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Date: 10 Jan 2011 02:11:00
Title: Jumbo Jets and Maltese Falcon

Sunday night

We woke up pretty early today and had a leisurely breakfast onboard. We'd decided to go and see about buying a sit-on-top kayak and some other stuff in the massive chandlery on the Dutch side of the island and we also wanted to go swimming over there. The wind had picked up, though, and Andrea didn't fancy the tender ride so we decided to get a taxi instead. We packed all our stuff up in my silver bag and wandered down to the taxi rank. As we walked, it became clear that Sunday on St Martin really is a day of rest as all the shops were closed, even the ones in the ugly tourist mall.

We got a taxi with a friendly woman from the Dutch side - in fact, every taxi driver we've had has been living on the Dutch side and most of them are from there originally. She had a great Island accent and told us a load of gossip about living here. We got her to take us to Budget Marine but, when we got there, it was closed so we just stayed in the taxi and went on to Maho Bay where we wanted to swim.

Maho Bay is also the nearest point you can get to the runway at the main Island airport and, when I say near, it's NEAR. The planes come thundering in just overhead and, when a big one lands, everything shakes. As they line up to take off, the jet blast comes screaming through the perimeter fence sending a plume of sand, spray and small children hundreds of yards into the sea. We didn't fancy getting shot-blasted so we stayed at the other end of the beach which was exciting enough. The sand shelves steeply up so the waves have a lot of power, making it awkward to swim. We persevered for a while but there wasn't much wildlife to sustain an interesting snorkel session so we went back ashore.

Andrea decided to go back in for another quick dip leaving me on my own by our bag when a rogue wave washed straight up the sand and innundated the area around me. I had to grab our bag just as it was floating away, lob it further up the beach and then chase our shoes which were making a break for freedom. I'd just got everything in a pile when Andrea returned, completely oblivious to all the drama. The guys next to me got their Ipods soaked so we came off lightly. The whole time we were there, we didn't see another wave anywhere near as big so it was mighty strange.

With all that drama, we decided to retire to the beachside bar for lunch and got a ringside seat to watch all the plane-related antics. The guy on the next table had his radio tuned into the control tower and kept dashing off to take pictures of the arriving and departing planes. He even had an airplane on his T-shirt. His wife just ignored him and concentrated on her Ipad and her lunch. We were amazed to see one big jet line up at the very end of the runway ready to take off. The crew clearly knew what was going on where we were as they turned so as to get the engines right by the fence and then we saw them waving and giving thumbs-up signals out of the open cockpit window. There were a bunch of people stood holding onto the fence and others on the beach standing ready. When the pilot put the engines to full throttle, the ground shook and all the people on the beach half-ran, half-flew on the blast into the water.

We were hoping to see the KLM 747 from Amsterdam arrive, the plane that Andrea came in on last week. It was a bit late but then we saw it off to sea lining up for an approach. It initially looked as though it was heading straight for us, then turned a bit for the runway. As it came over the beach, it was so big and so low that it looked quite impossible that it could still be flying. Andrea was thrilled to see it and to think that she'd had such an exciting ride.

Andrea fancied swimming in some calmer waters so we flagged down another cab and got dropped off at the bar on the beach by the Dutch side bridge where we'd swam the other day. On the way, I looked out into the bay and immediately recognised the outline of Maltese Falcon, definitely my favourite ship and one that I hoped we'd see at some point on our Caribbean travels. She's an ultra-modern take on a fully square-rigged ship. Each of her three masts has five square sails which furl into the mast and emerge onto curved spars. The unstayed masts rotate to bring the sails into the correct angle, allowing her to sail much closer to the wind than a conventional square-rigged ship with all its rigging. She was a good mile out but still looked magnificent, like a cross between the Cutty Sark and a starship. Now all I have to hope for is to see her under sail which shouldn't be impossible as she's renowned for actually sailing whenever feasible.

We had another quick swim in calmer but very murky water off the beach then retired to the bar for a frozen Pina-Colada while staring out to sea at the magnificent ship. Eventually, it was time to come home and the guys at the jet-ski rental place kindly phoned a taxi for us. Yet another friendly cabbie took us back to Marigot where we arrived in time to see one super-yacht depart from near Saxon Blue to be almost immediately replaced by another one. We pottered around onboard and I did some jobs while Andrea cooked us some good wholesome pasta for dinner. Now, we're just sitting enjoying the cool air of the evening while Saxon Blue pulls at her mooring lines in frustration. Easy, girl. We've got a few more days of work to get ready for the next stage of our trip and then we'll be underway again.

Harvey

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