Hello again everyone. I know I promised to write soon after our arrival at St. Martin. Time passed so quickly with my friend Ergin visiting from Turkey, and with shopping for and making arrangements for the planned upgrades on the boat, I did not realize that it had been a week.
Like I mentioned before the passage from the BVI to St. Martin was uneventful. Captain Neil and I left the BVI Yacht Charters docks in the dark of early morning to motor towards the Round Rock Passage. After about an hour of motoring in the channel we reached the passage and turned to wind and raised the main before heading to the passage. After that, it was a bumpy 14 hour ride to Marigot Bay at St. Martin in daylight. Throughout the passage we only saw one fishing vessel over the Barracuda Shoal. Although Captain Neil was hopeful that we would be accompanied by dolphins and possibly see a whale or two, we did not see any. I think the season is too far into the summer and they all migrated further north.
15 June 2011
The next day we were on shore on the French side of St. Martin early morning, sat at a typical French sidewalk coffee shop called La Vie en Rose where I could get free WiFi and Internet to let everyone know that we arrived at St. Martin safely, and check on-line for the return flight for the captain. While I sat at coffee shop, Captian Neil had to rush to find a shoe store, because he realized that he had left his street shoes at home. He did not feel that the flip-flops he was wearing would look appropriate with his air pilot’s uniform, which he was wearing that morning in case he would need to bump a passenger off to get a seat on flights and also pass with ease through the airport security.
After I saw him off to the airport in a taxi, I wondered in the not-so busy streets of “la Ville” of Marigot. Because the high tourist and yachting season had come to an end the place looked deserted. Half of the shops were still closed at 10:00 am. In the summer season hey open around 10:30, then they close for lunch at 12:30 to open again at 2:30-3:00 for another couple of hours. The restaurants along the shore and near marinas stay open at night until the last customer leaves, which could be anywhere between 9:30 and midnight.
That night I “dinghied” into the lagoon, passing under the bridge to tie at the beautiful Port la Royal, at the east end. The seawall is lined up with little and large restaurants and coffee shops, to which large and small boats had tied “stern-to”. The whole port is full of fancy shops that had closed at 5:00 pm. I walked along the shore, checking the fancy boats in the water, and the menus of restaurants that are posted by the entrance. I was keen on finding a restaurant that had Belgian style steamed mussels on the menu. Some restaurants have staff standing by the entrance, trying to lure customers in. One who tried to convince me to come in said; “No one here has mussels tonight, it is on Thursday that we get fresh mussels” I thanked him politely and walked on to find out that the restaurant two shops ahead had mussels on special. I walked in immediately, took a table, and when the waitress arrived I asked her if the mussels were fresh, saying that; “I heard from another shop owner that you get fresh mussels on Thursdays.” She said; “Ohh!, that must be Mehmet!, Don’t worry our mussels are fresh.” Later I found out from her that Mehmet, who is obviously of Turkish origin due to his name, and Pierre, the owner she worked for, were actually partners in both establishments. A few minutes later Mehmet came over to apologize to me. I guess either Pierre, or Celine, the waitress must have warned him. You cannot know how surprised he was when I jokingly said; “Why did you lie to me Mehmet?” in Turkish. In the following days, he became my good friend, and a great help in finding my way around in St. Martin, finding dependable and reasonably priced taxi drivers etc.
17 June 2011
Today my friend Ergin arrived. He was my high-school buddy in Izmir and my friend and roommate during my university years in Ankara. I went to the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) by taxi to pick him up. To wait for his plane, I walked over to the famous Sunset Beach bar, located on the sandy beach right at the end of the runway, where tourists and locals flock to in order to watch airplanes arrive and land, crossing only a few feet above their heads. It is a spectacular event, when a jumbo jet, like Ergin’s KLM flight, arrives and passes so low above your head. I can only imagine how chaotic it might get on that beach behind the huge jet engines, when the same plane readies to take off from that end of the runway.
When I saw his plane land, I walked back to the terminal to greet him. We called the same driver to take us back to Port la Royal, where my dinghy was tied. Ride to Ruyam from the port was a hot, but wet and bumpy one because by this time the easterly trades were in full force and blowing right on to us outside the lagoon. A typical Caribbean welcome for my friend!