A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
We arrived in Marigot Bay, St-Martin, on February 22. Due to a variety of factors (weather, boat jobs, Duke work, Brian's need for reliable wifi for work, and perhaps a small amount of inertia brought on by the incredible food and wine available there), our intended 3-4 day stay became nearly 3-weeks. Our time in Marigot passed quickly, filled by visits with friends, great food, work, shopping for the boat, croissants/crepes/baguettes/capucchinos, and touring the area. Most mornings, a couple would zip through the anchorage in a dinghy, stopping at each boat to offer croissants and baguettes for sale. We looked forward to this dinghy's visits and often bought our breakfast from them.
St-Martin/Sint Maarten is a cruising hub because of the large number of boat service providers and St-Martin's duty free status. This means that all boat parts and supplies can be ordered without the purchaser having to pay any import duties or taxes. There is a very active cruisers net every morning except Sundays on VHF channel 10. Each morning, we'd tune in for the weather report and a variety of announcements. After the weather each day was a section called Arrivals and Departures in which boaters could either announce their impending departures and thank everyone who helped them during their stay or introduce themselves. On our second day in Marigot, we introduced ourselves as a 'kid boat' and as soon as the net ended for the day we got a call from a Swiss girl living on a nearby catamaran. Sara and all three of our kids became fast friends and a day rarely went by without Sara coming to our boat or our kids going to her boat once school and lunch were finished. It was fun to listen to the kids become proficient at using the VHF to hail each other and arrange playdates. The adults also became good friends, sharing meals and experiences. We hope to see them again soon.
We also got together with other cruising families while in St-Martin, both catching up with those we’d already met and meeting new ones. One afternoon, we and another family dinghied across the lagoon to the Dutch side and caught a bus to Maho Beach. This beach is best known for being at the end of the airport runway. It is a popular spot to watch the planes take off and land and also to experience the jetwash as the planes taxi for takeoff. The power of the jet exhaust was impressive and even though we didn’t stand directly behind them, the sandblasting was still intense. The jetwash would even kick up waves in the water beyond the beach.
On March 11, after dropping the kids off for one last morning of play with Sara, Brian and Kendall walked to the grocery store to stock up on inexpensive French wine, cheese, and other goodies. We pulled up the anchor just after 3:00 and headed east, then north a couple of miles to anchor off the town of Grand Case. Grand Case is known for its food scene: both regular restaurants and open-air kitchens serving simply prepared and delicious local food (these are called lolos). Every Tuesday afternoon, the street along the waterfront is closed to traffic so vendors can set up stalls selling food, clothing, souvenirs, homemade ice cream, and jewelry. Shops stay open late and bands set up at intervals along the street, just far enough apart that you can only hear one at a time. We arrived in Grand Case on a Saturday, and weren’t planning to stay more than a night or two before continuing south, so we figured we’d miss the Tuesday festivities. We spent most of Sunday at a café on the beach while Brian worked and the kids played on the beach. That night we came back to the restaurant for dinner and to hear a reggae band.
One afternoon, we took advantage of the clear water to scrape the hull. Despite the coats of antifouling paint applied back in the Chesapeake, barnacles managed to colonize Counting Stars below the waterline. A hull with lots of marine growth on it causes the boat to move less efficiently through the water. The boat moves more slowly, and more fuel is used when motoring, so it is important to scrape the critters off regularly. We had some company while we were scraping: a few barracuda, one of which was at least five feet long. They hung around the boat the few days we were at anchor – they either like the shade, or the smaller fish that the shade (and our sink drain) attracts. We grew fond of our toothy friends and named them Barbara, Barry, and Barney.
We liked the anchorage and the town so much that we ended up staying four nights in all, including a Tuesday. It was fun walking down the street that evening sampling local food such as coconut tarts and ice cream, listening to the music, and just enjoying the experience. We especially enjoyed listening to a steel drum band playing in a garage just off the main street. The party went on into the wee hours, although we headed back to the boat just after dark to prepare for the morning’s departure.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars