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April 28th, 2002
Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

The party at the Floating Bar was tame, and we missed seeing Heather and the other cast of characters. So, instead we drove over to the French side of the island for dinner (Jerry, the other broker at Bay Island informed us Friday is mussel night on the French side). We had an absolutely mouth watering meal at, "BDLG" (?) starting with a dozen escargot and a bottle of amazing wine… '95 Chateau La Vieille France. From there we moved on to seabass, and mussels with a crème sauce and papas frites or, french fries. I have never had such delicious french fries in my life! They were unreal.

Yesterday morning we both woke up at 4am and couldn't sleep in anticipation of our first sail aboard Force Five. We arrived at the dock 10 minutes early to meet the current owners, South Africans Sean and Jo (short for Joanne), and Heather who were already there.

Over the course of the day, I can't begin to tell you everything we learned. Not only about Force Five, but cruising in general. Here's what I can recall most readily…

About Force Five:

  • Force Five refers an idyllic wind speed when you're sailing
  • While Sean & Jo had considered renaming her initially, they recalled that they had renamed their first boat and lost her in a hurricane… and thus left this boat's name alone (re-naming a boat is considered very bad luck. There are a number of tricks you can use to get around this however. Our good friend Bill McNealy of Marine Protection LLC can fill you in if you're interested, and moreover has a ritual to cast out the bad luck if you decide to go forward with a renaming. He'll proudly tell you he hasn't lost one yet!)
  • Force Five (I mean our boat Force Five here) can get up to about 7- 71/2 knots… that's quite fast for a boat her size… she's even raced some- in the Cape to Rio race for instance. She was booking along yesterday with the five of us aboard!
  • They bought her in South Africa from her first owner and spent 17 days at sea on their passage across the Atlantic.
  • They bought her pretty raw and added most of the electronics and amenities to make her more comfortable and safe for cruising
  • Sean and Jo cruised her throughout the Caribbean, along the east coast of South America and up to the Chesapeake Bay. She was designed to withstand rigorous seas and we will be quite safe on her.

About their cruising experience in general:

  • Avoid using credit cards for all the reasons you might expect (the number being taken, or carbons kept, etc.).
  • In their seven years cruising, they never found themselves bribed. Once, in South America, they were unnerved by local authorities boarding to inspect things. They were asked if the alcohol aboard was for them (meaning the authorities). They just firmly said no and they weren't pushed.
  • Don't tip much. First of all, you identify yourself as someone who has a lot of money. Secondly, what might be a customary amount at home may be more money than someone makes in a whole week in other economies. Thirdly, be sure your tab doesn't already include a tip or a "tax" in countries where there is none. Educate yourself in each area.
  • You'll find that many markets will give you a ride to and fro, or even deliver. And not just in the islands where they're more accustomed to cruisers. In a Florida community much like what we're used to at home (where the closest grocery might be miles away) Sean called a Rally's or some such thing, and informed the manager that he was sailing up the U.S. coast and had no car. He intended to come in and spend $300-$400 to provision his boat and wondered if they might have someone to give him a ride. They happily obliged, intrigued and curious about what adventure.
  • We'll find ourselves on the younger side of most cruisers. And like all communities, we'll also find nice people, odd people, crazy people, particular people, etc. They found in their travels, you should take everyone's advice with a grain of salt. Some of the nervous-nellies out there often suggested staying away from some more questionable anchorages… they often found those the most interesting spots and least crowded. Try finding a buddy boat and watch out for each other.
  • Exercise your power to say "no." They occasionally found some cruisers wanting to spend more time together more than they preferred, but that when they politely declined, no one was offended.
  • To avoid getting roaches on board:
    • NEVER bring any cardboard on
    • If you participate in book-trades ashore, put them in a Ziploc bag with with some bug spray and leave them in the cockpit for a few days before taking them out.
    • When bringing leafy produce on board, you can soak it in bit of some sort of South African crystal antiseptic (we'll have to ask the name again)

Throughout our two hour sail, beers back at dock, and a dock side lunch in Marigot on the French side, Sean and Jo shared so much, we couldn't possibly have absorbed it all. But hopefully writing it down will help. Without a doubt, we found ourselves envious of all they've seen over their years cruising. Eventually they had a birthday party to be off to, so we bid them our gratitude and farewell, and will meet them again Tuesday at 9am to get the keys and go through all the spare parts, etc.

Heather's partner Jerry ended up catching up with us in Marigot and we shared another bottle of wine before the four us headed back to the Floating Bar (we've since learned this bar actually has an official name of, the Lady C). There we met another funny and warm couple that are looking at fishing boats with Jerry. They're truck drivers from Washington and own a fishing boat in Chula Vista harbor where I used to have lunch when I worked at Troxel. They were hilarious! We now had a band of six of us by dinner time. We split up between two dinghies and shot across the harbor for Indian food. As expected, it was delicious.

Heather gave us the details for tonight's Carnival celebration. We should plan to get there around midnight for the first band. There will be dancing and revelry until around 4am when j' ouvert (JU-vay?) begins. J 'ouvert sounds like a big parade of dancing and music. I guess it's some sort of celebration of the dawn or something? Anyway- I'm sure we'll know more tomorrow.

Until then, cheers!
Curt and Allison

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