April 26th, 2002
Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
A funny thing happened on the way to the
market yesterday. We got caught in rush hour traffic and just
decided to sit it out at the Floating Bar, which seems to
be quickly becoming our local haunt. We originally discovered
this place in our search for our boat. On our first night
here on the island, we were over at the Peg Leg Pub asking
the locals if they knew of any boats for sale, and this guy
Norbert (an old salty dog sort with a heavy German accent)
gave us a lead. He said (insert accent and thick cigarette
smoke cloud here) to , "
go down to the Floating
Bar ya, and ask for Tamara ya. Tell her you want to take a
look at Collin's boat there at the dock ya and tell her Norbert
sent you, ya?." The boat ended up being in need of far
more work than we would've had time to tend to if we want
to leave before hurricane season, but it did give us a chance
to discover this great local haunt.
So last night, we stationed ourselves at
the same corner we had sat at the night before for our $1
Carib beers and $2 Captain and Cokes. What we've since discovered
seems to be the usual crowd was there: two blonde bartenders,
some chain-smoking woman with red hair and a thick southern
accent, and a hoard of weathered old sailors slurring out
stories and tipping back beers. And of course, the very obvious
tourist or two. A barefoot guy to our left strikes up a conversation
with us. Turns out Jeremy is a software programmer about our
age, living aboard down here in St. Maarten, though he spends
the occasional summer back in New York in search of women.
Seems the local talent here is scarce and what you can find
is usually already taken.
Our conversation turned to sailing and I
found myself not only learning a ton from listening to him
and Curt talk, but even being able to contribute here and
Some stuff I learned:
· You don't want to swim over in Simpson Bay. The water
is brown for a reason- perhaps because most boats here don't
have holding tanks and everything just goes straight overboard.
This is perfectly legal.
· You can bomb a boat for roaches- 2 should do the
trick for a boat our size
· To get good wine at great prices, head over to the
French side of island
· The Soggy Dollar bar has great food for good deal.
He eats there often for about $7-8USD a meal.
· The squalls that were my topic of worry yesterday
aren't a big deal in his opinion. "Take in some sail
and use the wind to get you where you're going quicker."
(coincidentally, as I write this, I think we're in one
it's pouring rain outside)
· Cell phones work, but it's touch and go per island
· Tying your dinghy to the dock isn't good enough-
lock it with a chain whenever possible. He budgets $3,000
a year just to replace dinghies and/or their outboard engines
(in life living aboard, if you think of the sailboat as your
house, then your dinghy is like a car- taking you to shore
to run errands, do laundry, grocery shopping, etc.).
We also discovered that the community here
is much smaller than we originally thought. Turns out Jeremy
knows the old German guy Norbert, as well as Norbert's friends
Collin and Tamara. He seems impressed to find we know of them
and gives us the inside line: Collins the big playboy on the
island, and Tamara is his girlfriend (and one of the blonde
bartenders at the Floating Bar). Also turns out Jeremy's anchored
across from our boat broker Heather. And just about the time
we discover this, Heather saunters up behind us and we have
the opportunity to officially introduce these two neighbors
who have actually never met.
We hadn't seen Heather since our offer on
Force Five was accepted by Sean, the current owner. She was
full of congratulations and invited us on her boat for a drink.
While Jeremy declined, Curt and I were both excited to see
her 54' sailboat, Pretty Woman (I think made by the same maker
as ours- John Robertson Yachts in South Africa). It was funny
to say good-bye to Jeremy without exchanging phone numbers
or emails and knowing that we'll have no problem finding him
later so he and Curt can play guitars together. It's like
going back in time to experience what life must've been like
before phones, and faxes, and email and all.
Heather, Curt and I clamored aboard her
dinghy and sped out under the bridge toward the spot where
her boat is anchored. Pretty Woman is stunning! Heather has
done some racing with her, and apparently Scotiabank must've
been a sponsor, because it's emblazoned along the side. This
boat's cockpit (the outside part where you steer from and
spend a great deal of your time) felt bigger than our whole
boat! We had rum drinks and shared life stories. She showed
us a picture of her boyfriend, which I discovered Curt and
I had seen the night before at the Floating Bar. It led to
an invitation to a party there tonight for her boyfriend's
father, George. Neither of us ones to turn down an invitation,
you can guess where we'll be tonight ;)
Back on shore, we trekked over to the Chinese
restaurant next to our old hotel. We found ourselves in the
same seats we had been last time we ate there, and chatting
with a new character sitting in the same spot where we had
met "Mr. Baker" on our last visit. "Mr. Baker"
distributes Sutter Home on the island and says he'll sell
us cases of red wine to provision the boat
to Curt to sniff out a guy like that.
And then there's our new dog. Did we forget
to mention him?! Malvin the Anti-Calvin. He's everywhere here
kind of like that cartoon character Jeep from the old Popeye
cartoons. Malvin is somewhere around a foot and a half, to
two feet tall and a light brown color. His muzzle and toes
fade to black and he's got light eyes. Sometimes when you
see him he's got a white spot on his chest, and sometimes
he weighs a little more than others. We'll be driving along
and see him resting under a tree, and then a few yards later
he's running along the side of the road, and 20 minutes later
we'll be on the other side of the island in Phillipsburg and
he'll be sitting in front of a restaurant waiting for scraps.
It's the craziest thing! Last night we finally decided we
should start documenting this elusive dog to see if he'd actually
show up in a photograph and share with you all places we see
So we're tooling along on our way home and
Malvin the Anti-Calvin is running down a back alley. I start
hitting Curt in the arm, "LOOK! There's Malvin! Quick-
take a picture, take a picture!" So Curt nearly tips
the car on two wheels as we skid to a halt and he jumps out
of the car to snap a shot with the digital. "Did you
get it, did you get it?" Curt is running back to the
car, "I think I got it, I think I got it!" The next
thing I know Curt is tumbling toward the ground buns over
ears, and totally eats it in a pot-hole! His knee is bleeding
and is all scuffed up and he's claiming he didn't fall, the
dog bit him. So if you meet any of our new friends here, that's
our story- not that he tripped running back to the car.
(Note: Quick break here as we just glanced
up to see the rain has let-up and the sun has turned the sky
the bright orange color of sherbert ice cream)
We just got back from the beach where we
watched the most amazing sunset. We took a picture to capture
the moment and ended up taking about ten because it just kept
getting more and more beautiful. Now that we've finally had
a moment to reflect on the past few weeks, and moreover the
last few days- we agreed that we must report back that this
is so much better than we had hoped and could've ever even
imagined. I'm sure we have some rough and scary times ahead,
but for now, it feels like heaven.
So now we're off to George's party
at the Floating Bar. Heather tells us he made Goolash for
this special occasion. We'll have to keep it tame since we
have Force Five's test sail scheduled for tomorrow morning
at 8:30. Sean and his wife will be taking us out to sea to
show us the ins and outs of what will soon be our new home.