Thursday, January 22 -- Ile Fourchue to Tintamarre
We were lazy today. While waiting for the wind to pick up a little, we couldn't decide whether to snorkel or not before leaving Ile Fourchue. We chatted, read, did puzzles and washed down the deck. Now I wish I had snorkeled again in this spot. By 9:45 we thought the wind might be strong enough to sail. We were wrong. As much as we tried different courses and sail positions only light gusts occasionally filled the limp sails. After drifting until about 11:00 we started the motor, dropped the sails and set autopilot on a course for Tintamarre. Along the way Hubby spotted what he thought was a whale spout to our east. The rest of us saw the second spout and were convinced it was a whale spout.
It was a relief to find a mooring ball at Tintamarre at noon on such a calm day. Lunch was (surprise!) soup, crackers and all the remaining toppings, including the last two cans of sardines. We had used 10 of the remaining 12 eggs for a scrambled egg, cheese and olive breakfast (the captain really likes eggs) for five people. The crew didn't have any objection to us boiling the last two eggs to take with us tomorrow for travel food.
After lunch was cleaned up I was the first one overboard, in time to see a small reef shark and a large ray trolling below me. There was also a school of fish under the Tartane, probably eating our dishwashing scraps. They quickly surrounded me until they were sure I wasn't anything edible, then returned to foraging beneath the boat. The others didn't get to see the ray or the reef shark but saw the shark on one of its next patrols of the anchoring area. Since each boat seemed to have its own small school of fish feeding under it the shark would have had ample opportunity to find lunch. We saw a smaller ray closer to shore later.
The area along the beach was almost completely devoid of corals or other growing things. The only fish there were bottom feeders, including a school of the large dark fish we saw at the Gustavia pier yesterday. The grassy area under the mooring field seemed especially interesting to the hawksbill turtles. We saw four of them, one of which a crewmate watched for quite some time to see how long it could eat without coming to the surface for air. When it did finally surface, almost 20 minutes later, he tried to capture the grace and beauty of this not-so-graceful-looking creature. Swimming back to the boat I saw the shark patrolling again.
Dinner was a stew consisting of the last box of minestrone soup, a can each of garbanzo and kidney beans and the second half of the mung beans all over a pound of rice. The remaining radicchio, pepper, tomatoes, kiwi and apple combined to make an interesting salad with yoghurt/lime dressing. The remaining hummus, soda crackers, a can of tuna, the salami and the last bottle of wine added to the feast. On our last night, the cupboards were bare except for some breakfast items.
About Tintamarre --> Although this 80-acre island, now part of the St. Martin Nature Reserve, is uninhabited and seemingly unremarkable now, it has had as colourful a life as any of the other Caribbean islands, claiming at various times to have had a King, a Navy and an Airport. In fact, some still say that technically it is a possession of Sint Maarten since Tintamarre was not specifically included in the original treaty of 1648. In the 1700s the French took the island from the British, but by the end of the Napoleonic Wars it was owned by a prominent Dutch family. In 1902 the last remaining heir of the family, Diederik Christian, moved to the island to avoid tax issues and set up a community which raised up to 60 head of cattle, 540 sheep and fine cotton and made famous cheese and butter. The community even had its own currency, prompting false stories that Mr. Christian was the King of Tintamarre.
Later, during WWII, shallow water around this small island allowed Allied submarines to "snorkel", that is, to rest on the bottom with their diesel engines running to recharge their batteries. While recharging the crew often enjoyed "R&R" on Tintamarre's beaches. During this period of its history one could (sort of) say Tintamarre had its own navy.
By 1945 there was a plan for a commercial aviation base on Tintamarre. In 1946 the "Compagnie Aerienne Antillaise" (CAA) rented the island and built a 500-meter-long dirt runway beside a lagoon suitable for landing flying boats. It was the first regional airport serving the French islands of St. Barth, St. Martin and Guadaloupe. After several fatal night take-offs in 1947 and a 1950 hurricane the island was left for the goats.