Every day, except Sunday, a Cruiser’s Net takes place in St. Maarten/St. Martin on VHF channel 14. It starts at 7:30 in the morning and covers a whole bunch of topics like “weather predictions”, “safety and security”, “announcements”, “new arrivals and departures”, “buy, sell and swap” and a “general” section at the end. Many cruisers participate, information is gathered and knowledge is shared.
A few days ago, someone mentioned on the Net that the largest sloop (single-masted yacht) in the world, the Mirabella V, would attempt to enter Simpson Bay Lagoon through the Dutch bridge, which is the biggest one of the two. With a beam of 48’ 6”, she would only have a few inches to spare. Mark and I found out at what time she would give it a try and decided to interrupt work and go watch the spectacle. It would be a shame to miss out on events like that.
Around 9:30 am, we parked our dinghy at the Yacht Club and walked across the road to see Mirabella V get ready for her approach. For the longest time, no fenders were to be seen and we had a hard time believing that the captain would really take the chance of scratching, if not permanently damaging the perfectly shaped and polished hull. Once the mega yacht started moving towards the bridge, the many members of the crew hauled out the massive fenders and laboriously swung them over the side, keeping a close eye on their location. All our eyes were fixed on the giant approaching the “relatively” narrow bridge. Mark and I moved to the Yacht Club’s viewing platform for a better look.
After some effort and the use of bow thrusters, the skilled captain managed to get Mirabella square with the bridge opening and carefully, she inched her way through the concrete pilings. Once in a while she came to a total stop, making us wonder whether she got stuck. With every forward movement, as small as it was, the crew members attended to the fenders and rolled them with the vessel along the edges of Simpson Bay Bridge. While hanging “in the middle” of the bridge, the steel nerved captain from New Zealand nonchalantly snapped a picture down the side with his compact camera. When Mirabella’s stern finally cleared the structure, a big applause and cheerful noise rose from the spectator’s “bench”.
Once inside, the yacht had a hard time turning towards her moorings in the small open area. Crew of the docked mega yachts came on deck to make sure no collisions occurred. While the colossal sloop maneuvered, a motor yacht crept up her butt, not being able to slow down. This mega yacht looked tiny, compared to the Mirabella V and Mark couldn’t help but yell “Are you guys the tender?” The owner was probably not very pleased with his comment, but the audience and crew got a good laugh out of it! All went fine and Mirabella V managed to attach her 246 feet to the two huge mooring buoys, while the motor yacht found a place in one of the marinas. One question still remains: why would such a grand, unwieldy ship want to enter the relatively shallow and tight-quartered lagoon?