Wednesday, June 29, 2016

St. Martin (Part 2)

After spending 2 weeks in St Martin, we are finally underway to Guadeloupe.  After Frank recovered from his back injury, we decided that we needed to spend some time on the island and explore it a bit since this, for some reason, this was an island that Frank had on his priority list   We spent the first couple days of his recovery dingying around and checking out the dutch side as well as Maho Bay, a bay renown for the airplanes that land and take off directly over the beach.  After a slightly rough dinghy ride out through the windward side, we dropped anchor directly off the beach and watched as plane after plane landed so close that it felt like you could reach up and touch the belly of each Boeing. It was pretty entertaining watching the tourists that were standing too close to the fenced in airstrip go flying, losing their hats and random articles of clothing, as a plane took off.  This area is marked with signs warning you in both French and English and funny graphics against standing too close as the jet blast (from when the plane revs up to take off) was pretty strong, but people wherever they may be from, are often too curious for their own good.  

Maho Bay

On a last minute whim, after heeding some advice from cruising buddies on La Vidorra, that  we randomly ran into (we had met and last seen them back in the Turks & Caicos), we had decided to make a day stop at Saba before moving on to St Kitts, as he had said that this little island was an absolute must see.  Going out in projected 1 meter seas and 10 kt winds, we discovered underway that the forecast was not as predicted at all with the waves building up to 6-8 feet and winds picking up to 25 knots.  This would've been ok with us if we had a protected anchorage in Saba to hole up in for the next couple of days as the predicted forecast for that week called for 25-30 kts, but knowing that Saba did not have any such thing and that essentially we'd just be anchoring up on the side of the island, we decided it was a bad idea to continue on. We made the decision to turn around because we had not allotted for enough daylight hours to skip on to St Kitts, and that day was really the only window in the foreseeable forecast to make way.  Stupid, stupid.  We realized it was really our own fault as we foolishly ignored our guts that morning when we were preparing the boat to leave.  One thing after another kept going wrong, between me injuring my finger while opening a cabinet and Frank noticing that the base of our dinghy davit was coming loose from a stripped screw, we realized that should've just stay put.  (Note: we later discover that the davit dilemma to be a manufacturer's flaw as they didn't design it so that it could be through bolted and instead took a shortcut and used machine screws screwed only into the wooden cap rail instead of our fiberglass decks….completely faulty for this application.)   I often notice that we get into trouble when we ignore our instincts.  For one reason or another, something always goes wrong when we ignore the signs that Poseidon subtly and tactfully doles out to us.   That morning neither Frank nor I had mentioned to the other how we were feeling about the trip, which was apprehensive and anxious, because we just wanted to make way and move on.  Though we have faced rougher weather, our hearts kept telling us that something was wrong and so midway to Saba, while shit was flying all over the boat, we quickly decided to just call it and turn Moitessier around. 

I'm not sure if there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, where your bestial instincts always turn out to be right, but Frank and I have learned through the years that it's best to listen to them.  Early on, even before we bought Moitessier, Frank and I had made a pact that if ever one of us gets "bad feeling" about something, that we renege on the projected plan, no questions asked.  This has gotten us out of trouble many a time, when for example, in the Bahamas after being stuck in Staniel Cay for weeks, we were supposed to leave with a steady weather window, and at the very last minute, one of us has had a bad feeling and ditched the plan (even though, at the time we were buddy boating with Sailboat Furminger.)  We come to find out later (after they had left bc their friend had to catch a flight home) that the weather picked up quite a bit and the seas had gotten so bad that all the crew members were hurling all over the place, on top of blowing out their headsail, thereby making it so that they could only make way at 3 knots and forcing them to enter the Elizabeth Channel well into the night, with no way of visually navigating.    This pact even applies to when we go spearfishing and one of us has a feeling that we need to get out of the water, and shortly after hoisting ourselves into the dinghy will we often see an aggressive looking shark lurking around the corner.  Though we've never had any iife saving close calls that we know of, these examples have taught us that there doesn't always need to be a logical explanation for why things happen the way they do.  After all, we are doing this for our enjoyment, and at the very least, it has saved us from a fair amount of discomfort and possible repairs.  

And so, after deciding that we were gonna be stuck for a week because we lost our weather window, we decided to make the most of it and rent a car for 2 days to do some major car hiking.  We found a place called Discount Car Rental, a small mom-and-pop rental place that had the nicest French couple,  that picked us up directly from the dinghy dock.  At a nominal price of $30/day (with a 2-day minimum), we were able see the entire island, as well as run some much needed errands.  St Martin/Sint Maarten proved to be a charming island, with an interesting and diverse culture, not fully tainted by western society.  Locals are incredibly friendly, and seem welcoming of us, and though you could clearly see its French and Dutch influences, with many things seeming to be subsidized by each country (at least from what we saw on the French side), there still seems to be a strong West Indies island culture intact.   This was an amazing juxtaposition as it feels like someone uprooted a European city and simply dropped it onto this mountainous tropical island, much like one of those arcade games where the giant claw reaches down and plucks your stuffed animal of choice before releasing it down the chute.  With its colorful little buildings dotting the streets so reminiscient of old Europe staged on a backdrop of turquoise waters, coconut palms, and oversized iguanas, you couldn't help but to admire the unique sensibility developed here.   On one corner, you could have a Parisian style bakery scenting the air with fresh baked baguettes still warm from the oven and buttery croissants oozing melted chocolate, whilst simultaneously only a skip away, you could have a hole in wall little shack offering Caribbean staples like deep fried Johnny cakes stuffed with flaky salt fish, homemade hot sauce that could eradicate your taste buds, and rich oxtail stew with chunky potatoes and soft, fluffy dumplings. All in all, with that being said, there are far worse places to be "stuck in"…I guess Saba will just have to wait.  

Dinghy riding around 
I have been diving with this fish for so long and had
no idea it was edible….yummy
The quaint town of Marigot...
Car hikes...

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