Monday, January 28, 2013

St. Barts

We were thinking of heading into the Customs and Immigration dock at Anguilla to get our clear-out-ance for the next day when an IP370 cruised into the harbour and anchored.  In short time, Richard and Jan from Morpheus of London popped by on their way to clear in.  We made a date to have afternoon beers at Johnno's near the C & I dock.

Spent a nice couple of hours talking about our favourite boats… Island Packets… and our individual histories with our boats.  Turns out they have similar cruising plans - so even though we left the next day for St. Barts we expect that we will see more of them down the way.

We had an interesting trip to St. Barts.  Only 32 miles but we thought we would be able to sail more of it.  Wind was variable… so sail/motor/motor-sail for 6 hours.

We arrived in St. Barts with wonderfully charged batteries!
Too cheap to pay rent in the harbour?
Super Yacht "A" designed by Starck.  Hmmmmmm?!
Cruised into the harbour to have a look, fully intending to anchor out - because we are poor/cheap sailors and can't afford St. Barts prices and because we have never done a stern tie and it terrifies us.

The harbour looked fascinating and we were put off by the anchorages.  Boats everywhere.  We would have had to do the French charterer's anchoring technique.  Come right in beside someone, anchor too close and put out bumpers if anyone raised an eyebrow.
Another toy
Now that's a cool boat... tied stern-to
Pam said a stern, "Non!" to the stern-to but Glen, not understanding the French word for "No" headed back into the harbour to attempt our first stern-to tie.  Well, whoop-de-doo… turns out we are experts.  The wind was blowing the right direction… we dropped the anchor 100 feet out and let the wind drift our stern to the wall.  Like we had done it a million times.  

So, two nights in St. Barts is about $50 per night - includes water (but you have to pay extra for it), showers and all the French speaking you want.  We had showers, walked around the town, took in all the sights.  Pretty nice.  It was VERY quiet on a Sunday.  Most things closed.
Now that's an anchor
Next day we had a morning breakfast walk for croissants et cafe (can't find the accent on this keyboard) and then struck out for Fort Gustav.  Nice walk up… even nicer back down… then into Tom's Grocery for baguette, ham and cheese for our lunch picnique back on Blue Pearl.  Wonderful!!
Cafe and croissants in Gustavia harbour
Blue Pearl - tied stern-to... Fort Gustav off the bow and up to the right
The view from Fort Gustav - Blue Pearl is off the bow from the big yacht leaving the habour
Wonderful baguette, ham, cheese picnique
We topped up our water (at about 8 cents a gallon), did some laundry and then set out on an afternoon walk to Shell Beach.  Once we got there Pam cursed that she hadn't worn her bathing suit… and commented on many of the ladies who weren't wearing most of their bathing suits anyway.  After 15 minutes of cursing she adopted a "what the hell" attitude and went swimming nude… no sorry, that was in a parallel universe... in her shorts and top.  It was wonderful!  We would visit there again.

Anyway, back to the boat to change, get ready for showers, check-out for tomorrow, buy a few supplies and enjoy our evening on the promenade in Saint Bartholemy.  

Wine, octopus, duck pate and other French things we don't recognize but need to try
Tomorrow we head out to Saint Christopher - Saint Kitts.  We will spend a couple of days there… maybe rent a car?  We'll see.

It's my Mom's 82nd birthday tomorrow.  Hope you have a great day tomorrow, Mom!  Happy Birthday from Saint Barts!

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Anguilla - pronounced like vanilla.

Anguilla is only 15 miles north of St. Martin so it is easily accessible.  We had a great beam reach for 10 miles north and then had to beat into the wind for the last 5.  Some purists sailed, heeled over, almost broaching in the gusts.  We dropped our jib and motor sailed - keeping Pam happy so Glen can continue to cruise in the Caribbean.  

Clearing in is a breeze.  The folks are very professional and the fees are quite reasonable - nothing.  

We were with cruising buddies on Southern Cross IV and joined them for drinks at Elvis' Bar - a beached, wooden sailboat.  Elvis' is written up in Caribbean Life magazine and it was very nice.  We have to say that his rum punch was average… ours is better.

