Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mexican Night

It has been a hot and balmy week in the Lagoon. The trade winds have died and boats have been swinging limply on their anchors. At night a beautiful golden moon has been shone across the bay. It has been another crazy week of running here and there. Sim has been busy on other peoples’ boats fixing auto-helms and servicing engines all while trying to put our boat back together after the varnishing I have done. Wednesday we stopped in at the boulangerie on the French side, taking advantage of their free wifi and foot long pain aux chocolates! That evening we joined the cruisers get together at Barnacles to catch up with our friends for a beer

After all the indulgences of the day before, on Thursday we decided to get some exercise so climbed to the top of Fort Louis to the north of Marigot Bay on the French side. This took us all of 10 minutes and left us out of breath and dripping in sweat!! The views were fantastic, but now we desperately needed to cool off and so trudged our way back down to Marigot where stopped off outside the lagoon for a dip in the bay.

The week raced by and Friday arrived. Being Good Friday, almost everything is closed. Except of course for Lagoonies, where we all meet up on a Friday night. This is Open Mic night where people bring along their instruments and we listen to live music. It was a lively night where the whole bar was singing and people where dancing before eventually being kicked out!! The party moved on to Stingos’ boat where we carried on the music and singing until 2am!! Yes another late night for us!! Unbelievable, but practice does make perfect!

Last Saturday we had a rum punch party on “Irie”. This Saturday we had a Mexican night on “Mojomo” which loosely translates into a tequila night. Although most of us were feeling jaded from the night before, we gathered on “Mojomo” a huge, beautiful catamaran; the perfect place for another get together. We are a multi national group, 6 of us are British including “Imagine of Falmouth” and “Mojomo”. We also have an American, a Canadian, a Belgian, a German, a South African and a New Zealander. Ages vary from 27 – 60 plus. But all this is pretty irrelevant out here where anything goes. The food was fab with chilli con carne and fajitas and burritos, oh, and of course Tequila. I think we have all mastered the art of making a fine Margarita now. Liz from “Gudrun” made delicious cinnamon rolls for dessert. By the end of the evening we were liquored up and pigged out. And then Jenga was bought out! Try playing that on a moving boat!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Busy week in St Martin

St Martin is an Island divided, half of it is French and has a very European feel to it; the currency is the Euro, the dinning is fine and the whole ambience is very French chic. While the other half, known as Sint Maarten, belongs to the Netherlands Antilles. Despite its European counterpart, it is the more Americanized, using the US dollar and appealing to those with a more hedonistic nature with bars and restaurant abound. But both share a laid back atmosphere with some of the most stunning beaches with turquoise seas, white-gold sand and bright blue skies. The whole island is duty free and is the shopping centre of the Caribbean. Every year cruisers flock here to take advantage of the duty free chandleries and the weekly get togethers. It’s a big party atmosphere and there is always something going on. This is the 4th time we have been to St Martin. It’s almost a home away from home, except for Grenada perhaps. We have come to know a few people, both land and sea based and many of them are here right now.

This week has been a particularly busy week with our diary being chock-a-block. Tuesday night we had curry night aboard “Alianna” with our friends Mark and Liesbet from “Irie” and Axel and Liz from “Good Run”. Wednesday was John from “Stingos’” birthday, where we were invited over for a fabulous roast lamb, red wine and musical evening. Thursday was a rare night in, before Friday night arrived with live music at Lagoonies and another late night for us (honestly its after 11pm when we get in!). Saturday “Irie” hosted a rum punch tasting party to determine their favourite flavour with a large group of us on board and a chance for us to catch up with Sam and Jon from "Imagine of Falmouth" who we hadn't seen for ages. Needless to say the evening deteriorated quickly! Thank goodness Sunday is a day of rest.

