Simpson Bay Lagoon, St Martin
Sunday 29th April 2012
Distance run: 83 nmiles
We left North Sound, Virgin Gorda around 1700 on Friday 13th April, after a second round of goodbyes with Rob & Sarah. The first had been immediately after brunch as they simultaneously washed up and lifted the anchor in their haste to get to Spanish Town before Immigration closed. Earlier that morning Rob had gone ashore with Steve as we checked out of the BVI’s and Rob made enquiries about extending their immigration which had expired 5 days earlier. They had attempted to extend it at Jost Van Dyke but were told it had to be done at a main Immigration office, so had planned to do it in Roadtown when we went there by car. They forgot. In Gun Creek, North Sound, Rob was told to go to Spanish Town. The taxi fare would be a US$60 round trip so they elected to go by boat.
So we said our goodbyes and off they went. Several hours later as we were just doing last minute preparations to leave, the radio crackled into life and there was Rob saying they were almost back and to put the kettle on! So we had another round of goodbyes over tea and Sarah’s chocolate brownies (the last of the batch we had been helping them eat their way through over the previous few days!) as Rob told of his none too pleasant experience at immigration. He apparently had to complete numerous forms (not unusual) but then he had to attend an interview where he was given a grilling before they eventually agreed he and Sarah could stay a fortnight longer. If they had not had friends flying out to join them in a few days, I dare say he would have told them what to do with their extension!
Finally, we lifted the anchor and waving goodbye, set off on the 80-nmile passage to St Martin. Kevin & Jean on Amokura had left about an hour before us, and we called them on the VHF to let them know we were behind them. We motored for the first 3 hours in light winds through Necker Island Passage and into Anegada Passage. The wind then picked up a bit and we were able to motorsail briefly before it died again. We managed to switch the engine off for 3 hours or so in the middle of the night when the wind picked up enough to sail by, but then returned to motoring when what wind there was headed us. It was quite a squally night, and we used the radar to track around a couple of squalls, but couldn’t escape one very large one which very kindly drenched us. We arrived in Marigot Bay, St Martin, around 0800, just in time for the 0815 opening of the Sandy Ground Bridge. At 0730 we listened to the cruisers’ net on VHF channel 14, and there was Mike at Shrimpy’s controlling it in his inimitable way, and also there was Marco of Habibi advertising his dinghy for sale. It was good to hear they had arrived safely – and that they had obviously managed to buy the new rib they were hoping to get here.
Once through the bridge we motored into the lagoon, found a suitable spot between the island and the Witch’s Tit and dropped the anchor. And that’s where we have been ever since. We had a list of things to do and to buy and we have been working our way through those lists over the last two weeks, and at the same time joining in with some of the cruisers’ social life on offer here, as well as enjoying the company of Kevin and Jean who have been waiting for their son to arrive before they set off for the Azores and then back to the UK.
The first job to tackle was my broken wisdom tooth, and an enquiry about a dentist on the net led me to a very good chap on the French side who did root canal work and filled the tooth with not a second of pain or discomfort on my part. I had virtually decided to have the thing yanked out as I hate having all that palava in my mouth, especially for the length of time root canal fillings take, but I am glad now that he persuaded me otherwise.
We have spent a fortune in the chandleries and hardware stores here, and done quite a few jobs on the boat. The forward looking sonar transponder which was sent to a mail pick-up point here is now fitted and working. This involved removing the old one from its position in a 2-inch diameter hole through the bottom of the boat, holding a hand over the hole to prevent the entire contents of Simpson Bay Lagoon entering through it, and then quickly removing the hand in order to place the new transponder into the hole. Exciting!
We’d been having problems with the SSB radio (long range radio) and took the opportunity of using the expertise of Owen on Magic who was anchored close to us. Over to Steve for an explanation of the boring technical bits, which he insists some people find interesting!
As Owen climbed on the boat he spotted two problems: the wire to the backstay (half the dipole aerial) was wrong and the deck gland was metal (this acts as a choke and attenuates the signal – apparently!) The other half of the dipole aerial consists of a 2” wide copper strip connected to two sintered earth plates bonded into the hull. Over the years this becomes corroded and difficult/impossible to keep clean. Owen suggested the KISS ground plate (which he of course is the agent for)instead, which is a rubber tube with several lengths of wire inside and one connection to the tuner. This can then be run anywhere convenient (in case under our bed) and it is not connected through the hull. It all seemed a bit like “snake oil” but it worked wonderfully well, so we bought and fitted one. On our first test we managed to speak to Rob and Sarah on Serafina which we had been unable to before, so the operation was deemed a resounding success.
With Owen’s help we also tackled the problem of the generator battery which was now useless as the generator had not been charging it enough for quite some time. We had been having trouble starting the generator, and as the battery was only a year old, put aside the suggestion of Rod Boreham that it was because of a duff battery. However, on testing the battery with the generator running it became apparent that it was not being charged, and Owen suggested we fit a Blue Seas automatic charge relay (senses the voltages of the batteries and connects them together when they are over 13.0V) which would enable the battery to be charged via the main charger without draining the other battery banks. This has been fitted and appears to be working well.
We took the bus into Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, with Jean and Kevin, and wandered around the tourist tat shops for a few hours. It wasn’t particularly interesting as it is mainly a cruise ship port, but the trip became more interesting when Kevin suggested we take the bus to the end of the airport runway to watch the planes landing, and more specifically to stand at the fence behind them as they took off! This is a rather unusual tourist attraction which is very popular. The runway finishes at a beach, with a narrow road between it and the chain-link fence. The aeroplanes taxi right to the other side of the fence and wait there for permission to take off. Then they fire up their engines and begin the run-up to take-off, causing a blast of exhaust to blow across the road and the beach. People lacking in sense stand on the edge of the road gripping the fence as a plane takes off, and have been known to be lifted off their feet. Locally it’s called ‘Riding the fence’, and Steve and Kevin just had to have a go.
Steve, Jean & Kevin at the end of the runway. Oh really?!
A plane ready to begin take-off. Steve & Kevin at the fence waiting for their own lift-off!
We stopped for pizza and drinks at the Drift Wood Boat Bar on the beach and watched the planes from a much safer distance.
Literally a boat turned into a bar, on the beach.
The plan now is to leave here in a day or two and start to make our way down-island. It’s a bit blowy today but is forecast to subside a bit over the next few days, so we will go once the seas have had time to flatten a bit. We have to be in Grenada by 24th May when James is coming out to join us for a couple of weeks, so tempting as it is to stay here, we ought to be on the move again soon. Grenada is about 400 nmiles South (with a touch of east) from here, and we could do it in one passage in 3-4 days if necessary, so there’s no panic, but it would be nice to do some island-hopping and stop at a few places we missed out on the way up.