Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sunday 25th February

Simpson Bay
(Dutch) Sint Maarten

18 02 N
63 06 W

Despite still being tired we were up at 07.00hrs as we were moving inside the lagoon today. Unfortunately our information in the cruising guide was out of date and the bridge opened and closed again before we though it was due to open. Having missed our chance to go through into the lagoon we elected to dink ashore, clear customs and have a brief look around the place. Dale and Lorie beat us to shore and we met up with them at the water front market then we set off for the customs and immigration office. The legal stuff only took a few minutes to complete and we were all very impressed with the friendly and efficient officer on duty who made it all so easy. Once we had cleared in we set off to find a bank and have a look around the place. As it was Sunday a lot of the shops were closed so we decided that we could save them for another day. The ladies decided to browse through the waterfront market which sold a lot of tourist rubbish, some nice fabric sarongs, blouses etc. and a few nice artifacts. We all bought something, much to the men’s disgust. We met up with the men at a bar / café where they had settled in for the duration, as we pulled up chairs to join them we invited the man who was on the table where we were stealing the chairs from to join us, to our surprise he did and we enjoyed his company and conversation for the next hour or so before he had to leave. We had lunch and then made our way back out to our boats. Once back onboard we quickly became aware of the increasingly uncomfortable swell that was building and then suddenly there was a loud twang. I called out to Gerry to investigate as he was in the cockpit and I was down below, it sounded like one of our anchor bridle ropes had snapped but as it turned out it was even worse – the port side fair lead had been put under such pressure from the swell that it snapped the forward half clean off. Although we can live without it, we are unlikely to be able to find a replacement for it as they no longer produce them for our vintage boat and the newer boats don’t have them at all, guess we will be flea market hunting! As the swell was increasing and the next bridge opening wasn’t until 17.30hrs ( when it wasn’t a high tide which we need to enter the lagoon at this side) we made a decision to up anchor and motor around to the other side of St Martin and spend the night in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side “Sint Maarten”. A quick note here to tell you that St. Martin / Sint Maarten is one island which is split almost in half between the French and the Dutch (the French side being slightly larger). The French side, St Martin, is to the north whilst the Dutch Sint Maarten is to the south. Customs have to be cleared in both as you would for any 2 countries anywhere and each side has different administrations and laws just to confuse you. There is no fee for clearing in the French side but there is a fee to clear in the Dutch side. There are 2 entrances to the lagoon which has a common midway border; these entrances, one in each country, have different depth clearances and the deeper draft clearance is on the Dutch side. The French side clearance is only about 7feet at mean low water – not much lee way for us with a 5 foot 10 inch draft. Anyway back to our moving – we motored around the coast to the Dutch side and set anchor in Simpson Bay, we would enter the lagoon in the morning through the Dutch side. We had cocktails and snacks in the cockpit at sundown and as we did so we were aware that there seemed to be quite a swell here too – even though we were on the other side of the island, but it was no where near as violent as on the French side, until we went to bed. During the night the wind howled around us and the swell increased until it was too uncomfortable for any of us to sleep. We were all glad to see the sun rise even though we were sleep deprived and a little nauseous from the motion.



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