Sat & Sunday – 10th & 11th March
Up bright and early for the produce market and a marine flea market held in TOBY’s marina on the French side in Marigot. We optimistically had taken two large bags for the fruit and veg but in the event only bought some dessert figs (tiny but really tasty bananas) and a pineapple, which turned out to be the least flavourful we’ve had out here! Somewhere on this island there must be fresh produce, perhaps Philipsburg? We grabbed a quick coffee and pastry at Sarafina’s on Scott-Free’s recommendation – obviously with that name it was a must. And very nice it was too, but unfortunately we spotted another branch of La Sucriere and they had the elusive almond and chocolate croissant that Rob craves and is usually sold out on the Dutch side. Helpfully, Chris is taking all the blame for this!
We then went off to the flea market – this was the real deal! Held in a very tatty boatyard, it was even difficult to get near the yard with all the liveaboard’s dinghies clustered together. Also as it is based in the channel for the French bridge entry, all the dinghies were getting washed ashore on to the rocks and debris as larger speed boats went past –not ideal. We had a wander through but nothing caught our eye, luckily. In fact it was generally rather tired merchandise.
There was to be a talk about refrigeration and air-conditioning at Shrimpy’s later in the morning so we thought we would go and listen and hopefully talk to the speaker about re-gassing our fridge. Shrimpy’s is an institution in St Maartens. It is a laundry cum second-hand chandlery cum internet bar run by Mike and Sally, ex-liveaboards from South Africa. Mike runs the yachtie’s net on VHF Channel 14 here and we have to say it is the best one we have come across so far. He is a font of information and very helpful. He introduced us to Dave from S/Y Minstrel who was doing the talk and he kindly agreed to come and take a look at the fridge for leaks and to re-gas on Sunday morning.
The talk was incredibly user-friendly – I actually understood and learnt things! Did you know that hot water will freeze quicker than cold water (all to do with the initial speed of the molecular change which is then maintained) and, vice versa, that colder water will boil quicker than warmer water. That to help your fridge at start up, bung in a couple of bags of ice, or return the cold items back in before switching on. And wiping out ice from the plate, use cold water as again hot water will instantly re-freeze. After that things started going over my head.
So then back to Serafina for Owen from S/Y Magic to come and check out the SSB. Another new idea: that the ground plate is insufficient. Owen did ‘just happen’ to be selling a new product called a KISS-SSB ground plane. This looks like a 4’ black hose pipe with all its magical properties inside, with a 2’ yellow wire to connect it. And wonderfully it only needs to be laid out, even just under cushions would be satisfactory. Rob managed to install it underneath our berth and at the same had a look at the copper plate Najad had fitted. He then discovered that Najad in their infinite wisdom had earthed all sorts of components to this plate – exactly the opposite of what should occur…..!
We also dashed off to do our emails and contact a rather monosyllabic son on his return from Australia. Tom had had a great time – everything was “amazing”! After all of this, we settled down to watch a DVD surrounded by the debris from all the other jobs we haven’t got done such as fitting our new gas bottles and Dan buoy!
Sunday morning we leapt out of bed while the wind was still calm to pull out the mainsail so that we could tighten the halyard, a job that has been required since the work on the mast but one we can’t achieve if it is windy as we have to swap round blocks and outhauls.
We had a go at listening to the OCC net on the SSB and eureka, we could hear them!
Followed quickly by Dave coming to take a look at our fridge. Sadly despite extensive searching with his magic bleeper Dave couldn’t find the leak. Our fridge only holds 6 oz of gas, so any escape is going to make a difference. Possibly the problem is to do with the through hull cooling system which will have to be looked at next time we haul out Serafina. So we settled on re-gassing the system and will probably have to do this again before September – does this sound familiar Scott-Free?
Dave then stayed on for a beer and regaled us with stories of his sailing life, including his recent Panama and Pacific crossing which started in company with Laura Dekker the15 year old Dutch girl who began and finished her world record solo circumnavigation in St Maarten. He has a ‘saltwater for the skin’ theory: he hasn’t used freshwater for 15 years on his body or hair and endeavours to go swimming every day, and in the Caribbean summer frequently spends half his waking day in the water snorkelling and swimming. And he was certainly smart and clean. A side benefit of this regime is his interaction with sea-life: he spent hours swimming with the sealions in the Galapagos and has also spent much time with dolphins, both of which species have definitely responded and copied his actions! He agreed with our belief that the dolphins quite patently want your attention when they approach your boat and will stay with you if you are applauding their activities.
Quick lunch, and Owen came back to test the SSB. Naturally we are trying to get the thing to work whilst there is extreme solar action in the way of sun flares which are affecting the airwaves, but despite this Owen managed to receive and transmit with another ham operator in Canada and a friend of his in Jamaica. Could it be that we are finally on our way with SSB radio? Watch this space….
After that we tried to get all the other jobs complete, one of which included painting the boat name on to the new gas bottles and Dan buoy. Obviously I was being my fussy self and it was made a whole lot harder by all the Sunday boat traffic traversing the lagoon at speed. Not quite sure where the posh little motor boats go (given that there are such lovely beaches on the coast and we finally have beautiful, settled weather why be inside the lagoon?) but it has not helped a steady hand! During the week there isn’t that much boat or dinghy movement and what there is, is very considerate of its speed and wake, so not the perfect day for sign-writing.
Rob has fitted our new gas bottles and we have achieved a pretty much inconspicuous installation, and then he arranged the launching tube for the Dan buoy involving drainage pipe and a now defunct rod holder.