I love sunrises when we travel. They are beautiful: vibrant colours, sometimes playing hide and seek behind small clouds, changing in colour and intensity every minute. That special moment only last 30 cherished minutes. The other aspect of sunrises that make them so precious is the end of darkness. After traveling for hours without seeing the waves and land points of reference, it is comforting to now see, instead of just feel and refer to an electroni charts. When I see, I gain more confidence; I welcome the day with its adventures and joys. To me, sunrises are openings to new challenges and opportunities; the meaning of my life.
When we left Coral Bay, St. John at 05h00, in darkness for an hour, we followed the protected Drake Channel in the Virgin Islands, sailing North East, before we jump onto open ocean water at Ginger Island towards St. Maartens. This 100-mile trip went very well. Jumping from Ginger Island, we had a good wind angle to allow rising both sails for 70 miles. Yeepee! Sailing at 6-7 knots, we were cautiously optimistic for an arrival by midnight. I even promised Frank an extra ration of rum if we arrive in St. Maartens by midnight. LOL! For the last 30 miles, the winds shifted towards our bow. We kept the main sail but furled the head sail. Our speed plummeted to 3 knots. That was a long stretch! We finally dropped anchor at 03h00 in Simpson Bay, St. Maartens. Only one ration of rum before bed!
When we arrive at an anchor in a new country, we need to clear "in" customs. The official procedure is to first raise a yellow flag meaning "quarantine" on starboard side. Then, only one person (crew or skipper) is allowed on shore to clear customs. There's a bit of confusion between the USA and other countries in the Carribbeans. With an American cruising permit - which allow us to come and go within the USA and USA-owned islands without clearing customs at every US ports - we don't need to clear "out" when we leave the USA. However, when we arrive in another country, they don't like us to clear "in" with them without clearing "out" with the USA. It makes the conversation of officials in both countries very confusing and ackward. Usually the receiving country just gives up and let us clear in.
Really, if we didn't have a boat, St. Martin on the French side and St. Maartens on the Dutch side would be the perfect island to buy property for us. It has various opportunities for sports: snorkeling, diving, sea-doos, and many other watersports, ATV's, scooters. The island has mountains, lagoons, beachs galore, history, cultures, excellent food. For us, paradise! We found a Dutch cheese store, a Garden Market of a multitude of European delicacies, all-you-can-eat seafod on the beach. And the best is to come: Marigot Bay, on the French side. We hope Harald and Melitta - Frank's cousin and wife who arrive tomorrow to sail with us for 2 weeks - will want to explore by ATV or scooters. Wow! Life is good!
Yesterday, we moved from Simpson Bay to Simpson Lagoon, a protection from the sea swells. With a forecast of 20+ winds and 27+ gusts, the sea within Simpson Bay is rolly to the point that all things on the boat must be secured from dropping and breaking or flying off into the water. The winds are still very strong within the lagoon but no waves.
To enter the lagoon, we needed to pay and register by VHF radio. Yesterday morning, we heard a boat called Doogie registering for the lagoon too. Doogie is a friend of Adanaco - reversed O'Canada; Adanaco, our friend from Ontario. (As you can see, we refer to sailing friends as their boat names). We met Doogie, and caught up with Adanaco, at Cape May; and the three of us sailed overnight to Norfolk, Virginia back in November. After that sail, we lost contact but followed their progress through an app (Marine Traffic) we have. Doogie and us followed the same path without meeting: Crooked Island, Caicos/Puerto Rico (Doogie on North shores, us on South shores), St. Thomas and now St. Maartens. What a joy to finally catch up with them! We hosted Happy Hour yesterday (Michelle baked delicious homemade foccaccia!) and tonight dinner on their boat. Hosting happy hour again, we realized how much we missed having people over and good conversations. When you spend weeks on a boat only with your loving spouse, you may feel socially deprived. It feels really good to talk to, and share experiences with, other people.