Marigot Bay, St Martin

The requirement to check in and out of islands still controls our schedule.  After Les Saintes we sailed up the West coast of Guadeloupe to Deshaies, among other things to check out with customs and immigration.  Unlike Martinique, Guadeloupe doesn’t have an online checkout facility.  The handbook said that we could check out at Le Pelican, a store with a customs computer, from Monday through Saturday and we got there on Friday afternoon.  So I dinghied ashore and walked to Le Pelican.  Desolee, Monsieur, we no longer have a customs computer – you will need to go to the white container in the commercial harbor, but they are closed weekends!   The handbook, once wrong before, also said that on days when Le Pelican was closed, one could check out at the Municipal Police station.   Unfortunately, the police station never opened that weekend.  So we spent an unplanned 2 days in Deshaies.  

Anchorage at Deshaies

If you are from the UK, Deshaies is well known as the place where the BBC detective series “Death in Paradise” is set.  To us not being familiar with the series, there wasn’t much to do or see and the town is quite touristy.  The exception is a very steep and slippery hike which Barbara and I dutifully completed.  Luckily, we met another OCC boat, Carrick, owned by Simon Hutchinson and his wife who were accompanied by his 89 year old father.  Simon and his father also did the 2023 ARC with us – his father being the oldest participant - and we spent a lovely few hours over drinks with them. 

The hike to Gros Morne from Deshaies

The white container had a placard which said that customs opens at 8 on Monday and Simon and I showed up at 0750.  A group of 6 or 7 boats was now forming but nothing happened at 8.  No customs agent in sight.  At 0815, I asked some guys who were getting a dive boat ready when we could expect the customs officers.  The answer was:  Thursday!  He explained: Today is the day before Mardi Gras and nobody works.  Mardi Gras, obviously, nobody works.  And just as obviously, nobody can be expected to work the day after Mardi Gras!  Well, the news did not go over well with the assembled group and resignation set in.   But I remembered what the handbook said about the police station, so off we were to the Municipal Police which of course was closed.  Hope springs eternal.  Google said that it opens at 830 but a neighbor said not to expect anyone before 0900.    At close to 0900, a police car pulled up and a young officer got out.  We approached him whether he could check us out – the response was NO!  Well, we persisted and got lucky – he relented.  After another ½ hour filling out forms in triplicate and waiting for him to learn how to operate the copier in his office to make copies of our passports and stamp them, I was out of there and we were ready to leave! 

Our next stop was Little Bay on Montserrat.   Montserrat is a very steep island with only one “harbor” – a mere indentation in the Western coastline.  One anchors in deep water in quite a bit of swell, just outside the thundering breakers crashing into the shore.  The officials here tried to outdo their French colleagues in Guadeloupe but they did not succeed.  Although the entire crew has to show up for check-in, it only took a good ½ hour to clear in, including dropping customs forms with immigration and the harbor captain and vice versa (all in the same building).  Everyone seemed reluctant to admit us to their paradise as it was close to closing time, but we got it done nonetheless.

Check-in:  Done!

Bonus:  we got to lick our wounds at a lovely bar just 100 meters from the customs office, with a great view over the anchored Kincsem and the surf!   There was only one other boat in the anchorage:  Carrick with our OCC friends.

The anchorage at Little Bay, Montserrat

Montserrat is the home of the late George Martin, the producer of the Beatles who had a large recording studio there.  Many well known bands such as Dire Straits recorded records (or CDs) in that studio.  But Monserrat is better known for the fact that it experienced several large outbreaks of the Souffriere Hills volcano from 1995 to 2003.  This resulted in the town of Portsmouth being buried in up to 12 meters of mud and more half of the population leaving the island with only about 4,000 remaining.   We hired a guide to drive us to the Southern part of the island where the volcano is located.   There is now barely any tourism – we didn’t see a single hotel.  Lots of peoples’ lives were derailed when the eruption occurred and one really appreciates how lucky we are having grown up in a more stable natural environment!

Soufriere Volcano in the mist

Four story building before the outbreak ….

