Thursday, June 25, 2015


 We left Saba bright and early, just after the sun peeked up over the horizon.  Our plan was to sail to St. Kitts, arriving by around 6 that evening.  Today was the day that we really learned that plans need to be flexible.

We motored away from the island of Saba to get away from the gusty winds.  We decided to put out just our genoa since the wind was strong and the seas were rough.  We got as close to the wind as Salt Whistle would allow us, but we couldn't get a straight heading for St. Kitts.  Only minutes after putting our sail out, the motor died.  Not this again!!!  Thank goodness we had a sail out, because it would have gotten very scary if we ended up beam to the huge waves!  At least having the sail meant some forward momentum and control of our steering. 

Skeeter went down below to troubleshoot our problem.  He decided to change the secondary fuel filter, since that was the only part of the fuel system he had not recently changed.  Sure enough, that was our problem.  After that filter change the engine ran nice and smooth.

This is what the sky looked like ahead of us.  Photo credit: Richard Freeman

Up ahead in the distance, the sky turned an ominous shade of black.  We decided to furl in the genoa and motor straight for St. Eustatius (Statia), the next closest island that marked the half way point in between Saba and St. Kitts.  We did NOT want to get caught in this squall.  Unfortunately, given our many problems and struggles in Saba, we did not have an up to date weather report.  We just knew we were ready to get the hell out of there.  So we didn't know what kind of storm we were getting ourselves into.

The front of what we thought to be "just a squall" hit us.  40 knots of wind with gusts of even more, then a painful wall of water.  The raindrops felt like ice cold pins and needles stabbing into us.  Oh, how we were wishing we had a dodger (windshield) so we didn't have to take the weather in the face like this.     The waves got up to 10 foot (meaning 20 feet from trough to crest), and then the space in front of us went completely white.  We couldn't see a thing, but could hear our hearts pounding over the sound of the howling wind, the splattering rain, and the breaking waves pummeling us in the face.  We reduced speed to where we could still steer, but were not making forward progress. 

The satellite image of the storm we went through, the day after

When we passed the front of the storm (which we later found out was a gale force tropical wave) and we had about 100 feet of visibility we saw a dense blanket of fog over the surface of the water, rising up from the cold rain hitting the warmer sea water.  We had never seen this before, other than on "Pirates of the Caribbean."  The rain was still coming down, and the waves were still crashing.  We were literally shaking from the freezing cold rain, despite the fact that we were in the Caribbean in the summertime.  You know you are freezing when 80 degree sea water being splashed on you feels like warm bath water.  Our predicament was both scary and miserable.  Some decent foul weather gear will definitely be something to add to our wishlist.

We had a short break from the rain and sped up to make progress toward our revised destination, then a second squall (tropical wave) hit us.  We were only about 4 miles out from Statia.  We had been able to see the tall volcanic island since the first storm let up, but then the rain came down in sheets and it completely disappeared from our sight.  So close, yet so far away.  We had to ride the storm out without getting too close to the island.  Trying to approach in almost zero visibility would have been ludicrous.  We could have collided with any number of hazards.  That last 4 miles took us 3 hours.  It was the most miserable, freezing, and terrifying 3 hours for us so far as sailors.

No actual damage was done, though it did give us quite a scare.  We thought we lost our dinghy motor cowling (though it obediently fell off right into the dinghy itself), and we thought we lost 3 of the 5 caps to our water jerry cans because the genoa sheet unscrewed them (though we found them in the gunnel).


Equipment we need to get soon: Foul weather gear, a dodger, and a SSB (Single Side Band) Radio (auto pilot would be very nice, too!)

Statia is a beautiful island, but the one and only anchorage, in Oranjestad, was a miserable one with the current sea conditions.  The wind and the swells were coming in from different directions, and we were beam to the swells.  At times there were 2 foot swells in the anchorage, and we were rocking so hard from side to side that we were once again miserable and exhausted.  

