Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From St. Martin to St. Barths and Antigua Jan-13-Feb.12, 2013

Our departure from North Sound, Virgin Gorda was pressured by two events.  Firstly, our visas were expired, and the Customs and Immigration at Gun Creek would not extend it;  Sinbad, however, was cleared in for another two weeks! Secondly, a massive north swell was on its way and the choice was go now or wait a week. Since a short break in the week of gale force winds coincided with these events, we went.

As usual, we motored into the teeth of the wind, which topped out at a blustery 32 knots rather than the 18-20 knots  predicted.  Trip took 18 endless hours, and the boat was tossed and twisted more violently than at any time since TS Sean. Books flew off the shelf, a hammer and hacksaw fell out of the cabinet onto the bed (fortunately we were not in it).  Sinbad was trashed, and we were exhausted. The following day, Di slept for 14 hours straight, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 am the next morning.

The big north swell rolled in as predicted, and we spent a day and sleepless night rolling wildly in Marigot Bay.  We decided to move into the sheltered smooth waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon.  Giant 13’ rollers were breaking in the channel into the lagoon from the French side, turning it into a shoal of raging water, so we motored around to the Dutch side of the island to enter the Lagoon.  Peace and quiet at last.
Anchorage in Simpson Bay Lagoon.

It’s good to be back in La Belle St. Martin!  The baguettes are warm and crispy, the wine inexpensive, and the variety of mouthwatering, rich pates and terrines, and savory cheeses is dazzling. And then there’s the pastry! Randy has made a mission of sampling several different fermented sausages, and has discovered cornichons (dill gherkins, crunchy and tart!)

And did I mention the pastries?  Apple Tarte...mmmmm.

Since this is the last stop for “accessible” and “affordable” marine parts and services ‘til Trinidad, we got to work.  Di installed double blocks with cam cleats on the running backstays to replace the inadequate original rigging; now we can cinch them down taut. We consulted with a sail maker about the “poorly cut” mizzen sail, and were pleased to find that only a slug was needed at the outboard end to pull it down.  So we ordered it up, and installed properly sized cars for the luff, repaired to a torn batten pocket, added a new batten. Randy fixed a stubborn leaky deck hatch.  After the rough week at the dock during gales at Leverick Bay, our old dock lines finally gave up the ghost after chafing badly.  We replaced them with 40’ twisted line, and Randy replaced our original tiny mooring line chocks with large ones which will accommodate mooring and spring lines and chafing gear with less wear and tear. Di installed new door buttons on the lazarettes- the old ones had foot-gouging closures and were disintegrating with corrosion.

We enjoyed our favorite places in St. Martin; the Cafe de Mer overlooking the harbor, the straw market in Marigot, and the hike up to Fort Louis. 
Randy at Fort Louis
Overlooking Marigot

We sailed up to Grande Case to enjoy the quaint town, the cheap and cheerful local food at the "lolos", and the first Tuesday street carnival of the season. 

Grande Case, St. Martin
 Bands played, vendors sold food, jewelry and all kinds of things and a carnival parade with dancers was the highlight.  Interestingly, both in the market in Marigot and in the parade in Grande Case, talented local drum corps performed, beating out lively,compelling Afro-fusion rhythms.

Grande Case Street Carnival

We met up with Kiwi friends Bill and Deb on  Four Winds, whom we met in Curacao and saw in Bonaire and St. Thomas. We also met Ed and Elizabeth on Skylark, who are friends with Bruce and Maureen on Memory, Whitby pals we hung out with in Culebra and Antigua.

We called our friends John and Diana Thrush to see if they were going to be on island in their condo.  “Yes, tomorrow! ” came the answer.  After a day of settling in, they met us at the Yacht club and kicked off a week of intensive merry-making, starting at 10 am each day and running ‘til our stamina gave out.

                                                    "They're just talking,let's dance"

Enjoying SXM with Diana  and John

We visited Phillipsburg and dined at the Greenhouse, spent the day at Karakter Beach Bar, and ended up at the Sunset Beach Bar watching incoming aircraft thunder in for a landing a stone’s throw from the pub.  After bidding them a fond farewell… until income tax time… we needed to rest and recuperate!

