Happy New Year 2011

Caribbean adventure
nick & annabella Atkinson
Sat 8 Jan 2011 14:42

Happy 2011 New Year Everyone!


Well we have been a little quiet as we ended up pretty much being holed in to St Maartens for just under 3 weeks.  With the plan of coming to the Caribbean for sunny sailing and easy cruising, we came without the foresight that the Caribbean has some very strong and choppy winds – particularly at this time of year – which are known to the locals as Christmas Winds.  This meant that our weather chart windows changed and quickly became a bit more like a ‘mystic meg’ prediction where it wasn’t always clear whether those 2 metre seas were actually going to appear as 8 metre seas!  This hemmed us in a little for New Year as we watched many boats come into safe harbour at Simpson Bay to get away from the rough seas of the Eastern Caribbean.  Any plans to visit St Barths for the infamous New Year Eve celebration were quickly shelved by most due to their open harbour which makes for a very bumpy night’s sleep.  This diversion was in fact wise, as we learned that Gustavia Harbour in St Barths had actually closed their port and told the big boats to leave their pontoons for fear of a repeat of last year’s celebrations where such high waves smashed one super yacht against the pontoon with delibatating force.  So the rumour goes that Abramovich (for whom we have seen two of his ships out here for the last few weeks) had this yacht engine on all night to push against the waves and avoid damage.  We would love to have seen his fuel bill!


So before we touch on the actual celebrations themselves, we will give a quick low down of what we have been up to beforehand.  We hired a red hatch back car for 4 days which makes our speedy little motor back home look super lux given the hard wear of the steep hills and constant burning clutch that this little machine has had to face!  It did the job non the less and we ploughed through the tourist map to head towards the north east coast of St Martin (French side) to the well talked about long golden beach of L’Orean.  This is not quite the quiet Robinson Crusoe beach of our earlier trip to Happy Bay, but the sand is powder white and the water coral blue…. However…. The main site on the beach is that half of it backs on to the Orean Resort which is a nudist beach.  Within minutes we were surrounded by packs of people trying out their new birthday suits of all ages and sizes.  With the best intentions of trying to be grown up about it, Nick and I were in fits of giggles like naughty little school children.  Lunch was even more of a spectacle where the only wraps to be seen were around the meat fajitas!  Suffice to say, I think we probably stood out a little in our normal attire but Nick summed up the day as ‘awesome’!!


The following day was downcast so we jumped in the car (by which time we were feeling quite proficient with the roads and familiarity of the route) to go the Le Papillion Farm.  On the way to this butterfly camp, we witnessed for ourselves just how much of a task the steep hills of the Caribbean can be to the locals, where one poor soul had to contemplate how to remedy the slight problem that his coca cola truck stuffed full of cans had not quite managed the challenge of reaching the top of the hill in one piece to wish we were greeted with the site of thousands of cans cascading down the hill and the driver scratching his head.


The farm itself was small but very beautiful.  As we learned about mother natures art of the journey of a chrysalis, and how to attempt to pick a butterfly up by its feet, large butterflies of many colours fluttered and twisted past us playing tag with each other and teasing us as they approach with curiosity, then flutter away.  It was quite beautiful in this botanical corner of St Martin and we took some great photos.  However, just on the strike of an hour,  Nick’s attention was gone and soon he was fidgety so we headed back to the car for which we discovered that our poor coke driver from earlier must have resolved his trepidations as there were no cans to be seen! 


For New Year Eve, with the weather being so bad, we decided that the best made plans of mice and men was to stay in port and keep things chilled – the risk of venturing out would only risk harm to the boat, and the contemplation of trying to find taxis far out from town did not appeal.  We didn’t want to go to the flash, overpriced nightclubs full of the Nouveau and decided that on the basis of having such a cracking Christmas Eve, given the high winds and rain, we would follow the path of the ‘Soggy Dollar Bar’ again to which we ventured to at 11pm for the funky DJ beats overlooking the flood lit Wallys and the infamous classic super yacht ‘Ranger’ – a frequent participant in the classic yacht regattas and more recently famous for being a seized asset of Conrad Black – this little hiccup has not stopped this beautiful specimen of finding a new owner and being given its full merit, and testament to this, was the boys looking on dreamily contemplating which jackpot plan would help them to one day own such a boat….. 


The highlight of the evening was a gourmet barbeque with Trish and Matt for which they cooked us a scrumptious meal including home made dips for nibbles, fresh coriander and lemon king prawns straight from the Barbie, and stunning marinated steaks topped off with salad, baked potatoes and sour cream and the piece de resistance….. home made panacotta complete with chocolate dipped strawberries – we were totally pampered by their generosity and suffice to say, the champagne was flowing!  Calls were had with close family through the evening as were dared to switch our UK mobiles on, and we do miss our family and friends very much.  I would also like to mention that my mum would have celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary on New Years Eve so much thoughts and love were with her.  Just after midnight, we jumped in to the dingy and headed out to see the fireworks in Simpson Bay – which was very bumpy and wet, but non the less much fun.  After a few frolics (which were very tame by Christmas Eve’s standards!) we ventured back to the boat for more merriment.  The closing hour was about 4am and by the next morning, Nick was a little weary, I was a little smug for being more careful not to overdo it, and the grand plan of walking out to sunset bay to watch the airplanes fly over the sea at low heights and straight in to the airport popped in to mind – it was either this, or the jalapeño poppers  that are served at the bar which appealed (crispy jalapeños in a batter with hot Monterey jack cheese inside) – I would put my money on Nick favouring the latter!  As we decided to take the back route via the long Simpson sandy Bay, we stumbled upon what we can only assume is a Dutch tradition, where a beach bar was packed to the rims with people wearing orange hats with a white bobble on the end (almost santa clause in style).  We ventured almost within inches of our destination, only to discover that with our best ‘Christopher Columbus’ hat on, our final hurdle was closed off and there was no exit off the beach meaning that the only alternative to get to Sunset Bay was to walk all the way back and then a further few miles – by which time the jalapeños had lost their appeal.  Our hunger was really bedding in by this stage and we walked back towards Pelican Bay (near our boat mooring) only to discover it pretty much desolate.  Our last resort was St Maartin Yacht club and due to the overindulgence of the night before, it is fair to say that service was a little slow!  We then headed back to the boat for a late afternoon siesta to try and perk ourselves up. 


The first few days of New Year have been spent in slight frustration trying to get decent internet connection (a real treat for us!) and looking at changing weather maps which have hindered our progression onwards.  We experienced some pretty fierce gales but this also brought us our first piece of proper salvage!  An inflatable canoe which Nick found drifting next to our stern.  Having put the notice out to the harbour, no claimants came forward, and we are now the proud owners of this funky bright blue bit of fun!


We plan our next update on the weather window that sails us out of St Maartin and onwards on our journey…. Watch this space!!