Monday, February 20, 2012

Marigot Bay, St Martin

On Monday morning, after anchoring, we slept for a few hours, but could not stay on the boat for long. Al wanted to clear in to St Martin, and inform our children and friends about our well-being, so dragged me to the shore just before noon.
First stop, Customs. Al knew where to go from his previous experience, and pounded on the locked door, around the corner of the ferry terminal. A guy who was waiting there for his skipper to clear them in, told us to wait patiently until the customs officer would open the door, since it was a small office, and people were let in one by one. After a few minutes, the door opened and shut, to let somebody out; and Al forced it immediately. The huge islander inside glared at Al and rebuked him for almost hitting his head with the door. Then he asked what we wanted (!) Even though Al apologized, he could not charm the officer into civility. He gruffly said that one of us should sit at a chair in the middle of the entrance, facing the washroom, and the other should come into the small office. I thankfully sat down, and Al tried to pull out the papers and his reading glasses from the backpack in my lap. The officer came out and urged Al to be quick, although afterwards he made Al sit at one of the two computers, waiting for instructions to fill the document, while he argued with another customer in French. The only plus in the process is their providing a computer to the people to fill the form, instead of getting them write by hand. I guess the officer was frustrated with too much work. After we left the office, Al expressed surprise about the treatment we got from the officer, whom he had seen the last time he was here. According to Al, the officer had been really nice to him then, even introduced him to an islander on the street, who was renting cars on the cheap. I am not sure if those people can be trusted to have insurance in case of an accident, but Al wants to try renting a car and going around the island. I showed him the ads from Avis, Budget, Thrifty’s, but he thought they might be expensive. Really?

Anyway, next stop was Patrick’s cafĂ©, La Vie En Rose. Last time he was here, Al and his friend Ergin, who had been visiting from Turkey, had spent all their time there, using the free WiFi, while drinking home-made passion fruit juice. We did the same this time, and sent our messages to friends and family, and chatted with Patrick, who remembered Al. We did not spend too much time there though, since Al wished to introduce me to Mehmet, a young Turkish man who was operating a nice restaurant at the Port Royal, situated at the northern tip of the Simpson lagoon, and in the heart of the Marigot village.

Mehmet warmly greeted Al, kissed us both, and settled us at a table. He was a very nice but hyper man, who was talking to us one minute, then to people passing by, and jumping up to steer them inside. He was kissing some of the people, shaking hands with most, and pulling them in. I laughed a lot watching him. We had a very good lunch; I found his tuna tartar excellent. About five years ago, I had tasted seared tuna the first time, at a restaurant at the harbour in Vancouver, BC, which had amazed me. Since then, Mehmet’s was the only tuna dish I liked at a restaurant. It is very easy to spoil tuna by cooking, and most of the chefs around do not have a clue about how to make it.

Mehmet came to our table several times, started telling us some jokes, without being able to finish them. He was convinced that if he did not literally pull the customers in, he could not beat his competitors along the walk-way. He could be right, but this persistence in calling people in from the side walk, which I had seen in Turkey; Bali, Indonesia; and the Chinese quarter in Singapore, really turns me off completely. So I can’t understand how it could be effective in filling the restaurants or shops. During my visits in Turkey, I strongly argue with the “crier” (as we call them in Turkish), trying to show them, that they annoy the hell out of the customers to be; but they argue back, that they were just making a living, working for the proprietors.

Anyway, after lunch, Al had to activate his SIM card for his smart phone, his lifeline to the world. We looked for Orange, which provided a data plan, pay-as-you-go. The last time he was here, he had obtained the telephone number from them, so he wished to buy air-time. He had complained then, about Orange being very expensive, and used his Lime (a BVI company) number, which gave him better rates even with roaming charges.

I hate waiting around while Al deals with the telephone companies, everywhere we go. It takes too long, and I get really tired standing on my feet. The episode in Orange was much longer than usual, since the lady did not speak much English, and Al was too tired to listen. Both of them tried to explain their sides for a long time; Al saying no, no, no, and the lady, although getting frustrated, patiently telling and showing him things. I was sitting down on a chair far away from them, but could hear bits of their conversation. After half an hour, Al was able to put in 50.00 Euros towards his data and cellular telephone air-time, and we came back to the boat.

After sleeping like babies, we felt much refreshed in the morning. The first thing Al does every morning is to look at his telephone, to check his messages and read Turkish/Canadian newspapers on line, while I make tea. This morning, I heard him cursing at bed, calling Orange highway robbers. Apparently the 50.00 Euros was gone in half an hour, while his smart phone made some updates as soon as it was turned on. Al got furious, and threw the Orange SIM card in a plastic ziplock bag, and re-installed his Lime, which still had some credit for the month of February.

I wanted to check out the beaches, since the water in the bay changed completely during the night, and became muddy, with mountainous swells. It was really interesting to watch the mono-hulls rocking like pendulums, while the cats staying stable, since the swells were quite wide apart. I think that the reason for those awful swells is the water in such a large bay being too shallow.

Anyway, we got ready, jumped into the dinghy and went into the lagoon to find a passage to the ocean on the thin strip of land surrounding the lagoon. We rode about half an hour and after consulting with a nice couple on a boat anchored near-by, found a small dinghy dock to get on land. We walked five minutes and found a beach bar; but the beach was nothing like I had grown accustomed to lately. So we returned to the dinghy, and contemplated about changing our plan, and checking out the chandlers instead, all of them around the marinas in the lagoon.

Al had made a long list of items we needed, anchor being the first one, and we started looking in the chandlers called Island Water World. We got help from a nice young man, who answered many questions that Al came up with. I jokingly asked if we could go to him for all of our questions, and said he would be happy to oblige. Then I asked for advice about the best place for summer storage for Ruyam II, during the hurricane season. He seriously contemplated, then asked one of his colleagues, who was almost our age, and very gracious. He suggested we follow him to Grenada, where he was working at the branch of the store every summer, since he had a 37 foot Lagoon catamaran, an older one than ours. He said Grenada was cheap, very secure, below the hurricane belt, and a country where English was the official language. All important points, which we had heard from many other sources; but Grenada seems so far away to me, that we are thinking of stopping somewhere like Guadeloupe or Antigua in our remaining two and half months; and try to reach Grenada next year. When I told him that, he laughed, and stated that he had made the voyage from Grenada in four days, on his way in to Sint Maarten this year. He also mentioned that because of the storm, he had to double-reef his sails, but he made a steady 7-8 knots an hour for about 8 hours every day. I wonder if we can really do it this year, but we started looking at the charts again.

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