The Far Reach, Anchored, the Lagoon, Sint Maarten
I continue to find myself anchored in Sint Maarten, like so many other cruisers, waiting for a part to arrive. It seems that almost every boat passing through here is waiting for either parts to arrive or on repair work to be completed before they can continue their journey.
The boat in front of me has been here over six weeks trying to get proper work done to repair a broken watermaker. The boat on my starboard side limped in a few days ago having lost their mast. They were told by the rigging shop they should expect to be here at least a month. Another boat captain I spoke to has been here for almost three months getting their hydraulic systems repaired. There are a number of boatyards here and they are all filled with boats. Sadly, there also many boats that seem to be abandoned, like so many broken dreams . . . like once beautiful birds now too old and crippled to fly.
In my case, I am lucky. I am waiting for a single part. It should solve the halyard chafing problem I have experience since last summer. I am not dependent on any of the businesses here to solve this vexing problem. I am fortunate in that my good friend Robert has designed and fabricated a custom piece of hardware that should, I hope, prove relatively easy to instal. It should arrive in the next few days if FEDEX can manage to keep track of it (and let me tell you I have heard some real horror stories about parts lost in transit). I will install it as soon as possible and with a fair wind I can be on my way.
In the mean time, I found ways to stay busy on the Far Reach: I varnished the cockpit coamings and the end of the bowsprit; painted the dorade boxes and touched up the bulwarks; cleaned rust stains from various prices of stainless steel hardware; spliced some lines; hauled water to replenish the water tanks; climbed the mast in preparation for installing the part to solve the halyard chafe; worked on improving my cooking with the pressure cooker; taken the ship’s clock apart to get it running again (it’s ticking away–hooray!); read a half dozen books, made a number of new friends; rented a car and drove around the island, travelled to Philpsburg to watch the Youth Carnival; scrubbed the waterline; had the mainsail cover patched and those are just the things I can think of. So, despite the wait, I have not been bored.
We also had three days of rain last week and the entire islands seems to have greened up quite a bit. It’s not a bad place to be stuck. There is a large cruiser community here and all the infrastructure to support it.
At 0730 six days a week there is a cruiser radio net operated by Mike of Shrimpy’s Laundry (he is on the French side). Mike is very much a fixture here (I think he is South African). I suspect just about everyone on the island, within VHF radio range anyway, listens to the morning cruiser net. Mike starts off opening the net and then gets a radio check. Then, the weather forecast is passed. Next, any info on items lost, found, or stolen is discussed. Then, Mike asks sailors who have recently arrived to announce their name and their boat’s name and where they have come from. This is followed by those announcing they are about to depart Sint Maarten. Mike skillfully guides the conversation usually with dry humor if not a little wit. Businesses call in regarding services offered, then the net wraps up with general comments by anyone that has information to pass. Sometimes the information is very helpful other times it’s just humorous. Nonetheless, it’s a great routine to start the day and it also seems to bind the sailors together with shared information.
There are a number of dinghy docks around the lagoon which is centrally located to both the French and Dutch sides of the islands. Most of the businesses that cater to the cruiser community are positioned around the circumference of the lagoon. There are marinas, restaurants, bars, chandleries, grocery stores, electronics shops, and many other supporting businesses nearby. The largest ACE Hardware I have ever seen is within walking distance. The international airport launches its aircraft over one end of the lagoon.
Every evening, well after darkness has fallen across the island, I go up on the foredeck. I look about the lagoon. To the north is the half mile long causeway that spans the lagoon roughly demarcating the the French/Dutch boundary. Closely spaced white lights clearly illuminate its long low presence. Sometimes there are purple lights as well, just for fun I think. In the middle of the bridge is the single peaked tower that supports the swing bridge. To the east, I take in the steep, dark, and majestic line of mountains that trace their undulating ridgetops from west to east. Way off to the southeast I can see a rising winding two lane road running up the side of the mountains, betrayed by car headlights, that runs over the pass and down into Philipsburg. Overhead, there are always the soft light-grey trade wind clouds of the night stretching across the heavens separating the the blue-white twinkle of the eternal stars into visible clusters. Almost always there is a soft cool tropical breeze blowing out of the east or south-east. Down along the waters edge, against the shore of the lagoon are the white-yellow and neon lights of businesses and homes. Anchor lights glow from the many boats swinging on moorings or anchors. All waiting . . . waiting to be released from the fierce clutch and tenacious grip of projects and repairs.