Before we arrive in St. Martin to undertake boat work required to head offshore, we stop at Anse de Colombie in St. Barts for a 3-day siesta. The winds are howling, they’ve been gusting the past week and we decide to wait it out rather than fight it. Truth be told I am not all that eager to get to St. Martin for several reasons. #1 – I don’t like being on the hard and #2 – I don’t like the Lagoon.
Hauling the boat is essential in order to do the bottom paint. We’ll be faster for the northern trek as well as get other items done. The Lagoon in between St. Martin and Sint Maarten, which I refer to secretly as ‘The Swamp’, is a protected waterway between the two countries. It’s safe from the swells but the water is questionable. Therefore you cannot swim! The Lagoon on the French side is full of derelict boats that have been abandoned and the French government has done nothing about them. There are none on the Dutch side, at least I didn’t see any. It looks rather sad.
We arrive in St Martin only to find it’s a holiday weekend and most places are closed for four days. The only yard we can find that can haul us immediately and will let us do our own work is on the French side. I am reluctant because it’s not the cleanest yard and I have a really big fear of cockroaches. It’s been one of the things I dread most about cruising, all the horrid tales we’ve heard of cockroaches getting on boats. And once they get on, its really hard to get them off! But its the only option so we arrive early on Saturday at the dock to get Ingomar hauled. Also, another factor to be considered was the cost. This yard would let us do our own work but the others wanted us to use their in-house labour. We weren’t willing to pay $1000 US for a bottom paint job, labour only, we supply the paint.
Our to-do list has to be completed by Monday so we can be back in the water by Tuesday. We immediately get down to work and Matt from Kinship drops by to help out. After working hard all morning we take a well-deserved break and walk to Zarafinas for an excellent lunch. One of the advantages of being on the French side is being close to Zarafinas which is a killer bakery.
Filbert is intrigued with the current situation but I am determined not to let him off the boat, because I fear he may get lost or pick up something undesirable. I have him on a leash but he waits patiently and manages to jump on the boats next to us when attentions are diverted. I finally retrieve him after he’s made his way across two boats using a lot of treats. He escapes several times throughout our stay but never sets a paw on land!
The bottom paint is applied in a day and the boat looks fabulous. We shine the boot stripe, do a bunch of polishing and change the zincs, inspect rudder and keel to ensure all are in working order, change engine and sail drive oil, change-out the SSB antennae wire, get a rig inspection done and get everything stored away. Tuesday morning we are the first to go back into the water and I am delighted to be floating again. A boat on the hard is a sad boat.
While waiting for favourable winds we also decide to have the cushions replaced in our cockpit. They’ve taken a beating and are as flat as pancakes! A fellow Canadian recommends a supplier, and we trudge off on foot, hunt her down and arrange to have the work done in a couple of days. The results look good and while the closed cell foam is a little harder than we’re used to, it will soften over time.
We head over to the Carrefour store on the Dutch side for provisions. The boat is still pretty full from our shopping in Le Marin, so its really just water, and fresh produce that we need. And more cheese because lets face it, you can never have enough cheese.
I have sent an email ahead to Bermuda about Filbert because I’m concerned about how he will be received in Bermuda. The Veterinary Department wrote me back immediately and assured us that as long as he stays on the boat, there is no need to apply for import. The vet does advise we get a health certificate for him, so Filbert gets a quick trip to the vet in Sint Maarten. Although a little freaked by the traffic, he performs marvellously and arrives back on board, having survived 2 dinghy rides (his greatest fear).
While in St. Martin we meet up with Kath and Matt, from Kinship and Nancy, Michael and Lexi from Chasseur. We also meet Cathy and Bill from Dreammaker and get to share a couple of happy hours and meals with friends. It can’t all be work! We also spend an inordinate amount of time at Lagoonies, a cruiser hotspot that serves up awesome food at good prices and always has a reliable wifi connection.
The day before we leave we head in to do some final shopping and call home. When we get to shore Al realizes that he has lost his wallet during a bumpy dinghy ride from the boat to the dock. He retraces his route in hope of finding it floating on the water but to no avail. We cancel the credit cards, and hope that it has sank to the bottom of the Lagoon! If it has, no one will find it (cause you can’t see the bottom) or want to dive for it. Last week we canceled my credit card due to fraudulent activity so now we find ourselves about to depart without credit cards or cash. The ATMs here can be iffy and we go to one with fingers crossed hoping we can get some cash. We are successful!
We finally get a decent window for sailing to Bermuda. We’ve signed up with Chris Parkers weather guidance, as we found him to be indispensable and accurate on our offshore trip down to the Caribbean. With a reasonable forecast we head out of the Lagoon (bye-bye Swamp) and anchor in Marigot Bay. Al does several trips in to fill 16 jerry cans with fuel in case it all goes haywire. Early next morning we pull anchor for the last time in the Caribbean ocean and set sail for Bermuda, 875 nautical miles due north. It’s just the three of us, Captain Al, furmate Filbert and I. Sad to say goodbye to the beautiful Caribbean, we’ve had a great time here and now must head back home. And that too is a good thing!