Friday, February 08, 2008
Simpson Bay, St. Maarten
Well, here we go again learning all about a new place where we know we’re going to be for awhile. Where’s the wifi, grocery, happy hours, other cruisers, mail, and so forth? For our first two days here we anchored ‘outside’ in Simpson Bay. This is fine but somewhat rolly. So on Tuesday we went ‘inside’ to anchor in the lagoon. The lagoon is huge and completely protected. There are only two ways in through narrow channels with drawbridges. One is on the Dutch side and one on the French. Oh yes, for those who don’t know, the island is split along a roughly east-west line with the northern hunk being french and the southern Dutch.
As the story goes a frenchman and a dutchman decided to split the island. They started from a spot along the east coast. The frenchman walked counterclockwise and the dutchman clockwise. When they met on the west side they drew the line from their starting point to where they met. A glance at a chart will show that the French hunk is significantly larger than the Dutch. It is said that this is because the frenchman carried a bottle of wine with him while the dutchman carried gin which significantly slowed his walking. You’ll also notice that the line runs right through the lagoon. This makes for some interesting international check-in/check-out questions. When you arrive at a new port you have to check in with customs and immigration. For Simpson Bay you now pay $20 a week for the right to anchor. You also pay a fee for the bridge if you come inside. Already it gets interesting. We arrived and anchored on the outside. We paid $20 for a week but no bridge fee. But, on Tuesday we came through the bridge. Are we supposed to run back and pay the bridge fee? Who, if anyone, is even checking on this stuff? Now if you enter through the French side and anchor north in the French waters of the lagoon there is no anchoring fee. There are also no buoys to tell you exactly which side you are anchored in. In theory we can check out of the Dutch side. Move the boat about 100 yards north and check in with the French and skip the $20. OK, let’s say we do that. Then on the 11th we return to the Dutch side and get hauled out at the Marina. Do we still pay the $20? We’re not anchored but we really should check in since we will be living aboard in Dutch territory. Again, who’s roaming through boat yards checking on live-aboards?
To me the solution is simple. 1. Charge the mega yachts $500 for using the bridge. Chump change. 2. The Dutch and French then need to form an agreement that checking in anywhere on the island counts for both sides. It is already true that if you check in on the Dutch or French side you can travel to the other side by car or foot or dingy without checking out or in. It’s only if you move your main boat from one side to the other. Maybe just change the name of the island to Frutch or Drench. OK, is that all clear?
The lagoon is reminiscent of Marathon Florida if you can imagine Marathon with about 50 mega-yachts! They are just amazing and there are mega-sailing yachts as well. We’re talking 200’ and beyond here. Where does all the money come from?
Those who are frequent readers of this blog know how this lifestyle has its ups and downs. It’s not all pina coladas and midnight strolls on the beach. Tough sail into here but then...out of propane again! Something is seriously wrong. I can detect no leaks but propane is vanishing from the boat. I think maybe the tank or maybe even both have rusted through the bottom. So, first order of business is to maybe replace one of the tanks with a new aluminum one. There are two great marine stores here (Budget Marine and Island Water World) and besides those there is every kind of marine service here. Kind of like Ft. Lauderdale! It’s a long dingy ride from the outside to Budget Marine way in the western corner of the lagoon. But lots of pretty boats to look at except. . . .DUM DA DUM DUM. . .
Yeah, outboard is acting up again. This is with the 3 week old carburetor. I really don’t mind problems. A big part of cruising is to really dig solving problems to keep the whole trip going but to keep trying to solve the SAME problem is very tedious. This is why we don’t have refrigeration. Just tired of worrying and throwing money at the same problem.
Well, at Budget Marine we bought some supplies for our topside painting project and looked around . . . and forgot to ask about propane tanks! Jeez-o-peet! Well, tomorrow maybe. Our next job was to find Bobby’s Marine and get information about haul out and bottom work. It is a VERY long dingy ride to Bobby’s and I had to keep nursing the outboard along. It’s like it is not getting fuel and when you rev it it barely gets going. I keep hoping someone steals the whole rig!
Then, at Island Water World I found that they now make Kevlar propane tanks. Very light and about $100 less than aluminum. I bought one and will buy another when my working steel tank goes dry.
Bobby’s is a real working boat yard. Not fancy at all. Lance, the operator seems like a good guy and we have tentatively scheduled a haul out for 2/11. We hope to get two coats on the bottom and a third coat along the water line. Now the really bad news. The paint of choice down here is SeaHawk. . . at (get ready) $265 per gallon! I’ll need 4 gallons. Oh sweet jesus. If I spill a drop I’ll probably break down in tears! We have heard of a boat yard over on the french side that is selling Ameron ABC3 paint for more like $110 a gallon. Yeah, but it has to work! My bottom (the boat’s that is) looks like a coral reef! If stuff is just going to grow there anyway I might as well put Sear’s house paint on it! Sheesh.
I’ve since got some positive reports about Ameron. It’s used by commercial boaters such as tugs and freighters and now a few cruisers are using it. It should be in friday or saturday and we’ll pick up 4-5 gallons.
On Sunday there's a flea market at this local joint Shrimpys. We decided to bring our stash of The Why Book of Sailing and try selling some. We sold half our suppy! Well that's only 6 books but seemed like free money.
Later that day we had fun watching the SuperBowl at Ric’s Bar and Grill with our new best friend Mark from Manatee. Go you Giants! Mark won the pool for the last quarter of the game and so he and his wife Lee took us out to dinner the next evening to celebrate. What fun. Thanks again kids.
We took the little bus (11 person van) to Philpsburg the other day. This is the town about 5 miles to the east where the cruise ships go. The whole town is just jewelry and junk shops. Not much reason to go there really.
Yesterday we took the dingy to the french town of Marigot. That’s a little more interesting town but the streets are bumper to bumper cars with tourists NOT looking like they are having fun!
At this writing I’m looking at a used Nissan 9.8 hp 2 cycle outboard. The guy who runs Shrimpy’s Bar deals in used marine things and especially outboards. I’m a little nervous about trading in one set of problems with another but I have zero confidence in our 4 stroke nissan. Yesterday it stalled with us about a half mile from Enee and down wind. We tried to paddle but were only breaking even when we got a tow from a passing power boat. Of course back at Enee it ran like a champ for many minutes. We jumped in to go ashore, got about 200 yards and it died again. So I’m DONE with this outboard.
Mismo continues to grow. I think we’re going to have a 20 pounder here. Here she is helping me tape for painting the topsides. What a helper!
Stay tuned for pictures of painting the bottom! With or without Mismo's help.