Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gotta Get Outta The Lagoon

Jezabelle wasn't really ready to leave the Land of Flat Water
When we first arrived to St. Martin we were reluctant to enter the Lagoon due to mostly unfavourable reports about the bridge entrance being difficult, the water being gross and the depths being treacherous.  After only a couple of days in Marigot Bay, we were forced to go inside due to the discomfort caused by a large north swell.  “We’ll just pop in until it passes and come right back out”, we thought.  That was two months ago…

It is strange to contemplate the fact that we’ve been in the Lagoon for two months.  How did that happen?  Well, every time the conditions calmed… there was a new forecast similar to the one that drove us inside in the first place… the dreaded North Swell!   Then there are other factors:  It wasn’t as bad as we had heard it was with  the convenience of being centrally located… oh, and flat water.  Don’t forget the value of flat water when every time you leave the boat in a dinghy you stand a 50/50 chance of arriving to your destination soaking wet…  It was just easier to stay and take care of some boat projects in the calm conditions.

But eventually the boat projects dwindled and the provisioning runs were all made… and our longing for pretty water became overwhelming… We began to grouse about our (now) forced imprisonment. (drama) We began every new day with the question: “Can we get out today?”

Our New View - Marigot Bay
Finally the day came.  Hopefully no more northerly swells will threaten us… it’s mid-April!  Winter be gone!  We ran one last errand and then unceremoniously pulled up the anchor and motored out through the bridge canal at the 9 am opening.  No photos of the exit because I was busy not running into anything!

About that “bridge being difficult” thing?  Well, it is totally doable… but I can see where it get’s the reputation for being difficult.  The Bridge Tender does NOT respond when hailed on VHF 12, as he is supposed to do…  He does not tell anyone if he plans to just NOT open the bridge at the appropriate time…  Boats gather and jockey for position, possibly fighting wind and/or current that can be fierce at times… and the bridge just… doesn’t open.  That’s it.  No explanation…  Too bad suckah!

There are also stories, very recent, real stories about the Bridge Tenders just unceremoniously closing the bridge in the middle of a line of boats exiting or entering.  There is a never ending battle between the drivers on the island and the boaters… If the boats aren’t lined up and ready - closely spaced and boogying on when the bridge opens… he just shuts it.  Too bad!  It’s as if he doesn’t have a clue what it takes to get a big heavy boat moving with opposing current and wind conditions… One doesn’t want to tailgate too closely, in case the bridge closes on the boats ahead… This would cause a major pile-up as the canal is fairly narrow with nowhere to go if you suddenly needed to peel out of line…  

We're FREEEE!  In Marigot Bay!!!!
So with all of this going through my head, I slowly motored to the first channel markers half an hour prior to the opening.  Several boats passed us, including one large grey-painted military-looking vessel…  But I didn’t want to be first for sure… and last would suit me just fine.  I figured that the Tender wouldn’t shut the bridge on the outgoing boats… because the incoming boats were all waiting outside.  

Using the chart plotter fixed on the bridge as a waypoint, I could adjust my speed to arrive just right as we slowly approached the appointed time.  Also slowly approaching was a small squall.  It began to gust and rain just about the time I was falling in line with the other boats, right behind the military vessel.  Thankfully, the bridge opened and boats began to quickly file through just as the wind would have become a problem for holding stationary.  

Moon Rising Behind the Hills of St. Martin
I focused on maintaining speed matching that of the boat in front of me, while keeping an eye on the line for possible need to abort…  But in the end, it was really no big deal.  Suddenly we were out of the dark green water and into the bright blue open spaces that we crave!  

Finding a spot out in the Bay was easy as we turned to port, away from Marigot, instead of joining the throngs of other boats anchored closer to town.  

We were out.  We were FREE!!!  We enjoyed our evening and plotted our course for the next week… Oh yeah… did I mention that yet another north swell was forecast to affect the Northern Leewards???  Just great!  

After running a couple more errands the following morning, we left Marigot Bay.  St. Martin is really so small that it only takes an hour or two to get to somewhere else!  There are several anchorages along the north coast and I wanted to check out ALL of them… but with our time being limited by the weather, we skipped a couple… and in the end, Jezabelle chose our anchorage for us.
Passing Friar's Bay... we will come back here!
Passing Grand Case... we will come back here TOO!

I'm REALLY enjoying my sunshade!
The wind and waves picked up as we neared the NE coast, causing Jezebelle to become seasick…  She usually has one or two bouts of Meowl-de-mer when we leave a long stationary period… So instead of clearing the coast and heading for Tintamarre, we diverted immediately to starboard and entered Anse Marcel.

Beach Wedding!

Oh well, it’s on the list!  We enjoyed a nice sundowner… feeling proud of ourselves for finally breaking free of the ties that bind.  We couldn’t be completely carefree, however, as we nervously watched the forecast and counted the dwindling days until the north swell… comparing their number to the number of anchorages we wished to visit… and we were coming up short.  

I love how the sunrise creeps up the hills on the opposite side of the bay
Feeling my anxiety beginning to peak, I asked myself WHY I was worrying about this???  What am I looking for?  I’m looking for clear water and maybe a beach…  So we slept on it and in the morning, decided to skip visiting Ile Pinel, and just hang out at Tintamarre, where we hoped to find some solitude.  
Dinghying into the inner harbour through the very narrow channel

Inside the inner harbour there is a decent marina with great all-around protection
So after a quick spin into the harbour at Anse Marcel (through a very narrow entrance canal) we moved once more… This time the conditions had calmed enough that Jezabelle was fine as we crossed a brief period of relatively open water. 

What we found at Tintamarre was far from solitude… but everything else on our list was there… We dropped anchor next to a beautiful old boat and settled in for a couple of days of R&R.  The important thing is… we’re OUT of the Lagoon… and we are slipping back into Cruiser Mode!

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