Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Leaving St Maarten.. On to pastures new

[Maryanne]I just wanted to comment, especially for those Gemini owners out there, that we managed to meet up with two separate Gemini boats and their owners here in St Maarten. This was great from both a social perspective, and also to share tips and ideas for Footprint modifications and potential future repairs. Having a boat model that is so popular sure makes cruising all the sweeter when you arrive in a foreign port and find a sister ship. In St Maarten, we met up with Fergus and Penny from "Tailwinds And Sunsets", and Chris and Christine from Gypsy Cat. We have been lucky enough to meet up with Gemini owners on our NE USA cruise too, and we are so grateful for such a friendly lot - thanks all!

[Kyle]After a long flight in a middle seat from work, I got to St Maarten and did what I always do when you leave a country - cleared in (me) at the airport and walked to marine customs to clear out (me, Maryanne, and Footprint)!

Maryanne and I still had some preparation to do for the passage, so rather than rush things, we decided to leave the following day, in the evening for an overnight passage to Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). I intended to sleep/nap as much as possible during the day, before we left, but the excitement and anxiousness about the departure kept me awake.

We pottered around as much as we could, tidying this and that, and eventually gave up and left for the fuel dock early to top up our fuel and water tanks. The Gemini is hard to fuel without overflowing the tanks, so we tend to calculate the expected fuel and Maryanne reads the pump output while I pump (or visa-versa). About halfway through the first tank, Maryanne reported that we were at 144L - we knew this could not be right as the tank only holds around 60L. I managed to avoid overfilling the tank by pumping slowly and paying close attention. By the time I started the 2nd tank, the attendant had reset the gauge in mid-fueling, so now we had no idea how much we'd pumped in. After fuel and water was topped up, Maryanne went to pay and I tidied up; she returned studying the bill and confused, it did not appear correct - we made some calculations and returned to the attendant to verify the numbers. If the reading was correct we had arrived with empty tanks (but by our calculations expected both tanks were over half full - more like 2/3rds full when we arrived). We returned to the boat and scratched our heads. The boat behind us was also questioning his fuel - he had been charged for more than his tanks can hold! I returned to the attendant convinced that I was now right - we too had been overcharged. It was not possible for us to have taken on that much fuel, unless others had been siphoning from our tank. He asked how much I thought I should have taken, and then with no further fight whatsoever, calculated the difference and handed me a $20 bill. One for the man! This (added to FKG - who have since requested another mystery $250) ensured that I would not be missing St Maarten!

As Darren (my brother) would say, that's a lot of words... Are you still with me?

One of the main reasons I was so anxious about our departure was the weather. The forecast was for NE winds of around 25kt. This was not technically unfavorable - the wind would give us a beam reach, but with large waves/swell from the N too, we knew it would be a rough slog. We could have waited, but we've managed these conditions before, we knew we and the boat would handle it, although we also knew it would be unpleasant sailing - it still seemed better than waiting in St Maarten for 2 more weeks.

We exited the Lagoon with the 5:30pm French bridge opening just before sunset and beat hard in the wind in the lee of Anguilla to gain as much the Northerly distance as possible and give us a better angle for the subsequent westbound sailing. Once clear of Anguilla, we turned across the wind. The weather was at least as bad as forecast. We saw sustained apparent winds in the mid 20's with gusts in low 30's, but were prepared with double reefed everything. The seas eventually reached 10-15 feet. The going was rough with the boat and contents being thrown around a lot, but we were making good speed, often at 9kt. I went off watch first (finally giving way to seasickness as Maryanne took over), but found it difficult to sleep with all the pounding for the remainder of the night until sunrise. Maryanne slept soundly on her off watch, but was also seasick once she'd taken over for an hour!

Miserable passage where AGAIN we should have used the enclosure.. I think Kyle has finally learned the lesson, he even declined my offer to take some of his watch (he was exhausted) and let him sleep for an extra hour since he was already wet - bless him

Before long, the sun rose, and the boat roared up past the north side of Virgin Gorda, I was exhausted and so ready for the passage to be over. We turned downwind to sail down the western side of the island, and this improved things dramatically (such a difference). Eventually, (after 2 failed attempts) we found good holding in the rolly anchorage of Spanish Town. We were both worn out from the short passage, that rather than clear in immediately, we just secured the boat and went to bed for a couple of hours of blissful sleep.

We were still groggy and unmotivated when we awoke later, but knew we needed to clear in - so we forced ourselves out of bed and prepared for the trip ashore.

Our passage was nothing compared with this boat - SV Wasabi - Jeez!

Spanish Town View

Fortunately, the customs folks were very friendly and helpful; and after the short clearing in process we took a stroll around the small Spanish Town to gain our bearings. Spanish town is mostly a ferry dock, a marina, and a few streets of homes and the basics - very small. At the marina, we saw a boat with a broken mast, (SV Wasabi) and we had to feel for the guy. Maryanne remembered a note about a place called The Rock Cafe, worth walking to just south of town, so we headed in that direction. We found the Cafe, and although too early for dinner, we were made welcome to take a look around; It looked impressive from the outside, a huge stone built structure with a rooftop restaurant area. Once we entered, we realized it extended into gardens at the back. The gardens are a beautiful setting with stairways leading to secluded decks nestled within huge boulders - very stunning. The proprietor was very nice and we decided to have a couple of drinks before leaving - for $20!!!!! (Gulp!). No, thank you very much, we won't be eating dinner here, but you do have a very beautiful restaurant! If you are not on a budget, (or if you just want to treat yourself) a visit to The Rock Cafe is worth it for the setting alone

Rock Cafe and Piano Bar, where Kyle gets to meet Obama Face to cardboard Face... Those in the know will recognize the pose

Still not fully recovered from the passage, we called for an early night, and headed back to the boat and Maryanne's delicious (especially for the price) cooking.


kate said...

i don't understand. are you suggesting $20 for two drinks is too much? goodness, that would be like saying my spending $3.66 every morning for an iced mocha at starbucks is too expensive! haha!! er... haha?? happy to hear you are there safe and sound - and without a broken mast! was that cardboard obama truly to scale? i had no idea he was as tall as you, kyle!

SV-Footprint said...

Oh Kate.... How long have you known us? And you haven't recognized Kyle's innate stinginess yet?

Of course, he too has selective cheapness, when he enters a Starbucks :-)

SV-Footprint said...

Oh, and yes, I think that is life size. Obama is 6'1" or 6'1.5" (depending on where you look it up, I decided to accept http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heights_of_United_States_Presidents_and_presidential_candidates)

Kyle is also 6'1".