Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cheese, ham, Bordeaux, Croissants...oh my!

You won't meet a cruiser who won't describe their visit to Sint Maarten with one of those words.  Yep, we love to eat.  We love to cook and dine out as the budget permits.  Sint Maarten is the place for that!  We anchor on the Dutch side of the island, but the French side is famous for their restaurants and it's only a short dinghy ride through the lagoon!  (In fact, I start our FaceBook page, Odin Eats while anchored here)

Passing by Nevis, Sir Richard Branson's island
Virgin Gorda, BVI to Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten:
The Captain takes the first shift.  We wave at Richard Branson's Necker Island (there's an anchorage with a sand bar & fake palm trees just off his island for photo ops?  Apparently you can also tour the house.  Dang!  I would have done that!).  It's a light chop just offshore with 3-4 ft waves, an 8 kt wind off our beam and 0.5 kts of helping current.  The genoa was unfurled and engines reduced to make sure we arrive after sunrise.  Ting, Diet Coke, Pringles & cookies are hauled out.  The Captain sets up his trolling line and swears he saw a shark fin (flying fish and birds in the area).  I'm awake!  As we reach deeper water, the ride is more comfortable with just a small 1-2 ft ocean swell.

My shift takes us to sunset.  It was an overcast day with decreased visibility, unusual in the Caribbean.  One 144 ft megayacht passes us and I see sails on the horizon.  Kelly Nicole left at 4:00 pm so they should be 15 miles behind us.  We're not alone.  15 boats will pass us going N and S instead of crossing in front of us.

The wind slowly dies to 5 kts and by 7:30 pm genoa is furled.  It's a beautiful 3/4 orange moon rise but it disappears behind the clouds.  For the first time, we have bioluminescence coming off the back of the hulls.  Pretty.

Twitter highlight:  (I'm reading Cemetery Dance by Preston & Child).  Reading zombie books @ night is never a good idea.  (Can zombies swim?)  DH suddenly popping head out of companionway (see above)--not cool!  (One friend assures me they can't.  Another says they can.  Now I know who my friends are!  Although, I'm sure they can.  Has anybody written that book/movie yet?  I'm gonna be RICH!)

The Captain finally falls asleep, so I stay up an extra hour.  At 4:30 am, I can make out the lights of Sint Maarten.  Kelly Nicole passes us while I sleep.

Sunrise as we arrive in Sint Maarten
We arrive by 6:30 am with Kelly Nicole on point and three more boats behind us.  We pull in to Simpson Bay and anchor close to the beach behind another PDQ 36, Minuet with a view of Princess Juliana airport (The cranking & banking award goes to Jet Blue!)  The Captain heads in to customs to clear in ($20). The island is French on the north side and Dutch on the south side. If you move the boat, you have to clear out and back in but you can dinghy or walk back and forth without any problems.

Stats: Total time 18.2 hrs, avg 4.5 kts, total mileage 81.1.  Motor-sailed genoa & 2 eng low power 7:00 hrs.  Motored 4.5 hrs

The Dutch bridge to enter the lagoon

More bridge's of the lagoon
It reminds me of the Venice I've seen in movies.  Many of the businesses face into the "lagoon" so with the lure of lunch, we hop in the dinghy, pass under the bridge and find our way to Island Water World--Disney for boaters. Like most cruisers, there are bits and pieces that we are doing without because we didn't have the parts like head sensor that quit, a rusty bilge pump that needs to be replaced and a refrigeration unit that works fine but needs to be overhauled before it quits. And cruisers can never have enough LED lights!  We pop next door to Lagoonies, the cruiser restaurant and grab some wifi. They point us on to the sim card store. (We should have also brought the laundry!). We thought we had memorized the map, but the lagoon is bigger than I pictured. You not only need to know where you're going, but where is the nearest dinghy dock (they don't mind but we usually try to at least stop for a drink). We park at Pineapple Pete's and walk across the street the UTS/UTD to get a Chippie sim card. They were very helpful and knowledgeable, especially when I yelped after a message in French popped up!  Data only--sim $16.  4G for $35.  Also works in Statia and St Kitts.  Didn't work on the French side?

Yep, moths to a flame.  Cats love The Captain

We slept like the dead after two nights of doing shifts.

