Simpson Bay, Saint Martin
Date: Thursday 13th February 2014
Our new dinghy was splendid. However the new outboard engine that we had bought in Antigua only 5 weeks earlier had too little power to drive the thing at planing speed. At first we were prepared to accept this, but the more we travelled from where we were anchored to the various marine stores on the Dutch side, a distance of about a mile each way, the more it became clear that travelling at slow speeds was a bit of a chore. So we forked out for a larger engine. Fortunately we soon found a buyer for our nearly new 5hp engine.
We had now spend far too long in St Martin and it was time to move on. Now the lagoon has two exits, both restricted by bridges that only open for boat traffic a limited number of times each day. To the north of us, on the French side there was a bridge, but to get there we would have to cross very shallow water, in fact it was debatable whether it was actually passable with our 6 foot 7 inches draft. During the previous year the sailing community had spent some considerable time surveying the water and laying buoys to mark the deepest channels. However working on a very limited budget they had only been able to buy small plastic buoys and the local ferries had then taken great delight in ploughing over them at speed ensuring that in a very short period there were none left.
So the northern exit was probably best avoided. The southern exit on the Dutch side was negotiable, in fact that was the way we had entered the lagoon about 3 weeks before. However between where we were anchored and this bridge lay the new causeway bridge, opened with such a fanfare only a couple of weeks before.
The first scheduled opening of the causeway bridge was at 8:30am, so on Thursday 13th we upped anchor and motored the short distance to the bridge a few minutes before the prescribed time. I called up the bridge to confirm that we wished to come through only to be told that the bridge would not be opening. When I asked why I was told that the opening mechanism had broken! When I then asked if the problem was expected to be fixed in hours or days he said that it would probably be several days.
So now we had a real problem. We were effectively locked in and completely dependent on the causeway bridge being repaired before we could leave. We had also heard that before we had arrived in St Martin the French bridge had broken and it had taken them 6 months to get the thing repaired.
We slowly returned to where we had previously been anchored and started to think about what we could do.