Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday 3rd March

(French) Simpson Bay Lagoon
St. Martin

18 02.683 N
63 05.508 W

It was an extremely windy night and we were awake at various times during the night worrying that we may be blown away, which of course never happened. Gerry was up earlier than me with the generator going and the water maker on. When I finally got up, it wasn’t too late, he cooked breakfast. I think he has finally lost all sense of time and days as he only usually cooks breakfast on a Sunday, what ever – it was good. We spent a couple of hours lazily reading and then decided that we were going to go ashore and do a bit of provisioning. Lorie and I had discussed the merits of shopping on both the French and the Dutch sides of the island. We had concluded that the French side seemed a little cheaper and had a greater variety of USA imported foods so we planned to shop there first, the big drawback to this plan was that the supermarket was quite a distance from the dock whereas the Dutch side had a supermarket very close by the dinghy dock at Shrimpy’s. It was almost 11.00hrs by the time Gerry and I loaded the bags into the dink and stopped by Gypsy Palace to collect Dale and Lorie, they were just waiting for us and when we got to their boat we boarded for a short while to discuss departure plans and weather predictions for the next few days. Our plans are to leave St Martin on Monday morning and head to St Barts, not check in there but overnight and leave at some ghastly hour of the morning ( 03.00hrs was the time being thrown around) to make the passage to Antigua. This presumes that the forecast of a couple of days of good weather eventuates! Anyway more of that as we get underway again. Once we had finished discussing the trip we all piled into the dinghies and set off for the French side of town with plans to investigate a couple of tie up places near to the supermarket. Firstly we tried the fuel dock as it is a short walk over to the supermarket from there, no joy – we couldn’t tie up there, next we tried the Budget Marine store – it was a bit further to walk but we were willing to give it a go, unfortunately the tide was ripping through the area which is right next to the bridge so we decided that it wasn’t a good spot to leave the dinghies, then on to the garage which fronts the water – no luck there either they just didn’t want us tying up. We then decided our only chance was to go into the dock and walk the distance, this was alright going with empty bags but would be a long trip with heavy grocery bags. Lorie had thought to bring 2 bags which have wheels; I’d left our one on the boat as Gerry said I could only take either the wheelie bag or the backpack NOT both. The backpack has a larger capacity hence it was the chosen one! We shopped for the essential things and had to forgo buying heavy stuff like cans of soda as we couldn’t carry them. We loaded our backpack and Lorie very kindly offered us the use of her second wheelie bag to save us having to carry the backpack. Gerry gets very bored and impatient with grocery shopping and would have not bothered at all if I hadn’t insisted that we need some things, I just wonder what he thinks we would have been eating if I hadn’t gone grocery shopping, M.R.E.s I fear! Being as it was the French side I bought some very nice pate and cheeses and of course baguettes to eat with it, I didn’t notice Gerry refusing it either. Once we had trudged our way back to the dinghies we arranged to do our unpacking and storing and then meet up later at Shrimpy’s for internet, drinks and dinner. So for the next couple of hours I rearranged the fridge, putting everything I will need first at the bottom – it would work its own way down there anyway! And checking to see what we still needed to buy as I knew we hadn’t bought all that we required. At 16.00hrs with computer tucked into the watertight bag and our wheelie bag (!) and a small backpack in tow we dinked over to the dinghy dock at Shrimpy’s on the Dutch side. Dale and Lorie were already there and we joined them to check our emails and load our blog onto the site. We were delighted to see an email from Lyn and Peter Denoncourt (Kite) telling us that they were arriving in St Martin on the 4th March to join a 4 masted sailing ship for a week of cruising around the area, we discussed the chance of going out to meet them at the airport – a discussion to continue in the morning as local events caught our attention at this point. Shrimpy’s was fairly full and the dinghy dock was crowded as always, we had seats facing the dock which turned out to be the ringside specials as the dramas that followed were best viewed from where we were seated. As we watched the owner of a trawler in the first slip next to the dinghy dock began to untie dinghies – ours included, we raced out and rescued ours in time to see this man bolt cut the chains on a couple of other dinghies. The next thing we knew he was untying his boat and motoring out of his slip with 2 dinghies towing behind him. No one seemed to worry about it and he returned a few minutes later without the dinghies and tied back up in his slip. I have to add at this point that the dinghies that he removed were knocking against the side of his boat, ours wasn’t but he had to untie ours to get to the lines of the other two and although there are NO DINGHY signs in some parts of the dock there were no signs where these dinghies were tied up. In the time he had been gone another couple of dinghies had tied up to the cleat and on his return he began cutting them free too. Dale alerted a young English sailor off of one of the racing yachts that his dinghy was on the cleat where this man was cutting them free and the young man walked out towards the dock just in time to see this man put the bolt cutter to his dinghy’s paynter, he called out to the man that he was on his way to move the dinghy but it had no effect – the man continued to cut the dinghy free from the cleat and let it drift off. Luckily the young man managed to save his dinghy, a shouting match between the two of them then began. Meanwhile a couple arrived back at the dock to find their dinghy was missing, by now the entire clientele of Shrimpy’s was watching the unfolding drama , as I said we had ringside seats so saw and heard most of it. Everyone was adding their two penny worth of thoughts to the happenings and a full scale shouting match broke out between some of the young sailor’s boat mates and the slip renter. They moved a bit further away from where we were sitting and the next thing we saw was the start of a fist fight, I can’t honestly say who threw the first punch but we all saw the slip renter go down like a lead balloon and the young man was hustled away to his boat by one of his boat mates. Dale had gone and spoken to the dock police about the dinghies prior to the fight breaking out, they had shown little interest but now everyone wanted them to come and sort out the problems of missing dinghies, cut paynters and fist fights. The owners of the second “towed” dinghy arrived around this time to the madness that was overtaking the dock. Eventually the police put in an appearance and tried to make some sense of the situation. One had to feel sorry for them as they had quite a few angry dinghy owners trying to tell their stories on one side and this one slip renter and his mate on the other side. The police wanted the young sailor to return as they were going to charge him with assault and wanted him to pay medical costs for the man who had cut his dinghy loose; apparently in the fist fight the slip renter had lost a couple of teeth, we don’t know if this was caused by a fist connecting or from him hitting the pole and then the cement as he fell. In the end someone went and retrieved the 2 “towed” dinghies, the marina owner paid the medical costs, the young man wasn’t charged with anything and everyone tying up was advised not to use that cleat. I’m not sure what was said to the slip renter but I hope that it was something as what he did amounted to stealing dinghies and willfully damaging the paynters that he cut with bolt cutter – I feel sure that it could have been sorted out in a much calmer way without all the nasty stuff but it made for an entertaining hour or so. It could compare with all the best soap dramas on TV and definitely be the winner! Towards the tail end of this little drama we were all looking skywards as there was lunar eclipse happening at 19.20hrs, unfortunately it was a very cloudy night and the moon vanished behind them just before the eclipse was due so we didn’t get to see it. Gerry and I then went to the supermarket just around the corner and purchased a few more things that we were needing for the onward trip including the sodas, we loaded these back into our dink then went back into Shrimpy’s and ordered dinner which we ate at the bar. By now everything had settled back down and the place was beginning to empty out. Once we had finished dinner it was time to crawl over everyone else’s dinghy into our own and head back to our boat for the night. What we had thought was going to be a quiet and uneventful day turned into quite a drama. It will be interesting to hear the talk of it on the cruiser’s net on Monday.



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