We made 5 different attempts at setting a stern anchor so we could sit facing the swells, but each and every time the anchor would drag from the excessive up and down motion of the swells and the swinging of the variable winds.  We couldn't stand or walk around without getting beat up, bouncing off walls like balls in a pinball machine.  We couldn't even put anything down because it would just go flying across the boat.  Our bed was soaking wet from the horizontal rain and waves crashing in through the cockpit, past the drop board, and into our aft cabin.  We had no choice but to (attempt) to sleep in the salon.  The violent rocking from side to side and the many loud banging noises made it very hard to sleep.  I ended up sleeping on the floor after the whole settee slid out with me on it...I didn't want to fall and crush Momo! 

Even Momo felt sea sick & wished he could get off the boat
One major advantage of Statia over Saba was that the dinghy dock and access to land was close by.  We tried to get our feet on solid ground as much as possible, and even took a nap on a park bench to try to make up for lost sleep aboard.  It was such a relief to get off of the boat.

We made it up to Fort Oranje
You could see the wind howling

Watching Salt Whistle bob from side to side

I tried unsuccessfully to hide the exhaustion from my face

This cannon fired the first foreign salute recognizing the USA's independence in 1776

Statia is a beautiful island with rich nature and history, but we did not get to enjoy it to its fullest due to our exhaustion and shattered morale.  I wanted to take Skeeter hiking into the crater of the big volcano, called the Quill, but we barely had enough energy to even walk around town.  We were exhausted and crabby and about to give up on the cruising life after an entire week of no sleep. 

We are desperately hoping our next crossing is uneventful, and that our next anchorage lets us get some much needed rest!


Monday, June 22, 2015


We stayed on the overnight moorings in Wells Bay, the only ones available

We checked out of the Capitanerie in Anse Marcel, St. Martin.  We were pleasantly surprised that the huge fire that we saw burning down the mountain when we were in Tintamarre didn't reach the marina, though the smoke smell was quite overwhelming.

We motored out of Anse Marcel and raised our mainsail just outside of the bay.  We unfurled our genoa too.  Our initial course was directly downwind, so Skeeter rigged up a preventer so on our mainsail to avoid an accidental jibe, and we back-winded the genoa to sail wing on wing.  This was our first real opportunity to sail on this cruising adventure, since our previous expeditions were all upwind.  When we were clear of the point just south of Marigot, we jibbed and set a straight course for Saba.

It was difficult to steer a straight course.  We were headed pretty much southwest, so we had somewhat following seas, 4-6 foot waves, and 15-20 knots of wind.  The boat really wanted to turn into the wind, so steering gave our arms a workout.  There are definitely times we wish we could afford an autopilot or a wind vane steering system.  Oh well, c'est la vie!  Maybe after we make some more money.

The Sahara dust was especially thick in the sky, so we lost sight of land quickly.  We should have been able to see Saba early on, but couldn't until we were within 10 nautical miles. 

What Saba would look like in the distance on a clear day
  As soon as we got close to the island of Saba, the wind turned into crazy overpowering gusts.  It would fluctuate between 0 and 50 knots of wind withing a matter of seconds!  Trying to drop our sails was intense and very stressful.  The furler got stuck.  The powerful and uneven gusts were catching us and overpowering us.  I had to carefully crawl out of the cockpit to unjam the furler and release the preventer that was holding the mainsail to one side.  

Being out there on the deck in those unpredictable and powerful gusts and now no preventer attached to the boom put me into a panic about Skeeter accidentally jibbing and I completely lost my brain.  I imagined the boom knocking me unconscious and overboard in the rough and wild conditions.  I yelled at Skeeter to sheet in the main.  He tried to argue with me, but I was extremely persistent so finally he obliged.  I was wrong, but was too panicked to realize it.  Although we are experienced mariners, we are still novice sailors.  

We weren't really close to jibbing, but with the unpredictable gusts I thought we were.  Now he couldn't turn into the wind safely, because the gusts were catching the sail, overpowering us, and pushing us over.  When Skeeter shouted out (and he had to shout because the wind was so damn loud), "The wind's got me!  I'm losing it, I'm losing it!" I somehow interpreted that as, "Oh shit, we're going over!" and in my wild panic I almost jumped over the side to abandon ship.  It's amazing how stupid panic can make people.  He finally managed to turn to face the wind so we could drop the mainsail.  