Elvis' Bar at Sandy Ground, Anguilla
We intended to go for a walk when a taxi driver stopped to see if we wanted a lift.  We said we were just out for exercise and he offered to drive us to the main road.  Once there we realized that Sandy Ground is a long way from anywhere.  We talked to him about the Jimmy Buffett concert - he said he was there - just like Glen was at Woodstock - and so off we went to the Dunes - owned by Bankie Banks - who was featured in the concert.  The place is like the treehouse in the Swiss Family Robinson - stairs leading everywhere in a place built from old sailboats, driftwood and tarpaper.  We recognized the concert stage and were amazed that they were able to fit 3500 people into the space available.  Amazing.  But a really good concert.  You should watch it.  We'll lend you the DVD.

Anguilla Concert Stage
Bankie Banks' place
This is where Jimmy Buffett performed

So that took about 20 minutes and we weren't sure what to do next… so we asked our taxi driver to take us to Blanchard's Beach Bar.  If you've read the book, "Trip to the Beach" you will recognize the name.  They have a very exclusive restaurant where people like Glen and Pam would have to dress up in clothes that aren't on the boat.  BUT, they have recently opened a beach bar next door tailored exactly to what we wear. We had a great hamburger and fish tacos - should have ordered fries because they were the home style - fresh potatoes cooked in boiling oil - yummmmmm.  The place is immaculate.  Most beach bars are grungy and slightly off-putting with kitchens that might not pass standards at home.  Not that there is anything wrong with that!!!  As a matter of fact, that is the kind of place that Glen gravitates to.  But this place had the buzzing hockey pucks to call you when your entree was ready, really friendly helpful staff, unbelievably clean and great food.  Glen asked if anyone in the place was an original from the book and our order-taker told us he was Lowell - you'll have to read the book.  We'll lend it to you.  Very cool!

Lowell taking our order

Beach from Blanchard's Beach Bar

We probably should have bought a car - but instead our taxi driver returned for us and for slightly less than a mortgage payment, dropped us back at Sandy Ground in Road Bay.  GREAT DAY!

Road Bay... if you know where to look... you can see Blue Pearl
We spent some time working on our staysail.  It is 20 years old and was beaten up on our trip from Virgin Gorda to Saint Martin.  A new one is $1150 and then there is the problem of getting it to the boat… so SuperSewer Pam stitched it up.  We think we can get another year out of a 20 year-old sail.
Attention to detail
We were going to go back to Saint Martin and then onto Saint Bartholomey but we looked at the check-in/check-out nonsense and decided that we will go straight to St. Barts from here on Sunday.  Winds are supposed to be favourable and the trip is 32 miles.  There is a big blow forecast for later in the week.   Current plan is to weather that in Saint Kitts and then proceed to Monserratt and Antigua.

Having a great time in very nice places!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

St. Martin Info for Cruisers

This post is for our cruising buddies.  We decided to write this down because when we searched for info, all we could find in the guidebooks was a ton of info but not much advice.  They didn't give us the low-down on what we should do.  We learned bits and pieces from sailing blogs we follow and Harry and Maryke on Aurora were helpful but there was precious little in the sailing blogosphere.

So here is our take on St. Martin.

When coming into St. Martin - especially from the BVI, we don't know why you would clear in on the Dutch side.  Sure, all the services are there but you have to anchor in Simpson Bay, take your dinghy to the Customs and Immigration dock just before the bridge to clear in… then they charge you 20 Euros. Then hit one of the 3 per day bridge openings.  And if you stay on the Dutch side there are stiff weekly charges to stay in Simpson Bay Lagoon.  We guess if you were going to stay in the Dutch side harbours, like Philipsburg - not the Lagoon -  it would cost less but the harbours are so dependent on wind directions.  They can be great but they can also be very rolly.

