Where in the world?

Where in the world are Mindy and Reinhart now?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lollygagging in the Leewards

A spotted eagle ray under the boat.
and a booby on the bow

We circumnavigated St. Martin. We spent some time in chic Marigot, had a couple of lovely nights and a fabulous meal in gastronomic Grand Case, spent an evening on a mooring off the deserted island of Tintamarre, and ended up in famous Orient Beach for a night. Reinhart took the photos below in one of the anchorages. We’ve both often said “what green flash…you guys are just imagining it”, but now that we caught it on camera, we have to apologize to you (for instance, Cara).  

Green Flash!
Almost there...

Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, Day 2 start
We heard there was a race in St. Barth, so we sailed over a day early hoping to catch it. We were so glad we got in early enough to get a good spot in the outer anchorage, because it filled up over the next several days. The race is called the Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, and there were many classes of race boat represented. The boats ranged from 22’ with 6-8 crew members all the way up to over 100’ with 20-25 crewmembers (mostly rail meat). It was a lot of fun climbing up to Fort Carl and watching the boats waiting together in the start area with their main sails up. We’d listen to the VHF radio announcement of each race start and try to figure out which class would be hoisting their headsails and taking off. The wind was very light for the whole week, so they weren’t particularly fast races. The time passed quickly in St. Barth though, and before we knew it a week had passed.

During the race, a few different classes represented
We were eager to get back to St. Martin for a gathering of northbound sailors on Saturday afternoon. We checked-out of St. Barth customs/immigration/port control on Saturday morning, weighed anchor, had a lovely 3 hour sail back to Simpson Bay, anchored outside of the bridge, checked-in with Dutch St. Maarten customs/immigration/port control, and were at Lagoonies in time for a good seat for the presentation! We stayed in town a few more days to do a couple thousand dollars of upgrades to the boat (St. Martin is good and bad that way). We checked-out and weighed anchor before we could do any more improvements to the boat (or damage to the bank account) and headed for Saba.

Click here to look at our sailmaia blog from May of 2007 where we talk about our similar experiences in the Leeward Islands. 

The Bottom, Saba
Saba was one of our favorite islands in 2007.  That year, we had anchored in Ladder Bay, beached the dinghy every day and walked up hundreds of steps to visit the island. We had a magical broad reach down to Saba, and due to a late start came into Fort Bay on the south side of the island a little later than expected. The park moorings were all taken and we anchored in the extremely rough port to check-in and speak with the marine park representative. He discouraged us from going to Ladder Bay to pick up any of those empty moorings because of the large swell, and he said we shouldn’t ever try to land a dinghy there, and seemed a bit shocked that we had in the past. 

Windwardside cottage
The next morning we switched over to a vacated mooring and headed in to walk the steep volcanic island. First, we walked up the steep road from the port to the village of The Bottom. The town was just as clean, quiet, and pretty as we remembered. We went over to the west side and walked down The Ladder. The beach at the bottom of The Ladder is no longer there; all of the sand has washed away and left a thin strip of rocky land. We understand why no one lands dinghies anymore! We had lunch in town and felt shabby compared to all of the business folks dressed up for work in suits and dresses. One of the things we loved about Saba that hasn’t changed is their wonderful trail system. Until the 1950s, these tracks were the only way to get around the island, so they are mature and well maintained. This time, rather than hiking to the top of Mt Scenic (at 3000’ is the highest point in the Netherlands!), we hiked up and across the island to the town of Windwardside. Windwardside is similar to The Bottom, almost as charming but with a better view of the ocean, and a bit more of a touristy feel…no suits and dresses on this side! We headed back over the trail and realized we might have been overambitious with our walking. I had no problem with the uphill portion, but the 2000’ back down to the boat was very hard for me and I had to take it pretty slow, getting us back to the dinghy just after sunset. The winds and waves had not calmed at all and we spent one of our roughest nights ever in a harbor – it felt like we were on passage. In calmer conditions we probably would have spent another night or two in Saba, but it was just too much, so we decided to sail over to St. Eustatius (Statia) and hope Oranjestad was a bit calmer.

