Saturday, March 10, 2012

Staging in Philipsburg

Today (Mach the 10th) at 7:30 am, we weighed anchor and set the main sail before leaving Marigot Bay, St Martin. It had been almost a month since we arrived there and well past my patience. When I looked back, I just felt relief that we were able to do all our shopping for tools and household needs, and completed some maintenance and repairs. St Martin served its purpose, and we are on the move again.

As I mentioned before, we wait for the calmest weather to stick our noses out of the harbours, and curse the wind when it does not fill our sails. Today was no exception. First of all it was too early for the trades to start, so the air was dead calm early in the morning. If there were some wind, it would have helped during the first half of the three hour trip to Philipsburg, since the course was toward west, until Pointe Plum, from where turning towards south east, around the island, since Philipsburg is located at the south east of Sint Maarten. By the time we turned towards east, of course the winds started to blow against us.

Close to the beginning of the trip, we saw a mono-hull motor sailing about the same course with us, half a mile ahead. After about half an hour, the boat stopped for a few minutes, changed course towards open sea and turned around. We thought that something must have happened to the boat, since it slowed down in one of the bays before Simpson Bay. They would not be allowed to anchor in any of those bays, so they must be waiting for some help to arrive. Al had the urge to go and check if we could do something, but realized that it would be futile. So we move on.

All of a sudden we saw the tell-tale small buoys of fishing nets, directly in front of us. I first saw the one to our port, then the second to the starboard and jumped up. All immediately stopped, and reversed the engines to go around the net. I also saw something floating around the buoys, like a garbage bag, bobbing up and down, so Al gave a big berth and passed the whole mess.

I felt some vibration in the boat, but didn’t think anything of it. When the vibrations got stronger, and Al pointed it out, and started listening for its source. When our barbecue started to jiggle, I thought it was coming from the starboard side. Al stopped the starboard engine, and the vibration stopped. Al further tried revving up that engine without engaging it, and realized that it did not vibrate when not in gear.

Both of us got very discouraged for the prospect of staying in Philipsburg for engine repairs. Al always thinks the worst of possibilities when we see any kind of a problem, so he thought that it could either be in the propeller or the sail drive. Dealing with the latter would be a major repair job, but could be handled in Sint Maarten, so in a way we should feel lucky. Really? We would miss our window of nice weather, and who knows for how long we would have to stay in the marinas.

We dropped the sail, and reached Philipsburg in three hours, making 4.5 knots an hour by one engine only. After dropping anchor, Al donned his swimming trunks and goggles, and dived to check the starboard propeller. I waited for the verdict, sitting on the steps. A moment later, his beaming face came up, and asked for scissors, to cut the fishing net around the propeller. He dived ten times to bring the whole thing in pieces. What a relief!

My theory is that the boat in front must have gotten tangled in one net, and the pieces that were cut somehow found us. I am convinced that we did not get into the net that I saw, but who knows? The important thing is that nothing is wrong with the engine or the drive, and we are good to go. It was a good thing that we stopped the engine at the beginning, and hopefully not forced and damaged the sail drive.

After settling in, we went for clearing in and out of the Dutch side. It was a long ordeal, since the office is quite far from the bay, and the two forms to be filled, triple copied and processed by first Customs then Immigration for a fee of $23.00 dollars. I guess we must support all the people involved in handling the red tape. What a waste of time this business, but we have to smile and be at our best behaviour, to get through!

Early tomorrow morning we will set sail to St. Eustatius (Statia).

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