Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our Little Vacation

A few weeks ago, Mark, Darwin and I took a little vacation. I hear you think: “Huh? Aren’t you guys on vacation every day?” No, as a matter of fact we are not. I know this sounds hard to believe, because how can life on a sailboat in the Caribbean NOT be a vacation, right? Well, with vacation, I mean that Mark and I took “the week off”, went on a sailing trip around St. Martin/St. Maarten and did exactly what we wanted, without responsibilities. We sailed up and down wind (to circumnavigate an island you have to do it all at one point), took Darwin for walks on the beach, sat in the cockpit with cocktails, enjoyed sunsets, rested, read a lot and did absolutely nothing whenever we pleased! It was a great vacation…

The first stop on our sailing trip was Grand Case. You’d think we would be sick of that place by now, since we took ourselves and our parents there multiple times, but… it is a nice anchorage and we hadn’t been to the weekly Tuesday festival yet. From 6 pm on that day, the main street is closed off and a lot of artisans and artists have their booths set up. Food is readily available everywhere and some live bands cheer up the night. We didn’t think it was too special, but –once again- we enjoyed the cheap BBQ food at the lolos for dinner. $4 ribs or $2 chicken with a side for another $2. You can’t beat that!

The next day we actually back tracked a bit and anchored in Friar’s Bay. That bay is famous for the reggae bar and restaurant on the west side of the beach. The place is called “Kali’s” and we had to stop by. Sadly enough, our Kali wasn’t around, but nevertheless, we gave our girl some extra thoughts that day. There actually was a dog that looked a bit like Kali, but he was leading a happy life and we’re not ready for a second dog (yet), so we left things the way they are. The drinks were expensive, so cocktail time was on Irie, as usual.

From Friar’s Bay, there is great walk over to Happy Bay, which is only accessible by foot and by boat. Happy Bay has a pretty stretch of white sand with a few palm trees and is very quiet. You see a few nude people, but they don’t bother anyone and we don’t bother them!

Next, we sailed over to Tintamarre, a raved about island on the east side of St. Martin. It was pretty indeed and especially the water was pleasant and beautiful. During the day, however, a lot of charter boats and day trips have Tintamarre as their destination. The beach and the anchorage get very crowded. There is a trail leading to the ocean side of the island, where more peace can be found, but where the sea is pretty rough, resulting in a lot of seaweed on the beach. Between 5:30 pm and 9 am, the island is quiet and attractive. Then we also felt comfortable taking Darwin to shore without the chance of getting yelled at, since Tintamarre is part of a National Reserve.

Closer to the mainland sits Green Cay. We anchored near there, opposite Orient Beach, which is famous for its big nudist resort. Since nudity is nothing new for us anymore and we did visit this area overland, we weren’t inclined to drop our dinghy down. The anchorage was also very rolly, so we just stayed for lunch. In the afternoon, we had a good sail to Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of this island. Here it’s called St. Maarten.

Philipsburg is a very pleasant town. We took the bus there several times and always wondered how the anchorage would be like. The bay is very protected and the water is clear and calm. All the amenities are reachable by dinghy and the wide beach is perfect for strolls with Darwin. A lot of cruise ships stop in this harbor, especially during the high season from November through April. That results in a lot of business and activity in the center of town and on the water. The ferries transporting people back and forth create wake, so we bobbed back and forth quite a bit. After five o’clock, though, all becomes calm and peaceful again. I inquired for some work (with thousands of cruise ship passengers a day descending on the town how could they NOT need somebody else to help?), but the season was dwindling down and no extra help was needed anymore.

We spent a few days in the Dutch capital before finishing our sail around the island. To our surprise, the fees ended up being pretty steep and a little bit ridiculous (pilot fees??) in Philipsburg harbor, so that dampened the fun a bit, but we still enjoyed our stay there. We rounded the west side of the island, saw a few planes land over Maho Beach and studied all the other beaches from a distance. Once the big hotels, condos and casinos made place for smaller buildings or no structures at all, we were on the French side of the island again. We arrived in time for the 2:30 pm bridge opening in Marigot Bay and entered the lagoon again for another extended stay. Now, it was time to focus on money.

One of our goals during our circumnavigation of St. Martin was to check out a new wireless device we put together. This prototype worked splendidly and we could call online from every place we anchored, except Tintamarre, where we actually didn’t even try to connect. Now, we knew we could order more parts and start putting these marine wireless solutions together. One of our many work ideas before we leave this country!