Wednesday, January 14th -- Oyster Bay to Grand Case
Hubby was up and hungry by 6:00 so he started his breakfast while the rest of us were still rubbing the sleep out of our eyes. By 7:00 we were all up and searching through the boat's cubby holes and the refrigerator for today's breakfast items. Cold wheat squares and muesli for five of us and hot quinoa for the sixth, grapefruit for four and oranges for two, tea for three and coffee for the other three, V-8 juice for four and orange juice for two, a banana each, raisins and yoghurt. There was no rush as the Sunsail office didn’t open until 8:30. As we cleaned away and stowed breakfast we were notified that our briefing would start at 9:00. On the way to the briefing we took advantage of the free trash disposal and bathrooms (minimal though they were) onshore.
The briefing was an hour long but thorough, covering not just sailing info but also tips on how to maximize time in the marine park areas so we wouldn't have to pay for two visits. We were given a form to fill in the name and passport details of every crew member to photocopy for each Immigration checkpoint so we wouldn't need to keep filling in the same info every time. We filled in and returned our expected itinerary in brief calendar format. During our 10 days on the boat we would be visiting St. Martin (our origin), Anguilla, and St. Barthelemy. These are sometimes referred to as the "Renaissance Islands" because they have re-created modern economies to replace the older ones that died out. St. Martin and St. Bart's are Overseas Collectivities of France but we would still be required to clear out of each one before leaving. With our itinerary, Sunsail could clear us out of St. Martin and, in advance, sell us marine park passes for our days in (French) Ile Forchue and Anse Colombier before we even left the marina. Sunsail could not handle the permits for the British marine parks. The French marine park passes came to US$72.00 for the six of us for two days, or $6.00 each/day.
The boat check-out aboard the Tartane was just as thorough. Much to our horror we found out that although the boat is fitted with a sewage holding tank it is set up to flush directly into the sea unless we change the switches, which came with its own set of dangers. We were advised to leave it in its current position flushing directly below the boat (yuck!) We also found that our forward water tank was only about half full even though the gauge showed it to be full. We took extra time to fill it while the Captain and co-captain completed the paperwork at the office. Already it was time for a quick lunch -- an assortment of raw veggies, crackers, peanut butter, jam, olives and pears.
Finally we were ready to leave the marina and fight our way through the menacing waves at the entrance to the bay. Our pilot came aboard, steered us out of the slips into the small "reception" area and helped us hoist the mainsail as a precaution in case the engine failed. He then jumped off the Tartane into the chase boat and lead us past the three red markers on the port side and into the biggest swells any of us had ever sailed in. The wind was raging so hard that we didn't want to cut the motor or try to manipulate the mainsail. At the helm, our co-captain just tried to point the bow into the waves and gradually work our way into the lee of Tintamarre Island. The Tartane handled the huge waves (maybe 10-15 feet?) quite well, even when the bow landed hard in a few troughs off the top of the previous wave and was awash with the next wave. Hubby and I had taken the usual first-day-aboard Dramamine pill so at least we didn't have to worry about our stomachs. Our course took us between Spanish Rock and the northeast shore of St. Martin, past Anse Marcel and, after one jibe, into Grand Case Bay for the night. We left Oyster Pond at about 13:45 and were anchored in Grand Case at 16:15. The Caribbean side of the island was much calmer even though the wind was not letting up much.
What is a 'case'? --> A 'case' was a traditional structure built to withstand strong winds and tropical storms. The main house contained a bedroom and the living room. A second detached building contained the kitchen and a water cistern. Water was collected from rain gutters into cisterns or pottery jars. The 'case' buildings normally had wooden shingles.
It took us as long to cook dinner as to sail here. Grilled chicken breasts, an assortment of veggies and potatoes took forever to grill in the lame oven. Eventually we fried the plantain and eggplant on the stove and ate them as appetizers. It was probably 19:00 before we sat down to start eating and another 30 minutes before the chicken was cooked. It was good though -- flavoured with a thyme rub and topped with a squeeze of lime. We had the Baron Phillip Rothchild Merlot with it. The fellows kindly did the dishes.
After dinner we all went our own ways, some to read, some to talk, until it was time to wipe the crust of salt off our skins and climb into bed.