St. Martin ¬- it¬'s a French experience
19 February 2015 | 17 57.38'N:062 54.28'W, BVI & St. Martin
From the BVI we made an 80 nM overnight trip to the French side of St. Martin. We traveled within sight of Mojo and Pelita, fellow cruising sailboats which we have come to know. St. Martin is the first of 3 French islands we will visit as we cruise south, the other two being Guadeloupe and Martinique. We¬'ve come to the conclusion that the French are¬.... well¬.....just different. Different than any other culture we have been exposed to so far. We¬'ve chartered in all of the French islands so we knew what to expect but it doesn¬'t change the experience. They are still ¬"different.¬" For example, most French businesses close their doors from 12:00 noon until 3:00 P.M for the equivalent of a siesta. They close again from 5:00 PM ¬- 6:00 PM. Also employees only work 35 hours a week. That¬'s considered full time. Everyone gets about 42 days a year of holidays and vacation, even starting employees. Imagine if a US company conducted their business hours and employee time off like th is? On the other hand, look at the average US citizen¬'s weight. In the French countries all of the French are thin. Not just some of them but all of them. It¬'s not the food either. My gosh, we had some of the riches meals we have ever had while in St. Martin. The fresh croissants and pastries are everywhere. Their lunches and dinners are divine. Just reading the menu is mouth-watering. And, of course, the wines. Lots of great wines at inexpensive prices. Another observation: the French walk a lot. Everywhere you see people on foot. Of course, we are on a small island but if this were a US island, everyone would be riding in golf carts, cars, motorcycles, whatever, but they would not be walking. I have no idea what the French vs. the US life expectancy comparison is but I¬'m betting theirs is longer than ours so they must being doing something right. For some reason, French like nudity. Every morning we see sailors on French boats nude. We see French men doing routine maintenance all over their boat buck naked. Then every afternoon at sundowner time the French get naked on the transoms of their boats and bathe in total view of the world. We see boats from all over but only the French seem to delight in this public display of nudity. Oh, well, it¬'s their country but something tells me they would do it in the US too if they were aboard their boats there. While in Marigot Bay, St. Martin we got a chance to reunite with many other cruisers we met in Florida, Salinas, Puerto Rico and in the BVI. It was great to see our new cruiser friends and feel the camaraderie that being with fellow cruisers brings. I wish I could tell you that cruising life was all beautiful sunsets and umbrella drinks at sunset but we often have a few challenges. Our cell phone data experiences in St Martin have been even more frustrating than our Puerto Rico and BVI experiences. See the French don¬'t play ball with the other Carib islands on cell phones; you have to buy a SIM card just for the French islands. So, now we have SIM cards (and phone numbers) for the US and USVI, Puerto Rico, the BVI and all other non-French Islands, and all French islands in the Carib. Customer service for the Puerto Rico SIM card was in Spanish and it is in French on the French card. One minute we have voice and data (50 Euros worth); the next minute we had neither. It took 3 trips to the cell phone office and 5 days of waiting to get it all resolved. Boy, there is nothing like the good ole USA when it comes to cell data. You can bad mouth AT&T and Verizon but they are quantum leaps ahead of all of the Carib island s in technology and customer support. 4G, Ha, forget it. You are lucky to get 3 G here. For example, I asked the French customer support guy why I cannot text pictures. He simply said that takes too much bandwidth. It¬'s not an option that you turn off on your phone; when you try to text a picture than option is just greyed out. Frustrating but that¬'s part of the primitive nature of cruising the Carib. We get to anchor every night in postcard perfect settings but we can¬'t communicate a pic of it to anyone. Oh well. We can still send a pic as an email attachment but not in a text. I¬'m not sure I understand the difference but that¬'s island life. It¬'s just the way it is. A fellow sailor commented recently at a local Carib business that he was only able to get 70% of the things he was supposed to do done that day. The locals started laughing at him and couldn¬'t believe he got as much as 70% done. So, the fellow sailor now knows that if he cannot seem to get anything done he must have reached his 70% limit for the day so he gives up for the day. Before you think we haven¬'t had any fun yet here, nothing could be further from the truth. We joined 4 other cruising couples to share a cab to Grande Case, the gastronomical capital of the island. All of the town turns into a food event. Restaurants and vendors line the street with great food and drink to taste and wares to buy. We settled on one and had fantastic local flare meals and great wine. Then we also had a wonderful Valentine¬'s Day dinner in Marigot. We just strolled along the open air restaurants that line the waterfront reading their menus as their proprietors try to coax us into their restaurant instead of the competitions¬'. We finally chose one we liked. As we enjoyed a great meal of well-prepared beef entrees with a great paring wine, in a nearby restaurant a musician named Mr. Cole (after Nat King Cole) started singing really great, romantic songs. We had a great evening and even went over the neighboring restaurant for a night cap to hear more of his entertainment. We commented that there is nowhere in all of Houston that you stroll along on Valentine¬'s Day and just drop in for a great meal and entertainment without first making a reservation at least a month in advance. We thought we were lucky to be in St. Martin during carnival. We watched a kid¬'s parade which was very well done. The kids wore elaborate costumes and danced down the street to their music. A few days later, there was something (not sure what to call it) that seemed to last all night long with very, very loud music that went on all night. I think it was a pre-parade march through the streets. Following that during the day, there was another parade. Since we enjoyed the kid¬'s parade, we were looking forward to another fun outing. It did not come close to being as entertaining as the kid¬'s parade. There were dancers that wore costumes and danced down the street to music loud enough to wake the dead, but we left feeling a bit disappointed. We expected to see costumes similar to that of a Vegas showgirl (and there were a few of these) but mostly we saw jiggly women dancing down the street in tight fitting outfits. We will post some of the better pics. After a while in Marigot, the weather prediction changed. Large 8-9 foot northerly swells were coming so we either had to go around to the Dutch side (St. Marteen) and go through the bridge into the lagoon to weather the swells or head out. Where we were in Marigot we had no protection from the swells or the 30 kts wind predicted, so we decided it was time, we headed south to Ille Fourche, a small deserted but protected island just north of St. Barth¬'s to sit out the swells. On our second day here, we were boarded by the St. Martin Coast Guard. Two very attractive young ladies and a young man came aboard and asked to see our boat papers. They were very friendly, asking Cheryl if she was dressed suitable for company before they came aboard. We can imagine what some people are wearing or not wearing on some of their boardings. They did not ask to go below and were satisfied with the few questions we gave answers to so they left fairly quickly. Now, here we sit in Ille F ourche for a several more days. Great protection but no data coverage. We had finally got our data needs worked out only to get out of range of cell towers. We should be able to get data in St. Barth¬'s (and add pictures to the blog gallery). The pic in this blog post is of Leverick Bay in Gorda Sound, BVI, a place we kept gravitating back to so often, we knew the bar staff on a first name basis.