Monday, May 20th, 2002
Gus visits, sail to St.
Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Our friend Gus couldn't have been a more
perfect choice for our first visitor. Nothing much gets a
rise out of him for one thing. For another, he's Mr. Mountain
Man from Colorado, so I didn't have to worry that Force Five
would be beneath his comfort level. Cruising on our boat isn't
all that far off from RV camping really
it's just got
a little more panache. The extra berth (or sleeping quarters)
is under the cockpit and behind the navigation table. Comfortable
enough- but a bit of a tight squeeze. And we don't have a
shower of the variety we were used to at home- we use a sunshower
out in the cockpit (we'll fill you in more on all of this
later). Anyway- I was confident Gus would take it all in stride.
Because we don't have a car, picking him
up the airport wasn't really an option, so we decided to meet
him at the good ol' Lady C. We got there only to find they're
closed for renovations, so we asked them to send Gus to the
restaurant next door when he arrived. We greeted him with
a cold Carib in hand, but unfortunately he needed to trek
back to the airport. Customs was holding his passport because
he indicated that he'd be staying on a boat while here, but
didn't know the name of it. Our bad. We'll remember to remind
any future visitors either our boat name or to indicate a
local hotel you'll be staying at during your visit.
Once it was all sorted out, we returned
to Force Five for a lovely dinner in the cockpit and to discuss
what our next week together may hold. Gus wanted to get sailing
right away, so assuming the following morning's weather forecast
was favorable, we'd set sail for the nearby island of Saint
Bart's. The main port there is Gustavia, so it seemed like
a good place to bring Gustavus.
St. Bart's: May 21st-23nd
While the weather report indicated a bit of a blustery day
(25 knots and 7-10 foot waves), it didn't seem unbearable.
While I checked us out at customs, Curt and Gus tooled around
the lagoon until the bridge opened and we could make our way
out to sea. They ran into our friend Jerry who asked why on
earth we would sail to St. Bart's in these conditions? Captain
Curt addressed Gus and I for our input, and of course, we
opted to go anyway!
The voyage was indeed pretty bumpy, but
Force Five handled the wind and waves well. Making lunch below
in the galley was pretty challenging. We were heeled over
and surging over the swells, so I had to wedge my feet onto
what's really a wall, and my derriere was wedged against the
stairs leading to the companionway. A few times I was convinced
Curt was trying to rattle my cage because it got so ridiculously
bumpy, but I'd peek up to see him at the wheel smiling, taking
no notice of me below- so I don't think he had a clue just
how rocky it was down there.
Gus took to sailing like a fish takes to
water. After we got out onto the open sea and had our bearing,
Curt gave Gus the helm. Shell Fest coozie with Heineken in
hand, he had an ear to ear grin. But the excitement really
began when the fishing line we had dropped started to spin.
The line sits to starboard of the wheel, so Gus looked confused
and excited all at the same time. You could see the muscles
in his brain flexing as to whether the fish meant he had to
(God forbid) set his beer down. Curt grabbed the wheel, and
Gus reeled in the tuna. He was around 2 1/2 feet long or so
definitely big enough for three of us to enjoy a tasty dinner.
The tuna also yacked his lunch up all over our cockpit. Apparently
they must eat a lot of squid. We briefly considered having
calamari with our tuna steaks, but somehow that just seemed
a little bit too much.
We made landfall in Anse de Columbier (actually
an anchorage just outside Gustavia) around 3 in the afternoon.
Jerry had suggested this anchorage was a bit less rolly than
Gustavia, which we later found to be true. Essentially bare,
save one big house on a point, it was a nice quiet little
anchorage (apparently the Rockefellers used to own the house).
After settling in, Curt cleaned Gus's tuna and they went snorkeling.
That night we feasted (absolutely FEASTed!) on seared tuna
appetizers and tuna steaks! We toasted to the good luck Gus
brought us. Or was it the Shell Fest coozie that brought the
May 22nd, 2002
The next day we woke to a beautiful Caribbean morning. Gus
made us pancakes and we got a kick out of watching the Cocoon
Crew next to us. You see, the afternoon before, a charter
boat with six men, I'm guessing around 70 or so, anchored
a little close for our comfort. Anyway- it made for good entertainment
to watch them toddling around in their dinghy and snorkelling
and all. I was curious what the story was that led the six
of them here on a charter boat. After breakfast, we stowed
everything away in the boat and motored the short distance
around the point to the main port, Gustavia.
The anchorage was a bit crowded (relatively
speaking) but we found a nice little spot next to a hill that
was sprinkled with a family of Billy goats. Once everything
was settled in, the three of us went ashore to check in with
customs and do some exploring.
You can take the girl out of San Francisco's
"Marina," but you can't take the "Marina"
out of the girl. I loved Gustavia. The port is teeming with
beautiful little sailing yachts, as well as a few mega- power
yachts. Cartier, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, you name the luxury
brand- they have a boutique there. Galleries and bistros are
here and there. The little town looked and felt very European
(including their custom of closing the whole town down for
a two hour lunch). Of course, being with two guys, I was doing
all I could to keep a cork in it and not go running around
in a window-shopping frenzy. Besides, it might've been more
than I could take to see all those beautiful things and not
imbibe in a few purchases despite our new "cruising budget."
We had lunch in a tree-covered patio where both Gus and Curt
rolled their eyes at me and gave me a hard time about being
a "Marina Chick" at heart. What could I say? So
I asked for the small concession of a visit to just one jewelry
store to have a link added to my watch.
What an interesting turn of events THAT
was. Gus disappeared in search of the diamond counters (I'll
leave that for you to put two and two together), and Curt
was eyeing the watches as I waited for mine to be fitted.
The next thing I know, Curt is asking the woman if he can
try one on and shortly thereafter is donning a handsome new
timepiece! Harumph! I got out of there without spending a
dime, and those two were the ones having the real fun.
We meandered around town a little while
longer before heading back to Force Five in time for a beautiful
sunset, a light dinner and nighttime swim
with the added
bonus of a surprise fireworks show over dinner! It was an
absolutely stunning night. The sky was mostly clear with those
big puffy silver clouds that glow in the moonlight. Do you
remember the Pirates of Caribbean ride at Disneyland? You
know that first room where you hear crickets and float by
under a starry night? It's cool, but at the same time, just
warm enough? Well the sky that night looked just like that-
as if it had been painted there. With a night like that, we
couldn't resist a swim. The seas were soft, and we bobbed
around in the water like otters under the moonlight. Very,