January 15th, 2002
Saint Martin or Sint Maarten? Guilders, Francs, Euros, or Dollars? The choices around here can make your eyes cross. Luckily there is good French wine, or island rum to make them cross back (and just keep crossing the other way if you so desire).
Last week on the 5th we picked our friend Les up at the St. Thomas airport, introducing him to "Island Time" immediately by arriving 20 minutes late. We also introduced Les to Paul and Cara, friends we had made at Christmas time. Cara had invited us to dinner that evening so we brought Les along and Cara, Les, Miranda and I all enjoyed Paul's Macaroni and Cheese casserole. We all agreed it was the best Mac and Cheese we had ever tasted. The next day was a blustery Sunday and we spent most of it hanging out aboard baggywrinkle once again with Paul and Cara. We watched the women's Laser regatta that was going on in Cowpet Bay, ate lunch and enjoyed playing host to our friends aboard the boat.
The next day found us first at St. Johns, then over on Norman Island. Because she had just recently read Treasure Island, Miranda had been waiting to see the caves on Norman Island since our arrival. Normal Island is supposedly where Stevenson set his novel, and it is rumoured that there was (or still is) treasure in the caves.
The only treasures we found while snorkeling in the caves were pretty green sea anemonies, and silvery cave fish. There may have been some shiny doubloons about as barracuda are attracted to shiny things, and we saw a massive one as we swam back to the boat. But, more likely he was eyeing my watch or Miranda's ring.
After lounging in the cockpit with drinks in hand for happy hour we dropped the mooring and headed 5 minutes around the corner to The Bight in Norman Island. We dropped the hook and relaxed a bit more before starting the hard work of getting ourselves cleaned up for a night aboard the Willy T. The William Thornton is a floating bar and restaurant permanently moored in The Bight. It is named after a native Tortollan who was the designer of the United States Capitol building.
The three of us climbed into the small dinghy we have and rowed the 150 feet to the Willy T. Our dinghy is always quite a sight because it is so small, but with three people in it the waterline comes right up to the gunwales and we have to proceed very slowly. We made it over to to the Willy T, ate dinner and had a few drinks at the bar. I had heard that one could get a free tee-shirt for jumping off the top of the boat naked, and I after a couple of Rum and Cokes I was more than ready to get my free shirt. When I asked the bar tender what the deal was, she told me that the free shirt was only for women who jumped. Not one to be easily dissuaded, I decided I would at least swim back to Baggywrinkle. It was a beautiful night, so I handed my clothes over to Les and Miranda and jumped into the black water, which lit up all around me with green bioluminescence each time I stirred the water.
After recovering the next morning we pulled up the anchor and headed over to Road Town Harbor in Tortola. Anchoring in the bay we went ashore to check in with customs and arrange Les a flight from St. Martin to St. Thomas. With these chores done we wandered around town and found a nice marina with a restaurant where we downed a few burgers and beers. The facilities in Road Town were quite good, and we were able to fill with water and fuel as well as stock up on provisions before we headed out the next day for an overnight trip to St. Martin.
But, because we were provisioning all morning we didn't leave Road Harbor until three in the afternoon, and we quickly realized that the sail to St. Martin was going to be windy and hard on the nose. We decided to postpone the passage until early the next day, so we picked up a mooring at the Baths just off of Virgin Gorda. The moorings there aren't intended for overnight stays and it was a bit rough, but there was an advantage to being there all night. Early the next morning we were able to snorkel ashore and enjoy the majestic boulders, and quiet pools of the Baths without the hoards of tourists that usually roam the place. Within an hour or two all the moorings had been taken, and the cruise ships had delivered their loads. We snorkeled back to Baggywrinkle and prepared for our second departure as the masses began to arrive.
We had hoped that our delay of a day would have allowed the wind to back a little to the north, but we had no such luck. The wind was still East-North-East and we wanted to sail east, not a great combination. We cranked in the sails and pointed as high as we could, sailing first on one tack and then on the other. It was a frustrating passage as both Miranda and I were feeling a bit queasy, and we weren't even going directly where we wanted to go. Then to add to the fun when Les went to drop into his bunk on the first night he found a puddle of water next to his bed. I scrambled to close all the sea cocks and grabbed a bucket and sponge in order to bail the water out as quickly as possible. I didn't know really where it was coming from, but was fairly confident that there were no leaks I didn't already know about. On arrival, during our post voyage clean up, we found two empty Sprite cans in the drinks locker and I can only assume they were the culprits, having burst open during the trip.
We sighted St. Martin around noon the second day and we turned on the motor so we could motorsail into the wind and arrive before dark. We dropped the hook in Marigot Bay just before dusk, and cleaned the boat and ourselves up just enough to go ashore for a hearty meal.
Marigot is a lovely little French town with many restaurants and a fort overlooking the bay. Upon our arrival ashore the next morning we went to check in at customs, but found the office closed. So, instead we climbed up the hill to the fort where we found lovely views and some signs telling us about the island's history. We found our way down the hill again to the customs office which was now open and checked in with no trouble. The rest of the day was spent exploring the shops and lounging around a dinner table for three and a half hours (in true French fashion).
We awoke at the crack of dawn on the 13th to take Les into shore, as he had to find a taxi and make his way to the airport for his flight back to St. Thomas. The taxi drivers had assured him that they would be around first thing in the morning, but when we arrived at the taxi stand there was no one in sight. We waited and waited, but there was no sign of a taxi cab or any drivers. We tried calling, but the office was just inside from where we were standing, and while we could hear the phone ringing and ringing there was no one there to answer it. As the departure time for Les' flight was less than 40 minutes away we started getting a little anxious. Fortunately, just across the street there were a few guys washing a truck, and I suggested Les should ask them if they would give him a lift to the airport. They agreed and Les was on his way home, back to his new fiance. I returned to the boat and fell fast asleep for another few hours.