St. Martin: February 3-19, 2009

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

During the last several moves between islands we had noticed that one of our stabilizers was "chattering".  A call to the manufacturer gave some help in diagnosing the problem, and it was determined that we would need to replace some parts.  No qualified technicians in the Caribbean at the moment, so we would have to pay to have someone fly in from Ft. Lauderdale.  We jointly decided that St. Martin was the best location to effect the repair, and so on Tuesday, Feb. 3, we began the 200-mile trek.  We disabled the ailing stab and used just one, traveling some 70 miles a day through some of the worst seas we have ever traversed, with the waves coming at the worst possible angle.  Flew a yellow flag in Deshaies, Guadeloupe, on the first night -- meaning we didn't go to shore and didn't check in with customs/immigration.

Deshaies, Guadeloupe

Passed by Montserrat on the second day.   Given the disabled stabilizer and the direction of the waves, I chose to pass by the western side of the island, but stayed well off.   Got some telephoto shots of the former capital of Plymouth, now totally destroyed by the last major eruption.

Montserrat from the southeast

Flow to the southeast

Looking more northerly now

Devastated former city of Plymouth on the southwest

We were this far away when we finally could smell a little sulfur

Flew the yellow flag again in Nevis the second night.   On the third day we passed by many ruins of old rum factories, and then the impressive Brimstone Hill Fortress on St. Christopher (St. Kitts).   Later, on Sint Eustatius (better known as Statia), we passed a bay with the interesting name of "Tumble Down Dick", where there were a number of oil tankers waiting their turn to give/get oil to/from the many tanks in the holding terminal.

Ruins of rum factory

Intriquing white posts along the winding road on the slope

Fort from the south

Fort from the west

Telephoto shot of the major fortifications

Fort from the north

Approaching Tumble Down Dick from the south -- note the oil tankers anchored off the bay

Some of the many storage tanks -- and a tanker getting into position

Note the name of this tanker -- we think he's our cousin on my mother's side :-)

As we rounded the corner around Statia and headed toward St. Martin, we had an unobstructed view of the precipitous island of Saba.

In the passage from Statia to St. Martin we saw our first whale from Tusen Takk II.   He/she was just cruising along on the surface, so we never saw a fluke.   Shortly thereafter a flock of Brown Boobies accompanied our vessel for a few miles.

We arrived at St. Martin late in the afternoon of the third day, on Feb. 5th.  We anchored in Marigot Bay, and checked in to customs on the following morning, Feb. 6, where we learned that St. Martin now charges an anchoring fee for the bay.  $30 for the first night and $4.50 for each subsequent night.  We were perfectly willing to pay the fee in order to avoid going in to the Lagoon, which we knew had many shallow spots and a reputation for having nasty water, but upon returning to the boat we received our regular weather forecast by email and learned that large swells were due to hit the area that night from just the wrong direction to make Marigot Bay very uncomfortable.  So when the bridge went up as scheduled at 2:30 PM, we passed through and anchored on the French side of the lagoon, right next to friends Mike and Cynthia (Minx), with whom we have spent many pleasant times in Grenada.  The cruising world is indeed small.  That night, we went in to Port Royal and for old time's sake ordered mussels and fries.  Yum!

On Feb. 11th our savior from American Bow Thruster arrived to fix our TRAC stabilizers.   There were just enough complications to take most of the day, but by evening we had two healthy stabilizers again.

One worked while the other watched. One learned while the other taught.

Learning is hard work.

Arriving back at the boat after an emergency run to St. Maarten for additional hydraulic parts.

Son Jeff made a surprise visit on Friday, Feb. 13th while he had a short break from work.  He stayed with us for five days, so it was a short but sweet visit.  We had marvelous weather while he was here and on the day he left the high winds started up again.  We had a great time, doing some card playing and some snorkeling and some scuba diving and lots of eating out and some beach walking on the clothes-optional Orient Beach.  (Sorry, no pictures of that.)  One of the lunch places that bears special mention is Hilma's Windsor Castle -- a trailer with four stools.  We sought out Hilma on the recommendation of Ann Vanderhoof (Receta), who had featured Hilma in one of her articles.   As Ann promised, the sandwiches on Johnny Cakes were delicious, and Hilma is indeed personable and fun. 

Jeff brought us a new computer from the States since our old one continues to plague us with problems.  Unfortunately, it had the Vista 64 bit operating system that we discovered is not compatible with our Ocens mail system and Ocens does not plan to support Vista 64 bit.  Since we have to use Ocens to get our mail through our satellite phone, we could not use the computer.  Fortunately Jeff got the computer at Best Buy and was able to take it back with only a restocking fee.  We had our old Dell laptop looked at by the Dell service partner here in St. Martin and they determined that it needs a new screen which costs around $400.  The laptop is under warranty in the US, but the problem is getting it back to the States.  Thus, we are currently using it with an external monitor until we either get it repaired or get a new one. 

Jeff also found an LED anchor light for us which Chuck used to replace our burned out anchor light.  We are now using .2 amps instead of 2.1 amps to burn our anchor light at night.  :-) We are slowly replacing all of our lights with LEDs. 

French exit/entrance bridge to Simpson Bay Lagoon

Son Jeff on board

Lunch at Orient Beach

Lunch in Philipsburg

On our way to the first of a two-tank dive south of Philipsburg

Lunch at Hilma's Windsor Castle

Chuck replacing the anchor light