Friday, August 7, 2015

Playing Tourist in St Martin

Saralane spent two weeks in a mostly empty marina in St Martin while we both went back to the states. When we returned we decided that along with the usual St Martin chores (boat stuff, provisioning, scrounging for wifi etc) we'd spend a day playing tourist. We rented a car - which at $25 US was pretty cheap entertainment - and found that instead of playing tourist, what we really wanted to do were boat chores that we couldn't do as easily on foot or by dinghy or bus.

A few weeks back, Skip noticed that the gauge on our hydraulic panel (which controls the tension on both our boom vang and back stay) was starting to fill up with hydraulic oil and a little drip was snaking out from below the panel. When we got to St Martin, he removed the panel and we took it (by dinghy and foot) to FKG, a rigging shop in St Martin, and had a new gauge put in.

Reconnecting the hydraulic panel with the new gauge. 
Though we really don't need anything for the galley, I always have to check out what's become my favorite store in St Martin. (And, bonus - it's only a two minute walk from the dinghy dock at Budget Marine where we usually need something.) PDG is the go-to shop for anything you need/want/dream about for the galley on your mega yacht. Our mini yacht may only be 40' but I always find something there that I can't live without.

You can find dishes in any size or shape, as long as they're white.
Everything and anything you can imagine for baking, including about 25 different pastry brushes. Yes, please!!
Fancy stuff...
Most days they have free espresso going all day and this time we discovered that on Fridays they have free gelato and sorbet! I LOVE THIS STORE. Good thing we can reach it by foot and don't need to rent a car to come here.

Mango sorbet while you shop

Out doing chores, we walked by this hot pooch trying to stay cool on the French side.
Great market in Sandy Ground for Frenchy foods
Now for the touristy stuff. According to some unnamed sources (and they're really the best sources aren't they?) the number one touristy thing to do in St Martin is: go to Maho Beach (aka: Kerosene Beach) and watch the planes come and go. Actually it can be much more than watching the planes come and go - it can be as much of a full on drunken-cling-to-the-fence-and-get-blasted-with-sand-dirt-and-jet-fuel-experience as you want it to be. We opted to just watch. Part freak show, part international frat party, part jet fueled thrill... it was entirely entertaining.

Small crowd on the even smaller beach at the runway's end
You can see people with heads down, clinging to the fence in the center.
The blast from a taxiing jet rips up the surface of the water, and blows off more than a few items of clothing
This umbrella didn't stand a chance
The biggest plane to come and go from St Martin.... KLM's 747 direct from Amsterdam three times a week
KLM arriving two hours late
As we already know... I'm not great shooting things that move quickly (see: ALL my photos of wildlife) and I didn't do too well getting shots of the big one landing but Skip shot some great video on the iPad. It was going really well until the iPad pinged up a little helpful warning that said something like "Ha ha! You only have one chance to get this shot and there's no room left on here for you to record the landing!!" It's still a pretty cool video... make sure to turn up your sound.

A view from the hills
Driving over the new causeway bridge toward Philipsburg
There are so few boats in the lagoon this time of year it really feels like a bit of a ghost town. At one point we were the only boat anchored on the Dutch side, which is usually full of boats. There are a few yachties that are here year round, including the crazy guy who swims across the lagoon and threatens to set people's boats on fire, but transient yachts like us are few and far between. Our friends Daryl and Adri on Leila are almost here too much to be considered transient... but we were happy to catch them before we all headed in different directions again. 

Another goodbye to Leila... this time in Grande Case, St Martin 
We sailed to St Barth's, picked one of the free mooring balls in Columbier and got in a snorkel before the sun went down. We waited out a few squalls in the morning and set off with plans to head directly to Antigua. When the wind picked up and the waves became too close together to make for a comfortable sail to Antigua, we opted to sail to Whitehouse Bay in St Kitts, where there's nothing but a beach bar, a promised giant new marina and, for some strange reason, free and fast wifi. So... here we are... after a lazy morning, a good snorkel and a nice sunset on it's way. 

No drought in the mountains on the north end of St Kitts
The out-of-the-way marina in the north end sits under Brimstone Hill Fortress
A Royal Caribbean cruise ship dwarfs everything in Basse Terre
Here's a sampling of what's under the sea here in Whitehouse Bay in St Kitts. If I've ID'd anything incorrectly, I'm hoping that our friend Lili from s/v Heron will correct me!

A nice surprise under the boat in St Kitts - hundreds of baby conch!
School of silvery fish
One of the under appreciated 'beauties' of the underwater world - a sea slug.
Another beauty
I know it's just two sea urchins, a few rocks and a star fish but doesn't it look like a face?!
Nassau grouper
Sea urchin and little spider crab
Skip spotted this octopus hiding out flattened under a rock, with a spider crab for company
Beach bar seen from my snorkeling point of view

Beach bar seen from Saralane. There's literally nothing here but this bar and us. So close, but yet so far.
Maybe next time we pass this way we'll actually go ashore and see the fort and visit the town and have a drink at this little beach bar. Tomorrow we'll be off to nearby Nevis to do some visiting there. Eventually we'll get to Antigua.


Leslie said...

Love the video of the plane! You should do that again. When do you take the boat out of the water for hurricane season?


Madeline said...

Thanks Les! We definitely should do the Maho Beach experience again.... hopefully by then I'll have figured out how to clean up the iPad to make space to shoot the entire landing. We haul out in Antigua in less than two weeks. Guess we'd better get to Antigua!

s/v Skylark said...

We took my 85 year old mom to Maho Beach when she visited us in SXM from Maine. It was by far one of the highlights of her trip, but like you, we opted to watch the entertainment from a nearby bar when the big jets took off. We did sit right underneath one of the 747's coming in for a landing though. Thrilling. We'll look at Skip's video when we get some free wifi. Love all your photos, even the objects and animals on the move ones! E, E and L

Lili said...

Dear Madeline and Skip, I'm always so excited to read your posts with all the lovely photos! We also visited Maho Beach couple of years ago, we dinghied over from Simpson bay and getting on land in Maho beach in considerable swell was almost as much an adrenalin experience as watching the planes.
Since you challenged me - you got almost all animal names right, just the two pretty things you named slugs are actually Sea cucumbers, and Spider crab - which would be a perfect name - is officially Yellowline Arrow Crab.
This summer we've been sailing in Adriatic again, and I'm happy that I managed to make some decent photos of pretty things under water. Will publish some posts in near future.
All the best, enjoy Caribbean and Antigua (and Barbuda?)!

Bob & Janice said...

As always great photos! We never got over to Maho Beach when there. As a matter of fact we didn't get to see much of the island at all - stayed in the lagoon and visited Budget Marine a lot as doing our last minute things getting ready for the crossing. Guess we will have to play tourist the next time we are there. Always love your underwater photos - you do such a great job with them!