Hello To You All
On leaving Dominica we do an over night sail up through the Leeward Islands. We now have to by-pass many of them for this season, but, we will return. The winds are light and we find we are motor sailing for most of this leg. It has become quite hazy, and it is warm and sunny. What little breeze we do have is at least cooling. Dolphins surf our bow waves and seem to enjoy swimming between the hulls. There are plenty of flying fish which get airborne as we approach and take off just above the surface of the water travelling quite long distances. We watch the different sea birds as they skim the surface in search of a meal. Also we still have huge patches of that golden seaweed around which makes fishing impossible. I catch mounds of the stuff !!!!
On the second afternoon we arrive at the small Island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin. It is no more than about seven miles in length, and width, with a large lagoon dominating the western side. The Island is owned by both the French and the Dutch, hence both the names. It is possibly the best known holiday destination in the Leeward group. We arrived on the Dutch side of the Island and dropped anchor in Simpson Bay, just outside the lagoon. You can take your boat into the lagoon where you can anchor, or pull into one of the marinas surrounding it, but we decided to anchor out as the waters are cleaner for swimming. Also the temperatures are cooler with a lovely breeze blowing through the boat. It turns out to be a great anchorage for an ex-pilot as well, as the airport runs along the far side of the bay.
Again the Arawaks, and later the Caribs, sparsely populated this Island, and again the Spanish were the first European to claim it, but it was the Dutch who were the first to take advantage of this island by using it as a stopping-off point between Holland and their colonies in Brazil and New Amsterdam (New York City). Later the French fought for control and came to an agreement with the Dutch for half shares. Like many of its neighbours it became a plantation island. The end of slavery brought an end to the plantation boom. During World War 11 the US navy built large runways here to use as a base in the Caribbean. Hence after the war the French used them to fly in the first tourists, an industry which has just kept on growing on both sides of the island.
After clearing in we take the tender to the Simpson Bay Yacht Club for a cool drink and to check our emails. The following morning we take the tender back into the lagoon and start the rounds of the different chandleries. It is great as they have dinghy docks just outside. At one time you will find more dinghies tied up, than cars in the car park. This place is really set up for yachties. We are looking for charts and odds and ends. Alec needs more oil and some replacement belts for his general maintenance programme. He is also looking at increasing our power capacity by getting two more solar panels, so he is now looking at the size he would like to get. We will not be quite in the same league as a catamaran we saw in St Lucia which had four wind generators and six solar panels. I think he would have had every electrical gadget on board and still be able to sell the excess.
Another day we take the tender across the lagoon to visit the French side. Its capital, Marigot, is a very picturesque typical French Riviera seaport with its boutiques and restaurants. It is the quieter side without the skyscrapers and timeshares. Marigot Bay is full of yachts at anchor as the bay is very well protected from the south easterly winds which we are having at the moment. We do not circumnavigate the island as we don’t have time this visit, but the Cruising Guide tells us there are lovely anchorages and beaches to be found around most of the island. We will save that for our next visit.
Another day we get our bikes out and head off for the famous Maho Bay. This is the beach where the airport runway starts just across the road from the beach. People come here not only to take photos of the planes coming in, but also to hang onto the fence as planes are taking off. Anything and any body who stands directly behind the aircraft taking off will get a good sand and grit blast, umbrellas beach towels and anything loose will be blown into the sea, and people holding the fence can be lifted off the ground. There are always mad thrill seekers who want to experience this!!! We stood back and just watched them all.
The swimming was lovely directly from the boat, and we spent time in the water when we were not ashore. Then after a week we had to move on yet again. We will now be leaving the Leeward Islands, by-passing the British and US Virgin Islands, and heading directly for Puerto Rico. This will be another overnight sail.
Next Islands coming up very soon.
Love from the Admiral and The Commander.