While waiting to launch, we are living on our boat – out of the water for now – working our butts off trying to make it a functional place to live. Living on a Caribbean island may seem glamorous, but it certainly comes with its fair share of ups and downs. Here are some of the things that make our new life living in the boat yard different from life at home.
After a hurricane like Irma, there is lots of standing water lying around, so that means mosquitoes. Everyone on the island agrees that the mosquitoes are worse than normal right now. However, there is one thing that ensures that they don’t bother you: hanging out with Mel. It is impressive how we can be in a large group where the mosquitoes are bothering no one, yet Mel is being swarmed by a cloud of them. She is, of course, particularly allergic to them, and swells up like crazy when bitten. The mosquito issue should be resolved once we get out on the water, where they will have to fly a long way from land to reach her. In the meantime, thank goodness for zappers and mosquito netting!
Yes, we are aware it gets hotter the closer you get to the Equator, but it is unseasonably hot and humid here in St. Martin. By 8 am it is already 30 degrees Celsius, so by noon it is unbearable. Just sitting in the boat is enough to make you break a sweat. We have found it is best to get up early in the morning (easier said than done) or work later in the afternoon (mosquito feeding time). We do have our bimini and dodger set up, so we at least have a shaded cockpit where we can eat and work, but in all honesty, we eat most meals below where we have fans and therefore some semblance of coolness.
Once you get to an island post-hurricane, you realize just how difficult it is to get cars to these isolated regions. Which explains the state of some of the cars you see being driven around town. Broken windows, giant dents, no bumper, no hood, no doors, no windshield even! These cars stand as a good reminder of the resilience of the islanders.
For sailors, there is no sadder sight than a sunken vessel. And there is no shortage of those here. There is a lagoon in the center of St. Martin where a number of boats were moored during Irma. It’s difficult to say how many survived, but there are now a ton of wrecks scattered across the lagoon, creating a minefield for dinghies zipping through between the French and the Dutch side.
Dinghies are a must-have for most sailors. When cruising, rather than tying up to a dock, anchoring or tying off to a mooring ball are preferable (aka cheaper). But this means you need another way to get to shore to provision or check out that cool bar on the beach. The best way is by using a smaller vessel that you can haul on deck or drag behind your sailboat when you are actually sailing. Dinghies are also particularly useful when your boat is on the hard and you desperately want to get out on the water. So getting a dinghy was basically priority number one once we knew we were going ahead with our cruising plans . It is common practice to name your dinghy, but we haven’t come up with a good name yet. Any ideas?
Canadians are known around the world for their friendliness and generosity, but the sailing community here in St. Martin has absolutely blown us away. From the people at the boat yard (both staff and fellow boat owners), to the staff at the chandlery (where we have become regulars), everyone has been so nice and gone out of their way to help us. For example, in our first week here, we took the bus to the chandlery on the Dutch side to buy our aforementioned dinghy. It was close to the end of the workday, and our new purchase wasn’t going to be ready for us until the following morning, so the amazing woman helping us offered to bring us back to the yard in her dinghy! Now that is going above and beyond. And we are now great friends. And that’s just how people are here. They offer so much and want nothing in return, which has been difficult for us to get used to. But there is nothing better than working on your boat all day then being offered an ice-cold beer (or three) as the sun goes down after another day in paradise. We are so happy to have made such fabulous friends on the island.
And good news: the boat has splashed!! Stay tuned! Don’t forget that you can get new posts delivered to your inbox by subscribing to Where the Wind Takes Us! Just click on the Follow button to the right.