Thursday, April 30, 2015

Feathers Abound

Birds of exotic feather should beware - it's Carnival time!

We started the day with a bus ride over the hill to Philipsburg where we explored the boardwalk and beach, and then picked our vantage point for the grand Carnival parade.  

This needed a "you are here" marker down on the bay at the bottom right.

Philipsburg is quite unique with its wide open boardwalk and broad beach right downtown.

With Dave & Corinne (At Last) and Judy & Andy (Jacob's Ladder), we claimed space in the shade on the Tommy Hilfiger steps... a great place for chicken and johnny cakes with cold beer for lunch, all in support of the local school who had a food stand right next to us.

And then we found Jason & Laura (Blue Blaze) and Gabi & Carston (Pathfinder).

The parade arrived with the assorted Queens of the Carnival, then the children's parade and finally the variously themed dance groups and requisite party trucks such as we had followed in Jouvet.  The sun rose higher in the sky and as we found it hotter and hotter it was hard to imagine the energy of the parade marchers in their exotic costumes and paint who danced and gyrated their way along the parade route for over three hours.  We were stationed near the end of the route and the energy level was still intense!

Here comes the parade!  Boats that just fit in the Panama Canal are called Panamax size - what do you call the size of these trucks on Front Street?

These ladies had it pretty easy, just needing to wave and smile.

We were then treated to a number of fabulous unique costumes - each one so willing to pose for all the photo ops.

Youth in training!

This costume was so large it was actually on wheels.

Absolutely beautiful!

This little girl beside us was barely two and she wore herself out dancing with the best of them.

Presidente Girl - but no free beer handouts this time.

After three hours of sweating in the sun, the body paint looks as fresh as new - how do they do that?

This costume defied gravity.

More amazing body paint.

All along the way dancers would stop and pose with friends and strangers alike.

Curacao was a highlighted nation in the parade and their costumes were spectacular.  It felt like an Alice in Wonderland set.

More Curacoa pride with flag and Dutch buildings.

As the parade wound down everyone was still having fun, including the marchers.
Exhausted and still in awe of the energy required to complete the march, we took ourselves off to find a meal and cold beer before heading home once more on the bus.  The infectious beat is still reverberating in my head and I still can't imagine Carnival in Grenada in the heat of August!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


The official opening of the Sint Maarten carnival is a grand event called Jouvet, a conjunction of jour ouvert - or Open Day.  And to really open the day, the parade starts at 4 am.  That’s right, 4 in the morning.

Given the plethora - no really, almost an infestation of Canadian boats in the lagoon anchorage, many of us spent the night before in a sports bar owned by a Montreal couple, trying to cheer on the Senators to just one more win.  Finally overcome by Montreal and out of the playoffs, we headed back to the boat to grab a few hours sleep before the two of us were back up at 3:30 to find a way into Philipsburg for the party.  Not going to repeat it, but there was a distinct lack of Canadian representation at this early hour folks!

Andy and Judy enjoyed the wings and the game, but not the outcome.

This was some serious coverage!

The parade formed on the road that circles the salt pond behind Phillipsburg, with multiple large trucks, each one outfitted with a complete party.  Live music or DJ, pretty girls, free booze of the sponsoring company and an avid group of partiers doing the carnival shuffle and cheering behind the truck.  The trick was to find the one with the party mood you liked best, so we walked up and down the parade a couple of times before settling in behind the Heineken truck.  The infectious beat, paired up with a few “good morning” beers soon had us hooked and what started in the dark with amazing light displays from the trucks, gradually developed into a hot sunny morning as the sun rose over the hills.  The transformation continued as the crowds of dancers brought out bags of green paint powder that was liberally sprayed around, almost raising a green cloud behind the truck.  As if the paint powder were not enough, a liberal dousing of beer made sure that the green really stuck.  Hotter and hotter it became until we realized it was only 8:30 in the morning - had we really already been partying for four hours?  My empty tummy and tired feet certainly thought so.  What a fun and unique experience - I can still feel the incessant rhythm in my toes and am primed and ready for the big daytime parade on Thursday. 

These trucks had some serious sound and light shows on them.
All manner of creative costuming was seen - especially talented razor blade slashing of t-shirts.

The rhythms soon had everyone gyrating and doing the carnival shuffle step.

As the sun rose these two 'Caribbean Grannies' bounced past us - these two guys were shameless.

A whole tribe of indians had the most amazing costumes.

