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Missing Tracks from St Martin

As best I can I have reconstructed the tracks from last year. The trip from the BVIs and the first few weeks in St Martin was in my old GPS so they’re accurate. The trip to St Kitts, Nevis & St Barts is all made up from old records and memories as is the first half of the trip to Antigua.

View 2008 St Martin in a larger map

I have also updated the route page on the main site showing all the tracks to date as we have sailed down the Caribbean.  This leaves the forward planning section on that page a little out of date.  Right now our plans are to transit the Panama Canal some time Q2 2010 and head out into the Pacific from there.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting a little more meat into this plan and publishing the result.

A Jolly Happy New Year to one and all

Last night the winds never built high enough to sail more than 3 knots in any direction so we motor sailed. According to plan then meant we went direct to Antigua where we headed to Jolly Harbour to check in.

Fortunately the customs, immigration & port authorities were right next to each other in a single building so checking into the country was straight forward. Even so, it took over an hour.

Collectively we decided to go into the marina for New Year. This means all can leave and arrive at will. Chances are this will end up flat financially for the kids as they will be drinking the cheaper beer from St Martin rather than the pricey bar beer.

So now we’re finally all together in Antigua a week after originally planned. The rough plan will be to circle the island anti clockwise and if the weather gods permit squeeze in a trip to Barbuda and back.

One highlight of Jolly Harbour Marina are it’s free showers. For the first time in two months Helen and I have been able to stand under a shower and not worry about turning it off as soon as we’re damp. Jolly nice.

We understand there will be fireworks tonight. That will be jolly nice too. Looking forward to that although it’ll be a struggle to stay awake.

For now, here are a few recent pics from St Martin and here. More will be uploading for a while so check in again and the may be more.

All at sea

This morning we exited Simpson Lagoon through the 8:15 bridge opening on the French side. We waited outside for a final top off of cheap St Martin fuel following some o/n charging performed by Scott. We also filled the dinghy tank and a spare gas tank. Then it was back to Marigot Bay where we anchored to have breakfast (fresh croissant) and in order to perform our final prep and final provisioning.

Customs were closed from 12 to 2 which I learned having arrived at 12:10 so this delayed things a little. I bumped into Des and Sue who were doing their laundry. I also found Eddie to pay him for his work installing the radar. Back at 2 I checked us out and by 3 we were off.

We stopped at Tintemarre where we all went ashore. Helen, Sam, Ben and Jess all made mud and plastered themselves. We then swam back to Dignity where we had supper before setting sail for Antigua.

We have chosen to go when the wind speed was low and the direction a little too far south to sail. Therefore we’re motor sailing. The forecast did suggest a better sailing window in 2 days time but one never can tell. In two days we may be back to the Christmas winds blowing in the high 20s from just the wrong direction. Folks got pinned for weeks last year so we’d rather motorsail than get stuck – particularly given our recent experiences.

We instigated a watch system of two hour shifts. John -> Helen -> Sam -> Ben/Jess. Jess being the only one without sailing experience was paired with Ben. I don’t get a shift either as I’m on call to everyone for any questions, concerns or maneuvers. This keeps me rested as much as possible.

Right now it’s shortly after 2am on John’s shift. We’re on course due west of St Kitts. 3/4 of an hour or so ago the wind shifted 30 degrees right onto our nose. Ben woke me to discuss. Tacking and pointing the boat to Barbuda was tried but speed was no better so we dropped the head sail and soldiered on to Antigua. I used the radar and spotted a squall about 5 nm ahead of us which maybe the cause of the windshift. We again adjusted direction to make our way around this. Perhaps the winds will shift again as we pass.

It would have been nicer to have sailed here. If the wind had been stronger but from the wrong direction our plan B was to have sailed to Montserrat, visited the volcano there then performed a big tack upwind via Guadeloupe. Not to be. We have plenty of places to visit mapped out in Antigua from feedback from other cruisers so all is well.

Another lesson learned yesterday. Our dinghy performance has been gradually decreasing which made me suspect the motor had an issue. I’ve been given all sorts of suggestions until the one (so obvious) that nailed it. The dinghy has two hulls and has a bung accessible from the outside to drain any water collecting between the two. We opened this drain today and it took nearly 5 minutes for the water to drain out. Brand new dinghy afterwards. Also explains why we thought it was getting difficult to lift it recently. Duh.

One adventure ends, another begins

The big confession is that what’s really pinned us to St Martin for the last two weeks has been issues with our battery chargers. Initial response from Lagoon was pretty good. From the encouragement of our vendor, CatCo, they sent two new chargers (port and starboard) to St Martin. Not so good, the method of sending resulted in a lengthy delivery and the method of packaging resulted in the units arriving damaged. Eddie was hired by the local rep to install them. He was able to fix one but the second failed to work properly.

CatCo at this point came to the rescue in a very big way. Their top engineer, Scott, flew out of Florida with a third replacement without even going home after flying in from family in Chicago. He’s been on the boat for two nights and a day. He’s sorted out the final charger and tidied up a lot of minor issues. (He’s also been the soul of the party). The boat is now working perfectly to quote Scott. Can’t say enough to express our appreciation and gratitude for what CatCo have done for us. They even covered the bill to fly the family from Antigua where we would have met up if we had not had these issues.

All aboard send our heartfelt thanks to Scott and Hugh for what they have done.

So with this adventure passing behind us, the next one beckons. Tomorrow is looking more and more to be the day to set sail for Antigua. We move the boat today and are now all fueled up. After dropping off Scott at the airport, we’ll be moving out of the Lagoon in the morning through the 8:15 bridge opening. The rest of the morning will be our final provisioning and checking out of the island. Then in the evening we’ll be off to Antigua – an overnight sail. Trip time is uncertain as winds are quite variable due to some activity north of us. If we get our act together we may just be able to stop off at Tintemarre on the way.

Spirits of all aboard are lifting quite high. Everyone is excited about the trip and the atmosphere aboard is quite bouyant. At lot of work is still ahead of us preparing for the trip. A lot of stuff around the boat needs to be stowed so we’ll be quite busy before we leave. All the same, we’re close to being ready. It’ll be fun.

Dinghies and Planes

Today the combined inhabitants of Godiva, Bees Knees and Dignity all headed off into the lagoon in our dinghies to the Dutch side to walk Simpson Bay beach. As we had more crew our lot were distributed around the group. As ever, our dinghy was slowest – no idea why. Another thing to figure out sometime.

At Maho beach we had burgers and beer for lunch. The great thing about Maho beach is it is right on the end of the main runway on the island. When the big jets take off, the blast blows anything by the fence into the sea. It is quite popular to stand here and brave the sandstorm. We found it more amusing to watch the victims of this behavior. One lot had put their belongings down on the beach which was all blown into the sea.

Back on the boat we’re watching some comedy shows on John’s laptop. Nice relaxing day.

Parts are arriving for the boat this evening. CatCo are really helping out so big thanks to them. Weather is rapidly improving. We could be off to Antigua fairly soon. Tomorrow could end up being a rush of final fixes, fuelling and provisioning.

It would be nice to move the boat back out into Marigot a day before we leave so we can have fresh croissant for our final breakfast. We have to prepare for a long sail as the winds may not fully cooperate by moving enough to the NE. That means we could be under sail for more than a day maybe having to go as far south as Guadaloupe before tacking back to Antigua. We’re all getting quite excited about the trip.