Monday, March 8, 2010

FUN IN ST MAARTEN




St Maarten has it's ups and downs. For instance you have

Bada Bing

I guess the girls are busy with the influx of testosterone for the Heineken Regatta. Flyers for this and other clubs litter the race headquarters advertising their services. Bada Bing looks much less seedy than most with its adjacent 'mansion' rented out to some sailors for the week.








And after the tacky you have the glorious!








HANUMAN [The monkey god in Hindu mythology that is Rams right hand “man”.]

We were dinghying along this row of mega yachts when I spotted the pointy bow of a real yacht, a blast from the past, a return to the glory days of J boat racing. I thought at first sight it was the Endeavor and a look at it from the stern made me even more sure but the name was wrong. There were some other differences too from the boat I had seen some 15 years ago in the Caribbean, the great J class Endeavor restored to sailing glory by Elizabeth Meyer . A little research found that this was a replica Endeavor built from scratch as a look and feel replica.

Folk Lauric. I heard the name on the cruisers net and I wondered could it be the same boat I had seen in Bequia with Dudley and Flora on board. I gave them a call on the VHF and yes it was. They are the first people and boat that I have seen from my days out as a live aboard cruiser some 15 years ago. Folk Lauric was steel and custom made for Ken and Peggy. I met them when Ken had just had hip replacement surgery in Martinique and they sold the boat to Dudley and Flora who had outgrown Heroes. The boat looks much the same but Dudley and Flora just move their house occasionally so Folk Lauric has not been sailing for some years.


They live with Lilley a dog they rescued in Bequia and Disco a really cute cat they rescued from the gas station here in St Maarten. They have a flourishing Aloe Vera plant on board and Iris has been using some of the natural product. [iris: It really does help to be able to tell the difference between the real Aloe Vera and other lookalike plants from the agave family, as Claudia and I found out on a trip to Spain in a rather unpleasant way ;-) Well, this one really does its job in easing my latest sun rushes and scratched mosquito bites.] Dudley no longer makes the killer Ts that Flora used to row around the anchorage selling to the charterers but is still using his paint skills on mega yacht interiors.

MAST CLIMB






After getting to know the boat from underneath the cockpit, John sent me up the mast to apply some ropes and shackles to the spreader and to a block at the top of the 15m (??)mast. As I had discovered my passion for climbing in a National Park in Chile with very experienced friends, I was really looking forward to this new little challenge and enjoying a good areal view of the boat and the entire bay.
The chest harness turned out as being a lot less comfortable than a hip harness and the waves produced by passing motor boats presented an additional challenge to the job that required both hands. However, with John's double securing I felt quite relaxed and enjoyed it so much that I sure would like to do it again! Whilst up there, I also took a picture of our neighbours' boat, a couple from Toronto, which were quite happy having an aerial view of their boat.


LUNCH
We had lunch at Cuginis on the French side as a thank to Iris for working all morning up the mast and it was splendid.

The restaurant was new, a joint venture by a couple of retired Sicilian cousins who enjoyed setting it up and choosing the d├ęcor. We had to ask about the woman in the pictures but it is of course Sophia Loren. All in all a pretty 'tony' place In fact the French side in general has more style than the Dutch side [iris: But that doesn't really surprise anybody, does it...? Looking at the rather well selected wine card, John had to drop that I'm from that business - much to my dislike. However, it probably would have been quite entertaining following the rather charming waiter's request to go through their wines with him. However, the prospect of a 30-bottle wine tasting with feeled 95% humidity + 34°C made me back off – I'm here for fun after all, so went for a swim at the beach afterwards instead.

THE RACING
We went out in the dinghy into the Bay to watch the start on Saturday and found a 2 meter swell running.

We puttered around and decided not to try and beach the dinghy on the point which had been plan A as the likelihood of a dinghy roll was altogether too high. We had hoped to see the big boys come past with spinnakers flying but it was not to be. We saw them in the distance doing some short windward leeward races and generally milling around.