When the sail was down we had control again, but the conditions were still surprisingly rough.  With my heart still racing and my limbs shaking from adrenaline, I took the helm as Skeeter got ready to grab a mooring.  We had the dinghy pulled up alongside like always when we're maneuvering, to prevent it from getting caught in the propeller.  A strong gust of wind got under the dinghy and it was airborne.  Then the wind caught a solar panel and it almost went flying.  Yikes, what did we get ourselves into by coming to Saba???  

The wind channeled around that corner in powerful gusts

We tried to get some sleep after our extremely stressful day, but it was impossible.  Those crazy gusts of wind and the ripping current going in the opposite direction of the wind made our boat swing all over the place.  We'd spin around the mooring, and the mooring ball would bounce off the hull like Skeeter's college roommate who used to come home drunk and play the drums in the middle of the night.  On top of that, the wind and current would hold us beam to the waves (sideways), making our boat bob like an pendulum swinging back and forth.  Plus the wind would shift and we'd get whipped around and jerked like an abusive dog owner's pup.  Things would fall, bang, rattle, and roll no matter how well we secured everything.   

The boat swinging around and jerking
We got bounced around like balls in a pinball machine.  Simple things like walking, pulling your pants down to go to the bathroom, cooking, and not falling out of bed became Olympic-like challenges.  This was our constant, exhausting reality while in Saba.

The dramatic rocky coast rising straight up out of the water

Getting to shore was a bit of a nightmare, too.  We were obliterated from the exhaustion of not sleeping and our exhausting waking moments, and we were starting to get extremely grouchy.  We tried motoring around closer to Fort Bay, where you check in with customs and the only real place to get on land, but there were no moorings available and seas were even more scary rough there.  We didn't want to drop anchor because it was extremely deep (50+ feet) and the waves would surely yank up all of our chain and our anchor in those nasty conditions.  So we motored half way back around the island to Well's Bay where we started.  

Looking at Ladder Bay from Well's Bay
Winds were still blasting, and both the wind and waves change direction as soon as you round the corner.  This is because the wind and waves wrap around the island.  Around the corner you have to head into the wind and waves, and the island no longer blocks the waves.  The waves are even taller there than in open ocean because of the wrap around effect.  

Arial view of Saba. Photo Credit: "Saba World Wind" by NASA World Wind

I was scared to get into our little 8ft 8hp dinghy to go check into customs.  It was 2 torturous miles.  I imagined our dinghy going airborne with us in it and we'd flip over and end up lost at sea.  Saba is so remote that you could easily drift out to sea unnoticed.  I cried and told Skeeter I didn't want to die.  A little melodramatic, I know, but I was more tired than I had ever been in my entire life and I have a very vivid imagination.  

He calmed me down, and I said I'd go if we brought a handheld VHF radio, smoke signals, an air horn, and a change of clothes in our dry bag.  I really wish we had bought oars for our dinghy.  All we had was a crappy emergency paddle that wouldn't even keep you from getting blown away in those conditions.  Oh well, we hadn't had any dinghy problems lately so we should be fine, right?  I put up our "Q" flag to acknowledge that we still needed to check into customs, changed into swim clothes, and readied our emergency bag.
Putting up our "Q" (Quarentine) flag
Getting the dinghy ready

We made it safely to shore, though it was scary.  We were soaked from head to toe; there wasn't a dry spot on us.  We tried to drip dry for a few minutes and were going to try to find a place to change but we were ushered into the customs & immigration office, still dripping wet.  There was a puddle at my feet.  The customs official surprisingly didn't say anything...I guess it wasn't the first time someone walked into his government office like that.  We paid $20 for customs/immigration, found a bathroom to change our of our soaking wet clothes, and then went to the Marine Park office to paid our $12 mooring fee.  

