Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Beat Down

This one's a bit of a rant so bear with me ... At home we tend to take things like the internet and cell phones for granted and I'd say that down here just about everyone you see has a cell phone in their hand or pocket. We get the strangest looks from people on the islands when we tell them that the only way to get in touch with us is by email since we don't have a phone. The idea that you can function without your own personal number is quite inconceivable.

That said, we have very much come to the realization that we cannot function via free (borrowed) wifi alone. We always check to see if there is a stray open signal in the anchorage and if there is a bar or cafe with free wifi all for the purchase of a drink or a croissant, we will often wait to connect, but for those really important moments we like to have the security of a 3G SIM card available.

While this seems like a pretty straight forward proposition, of all the business transactions we have conducted over the last three months, obtaining, and retaining, our 3G access seems to have been the most problematic. Even though the carriers provide packages for data plans only, there must not be that many customers or I can't imagine that the level of service would be acceptable. The regulations in the U.S. must also be much stricter than elsewhere (which I suppose is not surprising - land of freedom?) since we are not allowed to move our SIM card between devices as we please, without additional registration.

Just to give you an idea...

St. Thomas - we had problems with our mobile hotspot device but it took three visits to AT&T and the replacement of two SIM cards before they could get us up and running with my iPad. Then, three weeks later when we were in the BVI but still within range of the AT&T coverage, our 3G access completely disappeared. Only with a visit to the AT&T store back in Crown Bay did they figure out that our registration had mysteriously switched to a Panasonic device, none of which we own. Once they got our registration switched back we were good to go but with the loss of a week's access couldn't possibly use all that we had purchased.

St. Martin - we purchased another SIM card, this time from Digicel. Annoyingly, the maximum you can buy in one shot is 1GB at 20 Euros, no deal to buy a 3-5GB package, but I guess that is their business model and supports my supposition that they really don't sell too much of this product. We made a fatal mistake by putting the card in our hotspot and immediately pounding through 300MG with updates, which we quickly turned off. We purchased another 1GB to see us through the next couple of weeks, chalking up our mistake to a lesson learned, and then in Grand Case immediately lost our access. Frustrated once again we made the mile walk to the Digicel store at Hope Estate only to be told that they couldn't possibly be held responsible for what we do with our access and with no receipt they couldn't help. Only once I bared all and showed them the transactions on our bank account would they agree to credit back the 1GB that we had never used. Surprisingly now, when I check our account online we have 2GB available (for the moment) ... WTF??

On our walk we did see that where there was a beach yesterday, there is now a drain from the salt pond. I guess that either this is a regular occurrence or it was filled in with the hurricane in October. We also walked past the most decked out house in the street, just dripping in Christmas decorations!

Not to be outdone, the laundry made points against me this morning as well. For those who were there on that fateful Thursday evening out racing on the Ottawa River on Velero, cast your mind back to the image of Tim wrestling a wayward spinnaker in the wind, when he suddenly disappeared from view through the forward hatch. Battered and bruised he recounted the tale of how his footing suddenly went out from beneath him and thankful that no further injury was sustained, we all had a good chuckle at his expense. Fast forward to this morning, with the wind gusting and finding myself battling a wet sheet for supremacy, the sheet won. Suddenly there was nothing beneath my foot and my leg plummeted through the open hatch to the bathroom below. I knew the hatch was there, and I knew it was open, and although I can't claim the excitement of a gybe past a buoy, my whole concentration in that moment was dominance of the laundry. ... Lesson learned there too.

Laundry 1: Catherine 0 (and a nicely coloured bruise)
Incredibly, the purchase of our new mattress has turned out to be the most pleasant experience. As I mentioned in the previous episode, we walked up to Island Mattress and ordered a new mattress that would then have to be custom cut to fit our bed. As promised, despite the occurrence of Kingdom Day as a holiday on the Dutch side, our mattress was delivered to us at the dinghy dock in Marigot this afternoon. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture since our hands were rather busy, but it must have been an interesting sight to see us dinghying across the anchorage with the two halves of the mattres balanced between us. We wrestled them aboard in a fairly insistent wind and they are a perfect fit! The delivery guys even waited for us on the dock to return and let them know the fit was good, or they would have happily taken them back to adjust. Talk about excellent service, and the custom fit and recovering was only an extra $100 to the price of the mattress. And, to make the moment sweeter, that damn sheet is clean, dry and on the bed.

In with the new...
The ups and the downs of life on a boat, but we're still winning more often than not. Just two more sleeps and then Jim will be with us so all is good with the world.