Vacation in New York was wonderful. It was cold, but still wonderful. We are now back onboard to return to the drudgery of relentlessly warm Caribbean sun, the absolute perfect water temperatures, the rhum that’s always smooth and potent, and the pleasures that always flow (mostly).
Kalunamoo received from Santa over 70 lbs. of adornments. These were carried in our luggage and back pack on the flight from New York to Antigua. One of the good things about Antigua, there are no hassles when you bring things like chart plotters, electric cables, diesel engine parts, generator mother boards, propane tanks parts, refrigerator parts, oil and fuel filters, computer printer, can goods, electrical relays, timers and meters, microphones, microphone stands, amplifier speaker, solar panel controllers, and boat fenders. They are all routine personal items in our luggage. Just like what other tourist bring on their vacation.
Other countries are not so accommodating when arriving with stuff like that. Grenada, in particular, was upset one time when we flew in with one small outboard motor propeller in our luggage. Besides the paperwork that is required, an import tax is assessed on things like that. We pleaded that it was just a poor refurbished propeller that somehow got mixed up with our underwear and so sorry we didn’t declare it and hoped that it would not impact the Grenadian economy by not paying the import fee. They let us go through. Trinidad wouldn’t impose any import tax, but the paperwork and procedures is enough to give one pause before bringing things in (although we do it all the time).
Santa was very generous and Kalunamoo really appreciated the thoughtful gifts that arrived. Like all other dads and moms, we spent days reading instructions and putting things together so that Kalunamoo could fully enjoy the assembled presents.
While in Antigua, we spent a few days in Jolly Harbor Marina installing those presents . We were awakened at midnight on the 31st as we understand that the New Year brings out those who like to see and hear fireworks at midnight. Odd. We went back to sleep. We then moved out to the anchorage for a few more days and then sailed north.
The easterly trades were moderate but they tended to clock to the south east on the day we sailed. The seas were still running 6 foot short swells from the east from the previous week’s stronger trades. What this meant was that the sail up toward St Martin was with wind well down on our quarter with a cross swell. It was not a terrible sail, but neither was it particularly enjoyable. At times, with the wind shifting dead astern, we needed to jibe to maintain any speed. We anchored in Columbier, St. Barts at sunset and the next morning made the final 2 hour sail to St Maarten (the Dutch side) in the same weather conditions.
Coming from New York, bridge tolls are the norm. Any substantial waterway that a normal car can’t traverse without sinking has a toll bridge. This is not strictly true as the city fathers know that knowledgeable New Yorkers could always find a way not to use a bridge and so not all bridges have tolls. But, of course, New York City is made up of islands and is not connected to the mainland (the rest of the United States). Therein, tolls are ubiquitous and not cheap.
I write the above because when you sail to St Maarten (the Dutch side) there are two bridges that vehicles use to traverse their island. These bridges need to open to let boats taller than about 15’ pass under. The bridge toll, however, is levied on the vessels, not the vehicles using the bridge. Now, remember history. New York City (New Amsterdam) was founded by the Dutch. Somewhere along the way, someone decided to toll cars vs. boats in New York but not here. The British, of course, were involved in this history at some point and the revolution etc. so I’m not sure who’s to blame. In any case, to make a long story short (too late!), you need to pay a bridge toll here, not to go over it, despite the fact it is designed to specifically accommodate vehicles, but to go under it. To add insult to injury, they made it so low that it must be opened so that most boats can go through. In other words, boats pay not to use a roadway but are charged for the engineer’s neglect to make it high enough to go under! It cost us $21 each way not to drive over the bridge. In New York, the Verrazzano Bridge cost $10.17 to drive over it and nothing to sail under it. We have not been here since 2017 but when we paid the toll, the receipt showed that we last paid the toll in 2017. Apparently, they keep good records. But the big story is not the tolls. The bridge is famous for watching the big boys go thru it. It’s a spectator sport.
As you can see the bridge is not that big and yet mega boats have to navigate them. Some of them not so successfully. Here is one video of what can happen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRVWr4sIyCs
We anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon in St Martin (French side) after paying the toll. This saved us Customs and Immigration fees to the Dutch authorities (after all, they got the bridge tolls). The Lagoon is completely protected from any swells. Unfortunately, it is not recommended to swim in it so we dinghy to the outside to go swimming. The bay on the French side is better for swimming. You have to go under the French bridge, but there is no charge – viva la France. The problem is that there is a very narrow and shallow channel beyond the French bridge to the anchorage area.
We haven’t been here in about 5 years and in the interim there was a hurricane that caused substantial damage. Most damages have been repaired but there are still some businesses that have not returned. There is plenty of restaurants (both on the Dutch and French side) and, ship chandleries with tax free supplies which are always welcomed.
While here we are meeting cruisers that we haven’t seen in years, (Wahoo, Persephone), Salty Dawg cruisers we met recently (Fayaway) in Antigua and the musical family we have known from New York (Stell N Snuggs).
We plan to sail to the U.S. Virgins but are awaiting a good weather window. We don’t want to replay the down-wind sail that we had to get here. No rush to move on, especially going west which means that we will eventually need to go east – basically upwind! Maybe we will stay long enough to do some Out and About here.