Thursday, March 29, 2012

Met plezier! in St. Maarten / Avoir du plaisir! à Saint-Martin

What do cruisers do after an overnight voyage?
Drink a beer and take a nap!
We left the British Virgin Islands in the late afternoon on Saturday, March 10, for our overnight sail from the north sound of Virgin Gorda.  Saba Rock and the Bitter End were gorgeous places that I wished we had visited earlier. We sailed by Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island on out into the Atlantic, but not before keeping a sharp look-out for fishing traps set in long lines across our intended path for the first five miles. In this case, having the sun at our backs was a blessing because it was much easier to see and maneuver around the white floating balls. Our "rhumb line" had us on a course of 110 degrees, planning on a sunrise arrival at an estimated speed of 5-6 kts under motor sail. Troubadour rode the 8-9 ft waves gracefully (most of the time) under a moonlit sky. It really was a nice journey and all my night time sailing trepidations were lost amidst the bioluminescence in the waves, the moonrise and moonlit night. We picked up speed making our arrival an hour earlier than planned. So we had to slow down so we could arrive with enough light to drop anchor in Marigot Bay on the west side of St. Martin – the French side (where we heard customs fees were less expensive than the St. Maarten-Dutch side).

Marigot Bay, French side, St. Martin
Marigot Bay is a wide open anchorage with many fast tour boats ferrying people to the island of Anguilla. Even though it is a pretty anchorage, the boat rolled side to side quite a bit with the ferry traffic and some ocean swells. We stayed two days and while there we took the dinghy into Simpson Bay Lagoon to find places like Bobby’s Marina and Budget Marine and Island Water World, as well as to see the mega yachts. We visited the shops in Marigot and Chris ordered fresh baguettes remembering his best high school French.
Captain Oliver's Marina, Oyster Pond 
No explanation needed!

On Tuesday our plans were to meet with Chris's college friend Ellen and her husband, Les, for a week at Captain Oliver's Marina & Resort in Oyster Pond, directly across the island on the eastern side. We left Marigot Bay and actually sailed … for about 30 minutes … until the weather turned a bit squally and we were head to wind as we rounded the south side of the island. It was a nice journey of about three hours. We made several attempts to reach the marina before entering the marked channel into Oyster Pond, but not a soul could be raised on VHF 16 or 67 as our guide book indicated. Since we didn’t know where to find our slip, we pulled up to the fuel dock, tied ourselves off and waited for someone to show up. At 12:30 Chris went to the marina office but it was closed. He did find someone who told him that everyone was at lunch until at least 2 pm, so Chris washed down the boat and I made our lunch.

 Eventually we got our slip and had a first! It was our first time backing into a slip. This was going to be tricky because Troubadour does not like backing to starboard (right). But after only two tries we were in! Cheers to us!

Les & Ellen at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club
- searching for the New Orleans Yacht Club burgee.
Captain Oliver’s has many amenities including two restaurants, a dive shop, fresh water swimming pool and rooms overlooking the Atlantic where you can see the mountains on St. Barth’s.  The resort straddles the border of the two countries. Rumor has it that when dining in the restaurant you might be sitting on the French side while your mate could be sitting on the Dutch side!  I’m not sure what side they were on, but Les and Ellen had a nice room overlooking Oyster Pond. Before they arrived they worked out sweet deal for us to bring the boat into the marina for the week. Thanks, Les & Ellen! We'll tell you how much we really paid, later! 

Happy 50th Birthday, Ellen!
Les & Ellen rented a car and I don’t think there was a road we didn't drive down on the whole island! We had so much fun being landlubbing tourists! Our journeys took us to places like Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, Dawn Beach and Maho Bay on the Dutch side; and Orient Beach (known for its clothing optional reputation), Grand Case, and back to Marigot on the French side. The food, no wait, I mean the cuisine, is exquisite. There are so many sidewalk cafes and restaurants here, more than I have seen anywhere else in our travels. Chris and Ellen had time to catch up while we all lounged at Orient Beach; Ellen brought her guitar and they played together; and we celebrated Ellen's 50th birthday with cake and champagne aboard Troubadour.

Smoked pork ribs at the LOLO's in Grand Case
Dressing up, island style
 for dinner in Grande Case
After leaving Captain Oliver’s, we spent some time on a ball at Ilet Pinel (Pinel Island), snorkeling in the marine park and walking in the park and at the beach, reading and being very French (as in sunbathing). We spent a night in Anse Marcel, which as advertised, had fluky winds and a swell; and a few nights in Grand Case where we finally caught up on boat chores and ate a few more inexpensive meals ashore at the LOLO (locally owned/locally operated) barbeque open-air restaurants. (Inexpensive: ¼ chicken and sides, a plate of Creole shrimp, and six beers were less than we spent on two drinks each at Anse Marcel). We made the hop back to Marigot Bay to complete the circumnavigation, and await cousin Rose’s arrival on Saturday.

Sint Maarten Yacht Club

Simpson Bay Lagoon
Ilet Pinel, where we stayed a few nights

View toward Orient Beach from Ilet Pinel
Les & Ellen choose a perfect spot  for an afternoon at Orient Beach

Captain Chris and Les at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club

Les samples the locally made Guavaberry hooch!

1 comment:

  1. Looks so beautiful! We're headed to the Virgin Islands for the very first time next month and your posts make me antsy .. can't wait! Looks like ya'll are truly "in paradise"!


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