St Barts to St Martin (French side)

Imagine Of Falmouth Online Log
Jon Constantine
Thu 26 Feb 2009 16:40
Thurs 26th Feb 09 to Tues 17th Mar 09

We had a bit of a lie-in this morning and a relaxing breakfast before heading off at just before 11am.  It's less than 30 miles to St Martin so we have plenty of time to get there before dark.  As we were leaving we saw the Maltese Falcon heading into Gustavia.  I think she's following us!!!  Such an amazing looking boat under sail.


We had a good 'goose wing' sail for most of the way, without the wind being dead behind us as was the case yesterday, but went back to the regular sail set as we made our way up the coast of Sint Maarten past Philipsburg and Simpson Bay (Dutch side).  Not the prettiest coastline as it is very built up plus all the huge cruise liners stop here to unload their passengers.  We later spotted the old Americas Cup boat Stars & Stripes going through her paces along the coast.  She now takes out paying passengers who want to experience the thrill of big yacht racing.  It was fabulous to watch her.

                            Americas Cup boat - Stars & Stripes                                                                          Cruise ships in Philipsburg

                                                                                             Good advert for Bobby's Marina

We finally made our way into Marigot Bay on the French side and dropped the anchor in 3 metres of beautifully clear blue water.  We then spent some time trying to retrieve the main halyard!  Once the main had been dropped I'd brought the halyard to the back of the boom as usual but didn't clip it on properly.  Being quite windy, off it went swinging round the mast as if it were going round a maypole.  Jon finally managed to snag it with the boat hook while standing rather precariously on the boom!  All good fun...

We went ashore the next day to do the boat clearance and found that there had been some changes since last we were here.  It used to be free to anchor in the bay but now there is a  5 Euro daily charge which we are none too pleased about.  We grudgingly paid up until the end of the weekend and will decide where we should go after that as the anchoring is free in the other bays on the French side.  It's also free to go through the bridge into the lagoon but we don't really fancy that as the water is pretty yuk in there.  We later found out that you don't have to pay at all as there is a big court battle going on against these charges as in French law these charges are illegal.  We actually stayed for a week in Marigot Bay not worrying about the extra days charges before the decision on where to go next was taken out of our hands by the weather.   On the Wednesday evening strong winds and a big swell started making it's way into the bay.  We put our stern anchor out so that we were pointing out to sea and into the swell to reduce our roll.  Rather than rolling side to side though we were now bobbing up and down like a see saw.  Not pleasant at all.  After a sleepless night, and no sign of the sea and winds abating, we upped both anchors and headed into the lagoon at the first bridge opening.  We weren't the only ones.  The whole anchorage had the same idea and we joined the long queue in.

We slowly made our way along the marked channel into the lagoon and were shocked when the keel 'kissed'  the bottom.  The pilot book states that you have 3metres of depth and we draw less than 2m so we shouldn't have been anywhere near touching.  We tentatively made our way to some anchored yachts nearby that looked to have a similar draft to us and dropped our anchor in 3m of horribly greeny/brown water, the deepest bit we could find, and still on the French side. 

We spent the next 2 weeks in the lagoon as the strong winds continued to blow.  The lagoon waters were very choppy and it was a bit of a nightmare going anywhere in the dinghy as we ended up getting drenched on each outing, but we did get a lot of chores done.  On one of the slightly calmer days we took the Lifeline boat battery into Budget Marine (on the Dutch side of the lagoon) to get it tested as it's not holding it's charge. It's a long way to go with only a 2HP outboard!   The guys at Budget were great and even ended up talking directly to the Lifeline company for us.  To cut a long story short, after several days of charging and discharging and finally forcing a high voltage charge into the battery it seems to be ok.  Even so, Budget offered us a new one at half price, without taking the old one back.  We will pick it up after we've been to the BVI as we'll not get such a good deal for a new battery again.  We are also now in possession of a brand new 5HP Tohatsu outboard for the dinghy.  At last we can run around the anchorages a little faster.  We don't quite plane but almost and this does help in keeping us a little drier!

                                                                                           After the rains in the Lagoon, with more to come!

The weekend of the Heineken Regatta was a little disappointing for us as the sea was just too choppy to go and watch any racing from the dinghy or from Imagine for that matter.  From what we heard though, the strong winds made for good fast racing.  We had planned to go to one of the parties on the Saturday night, which also happened to be my birthday, but we just couldn't face getting wet on the way and spending the evening in soggy clothes.  We did have a 'bubbly breakfast' on board and later, a great lunch ashore in Jimbos, which more than made up for it.  Cheers Jon (xx).  Definitely the quietest birthday celebration I've ever had as in the evening we just had soup for dinner and later watched a DVD!!  We made up for it the following night though.  The weather had calmed a little so we felt happy to go ashore for the final Regatta party.  We went to the Yacht Club and happened to bump into Tom & Michelle, a couple we'd met in Bequia last year and later down in Grenada.  It was really great to see them after all this time.  We celebrated well with bottles of Heineken at just one US Dollar a piece and later headed off down to the beach for a change of scenery and to see The Wailers perform.  They were good but they were very late coming on stage.  'Island time' at it's best!!  We left before they really got going and even then we didn't get back to the boat until well past 2am.  Having arrived at the Yacht Club at 5pm it had turned into a very long night.

Although the weather wasn't brilliant we did make the best of it.  One thing with sailing the islands is that you are always meeting up with old friends and making new ones.  Everyone is generally moving in the same direction (north in the winter and south in the summer), and you're guaranteed to see the same boats over and over again in the various island anchorages.  Even if you don't get to know the people you definitely know the boat!  We had a great meal on Cheetah II with Jane & Dick (we met in Granada) and a bunch of their friends one night.  And we made some new friends over sundowners on Quarterdeck with Paul & Sandra.

It was good to meet up with Paul & Deborah again too, our land-based pals.  We first met them in the BVI last year through Jon's friend Robin.  They live here in Sint Maarten for part of the year, working on the various regattas that take place in the Caribbean, and then in Cowes for the rest.  We had a good catch up over Bloody Marys at the Yacht Club one Sunday lunchtime and a great dinner with them at their apartment one evening.  They will be working on the BVI Spring Regatta so no doubt we'll be seeing them again very soon as we're taking part, crewing again for Steve on Hotel California Too.....

Well, after 3 weeks here it really is time for us to get moving.  If we can that is!  Imagine's hull really does need a good scrub having accumulated weed and barnacles from being in the lagoon for so long.  Not good.  Will wait until we get into cleaner, clearer  waters....