French bridge is near the "d" in Sandy Ground, Dutch bridge is near the "m" in Simpson Bay
When you clear in on the French side you can come into the Lagoon through the French bridge for no charge.  It seems to open with the same regularity as the Dutch bridge.  You can clear into French St. Martin at the ferry dock near Fort Luis Marina in Marigot Bay - but they charge you a fee and for goodness sake don't clear out from there.  Even if you are temporarily parked in Marigot Bay the officials will charge you the exit fee and also a cost for the number of days you parked in the bay… even if you weren't there!!  The minimum fee is 20 Euro.

French side - no fee

Dutch side - 20 Euro
Go to the Captainery INSIDE THE LAGOON at Port Royale Marina.  Clear the bridge and bear left.  Or better still, put your anchor down in Marigot Bay OR in the Lagoon and dinghy over to the Captainery.  You can tie your dinghy at their dock. We anchored in Marigot Bay and waited for the next bridge opening.  The officers barely talk to you.  They send you to an upstairs room to use a computer… enter all the personal and ship information and then hit PRINT.  It prints on their printer downstairs and when you come back down they ask you "Euros or dollars".  They didn't even look at our passports.  In our case it was $7 to get in and $7 to go out after being there for 11 days.  After clearing in, we anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon near the Witches Tit and dinghied around to either side as necessary.  There is no charge to stay in the Lagoon.  When we left, we went through the bridge at 8:15 am, anchored in Marigot Bay and then dinghied back under the bridge to the Captainery.  Now, we think that if we had stated that we were out in Marigot Bay they might have charged us the harbour fee.  We're not sure.

Witches Tit
Once there, most of the marine services and groceries, etc are over on the Dutch side.  We noticed that the prices for most things were lower on the Dutch side as well.  So, we used the French side for exploring, entrance to the Lagoon and anchoring but usually travelled to the Dutch side for shopping and services (and Happy Hours).  If you are out at night, the Dutch Coast Guard was ticketing dinghies while we were there for not having the correct running lights.  Navigating the Lagoon is not hard.  There are markers but it is a good 8 feet deep in most places.  Easy, peasy!

There is a very helpful Cruisers Net run by Mike from Shrimpies... tune into channel 14 at 7:30 AM.

We were going to anchor in the various bays around the island but we found that the $2 busses took us everywhere we wanted to go and there were lots of good places to tie up and secure your dinghy before leaving to hunt for a bus.  The busses stop anywhere.  When you see one coming, just flag him down.  Both Island Water World and Budget Marine in the Dutch side of the Lagoon have excellent dinghy docks.  The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, right beside the Dutch bridge is another good place.  Also, Simpson Bay Marina, just around the corner from the Yacht Club has some dinghy parking and it is right across the street from pretty good grocery shopping and blazing fast internet at Burger King.  We always locked our dinghy.  The wine and liquor prices were spectacular at the grocery store.  Funny though, a case of 12 Presidente cans was $15 at said store but at the Chinese gorcery down the block the same case was $9.  I guess you have to shop.

Regarding internet… there is none… in the Lagoon.  Even with our fancy wifi amplifier-transmitter system.  The Lagoon is a black hole for internet which means every day you go in for happy hour somewhere and drink beers while you do your mail.  $1.25 Presidentes at Barnacles from 5 to 7, you can do a lot of internet for only a couple of dollars.  It is just around the corner from the new bridge - close to the end of the airport runway so you can run to the end of the dock when you hear a particularly loud roar to watch some behemoth take off.
Another down side to the Lagoon is that it doesn't flush… and everyone else does.  So we imagine it is none too clean.  We were surprised at how clear the water was and there was certainly no odour… but it was not inviting to swim.  The cool thing about the French side, though, is that you can simply take your boat out through the bridge… no charge… and spend the day in the nice clean, clear bay.  So you could go out the bridge at the morning opening and come back in the afternoon or evening, just as long as C & I know that you spent your time in the Lagoon (no fee).

We are currently at Anguilla getting ready to leave for St. Barts.  We will probably clear into Sint Maarten at Phillipsburg right in the south on our way.  We are hoping that the forecasted bit of north keeps it from getting rolly in the bay.

