|The view of Marigot Bay from Fort St. Louis.|
|A row of little French restaurants peaks the taste buds.|
We walked around for a while trying to track down a cash machine to get some Euros (after later finding out the everyone readily accepts US dollars). We then tried one of the sidewalk cafes for our favorite cheese and jamon on a baguette. Not bad, but not great.
|Local vendors provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for local cruisers and cruise ship passengers.|
|Nutmeg and the surrounding mace.|
|That's not a spaceship, it's the experimental Turanor-Planet Solar catamaran.|
On Sunday May 19th we decided to explore over on the Dutch side of the island, entering a little canal under a swing bridge off of Marigot Bay. Just at the end of the canal was Timeout Boatyard where our buddy boat, Field Trip, who we'd last seen in Salinas, Puerto Rico, was hauled out having new bottom paint installed. It was weird to climb up a ladder to visit them, but it was great to see everyone again, even if the boat was in a little disarray with all the work being done. Sara had made friends with two other "kid boats," Ulydia and Seashell, and Elizabeth and Michael were enjoying having kids their own age to play with. After a short visit we continued on across a very shallow inner lagoon called Simpson Bay, under a new bridge being built on the Dutch side, and over to Sint Maarten.
|Paul and Shery Shard on Distant Shores.|
|The Sint Maarten Yacht Club where we moor our dingy.|
On Monday the 20th we decided to move the boat from Marigot Bay inside to Simpson Lagoon. This is more complicated than it sounds. It turns out the lagoon is very shallow in spots and you need the "secret" map sold by Shrimpy's Laundromat to navigate your way in. We caught the 8:15 am swing bridge opening on the French side and very carefully motored along the waypoints on the map. Luckily the shallowest water we saw was around 6 ft. 5 inches compared to our 6 ft. 1 inch draft. We anchored near the new Dutch bridge that's under construction near a point of land called Witches Tit, along with about 100 other boats. The advantage of this area is it's right on the border between the French side and the Dutch side. If you anchor on the Dutch side, you will most likely get visited by the efficient Dutch Coast Guard and have to pay a daily anchoring fee. On the French side no one seems to care much about anything.
One of the negatives about anchoring in the French side of the lagoon is a serious security problem with theft. It seems that about every other day on the morning radio net there is a report about a dingy or motor being stolen. Our friend Mark on Field Trip is especially security conscious and we were surprised one morning to hear him on the net telling about the attempted theft of his dingy while they were having drinks not more than 100 ft. away. According to local lore a gang of young thieves, working for older gang members, steal the dinghies to get the outboard motors. The dinghies are taken out in the harbor and sunk and the motors sold on the black market. The local police or gendarmes seem apathetic about tracking down the thieves. On the Dutch side, however, the Dutch police are very diligent and theft is a much smaller issue.
A 3/8" stainless steel chain and a state of the art outboard motor lock will only slow down the local thieves.
The next day we just lazed around on the boat and then went in and walked around the other half of the Dutch side. The cool thing about the Dutch side is they have not one, but two huge marine supply stores, Island Water World and Budget Marine. For sailors like us who have been cruising for almost two years, between the two stores they had about 90% of the replacement parts we had been looking for. Over the two weeks we were in St. Martin, I must have visited the stores daily. The availability of groceries, parts and supplies made St. Martin one of our more favorite islands.
We had a serious problem, however, in that my iPhone 3GS (a very old iPhone) finally died. I tried all the tricks I could think of but couldn't get it to work. Since I eat, work and breathe with my iPhone, my life had ended as far as I knew. While visiting an electronics store I found out that they sold iPhones. I made the impulsive decision to buy a new unlocked iPhone 5 (major $). Once I got back to the boat I transferred everything that was on the old iPhone via iTunes to restore all the apps to the new phone. I was a whole (but much poorer) person once again. We then found a Telcell office where we got a local SIM card (hence the need for unlocked phones) and we finally had reliable phone and Internet accessibility. The only downside was days later while trying to get Meryl's iPhone 4 unlocked, I found out that the electronics store had an in-house whiz kid who could fix anything, including my old iPhone. Turns out the battery I had just had installed in Hong Kong a year earlier had failed. Oh, well, now we have a back up phone.
|Beach at Philipsburg where cruise ship passengers enjoy the sun.|
|The open air market at Philipsburg.|
|The Georgia McRae honorary t-shirt.|
As a side note, having been brought up in the world of building codes, OSHA, etc. I'm always amazed by what passes as building standards in foreign countries. Hong Kong was my favorite, but I think this plumbing in Philipsburg is in contention for first place.
|Sue from Macushla and Jack from Escape Velocity celebrate Sue's birthday.|
This began a social whirl that included dinner at Flying Cloud the next night, then on to Escape Velocity the fifth night for some incredible sushi.
|I'm not a vegan but I sure like having dinner with them.|
|I can't tell you how great is is to have a well stocked chanderly nearby.|
|This has to be one of the most photographed spots in the Caribbean, especially when the planes are landing from the opposite direction and just 100 ft over the beach.|
|The Sunset Beach Bar lists the arrival times for local flight on a surfboard outside the bar.|
|A walk on the beautiful white sand beach at the end of the runway with Marce and Jack off Escape Velocity.|
|Drinks at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.|
|Overview of Marigot Bay on the French side of St. Martin.|
|A local saluting the French for their fabulous service in local restaurants.|
|Despite their lackluster service, the French do make some of the best food in the world.|