Saba Marine Park Office

Dahlia at the Marine Park was very nice and helpful, and even hooked us up with a ride up the mountain with her friend Lazlo, who was about to head up anyway.  We drove up "the road" (Saba's only road) through the lowest town, "The Bottom," at almost 1000 feet elevation, and to Windward side at about 1500 feet.  Skeeter rode in the back of the truck enjoying the steep scenic ride up and I rode in the cab with Lazlo, getting a lesson in Saba history and culture and he pointed out landmarks along the way.  

Skeeter's view from the back of the truck
A one-of-a-kind island

We went to a restaurant called "Scout's Place" for lunch.  It was our 5 year anniversary, so we treated ourselves to a meal out and an unbelievable view.  We were surprised that what was a violent gusting wind at sea level was but a light breeze in town.  After that tasty meal we were cheering up and coming out of our zombie hazes.  We strolled around the little town of Windwardside, then decided to put out our thumbs and hitch down the mountain to The Bottom.  
The view from Scout's Place, 1500 ft down to the sea
A flatbed work truck with a lifting crane in the back stopped for us and told us to jump in the back.  He said we could stand and hold onto the crane.  It was the most exhilarating experience ever!  Skeeter and I were both grinning from ear to ear.  We both agreed that it even beat the time in the Philippines when we got to ride on the roof of the jeepny bus.  It was like a roller coaster ride!  The view was a thing of dreams and nightmares combined in one.  

Looking down at The Bottom
Photo credit: Simon Wong
Wind was blowing through our hair while we looked over the edge of sheer cliffs dropping down 1500 feet to the sea, and looking down hundreds of feet to The Bottom, where the houses and people looked like ants.

Goats roaming around town
A cute Saban church
Skeeter in front of the one and only Police Station
We walked around The Bottom and enjoyed the postcard perfect town.  The buildings mostly all painted white with green trim and red roofs.  The streets were all clean and paved, surrounded by stone walls.  Even though the island was experiencing a drought, it was still lush and green, with explosively colorful flowers.  

A street corner in Saba
Skeeter with a Flamboyant tree along "the road"
After exploring, we picked up a few groceries (peanut butter chocolate Oreos for our anniversary dessert), and then decided to walk down "the road" from 1000 feet down to sea level. 

"The road" going from The Bottom down to the water
We changed back into our soaking wet clothes and got into our dinghy to head back to our miserably bobbing boat.  We were almost out of the protected dinghy dock area when our motor died.  We were about to get pulled out into the huge windy wavy seas, but I grabbed our emergency paddle and started paddling like a maniac and Skeeter tried to get the engine to start.  My eyes started to fill with tears.  The sun was almost setting and we could be lost at sea for our 5 year anniversary.  Fantastic.  We finally managed to get tied up to the dock again.  Skeeter struggled with figuring out what was wrong with our motor (maybe salt water got into the fuel on our rough ride over?) and I just sat there thinking about our limited options.  
Fort Bay - we were almost in open water when our dinghy died
Finally I caught the attention of a kind Saban who must have felt sorry for us.  He offered his engine troubleshooting ideas to no avail, and then suckered two other guys who were working on their boat into giving us a tow back to our boat.  I could tell the captain was not thrilled.  It was a Friday evening and he was ready for the weekend, not wanting to tow some stupid sailors back to their boat half way around the island.  But he did anyway.  And I was extremely grateful.  He warmed up to us by the end of the tow, especially after I gave him a generous thank you tip and told him he might have just saved our lives and that it was our 5 year anniversary.  Thank goodness for those guys.

Getting towed back to Salt Whistle

Trying to remain positive as we celebrate our anniversary with our Funny Pop "Champagne"

Unfortunately that night, and all other nights while on Saba, were sleepless ones.  The next day we just vegged around, unable to move from exhaustion.  It was very sad and disappointing, because we had wanted to hike Mt. Scenery, Saba's tallest point.  But there was no way we had the steam to make it up that mountain in our state, and our dinghy wasn't working anyway so we couldn't even get to shore.

So many cool hikes on Saba - Photo credit: Richie Diesterhef
The following day, Skeeter fixed the dinghy (there was an air leak in the fuel pump) and we went back ashore to clear out of customs.  