Rockhopper in the line of fire at Oranje Baai
The sail over to Orangestad was not nearly as nice as our broad reach to Saba a couple days before.  We were close hauled in choppy conditions and those few hours seemed longer than they actually were. We were thrilled to pull into Oranjestad and find the anchorage was unusually calm…for one night. The harbor got progressively rolly over the next couple of nights and we ended up setting a stern anchor, which successfully kept us pointed into the swell. We walked up the cobbled path to the upper town. When we were here in 2007 they were doing a lot of restoration, and those efforts have come a long way. 

Reinhart in The Quill, Statia
Another day we hiked up and into the dormant Volcano known as The Quill, and another day we snorkeled the old port ruins in the harbor. Statia has a very interesting past to consider as you walk the historic streets. There is a population of ~3500 people, but it has come down considerably since the 1700s, when it was a major Caribbean port. Like Saba, it is very clean and friendly, and unemployment is low, giving the island an authentic feeling rather than seeming like it is only a tourist destination. Both islands are known for their extensive diving opportunities and good hiking, but they don’t have great beaches or ports suitable for cruise ships, so they are somewhat overlooked by the tourism industry. I could spend weeks in these quiet Dutch islands, but after three nights, it was time to start making our way back north. 

Mindy at the top of The Ladder, Saba
We are now back in St. Barth. We decided it would more fun to do some preparations and provisioning for our passage here in addition to St. Martin.  We arrived yesterday afternoon and found out there is yet another race (the finish line of the Transatlantic race, Transat Ag2r) and the St. Barth Film Festival, so we’ll see how much work we managed to get done. We’ll still spend a few more days in St. Martin to fuel up and wait for a good weather window to Bermuda. I’ll update the blog one more time next week before we leave with details of the passage. 

Rockhopper Anchorages:
18°04.059N 063°05.565W; Marigot, St. Martin; 05Apr16
18°06.253N 063°03.420W; Grand Case, St. Martin; 06-07Apr16
18°07.056N 062°59.313W; Tintamarre Island mooring, St. Martin; 08Apr16
18°05.138N 063°00.885W; Orient Bay, St. Martin; 09Apr16
17°53.923N 062°51.444W; Gustavia Outer Harbor, St. Barth 10-15Apr16
18°01.964N 063°05.829W; Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten; 16-19Apr16
17°36.816N 063°14.769W; Fort Bay mooring, Saba 20-21Apr16
17°28.838N 062°59.346W; Oranje Baai, St. Eustatius 22-24Apr16
17°54.011N 062°51.469W; Gustavia Outer Harbor, St. Barth 25Apr16…

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lagooning in Sint Maarten

We arrived in St. Martin after a long overnight motor into the wind and waves. We anchored in Simpson Bay, outside of the lagoon and decided to hang out there until Seana arrived. We had some pretty posh neighbors with Eclipse, a 163-meter giga-yacht, which is too large to make it through the bridge into the lagoon. However, the conditions were getting windier and windier and the anchorage, although protected, started getting pretty rolly. The day of Seana’s arrival came with the crushing news that her trip would have to be postponed. It was a sad day for us, but we decided to move into the lagoon for a gentler anchorage.

Eclipse (super-yacht or mega-yacht or giga-yacht?)
It is always fun going though the Simpson Bay bridge: circling with vessels large and small and waving to the audience at the Yacht Club. Now we’d have a few more days to enjoy the things that make Simpson Bay Lagoon a great anchorage: the large cruiser community, $1 beers, super marine stores, boat parts galore, wonderful grocery stores, 747s buzzing the anchorage, and watching the world’s largest superyachts maneuver in and out of the lagoon.  We enjoy listening every Mon-Sat morning to the 7:30am cruiser net hosted by Shimpy. I joked that I could barely make it to our 7:30 work meeting at McMurdo Station, but somehow I wake up voluntarily for the net every day. One of the things we don’t like in the lagoon is that folks go full throttle in their dinghies, planing straight through the anchorage. We don’t like it because it is loud, and rocks the boat, and makes us very jealous.  Reinhart has already gone by the Yamaha dealer to see if we could buy a new engine. The prices are excellent here, but the wait time is long, and we’d probably be better off waiting for the boat show next year. 

