Andrea is back

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 5 Jan 2011 17:40
18:04.244N 63:05.257W Fort Louis Marina, Wednesday morning

Andrea is back onboard now and it's lovely to have her here again - especially as I had a traumatic day before she arrived.

After we'd anchored in Anse Marcel at the end of our trip from Bermuda, we all went to bed. Then the wind direction must have altered a bit as, suddenly, surf was up! Saxon Blue lurched and rolled, tugging on the anchor and it was rougher in the cabins than at any point in our voyage from Bermuda. As soon as it was light, I got up and made myself a cup of tea. For the first time, I missed my cup with the water which shows how much we were rolling. Kali got up straight away as well and we discussed our options.

We read the information about Anse Marcel more thoroughly and then some stuff about other harbours on St Martin. It sounded as though Anse Marcel was an isolated resort and we fancied going somewhere with a bit more variety. We had time, given that it was now only 0600 and I wanted to make sure I was at the airport to welcome Andrea at 1320. We decided to sail a bit further South to Marigot Bay where there is a large marina in a proper town. We woke Bill up when we went to close his hatch and then raised the anchor and headed back out of the bay. We took a couple of green waves over the bow then turned, put the genoa up on the port side and tore off at over 9 knots.

It didn't take long to reach Marigot at that speed. As we came in, we could see a bunch of huge motor yachts moored off and some slightly smaller ones inside the circular breakwater of the marina. We couldn't get the marina people on the VHF so we went and anchored in the bay amongst a motley selection of other cruising yachts. A French woman on the boat to starboard of us gave us a fierce look as we'd clearly invaded her imaginary boundary. It may have looked close to her but, in Chichester Harbour, there would have been three Bavarias and a Cornish Shrimper parked between us. Anyway, we told here we were only there for a while and she stomped grumpily back down her companionway.

Kali managed to raise the marina at about 0730 and they got back to us saying they had a berth, stern-to and could we rig a long bow line and two stern lines with fenders both sides. We got that all sorted and put our tender alongside our bow, then headed off for the entrance. The wind was still blowing well over 20 knots so it was clearly going to be tricky. The Marina guy came out to meet us in his rib and was chatting to me about how he'd tie our bow line onto a buoy, then we'd reverse in between two other boats. Then he drops in that we'd be bows up into the wind. Hmmm.... I asked if he had a berth were we could be stern to wind but he said there weren't any. "I'll explain more when we get there" he says.

The Marina pontoons are arranged like the spokes of a wheel with the office in the centre. As we passed the mega-yacht outside our spoke, the marina guy points to the gap and the buoy where we were supposed to go. Now, this is the point at which I should have told him - politely - that he was in cloud-cuckoo land. The buoys were in a line about 65 feet in front of the pontoons so nowhere near far enough out for me to use it to hold my bow up into the wind. He told me to pass close to the buoy and then reverse into the space and, like a fool, I did. Sure enough, as soon as I took all the forward way off to reverse, our keel stalled, the wind gusted even stronger and we were now doing a couple of knots sideways towards the bows of several motor-cruisers along the pontoon.

There was no way our bow-thruster could compete with that much wind, even with the marina guy in his rib pushing us frantically to port. I got her going astern but it was clear that I didn't have anywhere near enough room to get her around the required 90 degrees before our davits made neat carvings in the hull of the Swan who was supposed to be our neighbour. OK, it's unavoidable now, crunch! We were now lying on the bows of two of the motorboats with the anchor platform of the one nearest me resting on the hatch over our bathroom having taken out both the stanchions on that side. I couldn't see what other damage had been done to us or them but the time was now right to take control of the situation, as I should have done earlier.

The marina guy was now giving me all kinds of contradictory instructions so I decided to ignore him from now on. "Stop" I said to Kali and Bill and I had a think. We were clearly not going to get off sideways into the wind by engine power so it was time to get the warps out. We got both our floating mooring lines out and rigged one from the port bow going onto our anchor winch operated by Kali and the other from our port stern and led onto our primary genoa winch with Bill at the controls. We gave the loose ends to the marina guy who promptly tied them to a buoy rather than the cleat on the opposite pontoon like I told him. No, the pontoon. He looked at me like I was mad but I wasn't taking any more of his genius suggestions onboard. I don't think he realised how long the lines are as most boats don't carry anywhere near that length.