Two story building; there was no lava flowing, the volcano spewed ash that covered everything.  With the rains, the ash turned to mud which flowed to the sea, extending the shore by over 200 meters in places.

View from the old town pier which survived but now is 200 meters shorter …. The volcano is still spewing something into the air

Nevis was our next stop.  In many ways, it is similar to what Montserrat must have been like before the volcano eruption and there is quite a bit of tourism.  

Our dinghy was well guarded at the ferry pier

Charlestown, Nevis

We had a lovely hike and experienced two excellent restaurants on two different former sugar plantations.   One was at Golden Rock, a small hotel and restaurant beautifully restored by a NY based designer.  The gardens were full of rare and unusual trees and bushes.  

Golden Rock Hotel

The other, Hermitage Plantation Inn, was still housed in the old plantation buildings and the food seemed from that era as well except for the prices!

Just in case things get too tiring on the loo ….

Hermitage Inn

Next stop: St Bartholomew or short St Barts.  To approach St Barts is an experience.  The island itself is quite hilly but from a distance, it looks dominated by an accumulation of small cruise ships that are actually private yachts.  When we arrived, there were 3 ketch-rigged sailboats where the smaller mizzen mast was still big enough to require a red light at night.  The FAA requires a red top light for masts 150 feet or higher close to an airport – this is to warn landing aircraft!  There were numerous motor yachts over 100 meters long!  One of the questions in the online check-in was whether Kincsem had a helipad!     

The reality for us small fry is a bit different.  The anchorage is very crowded and not well protected so boats rock around quite badly.  Luckily, Kincsem is relatively heavy and large but getting in and out of the dinghy was a challenge for Siegi and Barbara.  There is even quite a bit of swell in the harbor and the pier is clad with approximately 1 meter long plates with small gaps. With the swell rolling in, the water squirts out of the gaps and drenches people in approaching dinghies …..  When we were there, things were so bad that 50 meter superyachts left the harbor because of the swell.  Understandable if the drinks get knocked over by the boat moving. 

   On the way from St Barts to St Martin there is La Fouchure, a small private island where one can pick up a mooring or anchor which is quite attractive.  We managed to grab a mooring for a few hours and quite enjoyed the swimming and scenery.   Here is where we saw our first turtle but these things don’t spend a lot of time at the surface.  So sorry, no pictures.

St Martin or Saint Maarten as the Dutch side is called is a very efficient place for a crew change.  Our marina Fort Louis had an excellent supermarket close by, a laundry with a six hour turnaround a 10 minute bike ride away and then, even a cleaning lady.  Unfortunately, while the cleaning lady did a good job throughout, after she was done the aft toilet kept pumping water into the toilet without the button being pressed.  Coincidence or not?  Be that as it may, it wasn’t a good situation as the running water empties the fresh water tank and when you pump it out, it fills the black water tank.  That will start overflowing when it’s full (80 liters) and spill the contents of the black water tank (sh …t diluted with some fresh water) into the marina water.  Not likely to make other marina occupants happy.   

Well, I turned off the electricity of the toilet and decided to wait until the next morning.  I knew I had a spare of the electromagnetic shutoff valve which I thought was the obvious cause.  Although I didn’t even know where the valve was located, I was not concerned.   Well, I started at 5 am the next morning, found the valve and had it replaced a mere 2 hours later.  Only problem:  it didn’t fix the issue!  The toilet kept running.  Time for some espressos and a chocolate croissant!  Then I had an idea:  could it be that the switches for the inlet valve were under water?  I took apart, found plenty of water in and dried out the first of two.  No difference.  I took apart and dried off the second of two.  Bingo!  The water stopped running.   The cleaning lady had obviously used copious amounts of water to clean and flood the switches!  So no coincidence!

The offending switches in the aft

shower all cleaned up; I now have a spare set – St Martin has wonderful chandleries!

I was so elated that I tackled another recent issue:  the macerator pump making strange noises.  Taking that apart revealed a bunch of extraneous material ……. All in the name of perfecting my boat repairing skills.  So net, net, the cleaning lady was not a great time saver but it taught me more about the boat!


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