02/02/2013, Saint Martin
With my anchor sunk into the sea grass on the French side of Simpson Bay...and with the stern of Ooroo floating in the Dutch side, I'm being spooned by two lovers.
We checked out of the Dutch side with formalities consisting of showing receipts for the boat yard that Ooroo spent her last six months, to one customs official. It struck me as weird that she had a tip jar in front of what looked like bullet proof glass. The process however was easy and it cost $27 (no tip). We then went to the next window and had our passports stamped by another official who was so cheerful I would have paid a tip....but alas no jar.
We then fired up the motors on Ooroo and dropped anchor some 10 minutes latter...in France. A very small voyage indeed.
I might add that it was Jules and Sarah's first anchoring process and it was done with finesse...i.e. with hardly any cussing at all.
We then had to check into the French side. Via dingy we journeyed another 10 minutes to Le Marina in Margot...the capital of the Saint Martin. Here we used the DIY check in system. A computer is made available to sailors at the Capitainiere at the marinas entrance. We just put in our details (and when unsure of such details we just made it up) and paid $7.... And that is for as long as we wish to stay. No passport checks, boat paper checks....nothing. I'm happy to have my anchor were she is.
We are actually closer to the dingy docks, fuel docks and boats yards on the Dutch side than the French. However it's a one minute difference to coffee in one country or the other. We still have a car, that is costing $25 a day however will get rid of that when we have all provisions purchased and on board. It's just a big shopping cart as our exploration by road is done for now. It is easier to dingy from A to B than to brave the traffic....although you do end up with a wet arse.
But in saying that there is the issue of reliability. My dingy is new and the outboard is not. I spent a frustrating 3 hours stranded ashore while collecting fuel today. It turned out that the insulating foam inside my engine cover was deteriorating and being sucked into the air intake, resulting in the need for another service only days after its last.
I could go on with technical stuff....like fluff in air intakes etc but I can't for the life of me make sense of what I am talking about. Anyway....Tony Brewer the boat broker guy that I mention so often said "take my dingy its yours until you sort your fluff out"
We did climb to the canon ramparts of Fort Louis above Margot Bay, shopped in the local markets for $5 hats and $20 dresses that look like $100 dresses on Jules and Sarah. Sarah bought me the best baguette with ham and cheese I have had since I visited the European version of France.
I managed to purchase an almost identical fishing rod and reel to the one that cost me $85 at a US flea market. This one cost just $75 at the famous Shrimpies, near the French bridge. Now we will dine on twice the fish as before. Mike the owner of Shrimpies is an institution around here. He runs the VHF radio net each morning that consists of introducing services, advise buying and selling between businesses and yachties. I sold all my charts that got me this far and should be able to buy more to get me where I am going. You can also grab a $2 beer while your laundry is done.
So we hope that we can sort out a few niggling maintenance issues and cruise from between two countries into the clear waters of one.....the French Coast of Saint Martin and specifically Grand Case should be our home by Tuesday.
01/29/2013, Sint Maarten Dock Yards
Ooroo spent her first full day on the water on Australia Day. We dressed her in new sails with black trim to match the black anti-foul on her bottom. The smoky saloon windows look like wraparound sunglasses. A little black makes my rather dirty decks look positively white.like bleached teeth on a tanned face. She is prettier than the average 1996 Fontaine Pajot.
The Bimini will be repaired and will have a dodger added along with drop down shade cloth to keep that pesky sun off my afternoon beer.
We even have a new dingy that although not much bigger than the deflated old one, she does seem to have heaps more room.....and is much lighter.
I'm not the most powerful guy and so to avoid having to continually disconnect the 15hp outboard every time we go sailing I now have a dinghy that can stay mostly connected to an engine. Rough weather and long passages excluded.
Spending money on the boat is one thing.....but we have needs too. We have socialized with my old mate the boat broker, Tony Brewer and his family. He is still my recommendation if anyone is buying or selling a boat. Today Sarah, Jules and I spent the day circumnavigating the island by car. We discovered Grand Case....and will no doubt sail back there. It's a turquoise bay on the French side, surrounded by quaint restaurants selling the likes of espressos, Grant Mojitos (with champagne added instead of soft drink), escargot and frog legs. We have been swimming at Orient Bay, drinking at the Sunset Bar while watching the world come in and land at Princess Juliana Airport. Jules thinks it was named after her.
Now two days latter Jules, Sarah and I are running halyards and lines in the mast and boom. Replacing halogen with LED lights and just basically sorting Ooroo out for a very long voyage.
It seems so doable though. Our first two destinations are clearly visible from the shores of Sint Maarten. Anguilla (British West Indies) and Saint Bart's (French) are less than a days sail away. We could spend weeks in these islands alone and still not have gone 100nm.
But lets take a day at a time....tomorrow we are casting off the lines holding Ooroo to land and heading out of the Dutch West Indies....to travel a huge 150 meters to the French side of the lagoon. Under the lovely motion of the anchor we will do the last of our prep with the aim to start sailing for real on Monday.