We met a whole group of Canadians who were from Sudbury, where I grew up!

Look carefully and you'll see that these two guys are doused in engine oil, and carrying spare jugs should the need arise.

Behind the Heineken truck the crowd got greener and greener.

And following along behind this troupe of French maids were ready to clean up.

End of the parade for us, and believe it or not, we're actually pretty clean compared to most around us.

One would think that after all that fun, the day would pretty much be over, but the fun had just begun!  On our return to the boat, we met up with our fellow boats from the BVI and set a ‘breakfast’ date for La Sucriere in Marigot. This was after Henry and I had revived ourselves with chicken curry empanadillas in Philipsburg, but who’s one to turn down a French pastry?  While in Marigot we finally met up again with Laura and Jason on Blue Blaze.  We reunited over a light lunch at one of the French restaurants on the lagoon and got all caught up on the last few weeks since we were together on St. John.  The day before we had also reunited with Robert, Sheena and Kinsley on Almost There, and Dave and Alex on Banyan.  I think at this point, just about everyone we know is here!
Doris & Francois enjoy a little Sucriere treat.

Not to be outdone though, a few new arrivals to the anchorage introduced themselves and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves down at Lagoonies for happy hour and a birthday and arrival celebration.  The party went mobile and we visited the Yacht Club and then a delicious shawarma shack before the night was done.

Was it finally time to go to bed??  Yes!

Going to Hog Heaven ... and St. Martin

Looking way up to the top of the hills above Gorda Sound we could spy a little green building with an inviting deck built out at precarious heights.  Of course, we decided we had to hike up to its dizzying heights but with the promise of juicy delicious ribs it seemed doable.

First we had to wait for a little rain shower (torrent) to clear

Cock of the Walk in Leverick Bay

The day before we had hiked to the west around Oil Nut Bay and been treated to an impromptu off road ride in a landscaping truck that greatly shortened our trek around the hills, but also offered us some insight into the development plans for this rather exclusive area.  We have to enjoy the area now because once the place is built up we will definitely be out of our league up there.

We had enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Fat Virgin Cafe in Birras Creek as a little respite from the heat - always a great place to watch the comings and goings in the anchorage and at the dock.

Enjoying the shade at The Fat Virgin Cafe

Freshly cooked roti and burger with loads of blue cheese

Today however, we set our legs in an uphill direction - and up and up and up we went.  The hills are steep, the sun was hot, and when we reached the turnoff we had the place almost in our sights - at least no more steep hills to climb!

There's our destination - that little green place on the hill

Don't worry, we're going to HOG heaven!

Dan was in charge of keeping all of us at the tables happy with cold drinks and delicious ribs while ‘mean cat’ as he called him, made quite a show of placing himself right behind Dan’s unsuspecting feet whenever possible.  That was of course providing he wasn’t scrounging juicy morsels from the diners.  The star attraction though is the view.

The afternoon wound slowly to its conclusion and found us preparing for a night departure for St. Martin.  The winds were forecast at only 5-10 knots with flat seas under 3’ - it was a perfect night to set out.  Making the crossing with us were two other Canadian Boats, Jacob’s Ladder and Amelia I, which was a first for us.  Being able to be in contact via VHF radio made the distance seem just that little bit shorter and we had a ready-made celebration on arrival.  We set off about 3 hours before the others, preferring to travel at night rather than in the searing heat of the day.  Anchor up at 9:15pm and back down again after a totally uneventful crossing to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of the island at 12:15pm.

Sunrise between the BVI and St. Martin

Sailing past the airport and Maho Beach as CanJet prepares to take off

Heading back to Canada!

The bridge to the lagoon opened at 3pm so we joined the little boat parade to make our way through.  Our first bridge opening!  Since we did not travel down the ICW on the east coast of the U.S. we had not had the pleasure of this little right of passage before.  There was plenty of room for us, but it boggles my mind how some of the mega yachts we see in the lagoon manage to get through.

Let the boat parade begin

We were fourth in line with two more behind

Even though we know we have loads of room to get through, it still looks tight

Bridge is up!

Jacob's Ladder and Amelia I following us through to the lagoon.

Anchored in the lagoon behind Distant Shores

First sunset in St. Martin

While we’re here in Sint Maarten we will be visiting the many chandleries and boat services places as well as participate in some of the annual carnival celebrations (more on that later).  Hopefully we can escape to the south with a few dollars left in our wallets!