Leaving Antigua, W. I.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Joy of a Calm Anchorage

Simpson Bay Lagoon
As we work our way through our winter project list here in St. Martin, we give daily thanks for our calm anchorage.  Flat water to float your boat is a rare thing in the Eastern Caribbean.  Most of the popular anchorages are on the leeward side of the islands, offering some protection from the prevailing wind and wind-driven waves.  They are open to the west, though, so that considerable ocean swells are often present.   Long period swells, with a period of ten or more seconds between waves and wave heights of 3 to 5 feet are not unusual.  A heavy boat like ours with a slow roll period is reasonably comfortable at anchor in those conditions, as long as the direction is not off the beam, or side of the boat.

Even though the motion is gentle and we're accustomed to it, it is always there.  Our dining table and the galley counters have raised edges, called fiddles, to keep dishes from sliding off, and we've unconsciously learned to time our pouring of beverages so that they don't go astray.  When the swell comes off the beam and grows large, perhaps as a result of a storm hundreds of miles away, the adjustments that we make are less automatic, and life becomes more challenging.  Leslie has often joked about the fact that we don't have to do any special exercises for our abdominal muscles -- routine activities like sitting, standing, and walking around our constantly moving boat keep us well-toned.

There are a couple of places where we spend time that offer all-around protection.  One of these is Port Egmont, on the south coast of Grenada.  It is a relatively small bay, completely surrounded by tall hills, with a winding, fjord-like entrance.  We've ridden out hurricanes there in safety and reasonable comfort, so in normal weather, the water is as flat as a mill pond.  Port Egmont also offers solitude, as there isn't much there to attract cruising boats.  There are houses, and people living there, but not too many, and there are no businesses.  Shore access requires getting your feet wet.  We like it, but it's not for everyone.

Our other favorite spot for all-around protection and flat water is Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin.  It's quite a contrast to Port Egmont.  It's larger, and there are hundreds of boats sharing it with us.  They range from small cruising boats like Play Actor to huge megayachts sporting helicopters on deck.  One had a 40 foot sloop, as big as our boat, hanging from davits, ready in case their charter guests wanted to go for an afternoon sail.  They're generally available for charter, if you're interested in spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars for a brief respite from winter weather.

Simpson Bay Lagoon also features two large marine supply stores and innumerable specialty shops to cater to a boater's every need.  The island is completely duty-free, and prices on most marine supplies are lower than in the U.S.  We normally spend our time away from St. Martin compiling a project list, to be undertaken on our next visit.  This year was no exception, and we're steadily working our way through the list as we enjoy the calm water and ready access to all sorts of shore-side attractions, including several gourmet grocery stores.

We are also able to get high speed Internet access in the anchorage.  We subscribe to a service that uses fixed cellular technology to provide access all over the island -- even on an anchored boat.  What a luxury, and we get a good night's sleep every night in the bargain, because of the wonderful protection afforded by the high ground all around us.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and the crew of Play Actor wishes you all a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We're here!

Sunset in Jolly Harbour, Antigua, the night before we left
We're in our favorite winter anchorage on the French side of Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin.  The 90-odd mile sail from Antigua on Wednesday was delightful.  We averaged a little over six knots in winds of about 10 knots, with calm seas.  It just doesn't get much better.  We spent a night anchored outside the lagoon, waiting for the 9:30 a.m. drawbridge on the Dutch side, and made our way to our usual spot, just over the French border.  The anchor's down, the awning is up, and our high-speed Internet service is reactivated.  We're here! 

We spent a hectic day Thursday, clearing in with customs, getting the Internet service turned back on, and buying and installing a new shower in the head.  Our old one has been leaking and making a mess for several months, but we replaced it with a new showerhead and faucet.  Typically, we had to do a little modification to the fixture.  Nothing is easy on a 30-year-old boat.  Friday has been a rainy day, and we postponed all of our planned shore-side activities.  Rest seemed more attractive than a wet trip to drop off our laundry and go shopping, so we've had time to catch up on email and update the blog. 

We have had fine sailing all the way up from Grenada this year, in spite of the strange weather.  We didn’t have any pressing schedule commitments, so we were able to pick our sailing days.  That does make a difference.  For the past few years, we have always had some compelling need to get to St. Martin quickly.  Last year, it was to order and install the new engine.  This year, we don't have any major projects, so our plan is to catch up on routine maintenance, and Bud will get busy writing Bluewater Vengeance soon.