01/23/2013, Sint Maarten
I arrived in Sint Maarten....minus my girls Jules and Sarah, who are staying in NY for the Big Apple experience. And Charlotte who is also freezing in the UK. Geeze I hope they are not chillin their arses off while I sit here in a barmy breeze.
The flight from LA via NY was long....and sleepless.
I imagined the dingy full of water and sagging off the davits, bird poo up to my ankles and no power. What I got was no power...that fucking Xantrax was not reinstalled after being checked out and so the batteries are DEAD. The Bimini was sagging from recent rain and so I pushed the water up to release it....only to find that the rain was not recent and the gunk that had been collected on top was putrid and worse than bird poo....now my deck is awash with six months of gunk. Mmmm smells great.
Ooroo is otherwise clean and tidy with everything in place. One torch works and I have power on my iPad to write...for now at least. Im camping. I walked the deck and checked the new hatches over the crew cabin....dry. The new loos are looking like thrones. The new sails are cramping the saloon waiting to be rigged to power Ooroo home. I have no where to sit and loads of work to do to have her habitable for all my loved ones.
Re-reading this I feel the description is incomplete. I'm at a dry dock sandwiched between the Princess Julianna Airport and Simpson Bay. Jet Aircraft to one side and pristine water to the other. Hectic to one side and fish jumping on the other. Million dollar Lear's to my right and million dollar yachts to the left. Its a funny place to call home.
Someone is also using the underside of my boat as a garage. An old van is parked below. It's is where my hire car should be parked. Ooroo is on blocks longing to be in the water so close. The van is on smaller blocks, engine out and parts galore. It isn't going anywhere. Soon if not removed the van will be the same colour as the paint that will be Ooroo's protection from all the nasties that may wish to stick to her bottom. And it's is brown paint (thanks Lee)
I did meet a lovely American couple on the flight over and so had to check out Pineapple Pete's with them. It was the few Preidente's that got me writing. I am home. I'm back. Life couldn't be better.
Oh and for the random record, I played Oli once in pool in Oz on his return. It is after all our world tour! First to 100. He won and now the score me 75, Oli 61. 10 countries so far and who knows how many more to fine the winner.
New year, new crew and new adventure. Has it really been six months since my last blog?
I find it hard to find the words when not sitting on Ooroo's deck or under a shady palm in a beautiful bay.
I have procrastinated about writing. Sitting here in air conditioned comfort on Australia's Sunshine Coast. I feel a little ordinary and uninspired. In fact I feel fat and lazy.
In saying that, I have had a wonderful time while home. So great that I'm bringing a little bit of Oz back to Sint Maarten with me. Jules (who was on the maiden voyage of Ooroo) and her 14 year old daughter Sarah are my new crew....or am I there's? It's going to be a learning curve for us all.
I have had a wonderful Christmas in Adelaide with my family, caught up with old mates and discovered a few new ones. My golf improved.
I have a list of " can I come sail with you?" friends....who I hope will come sail with me. While Jules and Sarah will leave Ooroo after 3 months in the Caribbean, I have Guy and Tim in training to join me for the Pacific crossing.....and maybe Mark Waite? Many others who have promised to drop everything and come explore an island or two. I will pick up the odd hitchhiker. Oli and Jen have also promised to come back. And how I would love Oli on board again? He is such a natural sailor and we make an awesome father son team. Charlotte, if heading back to Australia while I'm away could also drop on in.
So logistically it is going to be an interesting journey. Crew changes and personalities are possibly one the hardest things to manage on a boat.
On the subject of logistics, I have also new sails, hatches and heads. Now I usually don't get technical with my blog because I don't expect my mates and readers to know the sharp end of a boat from a bow....a bit like me not so long ago. Also, it is more fun writing about fun than some dodgy piece of equipment that may have caused a headache or two.
However I will make an exception with my Xantrax inverter/charger. My brand new first one died before we even left Florida. It cost me $400 just to post this piece of shite to the makers for the warranty to come into play. I had to pay for a new one and then chase the manufactures for the refund for the old one...it took about 6 weeks for them to even confirm that the old one was in fact a lemon....and weeks latter for the refund to come back. The new, new one lasted until the BVI's (5mths). Still under warranty it isn't worth sending it back. Postage alone would just be throwing good money after bad. So I will be throwing good money at another brand of Inverter Charger and will tell all that listen that because Xantrax outsource the component manufacturing to China they are no longer are worth even considering as an anchor for your dingy. In fact I keep wanting to type anthrax instead of Xantrax.
So I still have some repairs to do when I get back to the beautiful Caribbean.
I have really missed my boat. I shall not be leaving her again until she is safely anchored in Australia.
I'm hoping to be writing a little more often now and maybe even entice Jules or Sarah to have a crack. You will always know when I'm writing however....bad spelling and grammar! Thanks to all the past readers who could see past that.
I will be aboard January 20th. Yeh.
Another day another bay
The British Virgin Island verses the US Virgin island.....no contest. I'm not sure if it's because I had Diana, my traveling mate from India onboard or that I have reconnected with Willem, a business buddy from my backpacker days or that Elena who I had met here 6 months previously, come to sail and drink margaritas with us....or is it just that the BVI's have provided me with beautiful bays and days.
