Ahhhh…My first cup of fresh brewed coffee in what feels like days. We rarely manage coffee on one of our gonzo windward bashes so this is especially satisfying.
I’m anxious to do my morning rounds, due to the fact that I couldn’t really see where we were last night when anchoring. I grab that fresh cup of hot Joe and step out onto the side deck to an overcast world blowing a good twenty five kts which feels normal to me these days.
Not too bad. I had anchored in formation off a large ketch which in the morning light has a wild “starry night” paint job in blue and yellow, hoping that he hadn’t done anything stupid like anchor in the channel. He didn’t and neither did we. The strange shadows and shapes of last nights fun house approach to Simpson Bay start to make sense as I make my way forward scanning the anchorage and inspecting the rigging on the way. It’s difficult to see the canal to the bascule bridge but it must be here somewhere. Another sip of coffee and I think I can see the blue steel superstructure of the bridge into the lagoon. Not bad at all. There are quite a few yachts about so I’m going to call the bridge opperator on VHF to make sure we’re in the queue for the inbound 9:30am opening. As I turn to walk back to the cockpit I stop dead like a cat that has noticed something has changed. Something’s not right but I’m so exhausted and with just five hours of sleep I decide to think about it later.
Great, the bridge operator speaks English. After our check-in I hear several other boats call in so it’ll be a scrum at the…
OH MY GOD
Where the F#*K is the jib??!? The old torn sail, lashed securely on the side deck for 1000 miles of upwind sailing is gone. The bag is still tied securely but the sail has somehow been suck right out and now sleeps with the fishes. At least now we don’t have to decide whether to spend the money to repair it.
We got through the bridge at 9:30 and slowed to a crawl as we tried to comprehend the dozens of channel markers leading us to what was supposed to be the way to the French side of the lagoon only to be stopped by a bridge. A bridge that was not on the chart. We looked at the bridge, back at the chart, back at the bridge. Sure enough, it’s not on our up-to-date Navionics chart, it’s not mentioned in the guide book or the online piloting discussions. And the bridge is closed and obviously under construction. I tried to hail the bridge but got no answer. Someone from a nearby marina answered my radio call and said he’d find out when they open. A few minutes later he came back and said they weren’t due to open for a few days. Great. We’re stuck on the French side, and a nearby boat told us the holding is terrible.
We picked a spot and dropped the anchor but immediately dragged and when I hauled it up it brought a whole garden of grass with it. Marce had th bright idea to try out our fish finder which can map the bottom. We must have looked a little drunk weaving through the anchorage but Marce finally found a sandy spot with no grass and we got a good hook in on the second try.
We were just pouring our second cup of coffee when Mark and Sue of Macushla knocked on the hull to welcome us to St. Martin. We poured them a cup and no sooner did we start to share passage notes than I saw a large black inflatable filled with large black-uniformed Dutch Coasties. Oh No! Suddenly we were being boarded by five jack-booted heavily-armed young bucks. I immediately went into Eddie Haskell mode (ask your grandparents) and told them we had recently been boarded by the USCG and had the golden paper to prove it but I could see by the sly smile on the head man’s lips that it wouldn’t prevent the inevitable. We must have been voted Most Boardable by the Coast Guards of the world. While Mark and Sue sat quietly in the cockpit we were thoroughly searched and our safety equipment checked. They were not pleased with our 7-year-old flares. Marce tried to tell them that they were classics and they don’t make them like they used to but we were advised to replace them anyway.