Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sint Maarten & St. Croix

Based on the recommendation of a couple of charter captains, we decided to go to Philipsburg in Dutch Sint Maarten rather than Simpson Bay. The primary motivation was to avoid the anchorage fees, but I also wanted to stop in at a Dutch-speaking island. There are Dutch-speaking people in Philipsburg, but the lingua franca is English with French a close second, followed by Spanish. And we spent more in bus and taxi fares getting to the chandleries and visiting friends in Simpson Bay than we saved, so it was a false economy. I can see why charter captains would go there, though: it's one big cruise ship stop. There are stores, bars, and restaurants everywhere along the waterfront and two streets deep in Philipsburg. The water in the bay was clear and nice, so we could do our swim off the boat. Now that we couldn't have done in Simpson Bay, at least not in the lagoon.

The main reason to stop at Sint Maarten was to see our friends Liat and Assaf on Jinja one last time before our tracks diverge, and we had a nice evening with them. I hope they will be able to visit us in San Francisco, or maybe we'll meet again cruising somewhere someday.

We did another night passage to get to St. Croix to clear into the U.S. The seas weren't smooth, but it wasn't too bad, and we had good wind so that we averaged 5 knots on the jib alone. It was pretty much straight downwind. When we arrived, there was a police boat telling us we couldn't anchor in the anchorage and directing us to a mooring buoy. The wind was blowing over 20 knots, and I didn't see how we could get the dinghy back on deck if we got her into the water in that, so I asked the police if there was a water taxi. They said they could give us a ride and pick us up later. Great!

The customs office was friendly and efficient, and we cleared into the U.S. with no problems or fees and headed to town where the police boat said they would meet us. We found the brew pub right by the dinghy landing, where we were supposed to meet the police, and had a nice lunch. The police, however, were no shows. They had suggested that we could hitch a ride with someone else with a dinghy, but most of the dinghies were pretty small. One couple I chatted with barely made it in going downwind with two people. There was no way they could take us back with them. I'd been watching people along the pier and spotted a man who seemed to know everyone and had a good-sized dinghy. The problem was that his boat was in the opposite direction. I finally approached him. His name is Matt, and he and his wife were very, very nice. They needed to take some stuff to their boat, but would be right back to ferry us to ours. So Matt kindly took us on a wet dinghy ride to our boat and wouldn't accept a beer or anything.

Overall, our impression of St. Croix is extremely positive. We only wish we'd been able to go back into town and explore more. There has been no charge for the mooring, but we learned that you can normally anchor here. The restriction on anchoring is only because of a triathlon with a swim through the anchorage this weekend. We don't know if there is normally a charge for the mooring buoys, but we would expect so.

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