Skeeter troubleshooting & fixing the dinghy

We didn't bring much of anything with us except for our passports, since we just planned on checking out and then coming back to the boat.  No dry clothes, no phone or camera, no water bottle.  But alas, the customs agent just left and wouldn't be back for another 3 hours.  No way were we going to go back to the boat.  The ride over was long and treacherous.  I was near tears again.  I just wanted to collapse.  It was a Sunday so the island was like a total ghost town.  There wasn't even anywhere to sit down, since Fort Bay is a dusty dirty mining area.  I seriously considered just laying down to rest in the street.  I didn't know what to do.  

Luckily, after many attempts, Skeeter managed to convince me to conjure up my remaining nuggets of energy and make the most of the 3 hours we had.  So we bought water at the Dominican bar in Fort Bay, hiked 1000 feet up "the road" to The Bottom, and strolled around town.  It was a real shame we didn't even have our phones to try to get internet to check the marine weather forecast, but nowhere had open wifi in Saba anyway and everything was closed because it was a Sunday anyway.  Then we hiked down the path to the historic old customs house at Ladder Bay.  

Looking up at the "ladder" and old customs house from the boat
I thought my legs were going to give out from under me I was so drained, but they didn't.  We walked back through The Bottom and down "the road" to Fort Bay in perfect time to check out of customs.  The dinghy worked this time, and brought us safely (though very wet) back to our boat.


We hadn't even been able to enjoy the beautiful underwater world that Saba offers due to lack of money to pay for diving (it's required to go with a dive shop), rough seas, lack of a working dinghy, and lack of energy.  We whipped up our last bits of energy and went for a snorkel at Well's Bay.  The underwater topography was stunning and dramatic, the corals healthy, and the fish were plentiful.  We swam through a tunnel carved through the rocks, and free-dived down to get close to the fish and look under ledges. 

Well's Bay - Photo credit: Eveline de Vree
We saw a turtle, a ray, and lots of fish - Clark Anderson/Aquaimages
Our free-diving skills are to the point that we can almost see just as much as we can scuba diving anyway.  We just can't stay down quite as long ;)  The only downfall of the experience was the abundant jellyfish, and my skin is highly sensitive to their stings.  I could care less about the initial pain of the stings, as intense as it can be, it's the excruciating itching that I get for days afterwards that I cannot stand.  
Current spun us beam to waves as the sun set on Saba
Back at the boat we got tossed around as usual, and then had another sleepless night.  At least we'd be leaving first thing in the morning!  We couldn't wait to get to calmer waters.  

Momo was scared of the powerful gusts of wind
Even Momo didn't like being on the boat in Saba.  The gusts were too much for him.  We didn't want him to get blown away (I think this was a legitimate concern, seeing how our dinghy literally flew), so we never let him outside without close supervision.  He'd get scared of the wind and run back into the cockpit or inside anyway, and outside on deck is usually his favorite spot.  
Ferry goes between Saba & St. Martin
If we could do it over we would never have brought Salt Whistle to Saba.  Instead, we would take a ferry from St. Martin and visit for a day, or stay on land if we wanted to visit for a couple of days.  Then we would have only positive things to say about Saba, and could enjoy it for the nature paradise that it is.  It's just NOT a place for cruisers unless the seas are completely flat and there is no wind, in my very bruised and exhausted opinion.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


We spent two productive but fun weeks in St. Martin.  We arrived in Anse Marcel, on the French side, arriving almost at midnight on June 3rd.  We anchored in front of the Radisson resort.  It was a beautiful beach, with turtles swimming all around our boat.  The channel into the marina is a very narrow one, so we decided to go in with our dinghy rather than take Salt Whistle through the very tight passage.  

A sunset in Anse Marcel

Customs and Immigration was such a breeze, we couldn’t believe it.  I first tried struggling in French to communicate with the port master, but soon realized that his English was far better than my French.  He just had us sit down at a computer and fill out a form & print it out.  The most challenging part of it was using a French keyboard with many of the number keys not working, and sorting through the pull down menus to find the right option in French…and many times not in alphabetical order.  We then took the printed paper to the port master’s desk and he stamped it and asked for 5 Euros.  We didn’t have any Euros, so he said, “Faive dolers americaine its okai, too.”  He didn’t even ask to see our passports, and we were never asked about having pets aboard.

