Sunday 16 September 2012

St Maarten Stopover

We eventually arrived in St Maarten, despite all our misgivings resulting from the ghosts in our collective heads. These feelings are rather like those that small children get when the on road to nowhere. Interminable. You feel like the well known TV program in South Africa, going nowhere slowly. Except that in this case there arren't any stops or a sho't left anywhere. You have to carry on and follow through.

Oyster Pond marina at St Maarten is a small bay sheltered by hills, so there is no wind to speak of. The result is that sweltering hot and humid conditions prevail. A good reason to drink beer, especially for the intrepid, thirsty sailors just arriving.

We reported all the boat's failings and soon we had people aboard to fix these. Except that it was only an inspection, as every body had already gone home on the Friday afternoon. We went for a test sail to demonstrate the symptoms causing our concerns and had a good shakedown sail under the able supervision of the technical person from the Moorings base. He allayed some of our fears and confirmed that the standing rigging appeared to be slacker than expected. After that we had weekend.

Then our woes started. The internet access open to us was the slowest and most intermittent that I have ever encountered. Most frustrating when you haven't had contact with your loved ones at home for over a month. I was able to upload exactly two blog posts out of a total of thirty-one that I had prepared. This over a period of several hours, where the internet access point dropped the communications every so often, We resignedly accepted this poor internet connectivity and ascribed it to third world conditions on the island.

Then, on our way out, leaving the island, we stopped at the fuel station on the other side of the island. Close to the yacht club. And we found a proper wireless internet link, free of charge.

I then managed to load twenty blog posts in one and a half hours. Next time I shall be looking elsewhere to find a decent internet connection, before wasting my time struggling with sucking electrons one at a time through a limp drinking straw.

On Monday morning the technical people came and adjusted the tension on the rigging. They were unable to supply a replacement bulb for the stern light that blew. So now we carry on to sail through the night, showing navigation lights and an anchor light in lieu of a stern light. Mercifully the other ships have understanding of this and gives us a wide berth.

We did some shopping on the island as well. The island has a number of well-stocked shops selling electronic goods and cameras in addition to the normal tourist shops selling perfumes, cigars, alcohol, jewelry and sexy lingerie. I got something nice for Carol and a pair of “I've-been-to-America” deck shoes for myself. All at end of season prices, which did not make an indecent dent in my budget.

We arrived right at the end of the tourist season and most of the shops in the tourist part of Philipsburg were closed on the Sunday. The end of the tourist season on the island is like throwing a switch. One day everything works, the next day or two everything shuts down and people are on leave. Mostly away from the island, it seems. Even the small hotel at Captain Oliver's Marina, where we were moored, closed down. It is a weird feeling to walk around in a semi ghost town.

The island has some interesting fauna. There area number of pelicans in the marina. They fly around and dive into nthe water for their fish. They are quite adept at this, but it still gives me the heebie-jeebies to see a large bird like a large fold of skin hanging from the chin and a large comb on the that, 2-3 meter wingspan and all, diving into shallow water. There is also some very large lizards on the island. The females are quite slim, have elongated bodies in a bright green colour and they are about a meter long from head to tail. The males are a bit larger and more of a gray-green colour, with  head. They get quite tame and will walk right up to you looking for something to eat.

We also spent some time at one of the beaches close by. A wonderful place, well suited for a honeymoon, no less. There is a small beach with beach umbrellas planted permanently. And beach loungers, complete with service from the nearby restaurant. The sea water is a turquoise colour and very clear, you can see the coral heads while standing on the beach. With hardly any waves and the water temperature around 28º C (82º F), probably warmer,some people think it well to stand semi-floating in the water and have their drinks right there in the sea.

With most of the holidaymakers having gone back home, the beach was semi deserted. This was good, as we were not up to facing large crowds after our sojourn of thirty days at sea.

Idyllic is a good word to describe the conditions. But nothing is permanent. I think the built-in beach umbrellas only last until the next hurricane season. And even the best hamburgers get to be too much of a good thing after consuming three in three consecutive meals, for want of something better. And the beers get stale and your liver starts complaining about the change of eating and drinking habits.

Clearly time to leave.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

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