Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BVI to St. Martin/Sint Maarten

Relaxing at The Bitter End Yacht Club before our journey to St. Martin.
The BVI was our first boat experience with checking out of a country when leaving. Basically you need to get permission to leave the country--and if you show up in the new country without permission  to have left the old country...well, it's probably not like being thrown in a Turkish prison for smuggling hashish, but it's not good either. The U.S. (including Puerto Rico and USVI) and the Bahamas don't require clearing out, but most other places do, so we'll have to get used to it.

We tried to check out Saturday to leave Sunday afternoon but couldn't because once you check out, you have to leave within 12 hours. So we dutifully returned the next morning. In addition to paying an extra $5 for overtime, we discovered that the Customs officer had called in sick. The Immigration officer did his thing but wasn't supposed to use the Customs stamp. Not having the stamp on our document would have left us less than legal. Fortunately, he took pity on us and accidently 'dropped' the Customs stamp on our document, probably a serious infraction.

Hike up a steep trail at the Bitter End Yacht Club.
While Matt was dealing with the officials, I threw our garbage in a dumpster near the Customs office and 2 chickens flew out, making me jump. Being from Chicago, I am used to squirrels in my garbage receptacles (and sometimes rats or even raccoons), but I apparently let my big-city guard down. Even though there is poultry walking around everywhere and we've gotten used to them scuttering around, they're usually more sedate and not flying at your head. Changing topics from fowl to garbage, we learned you are supposed to dispose of your garbage before you go to the next country. Our friend on Halcyon faced a near international incident when he mentioned to the Customs guy on some island that he had given a local guy his "international" garbage to dispose of. Apparently your empty mayonnaise container becomes a toxic hazard when transported to the next island over.

We walked around The Bitter End Yacht Club so we could get some exercise before we took off on our overnight voyage to St. Martin. Matt spent some time there 20 years ago and like most places in the Caribbean it has become much more developed. He reminisced with a groundskeeper from a neighboring resort about what St. John used to be like 30 years ago.

We left around 4 p.m. for the 80 mile journey to St. Martin. The winds were coming pretty much from the direction we wanted to go and the seas were big and choppy. Matt bore off several degrees so we could get some help from the 25 knot winds. We motor-sailed with one engine for the first several hours and then sailed until we got within 18 miles of St. Martin the next morning. At that point, we were sick of getting beat up by the waves and decided to head straight to our destination, motoring the rest of the way. This trip made us very grateful for the 600 miles of easting we gained in settled seas and weather going from The Bahamas to Puerto Rico.

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