Having got the lines strung, we could winch ourselves sideways clear of the motorboats. We were now hanging clear and doing no damage so it was time to discuss next options. The marina guy now realised that maybe he did have a stern-to-wind berth but he was asking me how I intended to drop the lines. I told him that I didn't intend to drop them but was going to winch myself in on them stern-first into the berth on the other pontoon where the idiot should have put us to start with. He started explaining why I couldn't do that but, looking at the expression on my face, he soon realised he was on a losing wicket and agreed. He pointed to a buoy downwind of where we wanted to end up and suggested he put our bow line onto it. I asked how we were supposed to pull ourselves upwind of a buoy on our downwind side. Honestly, I was being polite but I don't know how. He agreed finally to tie us to the buoy I suggested, the one to windward. Then we had the same discussion about the cleats on the pontoon. He wanted us to pull ourselves to windward of a downwind cleat.

By now, we were almost there. A few final tweaks and we were safely alongside with two bow lines led to the buoy and two stern lines to the dock. My mouth was so dry that I couldn't think of anything but going below for a cup of tea. Just as well as the marina guy was now telling Kali and Bill how he would have done it. I still couldn't bring myself to look at the damage but Kali came below with the good news that we'd only damaged our stanchions and put a couple of scratches in the white gel-coat where the bow of the motorboat had tried to get into our toilet. We hadn't even scratched the hatch - top marks to Lewmar for that.

After finishing my lovely cuppa, I went out to inspect the damage. Sure enough, both the stanchion bases had broken in the same way as the others we'd damaged before. These were two that weren't fixed in Annapolis. One of them was so badly manufactured that you could see where the Sikaflex had got in between the two pieces of metal that are supposed to be welded together. We'll be able to fix them temporarily with epoxy which, judging by the Sikaflex, will be stronger than how they were first manufactured anyway. There's a dent in the pushpit but a bit of leverage with a large boot should fix that. No apparent damage to the hull atall so we were incredibly lucky with that and, best of all, no damage to any other boats which is really the nightmare - I wouldn't fancy making that phone call. So, finally, peace reigned on Saxon Blue.

Now it was time to clear into St Martin. All the formalities take place in the marina office so we trooped up there with our passports and money. You do the immigration stuff yourself on their computer, then they stamp everything, take a note of the card number in case you do a runner and that's it. Just time for a bit of leftover curry for lunch before I had to go and find a taxi to get me to the airport. I ended up with a great taxi driver who chatted to me all the way. He was a black guy from Holland who'd moved to the Dutch side of the island four years ago. He was telling me about all the different political options that the island was experimenting with and stuff about the history of the islanders, the slaves, the current politicians, African politics, the lot. The journey from Marigot to the airport was one long traffic jam through a country very different from Bermuda. It's much poorer and scruffier and the roads are clogged with big cars. The local favourite is the good old Hummer H3, possibly the ugliest monster ever to occupy road space.

As we got to the Dutch half of the island, we entered Casino Land. Behind the concrete buildings, I could see the masts of massive sailing yachts - our mast wouldn't be as high as their first set of spreaders. Near them were fleets of mega-motor-yachts, some with helicopters parked on top. The taxi driver pointed out Abramavitch's private Boeing on the airport perimeter. I'm not sure what all these Billionaires are doing here, though, as it's pretty scruffy and I don't imagine that they're taking advantage of the Adult Entertainment in the seedy-looking Casinos. Perhaps there's a secret bit somewhere or perhaps they just visit each other for canapes.

Anyway, I got to the airport with about 5 minutes to spare and waited for Andrea to emerge. And waited some more and then some more. It took her nearly an hour to get out of the baggage reclaim but it was wonderful to see her at last. We went and got ourselves a coffee and sat chatting for ages as she recounted her journey and I told her all about my stressful morning. Her flight had been fine, particularly once she'd left the seedy TravelLodge at Leeds/Bradford airport.

After a good long time, we decided to head back to Saxon Blue so we got a taxi which went the other way around the lagoon past a lot of golf courses and new-build holiday flats and back to the slightly scruffier and more charming French side of the island. Back onboard together at last, we had a drink in the cockpit with Kali and then Bill as well once he'd finished sorting out his flight to Antigua. Andrea and I then went out to eat in an excellent French restaurant a few yards from the marina where I had Maigret as good as any in France. We were back onboard again by about 9pm, saw the kids off to their evening out and then went to bed. Andrea had been up for about 24 hours straight by then so she went out like a light.

We both woke up about 6 am this morning, though. Me because that's the time I've been waking up for the last week on watch and Andrea because I was wriggling around. We had a cup of tea and then a nice chat again and then went out for breakfast with Kali who was perky despite having only gone to bed at 3 am after a heavy night out performing dance moves which Bill considered impossible. We talked about what we'll do when Kali leaves us at the end of January and what kind of person we will want to come with us on the next bit of our voyage. Now we're back on Saxon Blue and I've discovered that the air-conditioning which I paid to have "fixed" in Annapolis is still faulty. Hey, ho. Cruising is renowned as yacht maintenance in exotic locations - so we're clearly doing it right.


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