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8th Anniversary Overnight Adventure


Published: June 17th 2017

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Geo: 18.0404, -63.1042

I’ve heard other cruisers describe Sint Maarten as “Hotel California”, saying: “You can check out, but you can’t ever leave.” Now I get it. It’s happened to us two years in a row. We over stay. SXM is a bit too busy for relaxing. We long to be out in clean clear water, relaxing in a quiet anchorage. Sint Maarten is a lot of things…fun, accessible, provisioning Mecca…but quiet ain’t one of them.

This time, we stayed two weeks more than planned. It’s not that SXM isn’t fun. It’s not that we don’t enjoy SXM. We purposely come to SXM for those two reasons and so many more. The problem has become the weather. Talk to any local and they will tell you that weather patterns are changing. Winter winds are stronger, last longer, and it’s definitely cooler. And then there’s the dreaded Northern Swell. The swell makes the outside anchorages unbearable, pushing most boats into the lagoon – both Dutch and French sides – where they drop anchor, and wait. And wait. Mentally “checked out”. Ready to be anywhere but here. C’mon already! It’s time to move south again!

But as they say, patience is a virtue, and good things come to those who wait. We finally got a forecast with a good weather window falling right on the date of our wedding anniversary. In fact, Mother Nature gave us the gift of a northerly breeze. Taking full advantage of the stellar forecast, we stocked up on provisions and sailed outta there!

We are back in Antigua now. With an adventure to tell:

Just a little, overnight, 19 hour sail from St Maarten to reach beautiful turquoise waters again!

Actually, it was 20 hours in total if you count catching a fishing trap while under sail in the dark! We were about ten miles south of St. Barth’s, in 250-300 feet of water going between 5-6 knots, (we had actually commented on what a great sail we were having) then we were suddenly down to 2knots. Grabbed a flashlight to look behind the boat and there were three buoys trailing in our wake.

We furled in the foresail and the boat started to slow down. With only the mainsail up, we were moving at about a knot.

Retrieving the buoys was easy, but we were still pulling the entire trap. Oh yes, hooking the line leading down to the trap and cutting it free was going to be an adventure in the rolling waves!

We started by getting the boat hook and a knife. It only took a few tries with the boat hook to realize that the trap’s line was no longer behind us. It was now below us. I could see it if looked far under the transom.

Next, I was in my life vest, harnessed to the boat, trying to stand on the swim ladder while the waves were swirling up to my thighs with Tony holding me by the vest so that I could use two hands to guide the boat hook. I had to put all my faith into him keeping me from being swept into the ocean where I would be dangling from my tether. That attempt was very short lived as I just couldn’t get the power behind the boat hook in the moving water. Nor did we like the idea of either of us being out of the cockpit.

We set the sail so that we got some forward momentum. That way, we were pulling the trap again, and the line was following the boat.

This time, we tried to get the line by having me lay on my stomach, with my torso down the transom. With Tony holding my legs, I was able to get the boat hook far enough under water to catch the line. Once I had it, I lifted it with the boat hook the best I could, just above the water. Tony held it while I searched around the cockpit for the knife. It was extremely hard to hold with small barnacles and so much tension. The line was passed back to me as Tony leaned down the transom with the knife. There was so much tension on the line that it snapped the moment Tony touched it with the knife.

At last, we were free! It was excellent team work – without killing each other! Lol. It only took an hour. And we were very proud of ourselves once we were back underway. We sure aren’t going to forget what we did on our eighth wedding anniversary!

Upon arrival in Antigua I wrote to Jimmy to tell him of our crazy adventure, asking “Why does this kinda thing always happen in the dark?” His reply: “Because you would have seen it and went around it in the light! Silly!”

Yup. That’s true.

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