Thursday, February 9, 2012

Exploring St. Martin with the Thrushes January 18- February 7, 2012

We departed  from Virgin Gorda on a 14 hour  bash up-wind and against the current  and  eight foot seas (including seasickness for one of us who shall remain nameless)  for St. Martin, to meet up with Di’s old friends John and Diana Thrush.  John and Diana have a condo at Simpson Bay right next to the drawbridge channel, and have been coming here regularly for 20 years.  They really know the island!  We were able to get to St. Martin, anchoring out at Marigot on the French side,  a couple of days before they  arrived, so we had a chance to rest up, clean up, clear in with customs, and wander around Marigot a bit. 

We explored the town,  practiced our French language skills (haha) , and hiked up to Fort Louis, the eighteenth  century fort built to defend Marigot from marauding English privateers which gave us great views of the town and the harbor .

With strains of Jimmy Buffett’s  “He Went to Paris” playing in our heads, we jumped into our exploration of French culture by stocking up on inexpensive yet luscious wines and cheeses, as well as pastries, of which Di made her personal mission to taste as wide a variety as possible.  Randy concentrated on sausages, with numerous several varieties novel to us, and which were delectable.  We also became almost daily visitors to the bakery, where we bought a freshly baked baguette or two to make awesome sandwiches with the sausages and cheeses.  Somehow we did not gain weight at this port o’call!
We hooked up with John and Diana soon after they arrived. They showed us a great day at the Sunset Beach Bar, located at the end of the international airport’s runway and which is known for getting blasted with the engine wash from incoming and outgoing commercial and private jets.  What a hoot! It’s one of their favorite hangouts.

A couple of days later, we went to Karakter, a beach bar made out of an old bus right on Simpson Bay, where we lounged all day on the pristine  beach and enjoyed a  delicious lunch on the beach, complete with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and Juan, our Catalan cabana boy.  Later in the afternoon, John and Diana took us back to show us their condo, right on the canal leading into the lagoon.  We noticed several signs welcoming Laura Dekker at the end of her record-breaking solo circumnavigation, and what do you think happened?  We were right on the balcony overlooking the channel when she arrived.  We got some great pictures! You should have heard the sound-  the superyachts and megayachts  in the harbor sounded their horns, and making a magnificent sound tribute for this brave  young woman. 

We got into the rhythm of meeting up with John and Diana about every other day, with off-days spent  working on boat projects or doing  housekeeping chores. The next day we got together with them, we were able to show them a new side of St. Martin; we all piled into our dinghy with a picnic lunch of baguette sandwiches, olives, wine and water and  putt-putted along the beach from Marigot to the channel.  We entered the lagoon under the drawbridge on the French side, and cruised around looking at all the fabulous boats, as well as some oddball boats, wrecked boats, cool houses, landscape etc.  We went to the Budget Marine and the Chinese market on the Dutch side, and cruised Marina Royale on the French side.  We returned to Sinbad and had some more snacks while lounging in the cockpit. It was nice to be able to share a new facet of the island with John and Diana.
For the next excursion, John and Diana picked us up and we toured around the island, from Marigot to Basse Terre with it’s lovely gated mansions, through bustling  Phillipsburg on the Dutch side.

We continued up to Orient Beach where we lounged for most of the day.  We walked the beach to the south, and had a peek at the “naturist” beach, with all the nekkid people!!  Thankfully, all of them were regular people, no movie stars, and it was just too much fun people-watching!!!  Afterward, we returned to our beach spot near the Bikini Bar, with all the Buddhas and also a tasty homemade banana rum.  A two man band, a guitar and trumpet player, were playing; it was smoooooth music, really nice. 

 As the sun got lower, we headed back to Marigot via Grand Case, the Key West of St. Martin.

After another day apart, John and Diana took us for another day at Karakter, lounging there all day long on the beautiful beach.  We went back to their condo where they treated us to luxurious, free-flowing hot showers (we don’t get those on Sinbad), and to check the weather on the internet (since we also don’t get that on Sinbad.  It was time for us to start watching for the weather window for returning to St. Thomas, since we have appointment for our new bimini to be installed. (A bimini is an absolute necessity for living on a boat in the tropics-we are frying in the sun without it, and it’s still only January).
For our next day together, John and Diana picked us up again and took us to see Oyster Pond on the East side of the island. 

We stopped there for refreshment and watched the weather come in- super windy, glad we weren’t sailing that day!   At this beach is a giant log, possibly teak, which washed up after a hurricane and probably came from Africa.  At any rate, it is huge, and extremely hard wood , and has spent some time in the ocean as is evidenced by the shipworm (teredo) holes in the surface.  That log, if teak, is probably worth $80K as is!

  After this, we continued on to Phillipsburg, where we strolled among the scores of duty free shops. They have redeveloped the waterfront into a really nice promenade, golden sand beach on one side and shopping on the other, and only minutes from the cruise ship docks.  Randy got into jammin’ on the steel drum with a local musician. 

 We had a great lunch at the Green House, where John and Diana are VIPs, dining on crab-stuffed grouper with garlic cream sauce--out of this world. 

On our last foray with the Thrushes, we went back to Orient beach, enjoyed our beach day, checked out the naturist beach again (sorry, no photos!), enjoyed another baguette-cheese-sausage-olive  picnic lunch, and sampled homemade  passion fruit, banana, and pineapple rums at the Bikini Bar. Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Grand Case to have our supper at a “lolo”, a local barbeque restaurant.  We enjoyed great BBQ ribs and stuffed blue crab, as well as a gratinee of christophene squash and boudin noir (blood sausage, mild and tasty).

 We have heard that the French are not particularly friendly or welcoming in general. This was not our experience in St. Martin. We were shown kindness and good humor frequently, and most people were at least tolerant, and sometimes encouraging, of our efforts to remember and practice our French.  The girls at the Bikini bar will laugh whenever they hear that “La truyot est casse”!

 After a 14 hour downwind sail, we arrived back in St. John,USVI. We pulled into Francis Bay a day early, and met up with Gord and Suzanne of "Ocean Wings", a Canadian Whitby 55 ketch whose blog we had read while back in Michigan. Good people.  On Sunday, February 5, we headed to the beach in Francis Bay to celebrate the birthday of Fatty Goodlander, a sailing author.  We’ve been reading his articles since the early 80’s and he’s given us good information via email on sailing a ketch. We met him and his wife in person and enjoyed meeting lots of local St. John folks at the beach party. Fatty sang and played his guitar, and other musicians joined in. 

There was a picnic table loaded with delcious food, and swimming too.  Plus we met up with Paddy O'Donnel of "Rita T", a Whitby friend from the rendezvous in Maryland, and also Vince DaRusso, who owns a Whitby in Italy and is an old friend of Fatty's.  Then we headed back to Crown Bay for the installation of the Bimini top. It should be finished by Feb.8 , and not a moment too soon.  We are getting sun-baked and rain-drenched almost daily. After that, we are currently planning to visit the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques before returning to St. Thomas one last time before we head down-island for the spring (at last!).
Well, off to work now!
All the best, Di

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