We have arrived in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten. We departed North Sound – BVI’s Sunday January 20th at 11:30 am. The wind was…..any guesses? Come on, think….more often than not, what direction is the wind coming from when we go sailing? That’s right! On the nose! Actually we knew it would be. Sint Maarten is east, south-east of the BVI’s and the trade winds generally blow out of the east, with occasional south-east. We simply waited for a day when the winds were way down. What? We wanted the winds low? Yes. This allows the sea to be relatively calm as we sail/motor into them vs hammering into them...slam, slam, slam - ugh...no fun. Even on a close haul, calmer seas are better.
|Sailing towards sunrise|
We were not sure how much headway we would be able to make and how fast we could go but based on our route planning it would be anywhere from 16 to 24 hours for this passage. We were itching to get going so we headed out at 11:30am. Many departed earlier in the morning. After 8 or so hours, we realized at the speed we were going, we would arrive around 3:30am in the morning. It’s NEVER a good idea to arrive to an unfamiliar destination in the dark so we slowed down, way down. The stars came out, the moon came up and we had a lovely night. We had to stay sharp as it was busy on the passage with lot of other yachts out there on passage as well – sort of like a highway at one point. Most showed up on AIS but there were some stealth boats like us. *We receive but don’t send an AIS signal.
I started seeing the lights of Anguilla and Sint Maarten on my 4am watch. The clouds on the horizon confirmed land. We arrived in Simpson Bay just outside the bridge on the Dutch side around 9:05am. Perfect as the bridge only opens three times a day with 9:30 am being the first opening for incoming traffic. Tom expertly held s/v Honey Ryder in place amongst the other yachts waiting to get in. It reminded me of people waiting to board an airplane, even though there are assigned boarding groups, people still inch up and maneuver around.
Then the announcement came that the bridge was opening and the light turned green. Everyone proceeded forward, falling into line. FYI – it’s a narrow channel through. At one point the bridge tender instructed everyone to speed it up as there were many yachts to get through. Okay. There was a port patrol guy in a dinghy making sure it all went ok but only because there was a mini mega yacht coming in and they are required to use port patrol. The mini mega yacht ended up right behind us. And I mean right behind us…..once we got through the bridge, the yachts ahead had slowed down causing a bunch up. I looked behind us to see the mini mega yacht 10 ft off our starboard stern rail! It looked like 5 ft!! It was probably 15ft but no more, seriously. Everyone headed off in various directions. We followed two other yachts through the lagoon channel and on over to the new Simpson Bay Lagoon Causeway Bridge, a swing bridge. It is supposed to be timed with the other bridge. But it didn’t open and didn’t open. Finally after 15 mins, it did open and we proceeded through and sailed officially into the French side of the lagoon.
|Waiting for new causeway bridge to open|
|Time to go through|
|Going from Dutch side to French side of Simpson Bay Lagoon|
We anchored off Mont Fortune aka The Witches Tit (seriously….that is what everyone calls it), at 10:30 am. Our passage was 23 hours anchorage to anchorage. This location will allow us to dinghy to Marigot on the French side – bread, pastries, cheese, French coffee and wines and the Dutch side with its marine chandleries.
|Sunrise in Simpson Bay Lagoon - French side|