St. Martin: April 23-May 3, 2012 

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


Productive Trip

We left Prickly Pear Island, BVI, in the dark at about 5 am on April 23.  There was some wind chop directly on the nose, which made the ride a little "hobby-horsey", to use a technical cruising term, but as soon as the sun was well up, I put out the two trolling lines.  At about 9:30 am the starboard line began singing, and no sooner had I throttled back and begun to tighten the clutch on the reel than the port line joined the chorus.  Barb set the hook on that one and then got out the landing net and the tackle box (which contained the gaff head), while I focused on getting my prize up to the boat.  Turned out to be a lovely medium-sized mahi-mahi, which Barb expertly netted after I brought it alongside.  Then it was time for the port surprise.  We expected it to be another mahi-mahi -- they were after all hooked simultaneously -- but it didn't feel like one.  It wasn't.  I gave the rod to Barb and used the gaff, expertly inserting it through the gill opening as I had recently learned by studying the picture of Steve (Receta) gaffing his Wahoo.  Mine turned out to be a nice 20-pounder.  Took me a while to clean the two fish, a not-entirely-pleasant task in the choppy seas, but well worth the effort.  Now we are in the market for a small smoker to properly prepare all of that Wahoo meat.

Weighing ...

... admiring ...

... and cleaning

Boat Insurance Blues

We have had the boat long enough that our insurance company said that it was time to submit an official survey to certify that the vessel was still sea-worthy.  The survey was conducted in Trinidad, as we have written about previously.  When the underwriter received the survey, they ignored many/most of the items that the surveyor had said must be addressed immediately before taking the boat out to sea.  That is, all but three items:  repack the gland on the rudder stock (which Hunter (Arctic Tern) and I did, discovering that it hadn't really needed doing), address the problem of the leaking hydraulic ram for the starboard stabilizer (which was subsequently replaced by a TRAC technician who flew in from FL), and finally, replace all of the lifelines (which we had not yet done when we arrived in St. Martin.)  So one of our reasons for spending some time in St. Martin was to replace those lifelines.  We removed them all and took them in to fkg Riggers on the Dutch side (Sint Maarten), who manufactured new ones for us in just one day.  So now we have shiny new lifelines, and our insurance underwriter is happy.

Removing the old lifelines on the upper deck

The set of new lifelines

Polishing the stanchions before installing the new lifelines

Installing the new lifelines

Dinghy Inflation Blues

Our dinghy has a slow leak.  Actually, three slow leaks, since we periodically have to re-inflate all three chambers.  No big thing, except when a crew member who normally does not do the inflating inadvertently catches the little red doohickey with the end of the inflation hose and thereby pulls said doohickey out of the valve, which then causes the chamber to exhaust with enough pressure to 1) push the doohickey well up into the hose and 2) deflate the chamber.  Took another (more experienced) crew member 1) some clever seat-of-the-pants engineering to get the doohickey out of the hose, and 2) a scary number of attempts before succeeding in positioning the doohickey back in the valve in such a fashion that it would stay in the valve when the inflation hose was removed.  Can you picture it?  1) Blow up the chamber.  2) Remove the inflation hose.  3) Curse as the air exits the chamber.  4) Use incredibly clever engineering to remove the doohickey from the hose.  5) Insert the doohickey in the valve.  Repeat steps 1-5.  And repeat steps 1-5.   And so forth, until finally this experienced crew member thinks to examine one of the other valves, and thereby gains enough insight to be able to position the doohickey in such a fashion that it does not pop out at the slightest provocation.

Inflate (and repeat ...)

Gastronomical Goings-on

We enjoy being in St. Martin, not only because of the chandleries and riggers, but also because of the enjoyable dining experiences.  We had delicious mussels (and frites) at one of the water-front restaurants at Marigot's Marina Royale: La Main de la Pate, where we were pleased to find Francis still waiter-ing and still joking and still red-faced and still probably not entirely sober and still strutting about like a penguin with his short steps and elbows akimbo.  And we had a great Paella for lunch one day at Loonies.  On another, we dinghied and walked to "Taco Macho", where we discovered a rusty boxcar in their former location.  Days later, better informed via email from Devi (Arctic Tern), we caught a local bus out to their new (and much nicer) site near the west end of the airport runway.  I have written about them before, but it bears repeating:  the food at Taco Macho is fantastic.

New sign at their new site

And speaking of the airport: the western end of the runway ends abruptly at a chain link fence.  Immediately west of the fence is a narrow two-lane road (that leads to a beach bar, a casino, Taco Macho, and some other restaurants).  Immediately west of the road is an almost-certainly artificial beach that falls off precipitously to the sea.  The runway is short, bounded as I have said by the sea on the west, the Lagoon on the east, and then the ridge of the island mountain.  It has been described as one of the world's ten most dangerous.  As we returned from Taco Macho, walking along the beach, I noticed a number of people just standing around with cameras.  It didn't take me long to realize that they were waiting for a plane to land, since it would pass directly overhead at a very low altitude, just high enough to clear the fence and drop immediately to the runway.

Barb decided to seek shade, but I lingered on the beach to see if I could catch a landing on her camera.  Several small planes landed, which I unenthusiastically recorded, and then a big jet taxied right up to the fence and turned around, obviously preparing to take off.  I took a picture as the plane turned, and another as it positioned itself to point straight down the runway.  Surprisingly, the photo enthusiasts did not move away from the back of the plane.  So I stayed too, moving only slightly to the side.  And then the plane hit the throttle, and my hat blew off and flew all the way out into the sea, and the stinging sand pelted my body and I turned my back to protect Barb's camera and found myself being pushed down the slope of the beach at a fast jog.  Stupid eh?  Later that day Barb was talking to son Jeff on Skype, and mentioned the incident.  He told her that he had recently seen a video on the TV news about a couple who were injured at the end of the runway.  In the video a young man attempted to hold onto the fence and was blown off and broke his leg.  His girlfriend was also blown off, and she cracked her head on the cement curb separating the road from the beach.  Here is one such of the videos we located about the incident:

Much less dramatic, here are a few of the pictures I took:

Barb's walk-abouts

Barb went for several hikes/walks while we were in the Lagoon.   One was up to the top of Ft. Louis, from which there are great views of Marigot Bay and the north edge of the Lagoon.

At the start of that hike she recorded this junk-strewn / decorated building near Marina Royale:

On another occasion she attempted to join a beach cleanup at Layla's, but arrived too late to help, but not too late to record the site facing Marigot Bay:

Note the bags of garbage that was collected on the beach

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