It doesn't get old 
BTW … plane spotting is great at Maho Beach.  If you are interested in seeing the KLM 747 come in, it arrives about 12:30 on Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays.  Take the $2 Maho bus from the Yacht Club.  The Sunset Bar and Restaurant at Maho sells a mean tuna caesar salad, too.

We will edit and update this as we think of more.  Please comment if you disagree with anything we've written or if you have things to add.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Boob Spotting

Bit by bit we are learning more about Saint Martin/Saint Maartin/Sint Maarten.  For 2 bucks you can take a bus (minivan) from any one point to another.  So we've gone into Phillipsburg, over to Maho Bay, from Marigot to Grande Case and onto Orient Beach.  We've wandered around the back streets looking for grocery stores, NAPA Auto & Marine and funky restaurants.  The locals here have been wonderful - cheerful, polite and helpful.  

We've spent many evening Happy Hours at Barnacles for $1.25 Presidente beers and wifi.  Other fun spots have included Lagoonies and the Yacht Club - right beside the Dutch bridge.  All of these places have great atmosphere and friendly hosts and patrons.  Lagoonies is tucked between Island Water World and Budget Marine - two must stop places for all the boat bits we need.  Someone was pondering today about why boats break so often.  It's not like a car… there are always things to fix on a boat.

Lunch at Marigot

Flea market at Lagoonies

Building a new bridge across the lagoon
Our biggest adventure to date was our trip up to Orient Beach.  It is a place we had considered taking Blue Pearl but after reading the guide book - which talked about the difficult navigation and uncomfortable anchorages - we decided to see it by land.  So we took the $2 bus from Marigot to Orient Beach.  The bus is a great adventure.  It is full of tourists and locals and each time the bus stops to let someone off or pick someone up, everyone on the bus has to play musical chairs to get let someone on/off and get re-seated.  Whenever anyone new gets on the bus they greet the existing passengers and driver with an enthusiastic, "Good afternoon."

We arrived at our destination, hopped off and began our walk down a stretch of gorgeous beach, populated by thousands of sun lovers.  Every now and then, Pam would mutter, "Incoming." which meant Glen had to look at his sandals or somewhere else so as not to appear to be gawking.  There was a certain amount of toplessness - but certainly not everyone - and the topless police really needed to talk to some of those people about putting their tops back on.  Some people were very shy about the experience, some completely natural and comfortable and some were silly exhibitionists.

We got to the end of the beach - where the serious nudist beach starts along with their nudist hotel - and turned around to find a beach bar for lunch.  Lots of the restaurants had 22 Euro entrees with Euro beers and 10 Euro drinks but we continued our search until we found the $10 hamburger and $2 beer that has been available everywhere we've gone.  Yummmmm!
Waiting for Pam to come back

Great scenery
We are looking ahead at the weather and once the northern swell dies down we will visit Anguilla.  We are interested to know if the restaurant from the book "A Trip to the Beach" is still in operation.  If it is - we will be having lunch there!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Exploring Saint Martin

When we woke up our first morning, the big surge had started from the north.  Fifteen foot swells were coming into the harbour.  In his dreams, Glen was enjoying the rocking - Pam was not enjoying watching other boats surfing.  So before coffee, we started Yan Diesel and headed around to the bridge.  This time it was working and we joined a line of 8 boats seeking refuge from the surge into the lagoon.  Easy and secure anchoring in the lagoon.

Met up with Andy and Isabella, cruising partners from last year who travelled down with us from the Bahamas.  Very cool to meet up with people with whom we have so much in common.

We need to spend some time explaining this two country/one island thing.  It's kind of weird.  We can't move the big boat from side to side… but we can scoot here and there with the dinghy.

On our way to some natty seaside restaurant for lunch and internet on the Dutch side we met an interesting couple (French?) who wanted to tell us about all the cool things to see here.  They told us McDonalds was THE place to do internet so we walked past the natty restaurant to McDs.  On our way in the door, Pam stooped over and picked up $40 lying on the parking lot.  A guy had just past us so we asked him if he had dropped some money.  He tried desperately to think that he had… but in the end… he hadn't .  So Pam won the lottery…. and bought Glen a Big Mac.

