save some wear and tear on the top.
I left the dinghy on the police station dock, this is a no no, but I thought it would be safe there and I did not expect to be long. I walked into town and round to the chandlers, which was a long way.
When I got back to the anchorage Alhambra had just got in from St Barts. They had left Antigua the same day as me and were going the fast route, but they turned round after 15 miles of the bad weather and got stuck in Antigua for a few more days. I carried on to Montserrat and the other islands, I think it was a good decision, I had a much better angle to the wind and swell and I could do it in short hops, but it was tiring and rough at times.
I am having a tidy up, another one, some stuff must go, I just do not have room.
I worked very hard all day and have made some headway, at least I have a bag of stuff to throw away. I made a new rain catcher from one of the flags from Antigua. It was dark before I finished.
I went in early to try to get a technician to look at the watermaker. The autopilot could wait until after Christmas, but the membrane would not wait. They were very busy and wanted to finish early for their Xmas lunch, but one guy took pity on me and came out. I have tried so hard with the watermaker I was so upset when it stopped working. Of course I checked the fuse, but I was so upset I did not check the right fuse. I really must trace all these new wires and label them, the problem is that they are all red and black. I seem to have everything else, but I did not have a 30 amp glass fuse; I would go and get one and he assured me it would work. I was so pleased that the watermaker was ok, I did not care that it was just a fuse and I would have to pay whatever it cost.
I took the dinghy all the way to the chandlers and the outboard worked. There are so many huge motor yachts here and there were 6 cruise liners in the main port I was told – 20,000 people in town. St Barts is also crammed with super yachts. I don’t know enough people to fill one of these boats.
I came back to the boat, fitted the fuse and ran the watermaker. I had bought some things for the boat for Xmas. I fitted the breeze booster round the fore hatch, it just fits in behind the babystay, so I will have to put something to stop it from rubbing. It is windy and I lost the matching bag, before I realised that it had blown away. I have two side boosters for the portholes, which I could not work out how to put together, eventually I found the instructions. I had also bought an awning. This is like a bubble tent, put in the rods and bend them to semi circles and the awning pops up and supports itself. I hung it up, but the boom gets in the way a bit. One of the fittings to put the rods into is missing and I have to take it back when the shop reopens. Isn’t it disappointing when you open your Christmas present and it is broken. Meanwhile I looked in my box of bits and found something ideal for now, but it blew into the sea and I could not reach it with the net. By the time I had got the keys to unlock the dinghy and start the engine and set off after the bit it was long gone. I was not having a good day.
A little bit more tweaking on the rain catcher and it was time for bed.
Tuesday – it’s Christmas
I had opened and put together all my presents yesterday, so today was continuing the tidy up. I worked for hours and in the end put all the stuff that was left in a big box under the table to deal with tomorrow. I made a cake, there was going to be a lunch party on the beach. Lin and Bruce on Alize I knew were here, but are out of radio range at their marina. Lyn was at the floating bar and used their radio to contact me. The bar was closed and the owner had let the cruisers use it, which was very trusting of them. So I went to that party and then we had three rounds of dominoes before it was too dark to see the dots. The party goes on, but I came back just as it got dark.
I have been here 5 days already and am finally beginning to relax and enjoy myself. It was to be a total day off, but I had to sew the end of the rain catcher, before it came apart in all this wind. It certainly seems to be working, not flapping and any rain is going straight into the tank.
At 11 I set off for shore. The wind was blowing hard and I could not get the outboard to start. I rowed as far as the police dock and then stopped to drop off the rubbish. I managed to start the engine and motored the rest of the way, which was good because it was a long way. I parked the dinghy with all the others, right next to the ‘no dinghies’ sign.
I met Lin and Bruce, who have a hire car and they took me for an island tour. We went from the Dutch side into the French side and to a beach that had rows of loungers and sun shades filled with cruise ship visitors that had been bussed in. I did buy a swimming noodle, it does not have a hole in the middle, so I will keep looking for some that do, but it is a start. Then we went on and back into the Dutch side and had a meal before parting.
I got the outboard started, but the wind was so strong I could not get out of the dinghy park, it is only a small engine, under 2 hp. I kept pushing off of other dinghies until the gust passed and I made it out. The lagoon is very large and the water was rough. I needed the motor to keep going and not run out of petrol and luckily it did make it all the way back to the boat.
It is very windy and the batteries are 100% thanks to the wind generator. It is not time to try and do anything that requires a steady hand, the hand may be steady, but the boat is not. I checked the forecast and it seems to be more of the same for the next week.
Time to run the watermaker again and do the washing. I have a fair bit of washing, it is not really dirty, but is salt stained from going in the dinghy. The trick is to go in wearing a bikini, taking your clothes in a plastic bag and get dressed on the dinghy dock. I always forget to take the clothes off again before I set off back and then they get wet.
I ran the watermaker for an hour and the batteries were down to 90%. By the time I had got ready to go out they were back up to 95%. I would have a tough time without the outboard, but it started and took me all the way to Budget so that I could change the awning. I left the fuel switch on and my petrol had been dripping away in my absence. I rowed while it was not too windy and someone offered me a tow. I do not usually take lifts from strange men, but he looked nice and he went out of his way to take me all the way to the boat; that was his good deed for the day.
