I am currently sitting in Shrimpy’s (www.shrimpys-stmaarten.com) in Marigot Bay (St Maartens). This is a great place for cruisers to meet, use the Internet and buy second hand goods. They also offer water and information on where to get things done in and around St Maartens. Mike and Sally who run the place will do laundry and also provide a radio net at 07:30 each morning for all cruisers. Discussion ranges from Safety and Security, new arrivals/departures, general info and weather. We managed to sell our lovely sat phone yesterday for half the price we brought it but at least it is not going to sit in a draw for the next 10 years loosing more of its value.
Well, I would love to share more photos and say we have been up to a lot in the past week but this would not be true. Firstly we have been stuck in Marigot Bay for 4 days whilst high winds blew through so due to this we will miss Anguilla this time round and head straight for Virgin Gorda tomorrow, which is in the BVI’s (British Virgin Islands), where we will meet a few friends and spend a month exploring the 54 islands that are there including Richard Branson’s.
I better start from the beginning of our trip instead of at the end. We left Jolly two days after being launched. We victualed, fuelled and prepared for a passage from Jolly Harbour to St Bart’s. We departed at 04:00 in the morning and had to complete 80 miles to Gustavia. With a clean bottom Troskala flew and averaged 6.6 knots. We made Gustavia 12 hours after departing, which is a record for us. We again anchored in the same place as we had before although the anchorage was packed as it was just coming to the end of their Richard Miller Regatta.
We walked around Gustavia and to Shell Beach the following day. We decided not to check-in this time and instead move on the Anse De Columbia for the night and then depart and head to St Maartens to explore this island further. We left Gustavia in the afternoon and all went well for the 2.7 miles until we reached the beach. I had recently fitted a longer painter to the dinghy, which was made out of an old halyard – big mistake. Carlotta was on the helm and as I dropped the anchor she engaged reverse. Thank God the anchor held as a split second later the engine cut out – a first for our engine. I did the stupid thing of re-starting it without finding the cause of the issue before but I guess that under stress we all do things we wish we could have not done. Luckily for us the engine again cut out and I quickly established that the painter was caught around our prop. For us we could not be in a better place, the water was clear and I was able to snorkel down to free the rope with the knife. No damage caused but a good lesson.
We spent one afternoon in Anse De Columbia before sailing the 12 miles to Philipsburg to pick up some duty-free alcohol and then onto Simpson Bay. We still cannot understand the excitement people have with St Maartens. The Dutch side is very developed and because that damaged. In Simpson Bay there is not a lot on offer except a long busy road with various restaurants and a Mac Donald’s. We spent our first day exploring with the dinghy the Lagoon but even this was not great and mainly consisted of chandleries and restaurants. The beaches are nice but the water is not clear.
We did not spent too long in Simpson Bay and instead decided to sail around the coast to the French side and anchor in Marigot Bay. We knew the wind would pick up and as soon as we rounded the corner we were hit with 35 knots of wind and one hour bashing under motor to get to Marigot Bay and the security of the anchorage.
Marigot Bay, along with the other bays: Grand Case and Anse Marcel are great spots. The French have managed to keep these places cultural instead of ruining them with hotels and cheap bars. Marigot itself is a lovely town with some good shopping but a local feel not forgetting Fort Louis, which is an old fort looking down onto the town and the bay. The people are friendly and the Supermarkets are cheap. Marigot has a great Shopping Centre and the highlight of one of my days was to ride an elevator for the first time in 10 months – we need to move on.
The wind increased whilst we were in Marigot but it was not a bad place to get stuck as it is fairly sheltered and there is a lot to occupy yourself in town should you wish to explore. The days lying at anchor gave me the opportunity to work on the engine and luckily I did. I have been having some problems getting charge through to our batteries from the alternator and I put this down to the belt slipping. I adjusted this and fixed the issue but to my horror, when adjusting the alternator I could actually move the engine. This was not good news and further inspection showed that all but one of our engine mountings were loose with two bolts missing. The engine is only a year old and I should have checked the mounts earlier but thank goodness it was checked now and all bolts are now tight and the engine is secure.
To some up St Maarten’s I would have to say that there are nicer islands in the Caribbean. If you have work to carry out on your yacht, then this is the place to do it. You can miss the Dutch side unless you like noise, cheap bars and need and Mac Donalds. If you like you can take a trip to Maho Bay and sit on a beach close to the runway and watch air craft land only a few meters above your head. We decided we did not want to be sand blasted and past on that option although in the guidebooks this is the only ‘must-see’ place, so that just sums up the Dutch half.
If you want quality, head to the North or North East coast. There are some great parties and great towns not top forget, culture, walks and great scenery. Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the island and you will not be disappointed.
Anyway, we need to press on and we will be heading to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow morning at 01:00AM. We have a lot to investigate and hope to spend a month there. We look forward to new islands and meeting up with some old friends, so watch this space.
Goodbye for now.