Onward to St. Martin

In St. Martin (or Sint Maarten, on the Dutch side), we anchored in the lagoon, cleared customs (a painful affair as a number of mega yachts with large crews had arrived to clear in immediately before us), and then had our first McDonald’s experience since leaving the US.

For a sailor, the lagoon is quite a neat place. It is a couple of miles across with lots of room to anchor; it is totally surrounded and protected by land but for two small channels; it is half Dutch and half French; and, the neatest thing from a boater’s perspective, is that all services or conveniences that you could require are accessible by dinghy. First, there are all the marine servicers: chandleries, marinas, fuel, water, riggers, sailmakers, welders, fabricators, etc. Then, there are also all the conventional services as well: grocery, bakery, bank, FedEx, post office, car rental, etc. And lastly, there is a good selection of sailor bars that you can dinghy to. In short, the lagoon really functions as a city houses are replaced by boats and the family car is replaced by the yacht’s tender (dinghy). It’s no wonder that there are many cruisers who get as far as St. Martin and then never leave.

The only real downside is that you can’t (or probably shouldn’t) swim in the lagoon as the tidal ‘flush’ wouldn’t be sufficient to keep the water clean.

Anyway, we had a busy and fun time in SXM (as the locals and airport folks call it).

In a little over a week we had all our major boat projects completed:

• we had the cutless bearing replaced by the very efficient folks at Bobby’s Marina;
• we had an out of water marine survey done on the boat (she’s still a gem!);
• we had a new stabilizing bar manufactured for our dinghy davits;
• we bought a whole bunch of important boat stuff at the two major chandleries there.
• We stocked the galley with all kinds of good food, cheeses, UHT milk, Heineken (when in Holland..), French wine (when in France…) , and also stocked the freezer with wholesale quantities of nice steak and pork.

We also had 4 dinner parties on Bojangles:

• Alan from Unabated came over one night. We met Alan back in September on Lake Ontario as we entered the Oswego Canal together and traveled through the canal together for a day. We hadn’t seen him since except for a brief wave in Annapolis in October.
• The Smith family (Greg, Lisa, Evan, Grayson) from Chasseur came over another night. We hadn’t seen them since Vieques prior to Christmas and it was nice to spend some time with them again.
• Alan and Carrie Ann and their children from Stealaway, cruisers from South Africa came over along with Kurt and Kate from Myananda after happy hour at the St. Martin YC threatened to go on too long.
• The Freedman family from Toronto (Steven, Jenny, Time, Mathias, Minaelle, and Tayla) also stayed for dinner after we took them for an afternoon sail on Bojangles.

We didn’t spend all of our time on the boat however. We also went to a number of the beaches, toured the island by rental car, and visited a few restaurants.

We also spent some time getting to know the aforementioned Freedman family. I had known Steve a little from our mutual days coaching soccer and hockey back in Swansea (our neighbourhood in Toronto). His family relocated to SXM at the same time as we left Toronto, so I made a mental note to look him up when we got here. They invited us to the beach and their home for dinner and we had a great time. Then, we reciprocated by bringing Bojangles to an anchorage near their house so that we could take them out for a sail. We had a great sail in 15-20 knots of wind followed by dinner on Bojangles. The next day, they invited us to dinner at a very nice restaurant in Orient Bay. It was nice to be so far from home and then to spend time with someone from our own neighbourhood. We all enjoyed visiting with them and look forward to seeing them again when we get back to Toronto.

On our last day in SXM, just before we left on our ill fated trip to Saba, we had a little additional excitement. We were anchored at Ilet Pinel, getting ready to leave for Saba when a 50 foot Sunsail charter boat pull out of the anchorage. At the time, I was working on re-installing my solar panel (after re-installing the new stabilizing bar) when I looked up and saw the charter boat floating abnormally high in the water. A second later, I realized she was hard aground and the surf was pounding her quite violently onto a reef. I jumped in my dinghy, then picked up Reg, a fellow Canadian on a neighbouring boat and we ran over to help.

With Reg in the bow of our dinghy, he grabbed the leeward toerail on the bow of the Sunsail boat whilst I gave full throttle to try to push the bow away from the reef. After a few minutes, we were able to free them and they motored away, no doubt thinking amongst themselves, “Thank goodness, it’s a rental.”

Cheers,
Colin

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