Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BonJour St. Martin

St. Martin is one island shared by two countries: France and the Netherlands. The French side is St. Martin and the Dutch side is Sint Maarten. The French side has the sidewalk cafes, beautiful pastries and mouthwatering French Cuisine. The primary language is French but English is widely used and if "merci" and "bonjour" is all the French you know, no problem. The American $ can be spent here but must be converted from the Euro (E). Not a good thing right now. The conversion rate can vary widely depending on the business. There is a range of 1E to 1$ in a few restaurants but generally it is E1 to 1.50$.

On the Dutch side it is all about shopping. Here the Netherlands Antilles Guilder (ANG) is the primary currency but the US dollar is welcome. The conversion is 1$ to 1.80 ANG. It is more fun to convert this way but in the end it is all the same….very expensive. Regular gasoline for our small dingy is currently going for $6.17/gallon. Diesel is over $5/gallon and seems to go up every day. Needless to say, we are sailing as much as possible. A great day is a downwind sail.

Sharing of this lovely island by two sovereign powers appears seamless to the visiting tourist. The local legend tells us the borders were defined by a walking race between a Dutchman and a Frenchman who stood back to back and set off in opposite directions to walk around the island until they met. It is said that the Dutchman was slower because he stopped to have a drink now and then which allowed the Frenchman to claim more territory. Believe it or not, it seems like good foreign policy.

We opted to anchor in Marigot Bay on the French side of the island. Definantly one of our favorite places.

The island is surrounded by beautiful bays. The French side allows free anchoring anywhere.

There are many amenities here. Need to call home.... no problem.

Or you can buy your own internet phone in one of the duty free Dutch shops. Steve and Jim playing with their new Nokia phones.

Traveling around the island is easy. Simply catch a bus, take your dingy or rent a car.

Like all islands, St. Martin's history is rich in stories of pirates, foreign domination and folklore. As told by the French, Ft. Lewis was built on a hill to protect the inhabitants from the "agressive British Navy". Not much remains today except perhaps the splendid view.

The local airport provides some serious amusement. There is a bar at the end of the runway. The planes come in to land directly over the beach, the bar and your head.

Standing right behind the engines as the planes take off….who would do such a stupid thing!

Silly boys

On a lucky day we end up seeing a local parade.

And even luckier is an afternoon nap

Next stop is Saba then onward to St. Kitts and Antigua.

Au Revoir

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

Monday, May 05, 2008

Adventures In Paradise

The US Virgin Islands consist of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. St. Croix is not on our cruising plan this trip but St. Thomas and St. John are.

St. Thomas is all about cruise ships. Charlotte Amalie Harbor can accomodate at least four giants and another two can dock around the corner at Crowne Pointe. Imagine the transformation this small island goes through when 6 giant cruise ships are in port and all the passengers want to shop. It is bedlam! Fun to watch and there are some good deals here. Liquor, jewelry and island nick nacks are the main attractions. Best of all there is no sales tax. We stocked up on Rum and have no more room for jewels or knick knacks, oh darn!

The cruise ships generally arrive in the early morning and depart in the late afternoon.

There are lots of great restaurnts to sample. Anne celebrated her 50 something birthday with friends at a local favorite, 'Room With a View'.

Next door is the island of St. John. Known for it's beauty and laidback lifestyle. Both Islands have a local bus. If the bus is late, no problem, you can have a beer or two while you wait. Leave your bottles right there and the local fire department will stop by and clean it up....every day......really! Not sure exactly where you want to go? No problem, there are lots of options.
The coconut tree climber of St. John
One of our favorite yachts.
All the Caribbean Islands host an annual Carnival. It is not just a day's event. It goes on for at least a week with various celebrations. The final day is usually a parade with costumes, music and crazy dancing. It is a great event to see.
This was our favorite princess.

Dorothy came all the way from Kansas. She brought some of her friends.
The costumes are amazing........

Great dancers

The local youth steel band rocked the crowd.
Everybody gets into the spirit

Everyone has their favorite
And ladies, here is the view from behind.

After a long hard day of Carnival we return to our little boats via the ferry.

Special effects

A bit of island history must includes the sugar cane plantations and mills on St. John. The green hillside in this photo was once terraced and planted with sugar cane. Slaves were imported to the islands to work the fields and the mills. Today many descendants of these slaves remain on the islands.

St. John is one of our favorite islands. There is great snorkeling, serene beaches and good hiking.
The islands are very mountainous and offer great exercise and spectacular views.

There are wild herds of donkeys and goats. They are not very timid.
The park service offers guided tours and are very knowledgable regarding herbs and plants.
Cane Garden Bay in the British Virgin Islands is also a great stop. There are some good places to hear local music and when the point breaks at Cane Garden Bay....
There is fun to be had for all Fred and Kathy dingy surfing
Anne and Steve catching a wave

We had one more stop to make before heading south again. Anegada is a small flat island known for it's beautiful reef and great lobster. We could not pass up a visit here so with the wind on our backs we hoisted the gennaker and set sail. We made the 14 mile sail in less than 2 hours. Our top speed was 12.9 knots.

We are heading south again, still into the wind. A 12 hour motorsail will bring us to St. Martin, the French/Dutch island. We would like to spend some time here but we are beginning to worry about the weather.
The beginning of hurricane season is only 2 weeks away. Our very expensive boat insurance wants us south of Grenada by June 1. Not sure we will make that deadline but fortunately we have good weather reports and can stay informed and make a run south should we need to.
Au Revoir
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line