Sunday, March 30, 2003

2003: St Martin

The weather turned cold, and the e-mails started arriving: Where are we going this year? Never one to disappoint, I made a few phone calls and found out when and where boats were available. One of the choices was during Cathie & Bob's wedding, so that settled it: March 15th. We lost Don W to a St. Patrick's Day gig, but filled a Beneteau 505 with the 8 of us: Rich & Kim joined the crew with Beth, Corey, Dawn, Don R, and Jim returning.

We picked up the boat in Oyster Pond from Sunsail, and after provisioning we sent Kim and Beth in a taxi to do their Open Water scuba referral to Phillipsburg. After the orientation on Titouan, we sailed down the coast to meet them there.

On Monday Jim, Rich and I joined them on the dive boat while they finished their final two checkout dives (and learned it's much nicer below the surface than on it in a small dive boat). I also learned why the locals don't eat snapper.

We celebrated the evening decked out in proper St Patrick's Day fashion.

Tuesday we set out for Marigot, a nice sail and a great little town to explore. After a quick reprovision and some sandwiches, we scoured the open air market before returning to the boat.

Wednesday we set sail for the relatively long trip to Road Bay on Anguilla, where we cleared customs and paid for a stay in the marine park. There were some nice beach bars there in the bay. While visiting one, Don helped serve as an international ambassador, where we were warmly embraced by a cruising French cow farmer when the language gap was bridged and he realized we were also from cow country.

Thursday brought a trip to Dog Island, for beautiful scenery and a great reef dive off the sailboat. Too bad we couldn't eat the - how big was it, Jim? German Shepard sized? - lobster seen by Jim and Corey. With lobster firmly imprinted on Corey's brain now, we returned to Road Bay after a final snorkel in the marine park, only to find that the cruise ship we saw departing the harbor had departed with a significant portion of the local lobster in the cruiser's bellies. Undeterred, Corey wandered the beach and found the last few remaining crustaceans for our consumption.

Friday we intended to sail to St Barts, but after an hour where we went about one mile, we had to fire up the diesel wind to make it in time to clear customs. Any chance of mooring to the quay wall was dispelled when we saw the size of the yachts already there, we could have been hoisted aboard some of them! We settled for pulling into the ferry spot to take on water, and then anchored in the outer harbor.

Keen senses woke up several of us in the middle of the night as we heard the wind come up. Although we were securely anchored, we watched as another boat drifted by, reminding us of the importance of enough chain scope. Morning came clear, and French pastries for breakfast went over well as we headed for another great scuba spot, Ile Fourche.

We did a double anchor in close, and then suited up for a foray into what was advertised as formidable current. The reef was very pretty, and the current not so formidable! A nice dive, followed by a nice sail back to St Martin. We pulled into Orient Bay, to find the anchorage in the lee of the reef a bit rolly. Undeterred, we snorkeled, ate our last dinner aboard (with all you can eat rice!) before returning the next morning to Oyster Pond, the airport, Chicago, and home.