We stopped by “The Pad,” the Broadreach Caribbean headquarters, which is located in the Anse Marcel Marina.  I had worked for Broadreach in the summer of 2012, a outdoor education program where the kids travel around the Caribbean living aboard a catamaran and learn how to sail & scuba dive, the value of community and team work, how to live simply, study marine biology, do volunteer projects, and experience other cultures.  I saw Motts, my old boss, and a couple of other Broadreach staff.  It was neat to show Skeeter my old base.  Motts was super willing to help us with anything we needed, despite his million other things going on with the program.  He gave us some marine store info, told us where we could find things we needed, and informed us that Digicel has SIM cards that work throughout almost all of the Caribbean.  We ended up buying a SIM card in St. Martin so we would have a phone if we needed it.

Grand Case, St. Martin

Our next anchorage was Grand Case, the next bay over from Anse Marcel.  We were very worried about leaving our dinghy at the dinghy dock in town, since there were reports of a lot of dinghy thefts there.  When I worked for Broadreach, we even got our dinghy stolen from that very dock.  Skeeter and I locked our dinghy and disconnected the kill switch and fuel line as a precaution.  We walked around the town, which was extremely quiet.  It is low season, so I guess that’s why.  We had dinner at the Broadreach favorite Lolo (the name of the local Creole food joints) called "Sky’s the Limit."  We both got Ribs food, which was delicious.  Ribs food is barbecue ribs with a bunch of other sides including my favorite, plantains.  We could smell it from our boat earlier, since we were anchored downwind from the mouthwatering barbeque smells.  It did not disappoint, and we sure didn’t go hungry: great food, friendly service, and good prices.  They give a 1-1 exchange rate for Euros & Dollars, which works out in our favor.

Ribs Food at Sky's the Limit
We got to sit in Lover's Lane (as the owner calls it)

We spent the majority of our time anchored out in Marigot, the capital of the French side.  The anchorage there had a lot of boats, kind of like Long Bay in St. Thomas, but there was plenty of space.  There were some liveaboard locals, some charter boats, and some cruisers.  It was a great base for us, since we had easy access to grocery stores and the public bus.  During the day there were lots of boats waking us, as well as numerous rhino tours and jet ski tours.  We had read a lot of things about dinghy theft in Marigot too, so we were worried about it.  For the first few days we were there, we decided to pay the $5/day fee to use the secure dinghy dock in Fort Louis Marina.  But after we got a feel for the town and safety, we decided to just use the public dinghy dock by the market square.  We didn’t have any problems, but of course we locked our dinghy every time.

The Marigot Market stalls

Tile art at the Marigot Market

On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a big market in Marigot with fruits and vegetables, spices, and also souvenir type items.  Since we are on a very tight budget we do not go out for meals except for on very rare occasions, but we enjoy local cuisine by finding local items at markets and grocery stores (we much preferred Super U to Simply Market) and preparing them ourselves.  

Our French fromage feast in Salt Whistle's cockpit
Ingredients for our boat-made French inspired meal
We bought a juicy delicious mango, a perfect avocado, some tasty plantains, turmeric root, spices, and homemade passion fruit sorbet at the Marigot Market.  A Frenchman selling timeshares for the Westin stopped us to talk.  He thought we were French, and when he found out we are American he said, “I cannot believe it.  But you are not wearing socks with your sandals!”  Apparently, most American tourists that he sees wear socks with their sandals.  It was a good laugh.

Home made passion fruit sorbet

Our purchases at the Marigot Market
Our delicious breakfast/lunch of French chocolate filled bread from Super U

Enjoying French juice that looks like fabric softener
The public buses in St. Martin are sort of like the guaguas in the Dominican Republic, a cross between a van and a bus.  They are super easy to use and cheap, too.  Depending on how far you go, they cost $1-2.  You can jump on a bus at the bus terminal, or flag one down anywhere on its route.  When you get on, you should make sure you say “Bonjour” if you are on the French side, or “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” if you are on the Dutch side.  St. Martin’s main roads pretty much follow the coast of the island.  When you see your stop you just shout out, “Stop, please,” pay the driver, and step off.  We are all about public transportation.  Not only is it a budget friendly way to get around, but you get to see the country and interact with the locals, too!