Woohoo!  If you heard yelling coming from our boat this morning, it's because we finally got the iPhone with a local sim card tethered to the iPads. Woohoo!

Shrimpy's on French side.  Zoom in.  You have to tie off (with a friendly dog licking your fingers) and scramble up a ladder to retrieve your laundry!

Oh, and Happy Birthday to the (Dutch) King!  Everything on the Dutch side is closed today so we explore the French side this morning.  More derelict boats on their side of the lagoon, which is surprising, since I pictured their side would be "prettier".  (A huge ray jumped out of the water very close to us.  He almost landed in the dinghy!  I'm not sure what would have happened then, but I picture us in the water and the ray in the dinghy.  Now what?!)  The Captain was rewarded with a croissant for dinghying so far just to drop off laundry (Ash trays on the table. Another culture shock!).

Negligent in our tourist duties--here's a view of the Fort from a restaurant!

The salad's of Sint Maarten.  Le Spinnaker

We're relying on The Captain's high school french.  Yikes!

Lagoonie's Restaurant.  Good food and $1 Presidente's during Happy Hour

Our daily visit to Island Water World.  Yep, they know us by name.  I feel like I should have given Eric a goodbye hug.

I'm changing the saying of "working on boats in exotic places" to "running errands in exotic places".  More laundry (Lagoonies, by the pound, 1 bag of clothes $13), 2 marine stores, lunch at Zee Best, walk to grocery, (First Mate takes over the helm to "stay current" and to keep the Captain from turning back towards home), stop to pick up fresh French pastries for the Captain, drop trash at customs dock.

Ahhh, veggies...Market Garden (Dutch side next to Burger King) 5% off for boater's

WWS recommendation.  La Sucriere.  "Best almond croissants..."  Across the lagoon from Lagoonie's with a green awning and dinghy dock (just past the condos)
If you want to start a heated debate, or just need an excuse to explore, ask where the best pastries are.  (Not too shocking, there are several patisseries on the Dutch side also.)  You can't swing a cat without hitting a bakery around here!

Gluten for The Captain, cappuccino for me.  Gonna need cup holder's for the dinghy! 

"Did you know there was an island over there?!"
The weather was overcast most of the first week.  I woke up one morning and said, "Was there always an island over there?!"  I felt like I was on on the TV show, "Lost"!  Saba 25 miles away.  You can see it when the visibility and light is just right...

Heaven!  Carrefours, behind Palapa Marina (use their dinghy dock)
They love their ham...
This morning's outing was to Carrefoure Market. Why?  They sponsor the King of the Hill jersey at the Tour de France!  #wackytouriststops We hope for a walk and a few treats. We end up with jamon, swiss, baguette et bordeaux for The Captain. Olives au fromage et crackers with boursin cheese et unoaked chardonnay for me. Je parle peu le francais!

Part of the haul...
 More fun at Carrefour--Fondue potato chips, espresso chocolate and pate for Princess Amelia!

A view from the cockpit

Last Wed was the Dutch King's Birthday, Monday is Labor Day, Tuesday is declared a holiday at the last minute to make up for a holiday that fell on a Saturday and Thursday is also a holiday (Ascension Day).  Is anything open?  Is it a holiday on the French side?  Confusing.  Oh, and Carnival was in there somewhere.

When you wake up from your nap to find your anchorage is the beginning of a regatta...huh?

Steve and Jan
Another small world moment.  A former flying friend who had caught up with us in Vero Beach, texted last week to say they would be in Sint Maarten for vacation.   We expected to be gone by now, but weather kept us here.  Drinks at the yacht club!  Welcome to Sint Maarten, Steve and Jan!

The yacht club is right at the Dutch bridge.  This is a great spot to watch the large yachts coming and going to the marinas.  An interesting note in Sint Maarten, the yachts are suddenly HUGE!  The sailing catamarans average 60 ft, there were NUMEROUS sailing yachts in the 150ish ft range and we saw at least one 250 motor yacht.

We also run into former dock mates from Brunswick, GA.  "What took you guys so long?!"  They come straight to Sint Maarten and this year, have decided to stay through hurricane season.  Interesting.  We'll be back!

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