Crew Log - Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

10th March - 27th May 2002


Saint Martin or Sint Maarten is a small island with ownership shared between France and The Netherlands.   Within the island there is a large lagoon, accessed via a bridge which lifts three times each day, naturally during rush hour, just to irritate the locals!    The lagoon offers a sheltered anchorage for yachts and is surrounded by every service you could possibly imagine for yachties; engineers of all types, large chandleries, laundries, boat yards, communications companies, a local net on VHF for the cruising community, basically anything you could possibly need.   

We spent one night anchored outside the lagoon in Simpson Bay and then joined the literally hundreds of yachts inside the lagoon anchorage the following morning.    As you enter the lagoon during the peak sailing season (the one which is not hurricane season), at first glance the anchorage seems completely chock-a-block but on closer view spaces can be found.   Unfortunately our space was directly in the take-off flight path from the Princess Juliana airport which, at the times when the Jumbos take off, can be quite nerve-wracking.   Whilst we've been here, Air France have actually changed the plane they use for their daily flights to Paris, as with the short runway with the sea at one end and the lagoon at the other, the Jumbos couldn't take off with enough fuel for the whole trip and had to stop to refuel.   Not the most peaceful of locations but after quite a short time we became experienced plane spotters, although anoraks were not required in this climate!


Another issue in the lagoon, is the distance you have to travel in the dinghy to access all the services.   After several trips ashore, we quickly realised that our inflatable dinghy and 3.5 hp engine, although they did the job, also resulted in us taking up half the day chugging from one place to another and always, always ending up soaked from head to foot by spray when we arrived.    Much debate, consideration of that fact that we'll be anchoring most of the time now and many budget calculations later it was decided, a new RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and bigger outboard were to be purchased.   Now we've turned into those "boy-racers" we always complained about before!   The highlight of our training with our new purchase for local observers was the moment when, during a lapse of concentration, Phil reached down to check the fuel tank, whilst we were travelling at full speed, not realising that as he bent down, his chest pushed the tiller hard over, resulting in a high speed 360 degree spin, Christine screaming in the front with only her hands still attached to the dinghy.    All involved survived unscathed and learnt the importance of concentration in high speed vessels!


We finally tracked down the mounting bracket for our barbecue and held the inaugural barbecue.    True to Welsh tradition, the downpour came halfway through the cooking and we had to adjourn downstairs.   The barbecue did work well and the food even cooked in the rain!

Everybody duck - Jumbo time!  Peaceful Simpson Bay Lagoon!


New Arrival - "Anjulita 2"

Inaugural barbecue with menacing clouds above


      Pot luck barbecue/jam session (Jack, Ruth, Bettina, Ian & Phil) 


After leaving Antigua we realised we didn't have an address or phone number for our friends Brad and Mel there but we knew he flew planes for DHL out of St. Martin.   With the help of many confused DHL workers we finally tracked him down to a hotel about 500 yards away and met up with him for a delicious meal in "The Boathouse" restaurant.    The next morning we watched his plane take off and pass directly above us.   We agreed to meet up again when we get back to Antigua, which should've been within a couple of weeks.......

A "pot luck" (American "for bring your own food") barbecue was arranged at the Yacht Club one Sunday.  It was also a bring your own musical instrument occasion, allowing all the musical sailors to get together for a "jam" session.   Fortunately some were talented and some even professional musicians, so ear damage was avoided!

After a week in the lagoon we headed over to the nearby island of Anguilla for a much needed four day break, particularly from shopping! (see separate web page on Anguilla). 

Our plan was to come back to St. Martin, finish off a few jobs before heading southwards via all the islands to meet up with our friends Steve and Kathy, who were arriving in Antigua on 14th April.    The day before we planned to leave, after a routine service, the generator decided to not to work, so we were delayed while Phil fixed it.

The night before we were planning to leave (again), Phil discovered THE LUMP......Out came the medical books and it was decided it was a hernia, so off to the GP next day, $25 to tell us it was a hernia and make an appointment at the hospital.   Next day, off to the hospital to see the consultant, $35 to tell us it was a hernia and needed to be repaired before any offshore sailing, due to the risk of it becoming strangulated and requiring immediate operation.  It doesn't say how to do that in the "Ship's Captain's Medical Guide", hmmmm.

We decided the operation should be done sooner rather than later in view of the approaching hurricane season, which will require us to head south before July, so the next working day Phil was admitted to hospital for operation on the following day and release two days later.      He was very brave and took the epidural option and seemed very unphased by the whole experience, unlike Christine who could happily have stolen some of the tranquilisers they gave him before the operation!!!  



The surgeon, Dr. Mercelina from Belgium, had an excellent bedside manner and was even patient with hysterical wives!   The nurses however, not displaying the same level of patience, tried to convince Phil to try sit ups with weights a couple of hours after the operation, when he was still numb from the waist down (actually he asked for help to sit up and they told him to do it himself by grabbing the bed head and pulling it up himself!).   Eventually they did assist him but we're not sure if they actually knew why he was in the hospital.    There was, during the night, an argument involving three nurses, Phil and the lack of a sleeping tablet which someone went to fetch three hours earlier.   The tablet finally just in time for breakfast!   Christine was "overwhelmed with joy" when allowed to bring the patient back aboard for some home nursing care but at times has displayed less patience than the nurses!

