St.Kitts to Sint Maarten

We arrived at St.Kitts and went  in the dinghy to Basseterre.  The dinghy dock there wasn’t geared up for dinghies, the narrow entrance was dotted with rocks just a few inches under the water so we took advantage of the fishing harbour near us and tied up to some fishing boats.  Fortunately the fishermen were friendly and didn’t seem to mind.

It was so windy in the anchorage that we re-anchored a bit nearer to the shelter of the dock, though we were surprised how adapted we’d become to all the movement at sea.

The main town, Basseterre, was a short walk along the coast road and when the cruise ships came in it was crazy.  On the walk there we came across a little restaurant called El Fredo’s that had a Welsh flag flying at the entrance.  There were plenty of locals eating there which is always a good sign so we decided to try it out.  The owner, Ken, lived in South Wales for 42 years where he married a Welsh girl and they both came over 10 years ago.  It was lovely to hear her Welsh accent was still strong after all the years.  The food was excellent and Ken gave us a big Welsh flag when he heard that ours had to be cut down as it had wrapped itself around the stantion.  I promised to return the favour when we get back to the UK by sending him a smaller flag for the front of his restaurant.

We were woken early one morning by customs who came aboard for a routine inspection and wanted to see our flares and life jackets.  It was a training exercise and we were relieved that the flares were all in date.  (No mention of the morphine I’ve got locked away!)

It was here that we got an email from Peter, a friend we’d made in Grenada, who told us that he knew someone who may be interested in buying Sephina.  This was totally out of the blue and a bit sureal as our plan was to sail up to St.Thomas in the American Virgin Islands and have her shipped back to the UK from there.  We had planned to live on her in Southampton until she was sold.  Anyway, we told Peter to pass on our details and the next thing we were contacted by a guy called Bill who wanted to fly up to see us the next day.  We emailed back to say that we wouldn’t be in St.Martin for another week so arranged to see him there.  Still very surreal!

St.Kitts has the only working railway in the Eastern Caribbean and is used to take tourists around the island so we booked ourselves on a trip.  When we arrived at the train station at 8.30am we were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide who recited a long list of the complimentary drinks onboard.  Even for us it was too early for a rum punch.  We had a whole carriage to ourselves and settled upstairs in the open air.  The train crawled along and we were treated to ladies singing a cappella to entertain us all, their last song was about coconut juice.  Cute!  We travelled past abandoned sugar cane fields, spotted plenty of wild monkeys jumping about in the trees and the locals all waved at us as we rolled along.  At the end of the line we finished the tour by bus with a very humorous driver chattering away.

Clive received an email from Alan at Berthon, our yacht broker, saying that Sailing Today wanted to do an article about Sephina.  (Have I mentioned surreal?)

After a few days we decided to move on and had a short sail up to St.Eustatia (Statia) and settled just off Oranjestad.  I nearly lost the boat hook trying to pick up a mooring ball as my arm was at full stretch under the bow.  

The island was totally unspoilt by tourism.  On shore there was a dirt track road along the coastline then a steep cobbled track up to the main town with its narrow streets lined by pretty little houses.  Fort Oranje is well maintained and has spectacular views out to sea with some of the canons still in position.  In 1776 the Dutch fired a canon to salute an American war vessel and so became the first country to recognise the newly formed United States of America.  The Brits weren’t very impressed and bombed the island to high heaven and took possession.  Oops!

We found a bar called Cool Corner that turned out to be a Chinese restaurant.  It doubled as a take away with cars pulling up on the single track road outside and the barmaid handing food orders out of the window.

We managed to get some good snorkelling in along a reef just off the beach while we were there.

From here we sailed up to St.Martin.  The island is half Dutch and half French and we opted for the Dutch side as we wanted to go into the huge lagoon and find a marina.  On arrival we anchored just outside the bridge and went to check in with customs and to visit a few marinas in the lagoon.  We decided to book in with the IGY marina and arranged to come in later in the afternoon.  Entrance to the lagoon is restricted to certain times of the day when the lifting bridge opens to let traffic either in or out.

Immediately on the right after passing through the bridge is the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and people gather to watch the boats passing through the bridge.  There’s a famous video of the super yacht that was owned by Steve Jobs passing through it with no room on either side for fenders.  It really is a tight squeeze so this became a favourite place for us to pop into for a drink and to watch some of the massive yachts pass by.

