We were having a lovely time in BVIs, thinking of it as our own little deserted island, except that we were sharing it with thousands of other lost souls. We’d been taking our time exploring and hanging out, meeting up with friends for happy hour, or checking out new restaurants or eateries. We were snorkelling wherever and whenever we could and having a fun time discovering new marine life – every time time I slipped on my mask and fins and sank into the brilliant blue, I saw something new. It truly has become my new favourite passion!
It was all so easy.
But then we looked at our calendar and we had 4 days left before we had to get out or renew our permit to cruise. Time had escaped us! Yet, we were keen to explore and the idea of putting $200 down for an extension on our BVI visit didn’t sit well. We had seen a lot of the BVIs and Christmas season was coming up which meant a lot of charter boats. And nothing against charter boats, because we’ve been those people but I cannot tell you how many times we have been wary or wanted to move because a big catamaran came into a bay and dropped anchor where they should not have. A couple of times I may have even politely suggested to a neighbouring boat that they were way too close. Still we grew tired of fighting for a good, safe spot that we didn’t have to worry about being side swiped. Also, the $200 extension was a lot of fuel for french wine, cheese and bread which was a small day sail away in the island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.
But, we had made new friends.
We’d met some lovely people like Lousie and Yves (Free At Last I) and Matthew and Kathleen (Kinship). They were Canadian. They were cruisers. And they were lovely. But they were also thinking about leaving and that may have put a bug in our ear. No one wants to get left behind especially if your friends are headed to French islands.
And there was that other thing.
We did have another issue that had arisen; our engine was leaking oil and we had known about this for some time. It was not a big deal but we thought we should check it out so we took a closer look (that being Al) and new thoughts arose that our sail drive may be acting up. Merde! This was an entirely new ball game and we became rather worried that we could have a bigger issue than expected. After getting a tow from Kath and Matt to Nanny Cay and learning that a haul out could take up to 2 weeks we decided that moving on was in the books. I called ahead to Sint Martin and found that they could fit us in on Tuesday (today was Thursday) and at $60 less per hour for a mechanic, we were pointing the nose of Ingomar in an easterly direction.
So with our decision made we hauled anchor and got a move on. Filbert was extremely pleased and did a little jig.
The sail from BVIs to St Martin is not a big one, 80 nautical miles. The problem is, it against the prevailing winds, the trade winds, and in sailor’s lingo that is called beating into it, which is never a direction you’d purposefully take. Kath and Matt decided to leave at the same time, so we had a buddy boat! There’s nothing better than night sailing with someone else so we pulled our anchor in Spanish Town, BVI and set our course for Marigot Bay, St. Martin. We left at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and being unsure of the state of our sail drive, Al and I decided that we would sail the passage rather than engage our engine.
Its only 80 nautical miles.
We had planned on being out for about 13 hours but the ocean doesn’t abide by any time clock and a man/woman in a sailboat with a plan is a silly thing indeed. 23 hours later we sailed into Marigot Bay, tired but happy. Kinship had sailed by a couple of hours earlier and we were happy to sidle up next to them and drop the anchor. The plusses had been an almost full moon that turned the night on the ocean into a silvery magical adventure. It was beautiful and while the seas tossed us around almost to the point of exasperation, the view was spectacular. We ended up tacking for a lot longer than we had expected and while it was challenging it was also very warm and beautiful; we wore shorts the entire time. And Filbert the sailor cat had a great time! He was so relaxed and came into his own on this voyage.
The land of bread, wine and cheese. And service.
And so we finally made it to the French side of the island, St Martin, with a boulangerie and vin store on every corner. And while we still have to diagnose and fix our issue, St. Martin is a boaters mecca with many yards, chandleries and its all duty free. We hope to get our issues fixed this week and be fully mobile again, i.e. with motor skills. St Martin/St Maarten is a cool little island, all of 7 square miles divided between the French and the Dutch. The story is that when they were drawing the border, rather than fight over it, they had a Frenchman walk in one direction armed with a bottle of wine and a Dutchman start from the opposite direction armed with a flask of gin. Because the gin can be more potent the Frenchman made it further and the French own a larger part of the island than the Dutch. It looks like a cool spot to hang for a while and while we haven’t made plans for Christmas/New Years, suffice to say this could be a lovely place to stay and celebrate. It will be unlike any other Christmas we have spent together before.
And that, my friends, is why we came to St. Martin.