We kept hoping they would come by but it did not happen. However the bareboats and the odd cruiser were starting their races round to Marigot right in front of us so we were entertained.


RACE REPORTS FROM THE PARTIES
With this mega event happening just right in front of our noses, I couldn't help but to take the opportunity and join the crowd. With John claiming he doesn't like too loud music I was left alone to explore the local night life – though I'm not sure how representative this last week has been for the island...
There always seems to be something going on in The Soggy Dollar Bar at the Palapa dock, a hangout for crews and locals. After bumping into a rather odd, clumsy and clunky German at the bar who claimed to be an engineer, having fixed the motor of Abramovich's yacht being on anchor far outside and who had been flewn in in a helicopter with some other mates, I fled hiding at the pool table. Not long, I was invited to join the game – a Spanish girl and a French master player in one team, me and a Jamaican guy in the other team. As we girls were equally bad, I didn't feel too ashamed and just enjoyed the night having a good laugh and watching the precise shots of the others who obviously had done this more than many times before.
Unfortunately, going home, the outboard of the dingy let me down. Having been watched by a Portuguese dive instructor from the company next door, I was given many good advises. In the end, he gave it a try himself, just to see there was nothing to do. Obviously wanting being a helpful young man, he offered to tow me with the diving school dinghy. You won't believe his embarrassment, when his engine failed to start, too! So I decided to row back, which actually took me half an hour against the gusty winds – best way to arrive totally sober and with all the beer calories burnt off...
Thursday night I went to the Rock festival at Port de Plaisance. I bumped into a young American who claimed just having won a thousand USD at the black jack in one of the many casinos. He had come the first year without sailing in the regatta, just to party. But since the music was not really my dance style, I went home early with a very well behaving out boarder, and challenged John at a couple of Gin Rummy games.
On Friday, the party took place at Philippsburg's outspread boardwalk with many stages, good music and a happy crowd. So I danced in the beach and even challenged myself in winch grinding competition-without much success, though. Funny to see people you know in such a remote place: Almost every night, I bumped into a Canadian cruising family from S/V Lala, who John had met back in St. John's some weeks ago. On the bus returning me to Simpson Bay, where John was waiting in the dinghy, I met some guys from Vancouver, who've come the 5th time for participating with a bare boat - and partying. 40 guys on the loose, they had to chose the very descriptive name: “Too pie-eyed pirates”. However, they managed to come in 5th out of 15 in their class. Friday had started with some wind, but went down to very mellow winds and it took them 6 and a half hours for the track around the island – last year they did same in 2 and a half! Due to lack of internet and too
much annoying, unusefull information in the radio, we don't know how they managed the last two days, yet.
Saturday, the party was in Marigot, on the French side. I bumped into a incredibly drunk women in her fifties, who embraced me like a sister and asked an unknown guy next to us to get me a beer. There are odd people in this world... He was a disgraceful feeling Dutch skipper of a bareboat team: On Friday, they came in last, and on Saturday he screwed up the start and they maintained on the last place. Again, no clue how he was doing today, with winds up and heavy rain coming down. Without a doubt, they were enjoying themselves, no matter what.
This time, the engine decided once again to refuse its services. This time, rowing home would have taken at least two hours, so I was happy to find a young gentleman with a posh and, most important working engine to give me a lift.
Today, we woke up with lots of wind and rain (not all paradise here!) and again, no internet access. So maybe we'll make an excursion to the shore in the afternoon to check up on the final results of our favourite boats and racers.
The final party is gonna be at Kim Sha Beach. However, with dark grey clouds hanging over the mountains and not knowing if the engine will be behaving or not, I'm still indecisive whether to join or not.
However, this has been a fun and splendid week, and the people from St. Maarten and the organizers of the race certainly did there utmost to make sure everybody is having a great time – undoubtedly very recommendable!

John says "I gotta fix this engine! It is a party pooper after 9.30pm it just will not start!"



And one for my biking mates. Not your everyday Goldwing.

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