The yachting community is huge, from the massive mega yachts of the rich and famous, to the tiny sail boats with no more than two beer cans to rub together. But the size of your boat doesn’t matter – what matters is we are all here, enjoying the fun together. There is a real sense of camaraderie. Living on a boat means that you are vulnerable to certain elements, particularly the weather and the sea. A bright sunny morning can turn into a storm ridden afternoon, where the winds howl and the boat bucks like bucking bronco. Most people choose to anchor inside the lagoon that is half French and half Dutch. But the holding for anchors is poor on a weedy bottom. As the winds pick up and wind generators screech, VHF radios buzz and crackle into life as boats start to drag and concerned boaters make calls trying to locate the missing owners. Only yesterday Sim and I went ashore and got the bus to the colourful capital of the Dutch side, Philipsberg for a spot of retail therapy. It was hot and sunny and by midday we were worn out by the heat. By the time we got back to the boat the sky was clouding over and turning black. Little by little the winds started to pick up along with torrential rain. We can see Catamaran “Stingo” a friend of ours, dragging but he seems to be in control. We start our engine, incase we start to drag onto a lee shore (not a place a boat wants to be…without water beneath its keel!!), when we notice that the Catamaran “Cool Cat” behind us is broad side to the wind and making its way to the airport behind us (yes we are anchored right by the airport!). No one is on board. Sim puts a shout out on the VHF radio to see if he can locate the owners but they are not around. So he goes and picks up Mark from “Irie” and they go across and rescue Cool Cat before any damage can happen. A few boats dragged anchor but due to the rescue from other cruisers no harm came to any them. We are fortunate to have but also reliant upon the support of the cruising community. The winds calmed down but adrenalin was still running high. After a flurry on the radio with all our friends we decided that we needed to go ashore and have a beer….it is after all 5pm and happy hour has just begun.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunset Beach Bar - On the beach, on the runway!

In St Maarten, the planes practically land on the beach and where there is a beach; there is also a beach bar. So what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon then on the beach; on the runway and at the beach bar. This may not sound like a great way to spend the afternoon, but it is awesome experience to watch the planes land and take off right next to you.

A road crosses the end of the Juliana airport, on the other side of the road is the beach that looks out to the Caribbean Sea. Far off in the distance you can see the planes approaching as a tiny black spec in the blue sky. As they get closer a crowd develops on the beach and watches as the plane gets closer and closer, bigger and bigger, until the sound is deafening and the plane is almost on top of you. You feel you could almost reach up into the sky and touch it with your finger tips. Then before you know it, the plane has whooshed past you and is screeching to a halt just a few hundred meters away.

If that’s not enough excitement for one day, then try standing behind a bowing 747 as it powers its engines to full thrust before releasing the breaks and taking off. Anything that is not tied down blows into the sea, a sandstorm erupts blasting your bare skin with a thousand tiny pin pricks and the force physically moves you. We were told it was a good idea to take a snorkel mask so you can watch the event rather then turn away to protect your eyes. In between landings and take-offs, our thirst is quenched at the Sunset Beach Bar where flight arrivals and departures are written up for the day on a surfboard and where topless girls drink for free. Lucky for me I had Sim and our friend John from catamaran Stingo to keep me in drinks! We finished the evening with Happy Hour drinks and dinner aboard Alianna.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weekend mini break in French St Martin

On Saturday morning we left St Martins inner lagoon for a mini break on one of the sun drenched beaches on the French side. We were aiming for the early 8.15 am bridge opening and slowly weaved our way through all the anchored boats trying not to go aground in all the shallow areas with our 6ft draft. We made the bridge with a couple of other boats and passed out onto the French Marigot Bay where we passed the impressive Mirabella V. We slowly put, put, putted our way around the corner northwards to Friars Bay. Our friends Mark and Liesbet on catamaran "Irie" were joining us; they even went to the extra effort of raising their sails for the short jaunt to give them an airing. We must be getting very lazy as we didn't even put our jib out! Friars Bay is fringed with palm trees and white sandy beach. It is a popular spot with tourists, lined with beach bars with sun umbrellas and loungers. We dropped the anchor into crystal clear water; even though it was 5 meters deep we could clearly see the anchor on the bottom. After lunch "Irie" picked us up in their dinghy and took us to the beach. We walked over a small hill to a beach on the other side known as Happy Bay. As we climbed down the hill on the other side we caught glimpses of iridescence blues through the palm trees.

Happy bay is certainly that. Young (am I old already!) scantily clad people were playing ball on the beach, Seagrape trees offered shady respite to young families and dogs were frolicking in the sand. We spent a nice afternoon chilling on the beach and swimming in the beautiful but slightly cold sea. That night "Irie" joined us for dinner where Sim and I made them a meat and pasrty pie that we called the Pierie,in honour of their boat name and the product they sell from their boat (The Wirie – long range marine wifi). We ate so much we could barely move.

Sunday we chilled on board taking a refreshing dip in the sea in the afternoon, checking to see if the bottom of our boat was starting to grow its own eco system (it wasn't) and watching rays and finding sand dollars. That evening we joined "Irie" on their boat for another feast.

We had every intention of staying out a few more days but a swell had been forecasted to arrive from the north that could make this bay untenable so we left early on Monday morning and made the 8.30 bridge back into the lagoon. Where, we were ready to start another week in the hectic fast paced life of St Martin!