Monday, February 27, 2012

Returning to the BVI

Skipperette at the helm.
Before we left St. Martin, we took a long sail past Phillipsburg, the Dutch capital, and out toward Saba and back to Simpson Bay. It was perfect day for sailing! There is a point where you can see Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Bart’s, Saba, St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Statia (St. Eustatia). Granted some of them are way off on the horizon, but it is still a neat sight. And knowing you can see where you are going makes it more comforting when heading out on a new adventure!

We had a great sail from St. Martin to Virgin Gorda. Since I did not enjoy the overnight sail, we changed our approach for the return trip. We got up at 4 AM and left Simpson Bay on the Dutch side in the dark. There was only a sliver of a moon this time. Since we had entered way points into the chart plotter the night before, we just had to follow the lines on the chart plotter to safely make our way out of the bay and toward the BVI. The sunrise was beautiful.
The Captain at the helm in the early morning.
We could still see St. Martin and Anguilla when we were three hours away from them. The wind was perfect and the swells were comfortable so the day was lovely for a 13 hour sail. We each had several naps during the day and enjoyed the sunshine and warm breeze.

Seeing Virgin Gorda, BVI in the distance was also a welcome site as the day was very long! We entered Round Rock Passage just after 13 hours of sailing. Since we had to clear into Customs in Spanish Town, we headed north toward the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor.
Sunrise over St. Marten/Cint Marteen
When we could not find a good place to anchor, we gave in and went into the harbor and took a slip for the night. Actually, it was the right thing to do as the warm shower felt wonderful. Then a light dinner at the dockside bar, where I nearly fell asleep with my face in my plate, saved me from the galley. I crashed into bed right after dinner! And it was a great night’s sleep since there was no concern about the anchor holding.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dennis Is Becoming a Master Boat Mechanic

It's got to be here somewhere!
There is always work to be done on something on a boat. Either I am fighting with the electronics and Internet or Dennis is working on something mechanical or structural. Our generator is not working properly even though Lincoln has worked on it several times back at Nanny Cay. It keeps cutting off on us. Now we have Orin working on it here in Sint Marteen.

In the meantime, Dennis is watching in his usually observatory way and it picking up all kinds of information. He actually got it to work! But Orin is back again as the problem needs a permanent fix and not just a band-aid.

The walk to ACE Hardware shows how they live.
We made several trips to Budget Marine to find pieces to make it work. We even walked to a Super ACE Hardware. The guy at Budget Marine said it was just a 10 minute walk. HA! It was more like 20 minutes up hill with no sidewalk so you had to jump over the drain ditch to get off the road when vehicles came by you. Actually it was shorter coming back since we were coming down the hill! If you are in need of anything hardware in Sint Maarten, just ask for directions to ACE. It was the biggest ACE store I have ever seen. And it had what we needed! Amazing!
When "hungry", it takes a lot to fill Trillium 
When you think about a boat, you have to consider that it is a “town” within itself. It has to have its own power and water supply, as well as plumbing, refrigeration, lighting, heating and cooling, navigation, communication, etc. There are so many systems and so much to learn. I am no longer worried about Dennis not having some hobby or interest to keep his mind active if – and when – he actually decides to retire. He has a lifetime of learning to do with all of these systems!
I try to handle the electronics and communication areas with my limited knowledge. These include the computers, Internet, single side band radio, VHF radio, hand-held devices for back up, navigation equipment, etc. I, too, have a lot to learn and it is constantly changing. Since I have never had a HELP Desk to call when my equipment is on the blink, I have learned to apply my root cause analysis skills to figure out what needs to be done to fix the issue.

Sometimes your sailing plans have to be put on hold until you can solve whatever the day’s issue is! It is somewhat like building a new boat one part at a time! That is why we have so many spare parts on board.

Hooray! Orin has identified the problem and it is fixed! Now we have a generator in good working order! It was a relatively simple thing, but it was located on the backside of the generator where there is no room to work or get a good look at things!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Visiting the French Port of Marigot

Fort Louis Marina
Marigot is the capital of French St. Martin and sits on a beautiful sandy bay. On the ocean side, there is a large anchorage and Marina Fort Louis. There is a modern shopping mall adjacent to the marina and a small French market area along the water front. It is bustling and also duty free. The price of liquor here makes you want to load up the ship. But we are not into drinking a lot, so we will leave it here! Grey Goose lovers will die when they hear how inexpensive it is here! Absolute is cheaper than water! Rum is not as popular as it is in the Virgin Islands.

Interesting fountain at Fort Louis Marina
We walked to Marina Fort Louis looking for a fuel dock. Apparently they bring fuel trucks to the dock to fill the yachts rather than having tanks. I guess when the many super-yachts fuel up you need a truck full!

A trip though the shopping mall reminded me of the skinny French girls! The clothes were a little too chic and trendy for me. Dennis found a great pair of surfing trunks – or whatever they call them these days! He will be so stylish!

One of our favorite finds is the French patisserie, La Boulangerie Parisienne, and its French baguettes and croissants. Yumm! “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou …” We had a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant on the dock. What is it about eating outside under a starlit night along the water! It makes a gal drink too much wine! Then climb into a dinghy?

There are market areas throughout the islands where locals sell a variety of things: clothing, souvenirs, hats, tee shirts, and who knows what all. They tend to pop up on week-ends. And they seem to be prepared for the daily rains!