The French couple told us that we HAD to see the KLM 747 landing at Maho Beach so we set that as a priority. 

We took a bus ($1.50) into Phillipsburg to see the cruise ship base.  Saw litre bottles of Dalwhinnie for $40 in the duty-free stores.  Sucks to be you, Scott!  Had a great wander about and found a funky local/chinese restaurant off the beaten path!  Great stuff!!!  Back to the boat for a snooze and then $1.25 Happy Hour beers at Barnacles.  

Our kind of beach

Cruise ships... beautiful beaches

Spelling mistake?

Random scenery photo


Going through the Dutch bridge

A morning Bloody Mary... necessary for internet
 Next day we did some morning boat maintenance and then off to Maho Beach to watch the KLM landing.

Plane spotters

My middle name is Danger
More on Saint Martin as we continue to explore!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We must be in Saint Maartin

Misquoting Captain Ron, "When we left… we had just enough wine to get to Saint Maartin… AND WE ARE OUT OF WINE!!"

If that doesn't make sense to you then watch "Captain Ron" or even this little clip.

After our anchoring adventure at Cane Garden Bay we went up to Leverick Bay to stage for our trip to Saint Maartin.  But also to get the ice and water that comes with the cost of a mooring ball and to go to the the Michael Bean Arrrrrrrrgggghhhh Pirate show.  Well worth the trip.  If you get a chance, check out the Arrrrggghhh show.  He is a very energetic, enthusiastic entertainer and you really get caught up in the act.  Lots of fun!  And there is a humanitarian side to his work.  He supports a school in Isle la Vache in Haiti.  Good stuff.

Talk like a pirate - Arrrggghhhh!

We had hoped that lots of folks would be making the trip with us but after a couple of failed attempts on the VHF radio to raise cruisers who might be heading our way we cleared customs at Gun Creek ($0.75) and took off by ourselves.  That's always a worry - what do they know that we don't?  Are we stupid to leave now?

Saw Sir Richard kiteboarding with Christie Clark on his back at Necker Island
Problem was, we hadn't seen a good crossing window in 2 weeks nor was there one on the horizon.  So we left.  It wasn't horrible… but it wasn't great.  The winds were a little too high, the waves were a little too steep and choppy and it's no fun trying to adjust sails at night.  We had a reefed main and took down our jib and put out the little staysail instead.  So we just gritted it out.

Six hours out of St. Maartin the alternator failed again so that just added to the angst.  But the dawn brought our first glimpses of St. Maartin and all of a sudden we are here.  At anchor Glen found a broken wire leading to the alternator so now that's all good.

Got cut off by this guy

Sun rising as we arrive at St. Maartin
We attempted to cross under a lift-bridge into the lagoon at 8:15AM but after circling for an hour we were informed that it wasn't going to open at 8:15, 2:30, 5:30 or, in fact, all weekend due to a problem.  So we decided to anchor in Marigot Bay.

Right away we met up with cruising friends from last year - it was so nice to see familiar faces in a new spot.

For the cruisers who are searching for info… you need to know that the French side is decidedly laid back while the Dutch are very serious about this running-a-country business.  Our Dutch friend Tina would probably wag her long finger at the way the French run their affairs here.  

A lot of french speaking on the radio - good thing Glen is fluent in french.  Zut alors!

We dinghied up to the Captainery - very official sounding.  The guy in charge was dressed like Glen - shorts, t-shirt and very friendly.  He definitely didn't go to the same border-guard school as the boys and girls that we've met at home and in our travels.  He sent us off to a computer to fill in our info - when we printed the form he asked for $7 and sent us on our way.  What a nice guy.  We thought of inviting him over for dinner.

Marigot Bay

Non opening bridge

Clearing in

Dinghy dock in Marigot

Fellow cruisers in Marigot Bay
We will explore here for a week or so.  Dale Taylor tells us there are several interesting clothing rules on some of the beaches so we will have to avoid those.  After that we will look at the other island opportunities around to see where the wind blows us!

We celebrated our arrival here - and JINDER'S 50TH BIRTHDAY!!! - with a bottle of cava!  Happy Birthday, Jinder.