Passage to St Maartin and St Maartin
Thursday 29th January 2015 to Sunday 15th February 2015
We have enjoyed having Vagabund on the water again. Swinging around the anchor in Scotland Bay being only dictated by wind and current again. Early the next morning we lift the anchor and rounded the point to enter the Caribbean Sea through the “bocce”.
We set our sails and pointed her North, we were on our way to Saint Martin.The dolphins came to greet us and welcome us back on the sea. A prayer was made giving thanks to the Lord for this opportunity and asking for wisdom and protection for the sailings season in front of us. We are grateful for the friends and family that could share with us her presence, and especially those that are supporting us regardless with their prayers. Knowing that we are not alone.
Our adventure started of with a bang. Both of us was enjoying ourselves as Vagabund settled into a rhythmic routine as we sailed over the swells. Zack was thrilled just to have a fishing line back in the water again. The first day we caught two tunas and a wahoo. The spare fridge spaces were quickly filled up with fresh fish.
Day two was a day of great challenges: First Zack had to go up the mast to untangle the main halyard sheet from the radar. Just after putting the screecher up the halyard came loose on the end of its splicing knot. We lost the screecher in the sea. With the sail in the water it brought Vagabund almost to a standstill in 22 knots of wind. The tension rope of the screecher was wrapped around the rudder.
Zack had to dive several times to untangle the shredded sail. After four hours we were exhausted but the sail was on board Vagabund. It was ripped into pieces and the bowsprit was bended!!
Day three: A sailfish on the reel. Our supper expectations immediately turned into an environmental protection program. We did not gaff the sailfish and released it safely back into the ocean. This was our first billfish for 2015.
The number of billfish caught on Vagabund was now pushed up to 15. The species count remained at 8 different species of billfish.
On Saturday afternoon the 31st January we arrived in the French Island of St Barthelemy and decided to drop the hook and rest for the weekend.
It’s a quaint town with plenty of (expensive) shops. The 2 to 3 hours launch brake took some getting use to. Most restaurants open only at 18:00 h and stayed open till almost day brake. Clearing in and out was made easy with a computerized system in the Captains office.
Monday morning early (2nd February 2015) we departed to Saint Martin. A 25 kts down wind sail with a following sea speeded us to Saint Martin in less than two hours. At times we were surfing the swells at up to15 kts.
“Saint Martin Island is divided in two territories with the French side on the North and the Dutch side on the South. The Island has a big lagoon that can be entered through two alternative entrances. One on the French side and one on the Dutch side. Both these entrances are obstructed with bridges that only opens on certain specific times. The French entrance is uncomfortably narrow compared to the Dutch side that can accommodate the super Yachts. As South African citizens we require Visas for the Dutch side but not for the French side. You enter the Dutch side motor through two bridges and anchor on the French side to avoid the bridge cost and expensive anchoring fees.”
In time for the bridges. You must be close to the bridge before the time of opening for the operator to know you wish to go through. We entered Simpson Bay Lagoon through The Simpson Bay Bridge.
Causeway Bridge opens 15 min later, to give you time to reach the bridge after entering. We crossed over to the French side of the lagoon by passing through the Causeway Swing Bridge. When open, the bridges stop the flow of traffic for several minutes. If you cleared in at the Dutch side you will be paying for the bridges as well as anchoring fee that can easily total up to $80.00. If you cleared in at the French side you only have to pay a once off fee of 5 Euros.
We anchored in the NE side of Simpson Bay Lagoon at Nettle Bay. We meet up with our good South African friends on Ostler and dropped our anchor close by. Jaco, Judith and their kids Justin and Jordin immediately came over to welcome us. The rest of our time in St Martin we spend many happy hours together catching up and sharing all sorts of news. Jaco lend Zack a helpful hand with the repairs to be done. We had to spend two weeks in St Martin waiting for the repairs on the screecher and bowsprit.
St Maartin info
On January 1, 2009, the population of the entire island was 77,741 inhabitants, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side and 36,824 on the French side. The main cities are Philipsburg (Dutch side) and Marigot (French side). The Dutch side is more heavily populated.
