Simpson Bay lagoon, Sint Maarten
Thurs, Fri & Sat – 13th, 14th & 15th Feb
On Thursday we headed round to Gustavia in the dinghy to get some groceries, check out through customs and immigration and find some decent wifi so we could send all the emails we had been penning. Oh yes and Sarah needed some time browsing in the uber-expensive posh shops.
The shopping was disappointing, but we had a nice breakfast in a café on the front where I was able to sit and use the wifi whilst Sarah went off grocery and window shopping. After this we did our clearances at the Captainerie and we have to commend St Barth for having easily the most affable and helpful office.
On our way back in the dinghy, we detoured to the rocks where we had been anchored the first night to do some snorkelling and for me to see first-hand what it was that Sarah had been raving about. Certainly the snorkelling there was outstanding, but my enthusiasm waned a bit when I was approached by an enormous barracuda. There is a theory that they are not interested in humans, but I have never quite believed that and so I headed off, forgetting completely that I should have been taking its photograph! We also had to take it in turns using ‘the’ mask, as the lens fell out of my mask – but 6 years constant use isn’t too bad.
In the late afternoon we had Paul and Janey from Shian over for sundowners and said our farewells as we were heading off to St Maartin in the morning.
So around 0800 on Friday we set sail north west to the island with a split personality. The northern half of the island is French and is called St Martin and the southern half is Dutch (although semi-independent now) and is called Sint Maarten. Interestingly and very importantly, the French are admitting to an epidemic of Denge Fever and its African variant, Chikungunya which is carried by mosquitos (the ones with striped white legs, as if you are looking!) but the Dutch deny that they have the fever there at all. If they are right then it is a triumph for border controls that other governments would be proud of!! But of course mosquitos are not known for their respect for international borders…… so copious coverings of anti-mosi spray every evening is essential.
In the middle of this island there is a big lagoon which is a huge but shallow anchorage and there are just two entrances with bridges, one in the French half and one in the Dutch half and I will not bore you with the complications of which one you use and when etc… but during the last year the Dutch have built a huge bridge across the lagoon meaning the boats looking to move from the Dutch side to the French side have to now pass through opening bridge. Ruffian had chosen like many others to enter the lagoon through the Dutch bridge (better draught) and then anchor on the French side (cheaper!!) so they are on the north side of this new bridge now. But the new bridge opening mechanism has broken (the bridge only opened two weeks ago) and they are rather stuck for a few more days.
However they came rushing over to greet us when we arrived and kindly invited us for supper after a compulsory trip to the St Maarten Yacht Club happy hour. This would all have been fine except that on our way out to Ruffian from the yacht club bar, Ruffian and ourselves were invited onto ‘Free Rein’ for a quick glass of wine, which turned into several as well as some fabulous hors d’oeuvres. Fiona then whipped up a fine repast on Ruffian and we was finished off with Mexican Train of course, whilst Larry (their Llama) and Hans (our bear) celebrated St Valentine’s day!
On Saturday we got down to the serious business of shopping for food and drink etc. taking advantage of the tax free status here. Sarah also got her hair cut and it was a really good job done so we have photographed it to show as a guide to future stylists! We shopped first on the Dutch side before taking the dinghy north to shop in the afternoon in France. It is a slightly surreal experience all round.