Stephen and Debbie had anchored over on the French side of the island, a 30 minute dinghy ride across the lagoon and they invited us over for dinner one evening, to stay overnight and to take the cats!.  It was a very bumpy ride and the poor cats must’ve been terrified as the dinghy kept crashing down in the water but once we got on to Amelie and let them out they were unfazed and seemed completely at home.  They’re so resilient, bless them.

Another evening we all went to the cinema complex by the marina to see a film ‘Run all night’ with Liam Neilson and then had sushi afterwards.

On our first trip into the capitol Phillipsberg I tried to tip the driver as it was only $3 each but he was completely confused so I haven’t tried since.  Phillipsberg is a lively, happening town, best avoided when there are too many cruise ships in.

 

The day finally arrived for Bill to come and view Sephina.  He spent 2 hours chatting to Clive and looking around and he asked us both what we liked most about the boat.  I said it was how light and roomy it was inside and that the bedroom was so spacious.  Clive said it was the way it sailed and then said he  should go away and think about it.  Bill said he’d be in touch.

Meanwhile,Leo and Karin from Bubbles arrived back from Holland to join the non stop partying.

Bill came back the next morning to see Sephina for a second time and once again said he’d be in touch. When he emailed us later the same day he made an offer on condition that we complete in the first week in April.  (It was now 24th March!!)  A price was agreed the following day and Bill said he was thrilled when he came back to see us for another chat.  

So in effect Sephina was sold!!!

That evening we went over to Bubbles for champagne and to toast the sale.  Leo kindly invited Bill over as well so he was able to meet some of the other Oyster owners firsthand and to see how boozy we all are!  Clive very graciously said that he’d enjoyed working on Sephina for 2 years and then living on her for another 2 years and thanked me for my support.  He said he knew Bill would look after her and that made us feel better about the sale.

Finding somewhere to live then became a priority but we managed to find an apartment right opposite the marina that was perfect.  There's plenty of space in the apartment for us to store the belongings that need to be freighted back to the UK, air-conditioning, excellent wi-fi and we have a gourmet supermarket within walking distance.  Also the marina bar is just across the road and we’re well know by the staff and get special treatment, with a smile.  There's also a totally unspoilt, white, sandy beach less than a 2 minute walk away that is quiet, has sunbeds and the sea is crystal clear.  (And 'Happy Hour' is all day!)  From the sunbeds we can watch the planes take off and land across the bay at Princesss Juliana Airport so there's never a dull moment.  We hired a car for a couple of days to move all our belongings in before finally moving in with the boys.  There’s an area at the back where we can walk them and they can chase lizards and there’s a pleasant breeze blowing through the rooms, so all is well.

Within cycling distance is the famous Princess Julian Airport (Check it out on google) where planes come in to land over the beach.  You can almost touch the wheels.  Even better is when the planes take off.  The blast from the jets sends sand flying everywhere and standing on the beach getting sandblasted is awesome and quite painful.  The very daring hang on to the fence at the end of the runway and are blown off their feet with the blast.  I’ve thought about doing this but then I saw a video where a girl lost her grip and smashed her face into a concrete wall.  I think I’ve done enough damage to my face on this trip so we’ll see.  I’m not saying no!

 

On 31st March, 2015 we had our last breakfast on deck with the boys and we looked through the cards we’d been given by people wishing us ‘Bon voyage’ 2 years ago.

So much has happened to us in that time and we have fabulous photos and memories that we’ll cherish forever.  We’ve lived the dream and some more.

We’ve made friends that we know we’ll keep in touch with.  Debbie and Stephen in particular have been with us since June last year and we’ve had an absolute ball.  We found a special friendship with them and we’re missing them already as they’ve now headed off to go around the world for a second time.  The invite is there for us to join them where ever and whenever we want to and we’ll certainly take them up on it, probably starting with Panama next March.

 

So with a tinge of sadness I sign off Pink and Fluffy, but the next chapter is about to start.

We’ll probably stay here for a couple of months then head home to face the music with our very patient family and to do some serious making up with our lovely little grandson, Luke , who was born on the day we moved onto Sephina.

 

This is Pirate Granny saying goodnight.