18- June 2011
The next two days my friend I tried to explore the island a little bit, actually mostly only the French side, since we were anchored at Marigot Bay, just outside the Fort Louis harbour, a short dinghy ride both to the town and Port la Royal. I had some plans for upgrades on the boat and a small repair on the bow-crossbeam. However this being the beginning of the weekend I had no chance of getting any work done in the short time we had on Friday. We could have moved over to Simpson Bay in the Dutch side of the island that afternoon, but this meant that we would have to clear out from the French side and clear in again at the other side. Hard to understand but, the rules are such that you can take a taxi, or dinghy over in the lagoon to and from the two sides of the island freely. However you have to clear in and out if you take your boat between the two sides. So we “dinghied” back and forth a few times in the next few days.
19 June 2011
Today being Sunday, and a pleasant sunny day, we decided to sail out of the harbour and round the north end of the island, and possibly go to the windward side, to famous Orient beach. This would give us a good 2.5 hours of close haul sailing with the expected south easterly winds, with a bit of motoring before we could anchor at the lee of Pinel Island on the north east coast, right across from the Orient Beach. The night before we studied the charts and set our course for each one of the legs of our route, the long close haul route being at 67⁰M and about 11nm. This trip would keep us in the French waters, and we could return to Marigot for the night, without any customs and immigration to deal with.
We started early around 8:30 from Marigot bay with 15-18knot straight easterly winds, and headed north motoring for a mile or two, then we raised the main and headed to about 58⁰M. Quickly we reached 7knots with full sail and genoa. It was exhilarating sailing, however we could not maintain our planned route of 67⁰M, and this heading was taking us too far north towards Anguilla, which was only about 7-8 miles away. Since we had not cleared out from St. Martin we could not alter our plans and continue on this heading. There was another catamaran ahead of us, taking the same route, possibly aiming to round the north of St. Martin as we were. I decided to follow the boat ahead of us for the time being.
After a short while the wind started to pick up, and reached a steady 22 knots quickly. We decided to put one reef, which was easy with the single-line reefing rigging that Ruyam II has, and maintained a good 7.2 knots for a while. While we were busy handling the sails, the boat ahead of us abandoned their route, dropped sails and headed towards Grand-Case, a sandy beach harbour, northwest of Marigot. We quickly followed suit.
We had had a little more than hour of sailing in relatively rough seas, and thinking that with 22-24 knot winds against us, rounding the north end of the island would be too much of a challenge for the two relatively inexperienced blue-water sailors that we were, we decided to settle for Grand-Case, rather than the Orient Bay for that day.
However, we had great difficulty in anchoring. Firstly, the geography (rather topography) is such that, the bay is surrounded on the east side with three hills, with deep valleys and gaps in between. The wind played tricks, gusting 20-25 knots and blowing around these hills and through the valleys. We noticed that the boats anchored were constantly swinging in any and every other way and each one pointing at a different direction. Two boats side by side were facing in opposite direction. The bottom was grassy with patchy sand sections. After three tries of anchoring, dragging the anchor once and getting too close to other boats occasionally, we decided to abandon the south end of the bay and moved up to the north end. There the three diver boats and a few catamarans were pointing at the same direction at least. By 11:00 am we were anchored safely and had our quick dip in the turquoise waters before getting ready for a cold Carib beer, although it was not noon yet.
We spent the afternoon there resting, and headed back to Marigot before dark. After all, the next day was a “work day” being Monday. We had a whole bunch of marine shops and chandleries to visit, and chores to take care of at the west end of Simpson Bay.
20-21 June 2011
Today we took the dinghy into the Simpson Lagoon all the way to the south end where the Budget Marine shop and other marine supplies and services are located. I purchased among other small items a Furino radar system for Ruyam II to take back to the BVI for installation. The day passed quickly, while I was browsing like a little kid in a toy store. Before returning to Marigot, I stopped at FKG Rigging and Marine Fabrication shop, which was recommended as the best in the West Indies. I explained the needed repairs on my boat to the owner operator Peter, who said he would come over to Marigot later that day to see the boat and give an estimate. He was there right on-time and provided both advice and a rough estimate, with great professionalism. He suggested we bring the boat into the lagoon the next day and anchor close to his shop so that his staff could do the work quickly. To do that legally, we had to clear out of the French side and clear into the Dutch side of St. Martin.
The next day we took a risk and drove the boat into the lagoon at 8:15, at the first bridge opening in the morning on the French side, and planned to exit at the same spot later that afternoon without going through the hustle of clearing in and out. As others had suggested there were no problem or any border controls.
We did however encounter a problem when we tried to anchor close to the south end of the lagoon. There was strong south easterly gusting winds, even in the lagoon, and the bottom was all grass, which fouled our anchor with mud and grass, and after a few tries we docked at Simpson Marina, right across from FKG shop. While the mechanics worked on Ruyam II, we went on shore for lunch, shopping and sightseeing.
We motored back to the French side of the lagoon and we were again the first boat to go through the open bridge, as we were in the morning coming in. It was a very successful and pleasant day.