The USVI's are America in another place. We had anchor rage....albeit my fault. But hey, if you anchor too close to someone's private mooring ball they have a right to be pissed. But we realized it and started pulling up anchor to move when they came home.....you sort of don't expect to cop half witted abuse from a couple of sailors who live in a paradise? But we did...the passing comment from the rage man was...."you better sleep with one eye open" Needless to say I had a wonderful sleep while he tossed and turned with his own rage.
Oh well, see you USVI's and hello the BVI's.
And here we are. Crystal clear water, constant wind, anchorages that teem with happiness and joy. And if they don't the bars will change that real quick.
Almost two weeks of great sailing and anchorages. The best can only be judged by of the people we met and it's a close contest.
Willy T's at Norman island is an old rusty boat that serves cold margaritas and allows you to do back flips off the top deck right next to the sign that says "don't jump".
Diana did her first snorkeling while watching pelicans dive for small bait fish that were being rounded up by huge Tarpon.
Some mad South Africans took us wake boarding at break neck speed.
The back flips off Willy T's became naked back flips latter into the night....the margaritas became even colder and our green backs much soggier.
Rules! You can break em...and we did.
My own country has become one of these overly bureaucratic places that takes people's ability to think for themselves away. The BVI's on the other hand is the sort of place that allows everyone to be themselves. And by doing so we can still respect others around us.
Maybe the back flips pushed someone's boundaries. But how hard can it be to turn your head when a few white flashes of arse gleefully launch themselves into the deep. The laughter compensates for any distress others may have.
The barman didn't turn an eye....this is after all the Willy T...and a country that can still allow people to be themselves. Get your white arse in gear Australia.
So I now sit in Virgin Gorda, the very same place I started my sailing. This is our launch place for the last leg of the journey before Ooroo is put to rest. Sint Maaten, here we come. It will be our last night sail as and I shall have some time to finish what may be my last blog for a while.
Sint Maaten is know as the top of the mountain when sailing from the US into the Caribbean. After knocking into the easterlies for 2000nm, Sint Maarten is the place you turn south to explore a plethora of new countries, cultures and islands. The wind is a the perfect angle for Ooroo to do her thing with the most comfort and speed. But that perfect sailing experience will have to wait for Jules and her kids Sarah and Tom to come back next January continue.
The sun is on my back and the bays of the BVI's are disappearing in the sea mist behind. The final day of sailing is ending.
Oli woke me for my watch and hour early after hearing a Security call on Ch 16. It was the Cruise Liner Fantasea letting all shipping traffic know that they were about to let of some fireworks. We have phosphorescence of our stern, stars lighting the sky and fireworks off a Disney type ship to boot. I was worth he early wake up.
We a motor sailing at 30 degrees to the wind, tacking every couple of hours. The wind at 20 knots is coming straight from Sint Maarten. It is what we expected and this is how Ooroo handles these conditions best. The sail gives us a few more knots of speed and the angle means we aren't smacking straight into the waves. It's faster than just motoring. It's bumpy but doable.
I also have another batten that wants to depart the sail. This is our troubled sails last journey and if I try and drop her to retrieve the batten she i will lose it into the sea. So what will be will be.
And I lost it. The wind increased and I woke Mark to help me put a double reef in that old sail. We had a bumpy ride.
So now I'm in another Bay....Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten.
It's amazing the difference 9nm of ocean can make. We left the USVI's on the last day of our humanitarian parole visa and the day after we said ooroo to Charlotte.
From mansions on cliff faces, pristine marinas, cruise ships and yanks with anchor rage (that's a story for another time) we are now anchored off a palm covered beach. The beach is also the road, the floor of the bar and coats the top of the pool table. The beach smells of quality weed and the locals are so "on it" that its up to us to remember what we drank when the bill is paid. Welcome to the British Virgin Islands, and more specifically Jost Van Dyke Island.
The short sails have been perfect. We have a few weeks were we don't have to beat into the easterlies so we are sailing the best angles to the wind as if we have all the time in the world.
We have four days before Diana, comes on board to reminisce about our past travels and to fill in the four year gap since we last saw each other. Four days to travel 30nm to Road Town, Tortola via other beaches just like this one.
....now a day latter we sailed again. We pulled up the sails from Great Harbour just to pull then down again 15 minutes latter as we approached White Bay. From Foxy's Bar to the Soggy Dollar Bar. I always was a little over critical of sail boats motoring when the wind is great. Anyway, my crew didn't like the idea so I did it anyways just for the exercise.
This is the sort of place that I should have Jules with me. At least I know she, this Sara and Tom will be with me when I up anchor next year. We will have many days like this.
The bar is called the Soggy Dollar, because you can anchor so close that it's not worth launching the dingy. They have a clothes line behind the bar to dry the greenbacks.
With a setting sun I'm picking up there WiFi on board and in the unlikely even we ran out of rum o beer, I just dive into the beautiful clear water and two minutes latter I have a refill.
The day trippers are clearing out to there hotels in St Thomas and Tortola while I chill.
Life is a boat!