We moved up to Grand Case again, and after a couple of days sailed down to St. Barths, the Beverly Hills of the Caribbean.  The weather was settled, which made our anchorage in relatively open Corossol Bay comfortable enough. We cleared in, and scouted the town to get oriented. Mega-yachts line the inner harbor, where six figure docking fees are common.

Gustavia is picturesque, where old Swedish and French colonial buildings blend tastefully with new buildings in the colonial style. Cobbled streets lined with exclusive retailers like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and Roberto Cavalli. Randy was in shopping-heaven….not!  His unerring navigation led us to Le Select, Jimmy Buffet's old hangout, where we enjoyed refreshments and people watching.

Check out the admission price!

Unbeknownst to the French authorities, Di has been spending hours studying French with Rosetta Stone and she unleashed her new language skills on the unsuspecting population.  With good results! Most people were encouraging and helped out with words and phrases, and some even offered that most people here speak fluent English.  It’s been fun and she will keep studying in preparation for the assault on Martinique.

We rented a car – a jazzy Mini Cooper Sport convertible- which Randy bravely piloted around the island.

Randy taking a break.
It’s pretty mountainous. The roads were designed for donkey traffic, and are a lane and a half wide with lots of switchbacks.  Traffic is pretty heavy, since wealthy visitors like to have their own wheels.  So we passed by beaches, villas, and villages where you have to park in the picker bushes and over the curb if you want to see the sights.


We needed a break and fled to the Cote au Vents, the dry SE coast, less built up and with wider roads.  We picnicked, swam and lounged at clothing-optional Saline Beach for the rest of the afternoon.

We were relieved at last to turn in the rental car in one piece after the final sprint for Gustavia.

The next day Di shopped in Gustavia, though it was window shopping only.  All the cute clothes, even tank tops with a bit of lace trim, cost well over $100 Euros (1Euro=1.30 USD). We especially liked the Louis Vuitton hammock made of Fine Corinthian Leather, priced to sell!!! at $35,000. I’d hate to spill my Koolade on that!
We've ordered His and Hers for Sinbad.....

We got to see a bit of the Childrens Carnival parade, everyone in costume, and again , an awesome drum corps providing the rhythm groove.  Love the drums on the French Islands!
"Chic" starts young in St. Barths!

The last day, we dinghied ashore and explored the fishing village of Corassol, nearest our boat. They still do fish commercially from there, and we passed little houses where traditional palm weaving is still done: hats, bottle sleeves, place mats, skillfully woven by descendants of the Norman fishermen who lived here. The village is friendly and as yet unspoiled by the influx of wealth.  We chatted with the owner and customers of a little grocery store during a rain squall, enjoyed the quiet and peace of the village.

Delicate palm work

Our Whitby friends Paddy and Hannah invited us via Facebook to hang with them at Paddy’s brother’s home during St. Barths’ famous Carnival, starting February 12.  It would have been such fun, and especially nice to catch up with Paddy and Hannah- wise, witty and fun people- but the extended weather outlook was ominous for us in the exposed anchorage, and we thought it best to get over to Antigua while the fair weather held.  Di flies out of Antigua later and we did’t want to crowd that date too closely.
Our neighbor in the anchorage, megayacht "A" of Hamilton,
owned by Russian billionaire and his supermodel wifey.
Sinbad in Corossol Bay

So we sailed for Antigua.  The seas and winds were mild, and in 17 hours we made Jolly Harbour and dropped anchor.  A day later, the weather came on as predicted by weather guru Chris Parker:

"Seas along Northern Caribbean become tonight/tomorrow morning a horrendous washing machine of large North swell and large-and-steep seas from ENE,...Strong NE-ENE winds thru tonight..."

The winds gusted into the low 30's overnight and continue to blast  today.  The swells rolling through this protected anchorage periodically lift us and sweep by, breaking on the rocks and making the boat creak and groan.  Only one boat started to drag down on us, but the Danish crew woke up and reset their anchor. We’re glad to be anchored snug in this protected harbor!  
...slowly dragging down...

The picture doesn't show wind and swells...
Compare to the same view yesterday!

1 comment:

  1. Hey.. nice post. Was checking out posts about St. Martin when I chanced upon this. Not much of a sailor but love going on cruises. Still remember our last visit to the place. It is a beautiful place. And I don't think I can do justice to it by trying to describe how good it was. We were put up in a beach house rental in St. Martin and we had a great view of the beautiful beach all through the stay. :)