Internet on board the boat has been non-existent here. Apparently the huge yachts and all of their equipment create such interference that the signals do not travel into the bays or lagoon. It is even advised that if you subscribe to the local service and pay that you may not get a connection. It is easier – although inconvenient – to go ashore and take the computer in a water-proof bag. Once again having a virtual office is more challenging that we had envisioned! We did find McDonald’s on the Dutch side – not for the food, but for the Internet connection! Thank you, Mickey D’s!

Monday, February 13, 2012

You Never Know Who Will Grab Your Lines!

Having taken the dinghy into Customs on the Marigot Bay side to check in with the French immigration, we tried to find a spot to tie up at the dinghy dock and check out the neighborhood. There was not room at the dock so we headed in another direction and found a place where it was probably illegal to tie up, but we took our chances. Just as I was reaching to grab the cleat on the wall with our line, a lady grabbed the line to assist. I said “thank you.”

And she said, “Are you Denny Day?” to Dennis. It turned out that she was a friend from Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw, MI. She still lives there and was vacationing with her husband, who was Dennis’ father’s eye doctor, and two other couples from Saginaw. In fact, one of the gals had just played bridge with Dennis’ sister-in-law, Barbara! Small world!

We had a very enjoyable lunch with them at Café de Paris. Wonderful salads! Everyone caught up on the past years and a recent class reunion Dennis missed because we were at the Annapolis Boat Show and working on the boat electronics with Paul.

Dennis took the guys out to see the boat while we gals checked out the shops and galleries.

We all agreed that the message we have told our children is true:
Mind your manners no matter where you are because you never know who you might see you and know who you are!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Living in Simpson Bay Lagoon

Trillium at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon
Apparently Simpson Bay Lagoon is a favorite long-term anchorage for many cruisers. We have seen 6-7 boats from the Caribbean 1500 and Atlantic Cup rallies anchored here. It is a good stopping place to rest as you travel up and down the island chain. Inside the lagoon, the water is calm and free of swells. The waves come from the dozens of dinghies running around since your dinghy is your “car” in this neighborhood. There are also day tours from the large marinas and hotels taking scores of dinghies out to explore.

We have spent most of our time on land on the French side in the area of Marina Port la Royale. It looks like a picturesque European seaport with restaurants all around the docks on the lagoon side.

The area near the lagoon has a number of boutiques and galleries. I found a wonderful gallery owned by a watercolor painter. I could only wish to paint with such lightness and fluidity as he does. I had to buy a small piece just to remind me of his style. Like most art purchased on vacation: it won’t fit in with our northern décor! But I loved it!

A view down the dock ...
All of the restaurants “encourage” you to take a seat in their establishment. Since all of them display their menus on the dock, it is fun to walk along and read the menus before deciding where to take a table. You can tell who has the best food – or the best hustlers – by the crowds dining in each. Lunch seems to be busier than dinner. Personally, once we returned to the boat at the end of a day of exploring, I preferred to eat on board and relax in the cockpit rather than run through the lagoon in the dark to find a restaurant.

It is somewhat challenging to dinghy into the restaurant areas at night in the dark and often with waves lapping at your bottom. Yes, your bottom – not the dinghy’s. There is a reason sailors wear quick drying clothes! More than once I have 
 ... and from one restaurant.
climbed onto a dock (not too gracefully, either) with a wet butt! No one seems to notice as it comes with the lifestyle!

The best part of the area is eating or having a beverage outside in these open-air restaurants - especially when you recall the cold temperatures back in Michigan. I can see us becoming "snowbirds" even though we both enjoy winter and snow. But there is something so wonderful about being in sunny warm breezy weather!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Arriving at St. Martin/Sint Maarten

Entering Simpson Bay with the blue drawbridge ahead

It was a short trip from Road Bay, Anguilla to Simpson Bay, St. Martin. You can easily see from one island to the other. The passage between the two islands can’t be more than 8 miles across, but it is about 12 miles from Road Bay harbor around to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. After rounding the western tip of Anguilla, you can see the beautiful Shoal Bay on its southwest side. Then just across the passage you can see Marigot Bay, St. Martin – the French side of the island

We had been advised to enter Simpson Bay Lagoon from the Simpson Bay bridge due to our 7’draft. Since the bridge only opens three times a day, we anchored in Simpson Bay and spent the afternoon reading while waiting for the 1730 (5:30 PM) inbound opening. They allow the outbound traffic to go one hour earlier; then they drop the bridge for vehicle traffic until the inbound scheduled opening.

Super Yachts on the Dutch side
It was interesting watching all of us jockey for position and try to maintain proper distance from one another. I certainly did not want to be first through the opening since I had never done it before and had absolutely no clue where to go after we made it through the bridge. Of course, we looked at the charts which are very confusing with the super yachts solidly packed into the marinas on the starboard side and the end of the airport runway on the port side.

You have to follow along the edge of the marina docks and through a dredged canal to get into the middle area of Simpson Bay. It is extremely shallow and the sun was setting. That made it hard to see the small unlit buoys in the shadows – especially the green ones in the dark water. We were following several other boats – hoping they knew what they were doing. Truly the blind leading the blind!

The rest of us on the French side!
Our goal was to get over to the French side of the bay. That is where all of the smaller (as in under 75 – 200+ feet sailboats go. At 48.5 feet we look like a super yachts toy! Fortunately with the darkness setting in we managed to set the anchor on the first try. But we found ourselves in the main thoroughfare for every dingy and tender in the bay running between the French side and the Dutch side. We would move the next day!

It was equal distance to the French and Dutch area of commerce once we settled into a good anchorage so we spent a lot of time running back and forth in the dinghy.