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Date: 07 Jan 2011 03:12:00
Title: Going over to the Dutch side

Thursday night

Andrea and I decided to have a day away from the boat today. We started off with breakfast in our favourite French cafe - I even had hot chocolate and a croissant so you can't get more French than that. We then got all our stuff ready to take in the tender, trying to keep it to a minimum so we wouldn't have too much to carry. I helped Kali get the companionway steps moved as she was going to service the generator and then Andrea and I set off.

We motored through the moored yachts outside the marina and then found the canal which goes from Marigot bay into the French side of the lagoon. The canal is only about 300 meters long with scruffy looking businesses along both sides. There's a lifting bridge which was high enough up for us to pass under, even with it closed. Then we were in the French side of the lagoon amongst a collection of down-at-heel yachts. Many looked like home-built jobs, mostly made from steel plates with some dodgy welding. We followed the marked channel into the main body of the lagoon, past some rusting wrecks and in the direction of the airport which is on the other side.

As we passed a tall island, the Dutch side of the lagoon came into view. It's very different. The masts of all the huge sailing ships were taller than any of the buildings and, around them were moored a seemingly endless parade of mega-motor yachts. We were able to potter along very close to them all, so long as we paid attention and avoided running into their anchor chains. There is an island in the lagoon that's a kind of mega-yacht kingdom with the huge floating palaces moored all the way around. I think they're all here because of the international airport - it's one of the few in the Caribbean with direct flights to Europe so the owners or charterers can jump off the plane, onto the yacht and then head out. I can't see them spending too much time in either of the two St Martins.

After we'd finished looking at polished steel and amusing (not) names, we headed over to the marina belonging to Island Water World, an old-established chandlery. They have their own dinghy dock so we parked up there and locked the tender. That's a new thing for us as it would have been very strange to lock a boat in the Arctic or even in the USA. Here, though, even the most knackered tenders have huge chains securing them to the dock. We went into the chandlery itself and were suitably impressed. They've got the lot including the bits and bobs that any self-respecting super-yacht captain would need. Fenders the size of cars, shackles the size of soup bowls and fishing reels that are as big as our sheet winches.

We had a look at the snorkelling gear for Andrea and chose a mask and snorkel, both with valves to let any stray water out. The mask makes it look as though she has a huge nose which keeps me amused. Then we went across the street to a sail loft where I wanted to find out if they had any batten material that I could use to refashion the broken ones on my mainsail. The guys there really knew their stuff and we got to discussing what the battens were actually for and they agreed with Big Bill on Alerre that they're more trouble than they're worth. That helped me make a decision that I'm sure will be the right one long term and I've booked the sail in with them to be recut so I can dispense with the battens altogether. We may lose a bit of performance in theory but we rarely have the whole sail out anyway. It will make it much easier to roll the sail away, increase the angle we can use the boom at and mean that there is no chance of a broken batten damaging the sail or the reefing gear.

After a brief wander around the scruffy streets with their barking dogs and gardens full of coconut palms, we got back into the tender and went over to the Yacht Club for lunch. The club is by the side of the Dutch canal linking the lagoon to the sea on the South side of the island. This canal is wider, deeper and costs proper money for larger boats to transit. After lunch, we continued through that canal and out to sea. Grand Bleu, Roman Abromovitch's old yacht, was parked offshore but we turned to port and anchored our tender about 50 meters off the beach so we could swim about and try out Andrea's new mask. There was a bar on the beach so Andrea went to check that out while I swam back to the tender, got our dry-bag and pushed that ashore so we could buy a drink.

I had a frozen Pina-Colada with no alcohol and Andrea had a frozen Mojito with mostly alcohol. We sat slowly sipping them in the shade of more palms watching all the young people around us - or at least Andrea did as I'd left my glasses on the dinghy so couldn't see much. By the time she'd finished her Mojito, she couldn't see much either so our swim back to the tender was amusing. Then it was back through the Dutch canal, through the shared lagoon and out through the French canal, along the Marigot beach front and back to Saxon Blue. We had a shower to wash all the salt off and then a lovely cup of tea. Kali returned from the Cafe to tell us about her frustrating day with the generator. It's so hard to reach the service parts as it's been shoe-horned in to the space below the saloon floor. That makes a straightforward job on it into a major pain in the neck requiring the flexibility of a contortionist and the patience of a saint. She got there in the end, though.

Andrea and I have just returned from a meal at the French restaurant just up the road. Mine was lovely but Andrea's was a bit too creamy and I think it's taken her last reserves of strength to digest it. We've been discussing our options for what to do with ourselves when we return to the UK all day and that's been pretty exhausting, too. We're trying to plan our itinerary around the Caribbean but we need to work backwards from what we want to do with Saxon Blue, where we want her taken, then where we want to end up and when. It's a lot of decisions that we've been putting off but we need to start working out what we're up to or we'll get caught out when the Hurricane Season starts here in May. I'm sure we'll keep talking about it all over the weekend when Kali's going to visit Big Bill in Tortolla.

Harvey

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