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April 24th, 2002
Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

So here we sit on our hotel balcony at 10pm, sharing glasses of guavaberry and lime rum. It's about 70ish, we can hear the waves on the beach and some band playing in the distance, and we're looking out at a navy blue sky with big powder puff clouds drifting past the stars. On our third day here on Saint Maarten, it looks like we are far more successful than we had originally hoped. We believe we may be boat owners!

We arrived Monday afternoon and cleared customs by 1pm. No one gave us a hard time about our 5 bags of power tools, dual lap-tops, year's worth of clothes, 6 month's provision of Q-Tips, etc. for our three week "vacation." You see, we had to book a return ticket out so we wouldn't be required to obtain visas, and our tickets were for May 15th, so if customs had decided to investigate our luggage, then we might have been considered a bit suspicious with all our stuff. Anyway- they pretty much stamped our passports and sent us off.

We rented a car, only to find it wouldn't fit all of our aforementioned luggage so we traded up for something larger. Curt followed rental agent's "kick the engine 5 times before turning the key," methodology to get us on to our hotel and we checked in without incident. We dumped our stuff off (no small task) and went searching for A) boats, and B) pay phones to call home and ensure everyone we'd arrived safely.

The phone concept has already proven us naïve of what we're really getting ourselves into. The two of us sat here stumped for at least half an hour trying to figure out how to make a call from our hotel room. Today we finally had success at a cruisers' business center, and have given up the idea of calling from a payphone since they all ask for your credit card in order to dial out.

(Note: Take heed until further notice… email still seems to be the best way to reach us)

We immediately headed off to Bay Island Yachts, a broker we found on the internet. They seemed to be the largest, with about seven or so boats in our size and price range here on the island. We arrived to find that most boats had moved south for hurricane season, but agreed to look at three on Tuesday (which we were already somewhat familiar with from their web site). The rest of our day was spent at miscellaneous boat yards and marinas, with no boat leads worth speaking of. I was a zombie from jet lag, and after Curt got tired of dragging my sorry self around, we hit the hay at 8 o'clock.

We woke Tuesday morning to a rooster crowing (and crowing, and crowing) down the hall, and a quick coffee at the Top Carrot before we met Heather, the broker from Bay Island Yachts. A quick dinghy ride brought us to the first boat, "Lady Sunshine." Way out of our price range- but a nice boat. Well kept, large and airy interior, a charter type set-up, but neither of us felt much one way or the other about her. On to the next one: "Take Two," the boat we had an eye for originally. A slightly high price for us, but ready to cruise. Weird interior with a split cabin set-up, and in dire need of a woman's touch… owner must be somewhere between Archie Bunker and "The Skipper" from Gilligan's Island. Reminded us of our rental car with the plethora of duct tape and "5-kicks-to-start it" methodology.

Heather wasn't as dumb as we look. She took us to see, "Force Five" last… you know, "just in case." Our dinghy pulled up from behind and Curt and I exchanged a "look." She's crisp white, with tan and navy accoutrements. We climbed aboard and were instantly in love. Immaculate was the first word that came to mind. All her lines are color coded and lead directly back to the cockpit. She has roller furling, an electric windlass, beautiful navy blue bimini and a huge cockpit. The companionway leads down to a bright interior with shiny cabin floors and a spotless interior. She has a roomy v-berth that gets lots of air, as well as a spacious, clean head with a wet locker. She's a bit on the small side, but has a double berth aft and the salon converts to a double as well, so there's plenty of room for guests (well, "plenty" is a relative term I suppose). You should see the guy's 30 page spread sheet logging each spare part and which locker it can be found in. Neither of us said much, but sure exchanged a lot of glances and "hmph"s.

A handshake and a "we'll talk tomorrow" later, Curt and I went off to scour the island for more boats, but with Force Five in the back of our minds the whole time. Long story short, we think this guy Joe Gallo(?) was trying to sell us a stolen drug boat, and we ended up putting back a few too many over at the Oyster Pond Moorings dock where we met Ryan (Nate live-alike) and 60ish nude-beach-guy Pierre and his wife Julie. Pierre inspired us to implement, "Quotes of the Week." His thought provoking words were, "I wouldn't trade my kids in for a million bucks, but I wouldn't pay a buck for another kid." They congratulated us for what we're about to embark and gave us the "Do It While You're Young" speech.

SO!… We drank a bunch of Caribs at Captain Oliver's Marina (the $1 beer here) and made our way back along the coast listening to country love songs (reminiscing of my old Ariat friends!) to some cheesy Mexican restaurant, still in deep thought about "Force Five" and how we could make her ours.

(Note: famed guavaberry rum has been deemed, "beef jerky rum," and we've moved on to straight lime rum and then further forward to lime/guavaberry blend, much to our disappointment, and then back to straight lime)

Wednesday, we're up at 7am (me fretful that Su's decided I've been taken hostage by the little known Saint Maarten mafia since we still hadn't figured out the phone thing). We pop in for a bite to eat at the Top Carrot and to re-cap all of our thoughts:

  • We were both instantly in love with her, and that sure sounded like a good sign
  • She's been loved and doted over (what woman doesn't flourish with that?!) and so seemed like a safe boat with good karma
  • More than we wanted to spend by a long shot, but we can sail away without the added expenses we anticipated with something more used… and who knows- the guy might take a super low offer
  • We did Curt's Mental Exercise Game* to find that we both feel much safer with her than anything else we'd seen, we can enjoy more of our time rather than do constant boat repairs, and when our friends & family come to visit (which YOU WILL, RIGHT?), we would be so proud to share this beautiful boat!
  • The only thing we weren't crazy about was her name- but with Marine Protection LLC on the case, perhaps we can take care of that!

*Curt made up the Mental Exercise Game to help make hard decisions. For instance, you are faced with a difficult quandary. Imagine the two or more possible outcomes, and how you feel with each scenario's resolution. I've found that my answer is fairly clear after that.

So, after much thinking, somehow we found ourselves in the Heather's office making the following offer:

  • A HUGE chunk off the asking price (still more than we planned, but WAY less than the seller had asked)
  • Big ol' deposit until the house closes escrow
  • We can live on her at dock, until the final funds are transferred
  • The current owner will sail with us a few times 'til we know her "ins and outs" (oh, woe's me, he must just hate that!)

He accepted, asking only that we don't take her from dock. Quite a disappointment, considering we had hoped to use that time to give me sailing lessons (!), but understandable nonetheless. If all goes as expected, "Force Five" will join our family soon enough, and all of you will come to welcome her to our "tribe" in a more personal way. The rum is cheap here ($6 or so USD for a big bottle), and we hope you'll come christen her time and again when you have a vacation.

There's so much more to tell you, but Curt's long since fallen asleep and I'm sure you've heard enough for now. Tomorrow we move into a short-term apartment until the first wire transfer comes through, and plan to go the beach for the first time since we've been here. We've been so busy trying to find a boat, we haven't even really taken any pictures yet to share!

We both hope to keep this journal updated with our thoughts and photos, so please check back and write to us. On merely our third day, already we miss you all and feel so disconnected!

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