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.

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