Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Different View of Sint Maarten

Hooray!  We've found a fabricator that can build the stainless rail and pole we'd like to install at the back of the boat.  We've been making the rounds of the various businesses and while it's great to see that everyone is very busy, between those that can't be bothered with our little job and those who are imminently going on vacation, we were thrilled to find the good folks at Best Boat Services who have fit us into their schedule.  With this good news we made arrangements to move to Philipsburg at the south end of Sint Maarten and pulled up to the dock at Bobby's Marina where we would get the work done.  Next post will go into the details of the fabrication, but in the meantime, we have taken the opportunity to explore this end of the island that to be honest, we have avoided in the past.

Before leaving the lagoon and our spot in the anchorage at the end of the airport runway, I snapped a couple of shots of the biggest plane that lands here regularly.  The KLM 747 is well-known by those who haunt Maho beach at the other end of the runway (for it's blast on take-off), but it sure makes a racket as it lands and then takes off directly over our heads as well.

Just landed and taxi-ing back to the terminal.  Makes our little sailboats look teeny!

It's amazing how quickly the plane clears overhead on takeoff - hardly time to grab the camera before it is among the clouds.
 Wednesday morning saw us paying our final lagoon fee ($20/week) and preparing for the 10:30am bridge opening.  As we were waiting for the bridge to raise, this cruiser passed us - such a typical view in the anchorage but I loved the t-shirt.

"My Dog is my Co-Pirate" - and this furry fellow loved his dinghy rides!

The outgoing parade past the bridge - all the while being urged to "move along" by the bridge operator.
The lagoon exits into Simpson Bay on the west side of the island.  From the lagoon there is a very clearly marked channel with an anchorage to the east.  The coast guard came whipping out of the lagoon behind us and started blipping their siren at this boat whom we were all carefully steering around.  They take infringements on the channel very seriously since the rest of the bay is quite shallow for the big boats that are heading for the lagoon.

Do not hang your butt out into the channel or you will very quickly have a visitor.

From the lagoon to Great Bay at Philipsburg is only five miles but in that distance we were treated to quite a display of boats out enjoying the 'fresh' breezes - it was blowing well over 20 knots and the seas were running about 6-8'.  The camera always flattens the waves.

The Island Water World team was out practicing - right after I took this they actually flew one hull out of the water.
Canada 1 and Stars & Stripes are two 12 meter America's Cup racers - from the old days when America's Cup boats still looked like traditional sailboats.  These two boats now operate as day sailers for tourists looking for an incredible adrenaline rush.  We altered course as Canada 1 crossed our path, well heeled over in the breeze.

This gives an idea of the size of the waves.

Hang on - this could be a wet ride!

Quite exhilarating to watch these boats in action.
A hull-model of Canada 1 - showing what lies below the waterline to keep all that sail and rig upright.

Philipsburg is the main town on the Dutch side of the island and the main business down here is operating as a cruise port.  At the moment there has only been one cruise ship a day but the docks here, as in Charlotte Amalie, can accommodate many of these behemoths a day in high season.  The unique aspect of Philipsburg is that the entire waterfront is a broad sandy beach lined with a wide boardwalk and various bars and restaurants.  All of the harbour operations are relegated to the eastern edge of the bay which is where we sit in the marina.

Little Mowzer at the dock, massive cruise ship in the background.

Our view of Philipsburg and the beach.
Although we had moved down to Philipsburg we had made arrangements to meet up with Paul & Cheryl from Distant Shores for dinner back at Simpson Bay.  Off we went on the bus for a great get-together over shawarma and then on our return trip we learned a new island greeting.  It is habit when getting on the bus to greet your driver and fellow passengers with a cheery, "Good morning/afternoon/evening."  What we didn't know is that at night-time you greet everyone with, "Good night."  We were so confused when the first passenger said this on her entry - our ears are so tuned to "good night" as a farewell.  Many after the first repeated the greeting so now we are adding it to our new vocabulary.

Today, Saturday, we headed out for a walk in search of some foam to soften up our 'hard-as-rock' cockpit cushions.  We set off before the cruise ship passengers had disembarked which meant that for the first part of our walk along the waterfront we enjoyed a hassle-free stroll, as the vendors were just getting set up at the early hour.  Later in the day, expect entreaties to 'buy', 'eat', 'drink', or 'ride'.  One fellow asked us if we wanted a ride to visit one of the famous beaches which we politely declined.  On our return, he remembered us and immediately put down his placard, commenting to us that we weren't from the ship - we had a good laugh with him over not needing his services to get to the hardware store.

The marina has a Venetian feeling with this bridge over a little canal that leads to the dinghy dock.

The eastern end of the beach fringed with palm trees and cafes.

There are very few dogs wandering around P'burg, this one was a regular we've met up with a number of times now.

The beach, before all the chairs and umbrellas have been set up for the day.
We were successful in finding our foam, and then hit the grocery store where I found a couple more creatively labelled bottles, both of which had me wondering the market they are targeting.

For men:  drink this and you'll look like this guy?
For women:  drink this and you'll be attractive to guys like this?

For men:  drink this and you'll ...???
For women:  drink this and you'll get what you've always wanted to try?  oh my!
We're surprisingly enjoying our time in Philipsburg, now that we've figured out our way around the town.  There are four or five streets running parallel to the beach:  Front Street is where all the high-end jewelry and electronics stores are targeting the cruise ship passengers, next comes Back Street with various 'bargain' clothing and food stores.  The next two streets are named for locals (with two initials) and this is where we find the local scene - schools, churches, little department stores and mini-markets.  I've come to the conclusion that these are more our style.