I put up the new awning, it will do me until I next haul out and may consider a bimini. I can hang it wherever the sun is, so it will be useful. I spent the next few hours trying to turn the Superyacht banner into side dodgers, I have nearly finished one.
When the boats go in for the last bridge opening at 5.30 it is the end of the working day, as it will soon be dark. I turned the awning upside down and if it rains I could have a water catcher; this I can bottle as drinking water. I have to do something because my new rain catcher is working so well and the water is going directly into the tank.
I had to shut down the wind generator because even with the computer on mains and the lights on I cannot get the batteries below 99.9%. I had to take the raincatcher in because the wind was too strong, one of the attachment points kept coming off and I did not want to lose anything.
The weather is still 20 – 25 knots and forecast to continue through at this or if we are lucky drop to 15 – 20 over the weekend. I untied the wind generator this morning and have run the watermaker again for 90 minutes and still the batteries are 92.5%. I have the bilges full of bottles of water, half of which I have made. I still have a fascination for the battery meter and the watermaker, I expect that will wear off, but they are very important and I cannot afford to get complacent over them. I will try putting the raincatcher back out, but from the amount of water in the dinghy I did not miss a lot last night; the showers pass very quickly.
I tidied the cockpit locker. I have three hose pipes, but I do not need these until I next haul out, so these I have managed to squeeze into the gap around the front water tank. I put the bedding out for an air, with lots and lots of pegs and some small vice clamps. I checked the batteries as I was in the locker, a bit early for end of month, but it will do. I finished the one spray dodger and it looks good.
I went into Philipsburg and bought a new computer. I now have to transfer all the data from my old computer to the new one. It takes overnight to charge up one computer, so this will take some time.
There was a fleamarket and I was going to dig out the things I really do not need and do not have space for – digital radio, one of two irons, ski boots and paragliding helmet. I was invited to Yvonne for a cup of tea and so did not have time to get to the fleamarket; maybe next month.
Made the second spray dodger, it was much easier with the first one as a pattern. I am moving the netting on the rails which takes forever, I will do one section at a time. Trevor came over with his computer adaptor, which takes 12 volts up to 19v, it is identical to mine, his does not take all night, but perhaps that is something to do with the power on the boat he is on. The boat is leaving tomorrow night as the owner wants to be at sea for New Year. Somewhere during the process the new computer ceased to work, not even turn on or charge up. I have had it a whole day.
When Trevor came to leave his dinghy was ahead of him, it must have just slipped its rope as we got there. Soon it was floating away quite fast. I needed to undo the padlock on my dinghy, I never trust it for long, just on the rope. In the dark and with the obvious need for speed I could not find the right key, the dinghy was getting further away and there was nobody about on a nearby boat.
I unlocked my dinghy and decided it was quicker to row than try to start the engine, I did a good job and caught the dinghy a few hundred yards further out to sea. The very back of the anchorage had a boat with people in the cockpit and they gave me and my dinghies a tow back to my boat. Bye Trevor!
I packed up the computer to take back into town. I packed up my old computer because that had charged up on the same adapter and if they could make the new computer work then we could transfer the data in the shop, with mains power. To take my old computer in the dinghy was always scary, to take it and the new computer would have had me reaching for the valium if I had any. I made it to the dock and caught a bus to town, but they could not do anything with the computer and could not open it without invalidating the warranty. The computer will have to be couriered back to the US for them to check out. The time scale is unknown, but we are talking weeks rather than days. Everything recently had just been a fuse, it is going to be an expensive fuse if that is the problem. I really like the computer, but I would like it more if it worked.
I got the bus back to the Bay and went in to check on the autopilot technician; he was going to be too busy to look at it, seemingly forever, and the two new guys did not want to take it on. They phoned another firm, who had already told me that he was busy. He was a few feet from my boat in the bay, having just finished mending an autopilot on a neighbouring boat. I could not get there quickly in my dinghy because it was at the cruiser friendly dock that was down the road. I went to the Police dock and Gee picked me up there and we went back to the boat. This was good because it meant that I got to take my old computer back in his big dinghy. He tried with saying I needed to re calibrate the autopilot, which needed the boat moving around, not anchored. I know this might be necessary as I have disconnected the pilot, but I am sure there is more to it and I wanted it tested on the bench. I very quickly took the wheel and the autopilot off, I have done this so many times now I know exactly what to do; I also dug out the other autopilot to have this tested at the same time. Gee took me back to my dinghy and I will go into the office when they open on Wednesday to give him my details. He is very busy, but it should not take long to test the autopilots and if spare parts are necessary the process can be started while he gets on with his other jobs. I have to wait for the computer and the autopilot. I should get a lot of boat jobs done before I leave St Maarten.
The number of mega motor boats in the marinas over Christmas was amazing, but most of them have moved on, evidently this is not the place to be for New Year; I wonder where is.
The antifoul paint seems to be doing a very good job, but above the waterline really needs a scrub; I think I really am going to have to raise my antifoul line. I just have time to scrub the waterline before getting ready to go back to shore. Perseverance and Alize and I are going for dinner in Philipsburg.
New Year Resolution – to take things in my stride, not get stressed out by anything and have a relaxing and enjoyable 2008. 2007 has seemed a bit tough overall, but was it enjoyable, probably.
Happy New Year everybody.