St Martin (French Caribbean)
4 April – 11 May 2017
In total we spent 5 weeks and 2 days in St Martin, anchored on the French side. It hadn’t been our initial intention to stay so long but a few reasons why. Buying stuff is tax-free and there is an abundance of supplies, boat services and chandleries (boaty shops) so it’s the perfect place to get stuff done and anyone who owns a boat knows that the list of things to repair or upgrade grows thick & fast.
The main priority for us was a new dinghy and outboard motor, a dinghy in the Caribbean is equivalent of a car at home. In fact it’s probably way more important than that, imagine having no public transport or taxi’s or means to get about other than your car. Here it gets you from you boat to land, you CANT live without it and some of the anchorages are a mile or 2 away from the shore so you need something reliable especially when you have a small baby.
Our currently dinghy has been repaired more times than HMS Victory and the most recent puncture is unfixable so we are basically beating around in a deflated bit of floating PVC. The outboard is 2.5 horse power and if you imagine those horses to be like 2.5 tortoises that’s how fast we go, it can take 30 mins to get anywhere and here in St Martin its an hour to get from the French side to the Dutch side. With no protection and in the height of the midday sun or caught in a torrential down pore its not ideal.
Bang on 7:30am Mon-Sat the St Martin cruisers net in on the VHF radio channel 10, with weather forecasts, announcements, buying & selling and safety/security. It’s the font of all knowledge and the Car Boot Sale of the ocean. Its pretty bloody amazing if you can get to the seller quick enough. And that’s the problem, whenever anything suitable came up on the net Simon couldn’t bloody get to the boat selling it quick enough. In the end a brand new outboard was the only option & due to a decisional error (I won’t bore you with the details its technical marine stuff) we ended up with 2 second hand dinghies. The new inflatable can get on the plane (skim the surface of the water) so we are flying around and saving fuel. In the words of Top Gun ”I feel the need ….the need for speed”
Thanks to the net we also bagged ourselves 2 second hand solar panels and a GPS chart plotter as ours ran out of charts in France (ever since we’ve been navigating on an iPad app called Navionics). Simon being the clever sausage that he is also built a radar arch to hold the new solar panels, also changing live on board as we are generating enough power to charge all our phones and laptops 24 hours a day and no longer needing to run the engine to top up our batteries. You land dwellers have no idea how much you take for granted things like unlimited running water, electricity and gas!
Anyway upgrades aside as I’m sure you find it all boring, once everything was complete the short-term goal was to get to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) with the long-term plan of heading North up to the USA. With Hurricane season looming Tudor Rose either has to be North of Florida or South of Grenada by July/Aug for Insurance purposes. North means at least 1000 miles to cover and South is 300 miles but we’ve already been South so had our hearts set on getting to New York and exploring lots of new and exciting stuff on the way.
Unfortunately a few miles into the 70 mile passage to BVI, Daisy was not a happy bean bag and sea sick yet again, this was the straw that broke the camels back so we gave up and headed back to St Martin. Already undecided about whether we should go North or South the decision was made for us. The pressure of having to sail her all that way in such a short time was just to overwhelming and her health and happiness are far more important to us so South to Grenada it is. Although a little disappointed it’s a massive weight off of both our shoulders, plus the Grenadines are stunning and we rushed through them last time. Now we can take our time and there is huge sailing community in Grenada during hurricane season, with lots going on and other cruising families around so Daisy can enjoy socialising with other kids.
Whilst here it was full of ups and down, the boat chores and upgrades started to take over our days, poor little Daisy got Zika virus from a mozzy bite and on top was teething too. Anyone who complains about the NHS should be bloody thankful as the trip to doctors here cost £40 & a prescription for some cream that wasn’t even over the counter stuff was £16. Daisy was fine and before people panic Zika isn’t a big deal so no harm was done but it’s a pretty unpleasant virus to have and she handled it like a trooper with the help of the magic stuff ….Capol. However all this kind of go on top of us and we began to forget why we chose this life but luckily we met a lovely couple on ketch called Radiant Spirit, Jo and Steffan reminded us we should be grateful for the lives we lead here as we could be slogging our guts out in wet cold England, so we made a vow to get off the boat and do something nice every day…… whether it be a swim in the sea, a walk to the Fort, Happy Hour $1 beers or a Trail up a mountain. Once Daisy was up to it that’s exactly what we did.
Thanks to all the lovely cruisers we met in St Martin who looked after us, Welsh William & his floral shirts; American Eric & Joanie on Blu Moon; Auzzie Alley, Ro Matilda & Noah on Jojo …. And Jo, Steffan & Bowline on Radiant Spirit …. Hopefully our passages will cross again sometime in the not too distant future.