Monday, May 24, 2010

May 19, 2010 - Simpson Bay, Sint. Maarten

Upon arrival in Simpson Bay, Sint. Maarten on Monday afternoon we anchored outside the bridge. After lunch, showers and loading the dinghy with four bags of dirty laundry we dinghied over to the lagoon entrance to clear in. We were startled to find the lagoon nearly empty. We expected all the big motor yachts to be long gone, as their Mediterranean charter season is already in full swing. However, we expected the lagoon to be full of sailboats like Antigua and St. Barts. But it wasn't.

From the entrance on the Dutch side, the lagoon looked empty. But in the distance we could see that the French side of the lagoon was chock-a-block with cruising sailboats. The new fees on the Dutch side have clearly taken their toll. There are now very few boats clearing in an out on the Dutch side, which is currently charging steep weekly harbor fees based on boat length. The fees on the French side work out to be about the same for short-term stays, but for yachts spending a long time in the area, clearing into the French side of the lagoon works out to be cheaper. So, now the French side is packed, and the Dutch side looks like a ghost town.

Three years ago we spent several weeks anchored in the lagoon finishing Mata'irea's refit and getting the boat ready for the Pacific. So much has changed since then. The laundromat is closed. The bar/wifi hotspot we used to frequent is shuttered. Based on the pile of debris outside, the cheap and tasty Indian buffet has clearly been shut down for a while. But there are a bunch of swanky new restaurants and bars and an amazing new grocery store, all of which are clearly catering to the megayacht trade.

After finding a place to take our laundry, we found a place (which used to be a different place) to have ribs and watch the Red Socks give it up to the Yankees. It's going to be a long season. As we were tucking into some tasty pulled pork we realized that the last time we'd seen a game was last summer, the night we arrived in the Seychelles.

Our friends arrive tomorrow, so the past two days have been full of boat chores. The first item on the list was to replace the broken handle on the port stateroom hatch, which we haven't been able to open for many, many months. Yesterday morning Sten went off to the chandlery to buy a new handle along with several spares. The trip turned out to be more exciting than expected.

Sten was standing outside of Budget Marine, reading the notices posted on a bulletin board, when some construction debris flew off the roof and hit him on the head before landing on his foot. His big toe was sliced open, but at least he didn't wind up in the emergency room. I would have thought that the near concussion would have entitled him to a discount, but the manager didn't offer and he didn't press the issue. Anyway, now he's running around with a piece of yellow electrical tape securing his bandage while he installs the new stackpack and replaces watermaker filters.

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