Sailing Yachts inside the Lagoon
A few windy days passed and it was time for Cara to visit. We were so thrilled when she arrived, we could barely contain our excitement! (If we haven’t mentioned it, we love having friends and family visit).  We had thought up all kinds of plans, which had whittled down a bit due to the strong winds that prohibited us from visiting several anchorages and nearby islands. We ended up spending a couple more nights in the lagoon. We visited the beachy Dutch city of Cole Bay where all of our happy hour haunts and marine stores are located. The following day we visited Marigot, a chic town on the French side.  We arrived soaking wet, from the windward dinghy ride, but enjoyed our day walking around the little shops and cafes. 

Gustavia's inner harbor
Weather be damned, we decided to make the 15 nm trip to St. Barthelemy. We can take anything for 3 hours, right? Well, the winds were even stronger and waves more confused than forecasted and the trip ended up being 5 hours of misery. We anchored outside of the full Gustavia harbor, once again with the mega yacht neighbors that couldn’t make it into the Harbor, boats like “Eclipse”, “A”, and the “Rising Sun”, amongst others. The trip was absolutely worth it for all three of us as we strolled the cobblestone streets. Gustavia is spotlessly clean, casually elegant, and breathtakingly beautiful. We noticed that outside of the island, everyone refers to it as St. Barts, but on the island, they say St. Barth; remember that when you want to sound like the sort of moneyed individual that spends their winters there.  We took another magical stroll after sunset and Cara treated us to a wonderful dinner. The next day we came back into the city to check out more of the shops and visit the weather station and lighthouse on the hill with beautiful views. From there we also had an interesting angle for viewing the planes landing at Barth’s infamous airfield –it looked like they were flying directly into the hill over the airport. 

Those unrelenting winds made Gustavia’s outer anchorage a bit rolly, so we had a lovely sail that afternoon to Anse du Colombier, where we picked up a park mooring. Colombier is a beautiful anchorage with a long curve of hill-backed beach and clear turquoise water.  We finally got in some swimming, beach combing, and grilled out that night.  The next day we headed back to St. Martin with a much more favorable point of sail.  We entered the lagoon with the 5 o’clock bridge, waved to the happy hour patrons at the Yacht Club, and joined them by 6pm, for our own drinks and free wifi. 

The next day was a bit sad for all of us, as it was Cara’s departure date. We made the best of it by dinghying to the airport for check-in and then heading to Maho Beach (aka Jet Blast Beach) to watch the jets land low over the sand and take-off blasting the beach goers.  We noticed the pilots of American companies are careful not to blast folks too generously, but the pilots of the larger island airlines really blast the beach, knocking people off their feet and sending all kinds of hats, shirts, and toys into the water.  We got Cara back to the airport on time, and headed back to the boat, unsure of what to do with ourselves. The winds were still a bit strong for some of our favorite nearby anchorages, so we decided to stay in the lagoon through the weekend.  We finally got our tax information uploaded to our accountant, and purchased a few more supplies for boat maintenance/improvements/upgrades.  Reinhart’s birthday was Sunday, and we celebrated with a Rum cake for breakfast, a long walk on one of St. Martin’s extensive beaches, and ice cream in the afternoon, of course! 

It is really handy to do boat maintenance and improvements while anchored in the lagoon since we can run to the store for supplies or to a bar for research-wifi at any time. However, the lagoon is city life, and we are longing for the peaceful anchorages we had in the Virgins. We checked-out of the Dutch side this morning, headed out the bridge, and sailed around the west side of the island.  We’ve anchored in the lovely town of Marigot on the French side (just above the lagoon).  The water is bright and clear here, so we can clean off the lagoon growth from the hull.  In the next week or two we’ll visit some of the French side anchorages and then on to St. Barth and maybe further (Statia, Saba, Kitts, Nevis) in search of clear water in which to swim and snorkel and lovely trails to hike. 

Rockhopper Anchorages:
18°01.915N 063°05.839W; Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten; 16-20Mar16
18°02.421N 063°05.656W; Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten; 21-26Mar16
17°53.997N 062°51.407W; Gustavia Outer Harbor, St. Barth 27Mar16
17°55.492N 062°52.174W; Anse du Colombier mooring, St. Barth 28Mar16
18°02.403N 063°05.694W; Simpson Bay Lagoon, Sint Maarten; 29Mar-04Apr
18°04.059N 063°05.565W; Marigot, St. Martin; 05Apr16