Saint Martin has a land area of 87 km2, 53 km2 of which is under the sovereignty of Franceand 34 km² under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This is the only land border shared by these two countries anywhere on Earth.
Folklore surrounds the history of the once ever-changing border division between St. Martin and Sint Maarten, and a popular story among locals narrates that "to divide the island into two sections, [in 1648] the inhabitants were told to choose two walkers, one chosen by the French-dominated community and the other one by the Dutch-dominated community, who were put back to back in one extreme of the island, making them walk in opposite directions while stuck to the littoral line, and not allowing them to run. The point where they eventually met was set as the other extreme of the island, and the subsequently created line was chosen as the frontier, dividing Saint-Martin from Sint Maarten. Seemingly, the French walker had walked more than his Dutch counterpart (each one earned his land, respectively, 54 km² and 32 km²). As the first man chose wine as his stimulant prior to the race, while the latter chose Jenever (Dutch Gin), the difference between such beverages' lightness was said to be the cause of the territorial differences by French locals, while Dutch locals tended to blame the French walker for running.”
The anchorage at Nettle Bay was calm and save excepted for guided yet ski tours that somehow always ended in rookies driving the jet ski’s flat out back to the base past our anchorage. The water was clear and flat for kayaking. Long dingy rides were required to visit the Dutch chandler shops and one could get wet in the chop. The French side had the most interesting restaurants.
Sunday we visited the beach at the Princess Juliana International Airport. This beach is on the flight path of the inbound flights. Planes come in at a low angle to land.
Sint Maarten has one of the most photographed and most challenging runways in the world. Thousands of videos can be seen on YouTube and other social media sites, usually taken by tourists with shaky hand-held cameras as the airliners fly inches above their heads. St Maartin is one if 3 airports that offer access close to the runway.
We have lots of fun experience the blasts of the KLM 747 and almost touching the wheels. My sunglasses was blown off and I was not even near the full blast. Zack is standing on the far side holding onto the fence. Hold on for dear life as you get sandblasted and struggle to breathe with all the exhaust fumes when the afterburners is on full throttle
Almost touching the wheels
Some even came dressed for the occasion.
Having a drink and watch the big birds touching down
At the end of two weeks our screecher was repaired as well as the bowsprit. The French side of the island has beautiful shops and we enjoyed the gourmet food. The French side is great for tourism but for boat stuff head to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side.
The Suzuki 4 stroke 9,9 Hp outboard that give us so many problems was swopped for a 2 stroke Yamaha 15 Hp. I saved Zack from stripping the carburetor every two weeks and also possibly the Suzuki from being dumped into some scrap yard by insisting on a $500 pay in swop on a twelve year old 15 Hp Yamaha two stroke.
The difference is appropriate technology. Al though the emission standards are important for us the four stroke motors do not work on operating small outboards in a sailing environment. The emission standards on the smaller four strokes forces the manufacturers to use carburetor yet’s that clog so easy especially on the fuel that is available. We tried for five years and see so many others struggling with there four strokes. It is a far bigger safety risk in the strong currents and distances we travel with our dinghies to not have a reliable outboard.
Saturday 14th February
Our 30th Wedding anniversary. Zack spoiled me with a beautiful white dress, a lunch at a French restaurant and a massage at a spa. I think I got a very romantic husband. I am looking forward to our next 30 years. He is the best!!!!............
Words from Zack:
“Special thanks to my wife for 30 years of marriage.
Magda jy is nie net my beste pel nie, maar ook my geesgenoot.
Dankie Liewe Vader vir die voorreg om my lewe met so ‘n spesiale vrou te deel.”
Sunday 15th February 2015
Our last special time together with Osler was spend over lunch. The last few hours of good times together. We enjoyed having Jaco, Judith, Justin and Jordan on board. They are very special to us. Time to say good buy and trust to see each other soon again somewhere on the oceans.
We lift anchor to be in time for the opening of the Causeway Bridge at 15h15.
On our way to the Simpson Bridge we picked up a rope around the starboard propeller. With one engine Zack anchored and had to dive again to cut the rope loose. We were just in time for the opening of the Simpson Bridge at the 16h00 for the outbound vessels.
Setting sail into the sunset towards BVI.