We used the bus to get to Cole Bay, the industrial area where all of the marine stores are located.  We visited Budget Marine (which is HUGE compared to the one in St. Thomas…kinda felt like a very expensive Candy Land for boaters), Island WaterWorld, FKG rigging, and Marine Couture (a marine fabric & upholstery store).  We picked up a couple of flags at Budget Marine (quarantine flag, French courtesy flag, and Curacao courtesy flag), some fuel hose, and “The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands” and “The Sailor's Guide to the Windward Islands” by Chris Doyle.  Those books are full of really great information, and a real life saver when you don’t have internet to look things up about different places.  At Island Water World we bought some diapers (not for us to poop in, but to soak up oil), and a new fuel gauge sender.  

Marine Couture was an interesting was more of a sewing factory than a store.  The French ladies that worked there were very kind.  One took a break from her sewing machine to let us look through four huge Sunbrella fabric sample books.  We got some ideas for redoing our upholstery, but decided we couldn't afford buying the fabric yet.  It was very nice to see the choices in person rather than a picture on a website, though, since it's hard to really know what the texture and colors are like.

While we were in St. Martin our boat projects that we completed were: changing the deck fitting on the starboard fuel tank (a previous owner jammed a wooden plug into it instead of repairing the fuel line), cleaning the port fuel tank and installing a fuel gauge sender, fixing the starboard fuel gauge sender, installing our watermaker, and replacing the port intermediate shroud on our mizzen mast.  Skeeter got the pleasure of doing all of the fuel tank and watermaker work, and I got the pleasure of ascending the mizzen mast in the rocky anchorage twice: the first time to take down the old broken shroud, and the second time to put the new one up.  

Now we can make 1.5 gallons drinking water per hour!
Filthy fuel tank!  We had no idea it was THIS bad!!!  No wonder...

Skeeter cleaned out all the scum & JB welded the corrosion

One day we took the bus to Philipsburg to walk around town, and so I could show Skeeter where I used to live and work when I worked as a dive instructor at Dive Safaris on the Dutch side.  That was ten years ago, so a lot had changed: lots of new docks, more boats, some new stores and restaurants, and some old places torn down.   

We walked by the Airport Adventures Boat hoping to catch Whitney, my former boss at Dive Safaris.  Unfortunately, we missed her, but we saw her Airport Tours boat that takes people snorkeling and watching airplanes land over their heads from the boat at Maho Beach.  I'm so happy for her and her new company...what a creative and awesome idea!  

 We also saw the GoldenEagle catamarans, which belong to the same company I worked for in St. Thomas.  They are the sister ships to the Castaway Girl boats that I crewed on.  Down the beach we saw a snorkeling class for locals, which was really cool, and seemed to be quite a popular thing.  

Golden Eagle Catamarans in St. Maarten
Castaway Girl 3, one of the catamarans I crewed on in St. Thomas
Philipsburg, St. Maarten - I lived here in 2005

Locals' snorkel lessons

Memories...used to hang out here with my Dive Safaris friends 10 year ago
 Skeeter suggested I get a $5 outfit that was hanging in the window at a store on Back Street.  I really liked it too, and hey, you can’t beat $5.  It was made in India, a blouse and “magic pants.”  The pants are really light and airy, and before you put them on they don’t look like pants at all.  First you tie the back side on, pass the fabric through your legs, then you tie the front side on.  Ouala.  Magic pants.  I don’t know why, but I am drawn to things from India.  I just love the style, and I love the culture.  The owner of the store was from India, too.  St. Martin is such a diverse place.  You can hear so many languages around you at once, and the locals have heritage from all over the world.  I love listening to other languages, so I really enjoyed myself in St. Martin.  We heard French, Dutch, English, Spanish, and Patua, amongst others.

