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Is It More Like Hunting or Foraging?
19-Jan-2009, Marigot, St. Martin

CURRENT LOCATION: Anchored close to the public dinghy dock in Marigot Bay
18 03.992' N, 063 05.443' W

Here in St. Martin, cruisers get their LP tanks filled by using one of the two marine stores on the Dutch side. Island Water World fills tanks on Monday. All you have to do is drop off the tank by 8AM and it will be ready by 5PM. This wonderful one-day service allows us to get our tank filled without fear of becoming hostages to propane (long-time readers will recall our experience this time last year in George Town).

So, for the first time in a very, very long time, we set an alarm. It is a long ride across the lagoon in a dinghy which will not plane with two aboard, so we needed to get an early start. Our outboard was purring by 7AM. Considering the length of the journey, we decided to stay on that side of the island and use the day to get 'stuff' on the Dutch side.

Provisioning while cruising is a lot like I imagine hunting would be. I spy my brand of cereal on a store shelf, count the number of boxes they have, and ... bang ... bang ... bang ... all three lie in our cart. No, wait, that analogy doesn't really work. Perhaps, it is more like foraging in the forest for food. Turning over rocks to see what is underneath is not a far cry from stepping into some of the small markets we have ventured into, hoping to find delicious mushrooms instead of dirty grubs.

Sheryl approaches her foraging with extremely organized intent. Even before we went cruising, she maintained a spreadsheet which listed the stores in which we could get the best prices on items we purchased regularly. We are largely able to live without income now because, back then, Sheryl found the best price on baby spinach at Sam's, other bargains at Lowe's Foods, and the most inexpensive wine at Trader Joe's. And folks wonder why we named our boat Prudence.

Consequently, today's trip to the Netherland Antilles was thoroughly planned out (based on our previous trip across the lagoon last month). The morning found us working with a helpful employee at Island Water World to effectively rid ourselves of nearly $400. The major items of need were new genoa blocks and a GPS antenna.

In order to furl our headsail, we have to carefully release tension on the sheet, or luff the sail, while pulling in on a furling line. In good sailing conditions, this procedure is fairly straightforward. However, when you get caught with a sudden increase of wind strength and are overpowered flying a full genoa in 25 - 30 knots, the process is a bit more brutal. On one such occasion last year, the violent luffing whipped the sheets such that our very old genoa block shattered. I managed a makeshift repair using a block intended for our spinnaker which has lasted us since, but we both knew that we needed to make the investment in strong, new genoa blocks. Believe it or not, we were happy to spend just slightly over $200 for a pair of replacement blocks, a pretty good deal for equipment which is subjected to such forces.

As I have mentioned in blogs past, we have two Garmin GPS units on board. One is mounted in the cockpit and is used for navigation and the other is mounted below and is used as an anchor alarm. The latter was a cast-off from another cruiser obtained at an insanely low price. Unfortunately, we discovered that the antenna provided with that unit did not work. No problem, though, Garmin makes their antennas with the notion of universal applicability. Since we don't need navigation and anchor alarm capabilities at the same time, I have simply been swapping the antenna lead between the two units. This has worked quite well; however, it defeats the primary purpose for buying the second Garmin ... to serve as a backup to the primary navigational GPS. With both relying upon the same antenna, any malfunction or damage therein would render both GPS units useless. For $50, we now have two totally independent GPS systems (not counting our battery-operated handheld, to be employed in the event of a true navigational emergency where both onboard systems have failed).

The remainder of our donation to Island Water World was accounted for by little things. A new can of Corrosion X, a bottle of 3M fiberglass cleaner which I hope will remove the oxidation forming on our dark hull, and a new chart to add to our rather large collection of paper charts are among the little things which quickly add up. Although it is not hard to spend a large sum of money in any marine store, we felt pretty good about the quality of products we purchased and the reasonable prices they were asking for them.

Four hundred dollars of stuff doesn't take up as much space in one's backpack as you might think, so it was with this relatively light load that we left the dinghy tied up at the store's dock and went in search of an early lunch. I had my sights set on McDonald's. Although I very rarely eat at fast food establishments (since I became an adult with an easily expandable waistline), McD's was a place that was considered a real treat when I was growing up. Ever since we walked past the McDonald's last month, I have had a comfort-food craving which could only be satisfied by the grand-daddy of all fast food chains. Fortunately, en route to McD's we came across The Carrot Café. We stopped here for Sheryl to buy a sandwich. It was an elegant composition of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil on a multigrain baguette. She got it to go and we continued down to the aforementioned fast food joint where I somehow managed to order $15 worth of food for me and me alone. I guess McDonald's isn't as inexpensive as I recall from my younger days. It did, however, have that same familiar flavor I was seeking. We enjoyed lunch in air-conditioned comfort while I watched CNN on a big screen TV. A sign on the wall indicated that if I had brought my laptop I could have accessed free WiFi. Ahhhh, now I understand why my cheap food costs $15.

With each of us pleasantly sated by our own repast, we journeyed onward. The goal was a Dutch supermarket which had been scouted last month and was known to have good prices on several of the items we routinely keep in our pantry. On the way, Sheryl stopped to browse at a few shops while I tried to stave off the insulin-induced coma being brought on by my overly processed lunch selection. By the time we arrived at the supermarket, the walking had done wonders. I was re-energized and ready to serve as pack mule. Those services would be required as Sheryl spent the next hour efficiently calculating exactly how much we could carry the remaining half-mile back to the dinghy and filling our cart to just that level.

The waning hours of daylight were spent stowing the provisions obtained, including a newly filled LP tank, testing the big-ticket items (yes, the genoa blocks were the right size for our track and the GPS antenna works as it should), and talking about what else we have to accomplish before we are ready to depart St. Martin. The list is short and the weather forecast is looking good; therefore, expect that I will be writing about new places in the not-too-distant future. The next posting will be dictated by the winds of fate and availability of internet at our new destination.





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