Our Last Days in St. Martin

One of the very cool things we find about shopping in the Caribbean is that many of the grocers and almost all the chandleries do their utmost to locate their stores either near or directly on the waterfront. Both Island Water World and Budget Marine in St. Martin are directly on the water. When I purchased my new chain from IWW, I backed my dinghy up to the dock, and two of the staff brought the barrel of chain right to the sea wall to carefully lower my 200 feet of shiny chain into my dinghy. When I got back to the boat, I switched anchors, unhooked the old chain from my primary anchor and carried it to the bilge. I next attached the new chain to the dead-eye in the anchor locker, then reeled it aboard with the windlass. Piece of cake! To offset the weight of the new chain, I relocated dock lines, spare gas tanks, and a few other items resulting in the bow actually being a little higher out of the water than before. A net improvement to the boat in two ways – a lighter bow and an all-chain primary anchor rode. 

Island Water World Chandlery
Island Water World Chandlery

One Sunday, Joy and I took a long dinghy ride exploring the lagoon. Off to the right is a photo of the “big bridge” on the Dutch side, the bridge used by all the mega-yachts and deep draft sailing yachts. The channel on the French side is about 8 feet deep at high ride, 6 feet at low, so if you draw more than about 7 feet, you must use the Dutch bridge. Watching the mega-yachts negotiate this bridge is quite a sight; they line both sides of their vessels with massive fenders as the horizontal clearance is just barely enough for them to squeeze through. Depth is no problem as we’ve watched sailing yachts near 200 feet in length and 20 feet in draft enter here.
The Bridge on the Dutch Side
The Bridge on the Dutch Side

As we cruised around the big harbor we ventured close to some of the massive yachts moored at some of the marinas. The three yachts below were all preparing to make the trip north to Antigua for Race Week. The largest one with the dark green hull was fitting an entirely new set of Quantum laminate sails. Look closely and you’ll see one of the crew next to the mast which gives you some idea of the size of this beautiful yacht. 
Look at the Man by the Mast!
Look at the Man by the Mast!

St. Martin is probably the focal point for all the mega-yachts in the Caribbean. We see huge yachts wherever we sail, but without a doubt, the seem to congregate in the marinas located inside the lagoon. We did a quick count of more than 50 yachts in excess of 100 feet. Believe it or not, yachts 100 feet in length are now among the smaller mega-yachts! The huge green sailing yacht had to be nearly 200 feet long, maybe more with the bowsprit.
It is rare to see one of these huge sailing yachts actually under sail. More often than not, they motor from one harbor to another, only raising the sails if the winds are extremely light, and if the owner is on board with guests to impress. We’ve not seen one with the sails unfurled in our last 6 years of cruising. We must say though, that the big Windstar Sailing cruise ship fleet almost always has their sails up even if it is only for looks.
 We met several cruisers in St. Martin who had spent a fair amount of time wandering the Caribbean. They offered bits of advice and opinions about places they liked or didn’t like, and some of our cruising plans for the season were shaped by our little gams. A Dutch couple, John and Jolanda, cruising aboard their strong steel yacht, s/y JoHo, suggested we skip St. Barts. John also told me that, even with our draft of 6′ 6″, I could transit the Riviere Salee in Guadeloupe, rather than sail south along the west coast before rounding up to the capital city of Pt. a Pitre. Thank you John for that advice and safe travels. 
All too soon we had to think about moving on, not because of the distance involved, but because we had so many places we wanted to visit this year, just to get a taste of the islands for future cruising.
Leaving the Lagoon via the Marigot Bridge
Leaving the Lagoon via the Marigot Bridge

We’d decided to skip St. Barts, the land of the rich and famous, which meant sailing a bit further down to St. Kitts, weaving between St. Barts and Statia along the way. We departed the lagoon on April 2nd with JoHo just ahead of us. Joho continued on towards Grand Case while we anchored in Marigot Bay long enough to gather our laundry from Shrimpy’s and to clear Customs. From there we motored the few miles to Grand Case where we anchored for the day. I spent a couple hours scrubbing and cleaning the hull preparing Ocean Angel for the next few weeks. 
 Leaving Grand Case, St. Martin
Leaving Grand Case, St. Martin

Early the next morning we hauled the big Rocna aboard pointing our bow first east in the light winds, then south along St. Martin’s windward coast, gradually seeing increasing wind as early morning calm gave way to a perfect trade-wind sailing day. 

On to St Kitts