Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of the island collectively known as Saint Martin, which includes the French side. It is also on the south side of the island, so we needed to sail around it, heading SSE from Anguilla. The wind is S to SE today, but we decided to try and sail anyway, even though it means going well out of our way. Therefore, a short 13 to 14-mile trip became well over 20 and took much of the day. It is so nice and quiet when we sail; even Gizmo gets totally relaxed. No constant thrum of the engines or vibration noises throughout the boat. Just lovely. This makes it easier to talk casually. So Dave asks me, “What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the trip so far?” I told him, “My least favorite is easy. It was that awful trip to Key West with 48 knots of wind and huge seas; where I got sick and worried for our lives when the boat was a sitting duck and the waves were crashing over the side. However, even with that horrible experience, I gained immense faith in the boat. My Favorite part is not so easy. What about you?”
“My least favorite was going aground near Cambridge Cay in the Bahamas. My favorite was all the great people we’ve met.” Yes, going hard aground on coral with the boat smashing against it over and over just waiting for the tide to come back up was horrible! But I didn’t feel in fear of our lives like I did going to Key West. I certainly don’t want to repeat that, though! “Yes,” I said, “I agree that the best part has been meeting such fantastic people.” From Michael and Cherie on Pura Vida to the park rangers at Warderic Wells, the trip started off great in that respect. Then, meeting Vanessa and Francois on Why Knot IV, Eric and Debbie on Indigo, and Greg with his crew (Ted and Dylan) on Mile High Dream kept us in good company. We are feeling our aloneness now. It isn’t that we aren’t happy with each other’s company, actually Dave and I are getting along surprisingly well in small confines, together 24 hours a day. I admit, I was nervous about that, especially after our history of living separately for so many years for his work. No, things are good on that front. We just really enjoyed their company and having someone to share our experiences with.
Then Dave made a big mistake. He said, “I can’t believe how few problems we’ve had. I mean there were a lot at first because the boat was sitting unused, but once we ironed those out things have been going very smoothly.” I shudder to think how I accepted these words without knocking on wood. Sailors are superstitious people and having said that nothing has broke was inviting doom and gloom. Dave motored for a bit to get us back on course. I took over the helm and decided to put the jib back out, go back off course, and sail some more. I could see where I needed to go to tack and be able to sail us in pretty close to where we needed to go. So we resumed our peaceful bliss with our heads filled with the enchantments of our adventures. The sail was going great and I made the tack back towards Sint Maarten. Then we heard a loud BAM! “What was that?” Dave asked. “I don’t know.” Dave went investigating and found that our topping lift (a safety line to hold up the boom) lost the bolt out of its U shackle, flew around, smacked the wind generator, and knocked it off balance.
Now the wind generator was wobbling wildly and madly vibrating the bimini with the dinghy hoist. Dave was certain we would lose both the wind generator and the bimini/hoist system. Dave tied down the topping lift to keep it from causing more damage. We inspected the boom and determined it was stable enough to get by without the topping lift for now. We next tried to stop the wind generator with crazy boat maneuvers, but they are made to turn towards the wind. We would have to throw something in it to stop it, which could make the blade fly out. So we left it to wobble, but Dave tightened all the bolts in the bimini to keep them from vibrating out. We limped into Simpson Bay and dropped anchor. We had to wait for the bridge to open to enter Simpson Lagoon anyway, so we used the time for emergency fixes.
Dave found a spare shackle and reattached the topping lift. I climbed up on the cockpit bimini, which is fiberglass unlike the metal pole one the wind generator is on, and inched past the boom to get near the wind generator. We could not block the wind from it, but it would now rotate around and stop briefly before filling with wind again. During these lulls, I tried lassoing the blades and could get a line around them but if it turned the lines would slide back off. Dave handed me a heavier dock line. I easily tossed it over the blades and the wind generator immediately stopped, held down by the weight of the line. We couldn’t secure it very well, but hoped we could trust the weight of the line to keep holding it still. We noticed that the wind generator was out of balance because we lost one of the blades. We may have replacement blades, but the nose cone looks cracked where that blade goes. Now THAT could be a problem!
Already off kilter from our wind generator breaking, now we had to raise anchor and brave the bridge system. Dave has never captained the boat through a bridge opening before. This one can be particularly nasty as it is only one way at a time (too narrow to pass both ways), but boats sometimes ignore the red light and go the wrong way when you are trying to pass through properly.
Fortunately, we did not have to deal with that, but Dave was still nervous. He passed through like a champ, though, and then we had to get to the next bridge within 15 minutes for its opening. We didn’t even know where it was, so I called out to a passing boat and asked. There are channel markers most of the way making it easy, but we didn’t see them at first. We passed through another anchorage to get to the Causeway Bridge, but didn’t know if we should anchor there or keep going. It was pretty crowded, so kept going.
The Simpson Lagoon contains both sides of the Causeway Bridge, but we didn’t know that. Anyway, there was a mooring ball open on the far side and we decided to take that instead of anchor, since this side was crowded, too.
Settled into the lagoon, we weighed our options. One thing is on our side: there are a lot of chandleries and boat services available in Sint Maarten. People come from all around to have their boats worked on here. One other ray of hope is that we have some time. We can stay until May 11, or even extend that at customs and immigration if we need to, and still have plenty of time to make it to Grenada. We are hoping there will be no early hurricanes this year! I found Electec in Chris Doyle’s The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands. They are a Spectra dealer, so they might be able to help with our never-ending watermaker troubles and with our other electronics issues like the wind generator and SSB. We happily snagged an appointment for Monday. The line on the wind generator seems to be holding it still and staying in place, so now we can relax. Welcome to Sint Maarten, country #7.