Patient recuperating at home  (photographs of the bruises and scar cannot be displayed for                       censorship reasons!

     Home visit from Dr. Mercelina and his son Xavier.

Of course, now we were confined to port in St. Martin for 6 - 8 weeks, to allow time for the repair to heal, which meant our friends' sailing holiday in Antigua was not going to be how they had imagined it!   Fortunately they were very accommodating and we found flights for them from Antigua to St. Martin.   Things were further complicated by the sad, sudden death of Christine's mother, meaning that she would be in the UK for a large proportion of their holiday.    "So," we asked, "How about a ten day, nursing-post-hernia-repair-operation-Phil-in-St. Martin holiday????".   Again, our friends took this all in their stride and despite everything, managed to have a good holiday (we hope).   We even managed to sneak in a sail to Anguilla, with the Captain firmly lashed down!!! (see Anguilla page).   

Even the weather seemed to conspire against us, our friends didn't even have too much of the sun when in St. Martin.   In fact it certainly can rain here in St. Martin!    Our redesigned bimini gave up the ghost again during a particularly fierce downpour. The rain was even too heavy to allow us time to get there and take it down, we were just too late!

Luckily our delay in St. Martin meant we could meet up with old friends.   Firstly we found our old Estonian friends Hillar and Katie (not sure of spelling in Estonian!) on Martha, who were our neighbours in Porto Santo,  "Fruity Fruits" arrived with Stefan, Caroline, Stephanie and Jason and shortly afterwards our old "Madeira Mob" chums, "Windharp" (Brad, Susie, Elise and Hayden) appeared.

St. Martin's carnival, unusually, is not held in February but around May Day, so we were able to see the carnival parade with all our chums!    We took to bus to Philipsburg and made sure we were early enough to find a good spot on the balcony of a pizzeria above the street where the parade would pass.   We waited patiently, with the assistance of several bottles of "Carib" beer until the parade passed by at 3 pm...It was worth the wait, the noise was deafening and the costumes very colourful and beautifully detailed.

Time to repair the bimini, again!


Patiently waiting for the carnival parade, Hayden, Elise, Brad, Susie & Phil.

Carnival Parade - Philipsburg, 30th April 2002

Carnival Parade - Philipsburg, 30th April 2002



One day, not long after carnival  the girls, from Windharp (Susie), Grand Jeté (Winnie) and Anju (Christine), set off together on a provisioning trip to Marigot, the French town in a dinghy ably driven by Winnie.     Several hours later they arrived back giggling and totally without any edible provisions of any kind.    Waylaid when a quick stop for a refreshing cool drink in a marina café became a five hour girls lunch and chat with several glasses of French wine or beer consumed by each, they wondered how to explain this to their respective shipmates.    "Easy", said Winnie, "Just tell them it was an FLFL....".   "Just what is an FLFL, Winnie?" asked the others.  "A ****ing long French lunch", she elaborated and in their inebriated state the others agreed this was a perfect explanation and it seemed to work.   Needless to say, we all had to meet up in the Yacht Club in the evening to eat, due to the absence of food aboard any of the boats!     




St. Martin may not be the most picturesque spot in the world but it certainly grows on you.    Not so much the island but the people.    The locals are a colourful mix of different nations.   Their motto is "Saint Martin, many nations, one people".  It's not uncommon to hear three or four different languages on the bus, not including those spoken by the tourists.

It is a place which everybody cruising the Caribbean by yacht seems to pass through at one time or another and with the traumas we've experienced during our stay, we were glad to meet up again with so many old friends and make so many new good friends amongst the yachties passing through here.  We are especially grateful to Meg and Chris from "Snow Leopard" and Jack and Ruth of "Davina" for their help and support during the more traumatic times during our stay.

On the 16th May a small informal ceremony was held on board Anju, in the company of our friends from Fruity Fruits, to welcome our new PCO to the crew (Pest Control Officer).    Further information on this on the PCO's webpage........This celebration was combined with a toast to the Captains new grandson, James, born on 13th May.


Susie, Christine & Winnie get back from the FLFL.

Phil's sister, Diane, and brother-in-law, Graham, kindly volunteered to help crew for us in our journey south from St. Martin, to allow us to leave earlier than if we had to wait for Phil to be fully fit again.    They flew into St. Martin on 19th May and we planned to leave as soon as possible, as they only had two weeks and were flying back from St. Lucia.    Naturally, as we were heading south-east, gales blew from that direction, starting as soon as their plane touched down.   We eventually tried to leave on the 22nd, only to return to the lagoon an hour later when we found that the 15 knot ESE winds forecast were actually 25 knot south easterlies outside!    The south-easterlies just went on and on, so we decided to take the opportunity to do some sight-seeing in St. Martin instead.   After a week, the winds dropped off slightly, of course continuing to blow  from the south east but light enough to enable us to motor-sail, with better sea state, so we finally wrenched ourselves away from St. Martin at dawn on 27th of May for our journey south out of the hurricane zone...........

Diane & Graham sight-seeing in St. Martin

Return to homepage          2002 Index