Magic pants!  Windy evening in Marigot harbor.
We were about to jump a bus back to Marigot when we spontaneously decided to jump on a bus to Maho instead.  The Haitian bus driver was really nice, and helped us know exactly where we should get off to go to the famous beach where airplanes land right over your head.  I had brought a sarong, so we sat down on it on the beach.  We came at just the right time.  It was around 3:30 pm, and planes were landing every five minutes or so.  The first one appeared in the distance as a little spec.  And then it got closer and closer.  It looked like it was too low, and going to hit us!  It whooshed right over our heads, creating a huge gust of wind.  Skeeter LOVED it.  He was grinning from ear to ear.  He was like a little kid.  
The planes really look like they are going to land on your head

Amy & Skeeter at Maho Beach, St. Maarten

Propeller plane landing over Skeeter

Skeeter loves this!

When the planes lined up on the run way to take off, he loved it too.  Suddenly the engines revved up and before you knew it a massive gust of wind blasted sand in your face and you had to hold onto your hat and sunglasses so they wouldn’t get ripped off your head and fly into the sea behind you.  I was a bigger fan of the landing planes than the ones taking off.  I’d drape the sarong over my head and in front of my face because I was not quite as fond of the sand blasting as Skeeter was.  The sand was stuck all over me, and many hours later Skeeter was still trying to help me brush it off.  

But this is a major tourist attraction anyway...

We decided to spend our last nights in Tintamarre, an island off the north coast of St. Martin.  On the way there we stopped at the beautiful Creole Rock so Skeeter could change our fuel filter.  We couldn’t resist urge to jump in, so we did some snorkeling and free diving around that picturesque rock.  There were tons of Rhino tour people there at first in their little modified dinghies, but then they left and we had the whole place to ourselves.

Creole Rock, just outside of Grand Case, St. Martin

Tintamarre was absolutely stunning.  The contrast of the orange and brown rocks, the pristine beige sand, and the azure waters was unlike any vision of paradise I had ever even imagined.  We were surrounded by green sea turtles, popping their heads up for a breath of air.   

Beautiful Tintamarre, just off the northeast coast of St. Martin.

One of our favorite places
We snorkeled around the bay, and took our dinghy over to the tug boat wreck around the corner and went free diving on it.  The water was clear, and the wreck was teaming with fish.  It was just before sunset, so the creole wrasse were pairing up and getting ready to perform their nightly spawning ritual.  It was the best creole wrasse spawning we’d ever seen.  You could see the males chasing around their chosen mate, rising up off the bottom, swirling around one another, and finally the female releasing her eggs high up in the water column.  The females were easily distinguishable because they were smaller, and blue and black.  The males were larger in size, and in addition to their blue and black coloration they have splashes of purple and yellow near their tales.  And while spawning the males’ mouths turn totally white.  I’d never seen that before!

During the day there were lots of charter boats at Tintamarre, but at night we had the island to ourselves, save one other boat on the opposite side of the bay and a couple of goats, birds, crabs, and lizards that call the island their home. 

Momo enjoying Tintamarre

At night, a swell invaded the bay 90 degrees to the wind.  Our boat was rolling from side to side, and I could not sleep.  I decided to try sleeping outside where there was a fresh breeze.  Just as I got my pillow and blanket out there it started to drizzle.  I didn’t have my contact lenses in, but I could swear I saw a huge fire across the way on the mountain in St. Martin.  I grabbed my glasses and woke Skeeter up.  Sure enough, the entire mountain side was ablaze!  

The giant fire blazing on the mountainside in St. Martin
 I was worried about the Broadreach pad and the Anse Marcel Marina, which are just on the other side of that hill, downwind.  The fire blazed for more two days before they were able to get it under control, but fortunately the pad and the marina were fine.  The mountain side was mostly bare, with the exception of the landfill.  The smell of smoke was really strong in that whole Anse Marcel bay, though.

We had a great time in St. Martin and St. Maarten, but decided it was time to head out and continue on our way.  In the morning of Thursday, June 18th we set sail for our next island, the Dutch island of Saba.

Favorites in St. Martin: Maho Beach, Tintamarre, & Marigot Market