St Martin, as a tax-free destination, is a great place to get work done and buy essential kit for the boat. Stewart has had his eye on a wind generator for a while so this seemed the ideal place to invest. We also needed new batteries as ours was old and was not holding a charge particularly well. The initial plan had been to purchase it and only spend four to five days here before heading to Antigua for the cricket, but as the old military saying goes, ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’.
On arriving in Marigot Bay after a bit of a pounding on the way across, we were greeted by our old friends from Taia, bearing gifts of French cheese and ham. After booking in, Lou, the French lady who had accompanied us as crew from the BVI, immediately set about starting to look for a place on a boat heading across the Atlantic. Stewart, myself and the kids went off to find the Super U supermarket, on the lookout for some decent French cheese, some decent French wine and some Nutella. Early the following morning, Stewart headed to the sale at Budget Marine – I will let him cover the boat purchases in another blog. Needless to say, it has been a costly month!
On the first weekend we headed across to Maho Beach on the Dutch side, at the end of the runway for Princess Juliana Airport. Due to the unique proximity of low flying airplanes, the beach is popular with plane spotters. This is one of the few places in the world where aircraft can be viewed in their flightpath just outside the end of the runway. We had a great time taking photos of the planes overhead. The take-offs, however, were slightly more exhilarating. particularly for the uninitiated. We were sat in the middle of the beach, directly under the flightpath, when a rather large plane lined itself up on the runway for takeoff. It slowly dawned on us that we were in the direct line of fire for the jet exhaust. Realising that we had no time to move our belongings, we lay down across as much of it as we could. The engines then fired up ready for take off and sent the biggest wave of sand directly across us, at great speed. Talk about exfoliation! We could not open our eyes and had to just wait it out – fortunately the kids were in the sea so managed to avoid it. A very kind lady came across afterwards and suggested we might want to move as the next plane was even bigger – we can take a hint.
The next outing was to Fort Louis in Marigot. Fort Louis was built in 1789 on a hill overlooking Marigot Bay and the island of Anguilla by the locals in the town, on the orders of Jean Sebastian de Durat, who was governor of St Martin and St Barth, for the king of France at the time. Its primary function was to defend the harbour warehouses where goods were stored (salt, coffee, sugar cane, and rum).
Later the fort was abandoned and fell into ruin. In the 19th century it was restored once more, only to be abandoned again. During this period it was also the site of battle between the French and the English, as the latter regularly came across from Anguilla to raid the warehouses. The kids found this pretty amusing – raiding a fort for coffee! It was an educational morning and the kids did some sketching of the fort and the views.
About a week after we arrived, our friends on Almost There (who had turned back just off Virgin Gorda) arrived in Marigot Bay, much to the excitement of the kids. Sleepovers were planned before even the parents managed to say hello. It has been a sociable time for both the adults and the kids!
Almost There invested in a kneeboard on one of their trips to the Chandlers. So what to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon….. Disturb the peace in the bay by whizzing around in a dinghy with small children (and grown men!) squealing in delight on a kneeboard. I’m sure we were very popular but everyone had a great time.
We have had a great three weeks (yes, not four days but three weeks!) here in St Martin meeting new people and new boat kids from all over the globe but it is time to move on. It is a great place to provision and fit up the boat but we have missed the beaches and snorkelling that we have enjoyed elsewhere . We will set off to St Barths in the morning, doing some buddy sailing with Taia and Almost There.